The Spoken World

By Elizabeth Dodd

My brother’s first word was “duck.” It was a marvelous word for a baby to master — so satisfying in its powerful consonants, its one-syllable explosive force.

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The Artists of La Grotte Chauvet

By Elizabeth Dodd

I'd been reading, of course. And examining the photographs, the amazing images in great oversized books, some of which folded out into panels a yard long. I'd learned new vocabulary, words I certainly didn't remember from my college French classes more than 20 years before— _fouiller_, to excavate; _falaise,_ cliff; _gisements_, layers or beds. I'd written careful, though no doubt error-studded letters of inquiry. I'd been dreaming of animals, dreaming of caves. Then—gasp —I'd somehow been granted permission to enter one of the greatest, most significant Paleolithic cave art sites in the world: La Grotte Chauvet. Its artwork has been conclusively, through repeated testing, dated to more than 30,000 years before the present. How had this happened to me? How marvelous!…

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Winged Omens

By Elizabeth Dodd

There’s a photograph by Kevin Carter I can’t shake from memory, part of the traveling Pulitzer Prize-winning exhibit from a few years ago. The scene is drought-stricken Africa, Sudan, 1994. A young child, robbed of any specific age by emaciation, can no longer hold up her—or his—heavy head and lies folded on the ground, face down. Her legs are tiny, bent twigs. She seems to wear a white necklace of some sort, but nothing else. The viewer can tell that the child is near death; so, too, can a vulture that is standing nearby, waiting for a meal it knows cannot be long off. By its posture, the vulture appears ready to take another hop closer, then another.…

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Moonrise Over Chimney Rock

By Elizabeth Dodd

When the moon first slides its slenderest rind of lit curvature above the stony crest where we’re all staring, it is almost invisible; for that precise moment, it is the essence of the ephemeral. Since we arrived some 15 minutes ago at the modern fire tower atop the mesa, we’ve been gazing at the point of high land just between Chimney Rock and its not-quite-shadow-shape, Companion Rock. Some of the assembled, volunteers and scholars who’ve been documenting this year’s lunar events, have really been watching for months.…

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