This is my third day here in New Taipei City Taipei Taiwan. This morning discovered how to use the washing machine in the Airbnb. The instructions were all in Chinese and then asked the host to annotate in English the buttons so I could have some fun with laundry too. There are basically two buttons to push. Power and Start. You put some dirty stuff in and add in some detergent and push power and start. Another small moment and a big discovery! Clean clothes ahoy.
Since I have no real discoveries to make today and all day to walk as I please I will probably wait and leave after I hang my clothing in my room to dry. It will take all day long I am thinking to get through the drying cycle hanging up. At least I don’t have to wash by hand. But I digress. There is a need for coffee this morning so will try a new place down the street. Today I am not sure in what direction or what I will see. I think I will just point my nose and follow it. I try not to make momentous decisions in this post since I am all after the smaller moments that may then all combine to big discoveries (or not). It does remind me though of a moment in archeology in the Mojave Desert; so indulge me.
Wandering the Desert in Search
Some decades ago I worked as a project archeologist at Edwards Air Force Base in the Western Mojave Desert. The base is huge and the prehistoric cultural resources can be immense properties and the base really had no idea then how many it had or whether there were properties in the way of engineering, Air Force, or other projects. I walked one project which was a electrical transmission line which had a right of way defined for a road and then the power lines. We added a few hundred feet on each side of the right of way.
One day as I walked along I started seeing flaked stone artifacts on the ground in front of me. The rule was to stop and flag the spot and then start wandering perhaps in circles to find some kind of geometry to the site. I saw more and more and the project right of way dissected the site. I tied some yellow caution flagging perhaps and then notified the base archeologist of the find. Rick came right out and we scouted the site area or what we thought was the area. He went in a different direction and disappeared over some dunes. Then he was yelling excitedly. He had a found a series of hearths and burned bone most likely bunny bone. The site dimensions had grown again and was far beyond the right of way of the project. We had a few days of work ahead of us mapping the site and how the project transacted it. We had to notify the State of the find and the project impact as we saw it and provide some mitigation measures.
Since the site was so large and the project cut the site nearly in half as we found out doing more mapping, we had decided to test the site as part of the mitigation. We contracted with a cultural resource firm after proposing and getting acceptance from the state on our plan. The test would determine if the site was eligible for the National Record of Historic Places. The project would halt and the project proponent would wait until we determined the impact by limited testing along the right of way.
The site was immense and was judged to be significant and potentially eligible for inclusion in the NRHP. I was very excited! Probably the most significant and beautiful yet strange site I had found on the base. I could wander a direction and find signs of human habitation like smaller warming hearths, larger cooking hearths with burnt bone, flaked stone artifacts, ground stone tools in many directions.
In the end, the project looped around the site to limit the impact because the cost of mitigation was deemed more expensive than changing the right of way but of course then we had to test along the new right of way too since it was close and very feasible to have cultural resources under the surface. We would then excavate test pits every so often and see.
In the end all was good on the new path and the site was protected and no more excavations done. It was marked as potentially eligible and the base elected to not impact the site based on our recommendations and conclusions.
a small thing leads to a big thing
So a few flaked stone tools led to an immense discovery that changed a highly expensive project. We protected a huge site but it all started finding a little stone tool and then another and another. An amazing concentration of facts!
It’s true in life too though folks. A small thing you happen to see in a moment you wander may lead to bigger discoveries. You may find a life or a time patiently waiting for your excavator’s touch. It may lie hidden right there in a moment ahead of you. Turn left or right at an inopportune time and it’s missed. Here’s the wonder of this to me though. Another valuable thing may suddenly turn up. Maybe I would have found yet other things had I walked to the left or right or turned around. The prehistoric site was huge but it came on a single little discovery. I submit often life is like that too.
When I wander here in Taipei I don’t look for the big things. I like the little geometry. The little tool on the ground. The old chairs left behind that make up a small moment to capture with the camera. They often lead to something else or maybe not.
One thing for certain you can find the small things that make up the moments and see for yourself. Perhaps you don’t need the big things. In that case welcome to my world of small moments!