Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Basalt Columns and Ephemeral Faces in the Hillside.

We’ve shown this picture to a few people now, and all have seen a face or a figure, yet they all give differing name or description.  An Inca, an Angle, a helmed warrior. For myself, I think of a 'green man', a flush of stone vegetation sprouting from his mouth, his cockade of Chilean pine.

Hundreds will go by each day, and most will never see him.  He sits high above the road, literally looking down on the passing traffic coming and going over the international frontier at Pino Hachado.  You have to crane your neck, look up through your sun-roof, if that’s part of your chosen transport.  For ourselves it’s easy.  We can stop anywhere, on blind corners, in gateways, even park up, abandon bikes and gaze skywards.  Just another of the cyclist’s perquisites.

Columns of basalt, pillars of granite, pediments of rock abound all around. The eroded, worn down nibs of volcanic plugs, blockhouses, citadels and castles, that erupt up and out of the landscape.  Stacked pilasters of outcropping crags, a rocky stockade, stands exposed on the cliffside.  Each emitting an endurance, venting a fortitude, that has deserted the surrounding, more tender, gentler rocks. The hexagonal geometric structures are stark and etched in the low light of morning, polished smooth by the last rays of evening.

It’s easy to see how myths started, how associations were created and places gained their names. Giants' Causeways and Samson’s Ribs, Fingal’s Caves and parental threats. “if you don’t eat your mammoth the green man’ll come and get you”.

I like to think that there’s a tale to be told about his existence. Was he wooed to his rocky grave by the duplicitous, evil wiles of a beautiful siren, who, as part of her infinite tiffs and petty bickering with celestials from the cordilleras, taunts him into an impossible task, tantalising him with pledges for trinkets of tierras and gewgaws of gold leaf. Unusually, he spurned the usual offer of eternal life.  Inevitably, predictably and prophetically, he fails.  His storm-wracked craft is ruined, petrified, his torso consumed by the mountain, mouth bunged, not by baubles of bling, but by branches of green leaves, then his head left to fossilize.  A megalithic monument to his rebellion and defiance for the preordained and his impudence and insolence to challenge the pantheon of mountain deities.  A monolithic admonitory caution for crabbit wee kids who won’t finish their mammoth burgers.