Friday, January 20, 2006 

Ewuana and Her Kind

Rocks have the incredible ability of being perceived as things they are not. In the inspired mind a simple outcome of erosion can, by chance, match the human figure, creating a fault-line in our patterned, predictable view of the world. Almost a mile south from the city of Bandon, in a remote location off the Oregon coast, is a rock formation that can easily be identified as a woman’s face in profile. Prosaically christened Face Rock by early European settlers, this mimetolith has a richer, more luminous history with the indigenous population. A Coquille Indian tale recounts the fate of Ewauna, the daughter of Chief Siskiyou, who was abducted by the evil spirit of the ocean while out for a midnight swim. Knowing the spirit’s power rest in its gaze, Ewauna defiantly refused to look in its eyes, and was tragically transformed―by the spirit or some other supernatural means it is not clear―into stone.

For evident reasons, the human face and figure are the most frequent images seen in rock formations, and to catalog such convergences of stone and shape would be a perpetual errand. However, the commonality of these apparitions does not spoil their participation in the enchantment of the everyday. Bulging with contradictions, these formations, as geologically made mannequins, obscure the line between the living and the lifeless, and redefine the limits between the hidden and the frankly obvious. If the human imagination has a connection to the natural world it is one we are forced to forget by our rational precepts. But when the repressed reaches out it forges that connection anew, making the earth with its many rocks a frontier of the Marvelous.

Brandon Freels

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