A beam of sunlight points to an arrowhead in the sandy bottom of Plum Creek. Picking it up, my wondering starts. I’d been looking for an arrowhead for many years. Hearing they existed in the area, I’d never seen a real one. Turning it over in my hand, I imagined it’s uses over the years; flint rock to start fires, tool for creating, spear for survival. In my imagination, I associated it with a human and thought about ancient footsteps on this ground I was walking. It made me wish a person could hold onto something and understand the completeness of it.
Looking at an arrowhead’s markings, a scientist is able to determine how it was made and most likely where. Another scientist might break it down and use the dust particles to test for DNA and more clearly pinpoint the uses of the rock. Testing the arrowhead would give confirmation and concrete facts about its existence and purpose as an inanimate object.
Scientific evidence can give us clues, but without words the arrowhead remains a rock. If over time, the owner of the arrowhead took care to preserve it and tell stories about all the things it accomplished and all the ways that particular arrowhead worked to further civilization – we would have a complete picture. Absent of words, absent of stories, the arrowhead is a rock we can only wonder and imagine about.
I think of connection and human interaction in the same way. Looking at a picture taken in another century might cause someone to imagine all sorts of things about the humans staring back. There are certain observable traits; their physical characteristics and mannerisms. Communication gives humans the trajectory to soften in connection or harden in silence. While the arrowhead stays trapped in the past, humans use language and story to find understanding in the present.