Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cave of a Writer's dreams

This is one of the few images I have from our trip to France a year ago, as our camera was stolen in Marseilles, but it's a favorite. I had happened to post a few shots on Facebook and was able to retrieve them. Fred and I visited Pont Vallon d'Arc in the Ardeche River gorge where the incredible Grotte Chauvet was discovered in 1994. The cave is filled with stunning paintings that may be the oldest art in the world, and which rival anything painted anywhere since. Who knew that wooly rhinos once roamed the area? But there they are on the walls, almost snorting and twitching their ratty tails, along with horses, bison, bears, lions, and many other creatures from thirty thousand years ago--but curiously these people seldom or never depicted humans or dogs.

For the past year, I'd been reading everything I could get my hands on about dogs, from old kids' books to Mark Derr's How the Dog Became the Dog, in preparation for writing my novel, Wolfboy (working title). In the cavern, they found the footprint of a boy and a canine, apparently walking side by side. Wolf? Dog? Chills up my spine! Wolf tracking boy? Early dog and boy walking together as friends the same day--or unrelated footprints ten thousand years apart? There are also depressions in the cave floor left by hibernating cave bears, along with the bones of many of those bears. Oh the rich material for imagination!

Chauvet was never opened to the public for fear of the molds which have damaged Lascaux. Fred and I knew we would not be able to enter the cave, but I had read books, studied photographs, and watched the documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, several times. I had come here to see the area and try to absorb the aura of this sacred place. We hiked up the winding trail under soaring cliffs to the entrance which was sealed off like some sort of James Bond stronghold. Conscious of the surveillance cameras trained on us, we peered through the barred gate into the area where researchers don protective clothing before entering. Then we scuttled along the steep, wooded slope a few yards further and found this little hollow in the rock. It was big enough for a person to shelter. Perhaps someone long ago spent a rainy night there.  

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