Will Russell, Field Supervisor
In less than a week, we’ll all be home. Our other homes. The ones before we made this one. We finished backfilling yesterday and were blessed with cloud cover, making the heat and dust bearable. In the distance, over the Black Range, we could see rays of sunlight piercing the grey sky; what the Navajo call shandiin. It seemed awfully metaphoric, having toiled under the sun but not seen its light until it poked through from behind the veil. It got me to thinking about the process we’ve all gone through—staff and students alike—during the past six weeks. We’ve transformed, all of us, from something less to what we are now. The staff got here a week early so we could get to know each other and hammer out the season’s protocol. Some of us knew each other and some of us didn’t. Some of us had taught field schools before and some hadn’t. Some of us used metric graph paper and some of us are less civilized. Nevertheless, we quickly became friends and solidified the “us” in preparation for the arrival of “them.”
We’re writing excavation summaries now, which means digging through notes and forms and various scraps of memory in order to piece together the story we’ll tell. One of my students, Izzy, was looking through my unit log and found, on the first page, where I’d jotted down the names of the students assigned to me. I hadn’t memorized any names at that point, so I had scrawled quick notes next to each one, lest I forget anyone. Mountain Man was the construction worker from Colorado. Hula Hoop was the one who asked Bill Doelle to driver her across Tucson to retrieve something she’d forgotten … a hula hoop. Bieber spent a lot of time running his hands through his hair and Allergies was, well, not a happy camper for the first week. I apparently did know Izzy’s name because there was no moniker in the margin. I’m still not sure if she’s relieved or disappointed.
I’ve been teaching field schools since 2008, and the last week or so always sneaks up on me. It’s a bittersweet time. By this point, the line between staff and student has blurred or, in some cases, disappeared altogether. I look down the dinner table now and see friends and colleagues: all “us” and no “them.” I remember teaching Hula Hoop how to use a shovel, but I also remember Madisen teaching me that sometimes people just do things because it makes them (or others) smile. I remember showing Mountain Man how to map stratigraphy, but I also remember Aaron teaching me about construction processes. It’s been a learning experience for all of us; learning about our pasts, present, and futures. In a few days, we’ll make our separate ways back to our (other) families, (other) jobs, and (other) friends. I’m not naïve; I know that not everyone here will stay in archaeology. I selfishly wish they would. There’s not a person here who couldn’t add something spectacular to the discipline. Whether we stay colleagues or not, I hope we stay in touch … with each other and with the memories we’ve made together. It’s raining now, soft but steady. It’s a good sign.