Thomas Doty – Storyteller


Guide to Native Rock Writings  |  Refresh

Writing on the Rocks

Someone wrote a story on this rock, perhaps a thousand years ago, perhaps more. Someone who walked the woods at night. He went inside the cave, made a fire, and sat for a long, long time. He listened to the tumbling of the creek, to the slow growing of trees, and the slower settling of the earth. Orange light from the fire danced across the rock.

He dipped his fingers in the paint he'd mixed. In strokes that matched the thickness of his fingers, he streaked symbols that told the story of this place ... the power of this cave.

Someone wrote a story on this rock, someone who had known the rock a long, long time.

Five years later, the man brought his son to the cave and taught him how to mix the paint. In the light of the fire, the man explained the ideas behind the symbols, and how they were arranged on the rock to tell a story. He explained that sometimes he carves the symbols into wood, sometimes into bone.

"When we've been out fishing all day," he told the boy, "we come home and play the hand game. But we've got to have a bone that looks different from the others. So we talk about the fishing, and as we're talking, I'm carving symbols into the bone. When we're done, we've got a record of what we did that day as well as a bone to play the game."

The boy asked him if he used the same system of symbols he used on the rocks.

"System?" the man replied. "No, not a system. Just the symbols we've always used."

The man and his son sat and listened to the creek and the trees and the earth. They watched the firelight bring the writings to life, with symbols that told the story of this place so well. Then the boy dipped his fingers in the paint, and with shy, tentative strokes, began to add his own perceptions to the story.