Thomas Doty – Storyteller

Reading the Rocks Project

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Someone wrote a story on this rock, perhaps a thousand years ago, perhaps more. Someone who walked the woods at night. He went inside the cave, made a fire, and sat for a long, long time. He listened to the tumbling of the creek, to the slow growing of trees, and the slower settling of the earth. Orange light from the fire danced across the rock.

– From Writing on the Rocks

About the Project

In the mid 1980s, I met Roy Phillips. We became good friends and joined forces to explore an interest we shared: native rock writings ... the pictographs (paintings) and petroglyphs (carvings) found in the West, and throughout the world. Though commonly referred to as rock art — and indeed they are extremely artistic — the symbols are more akin to writing as they communicate messages, stories, histories and personal visions.

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As a storyteller, I incorporate the shapes and meanings of symbols into gestures in my performances. The symbols are also the inspiration for the drawings in my published stories and there are several scenes in my stories that include visits to rock writing sites.

Since that first meeting, Roy and I have visited hundreds of sites in the West. We have dreamed, pondered, scribbled, photographed, and compared and contrasted in our efforts to understand what the writers were compelled to share of their wisdoms and experiences.

Our work has included documenting and interpreting the sites, communicating and sharing with colleagues, and in several instances, doing what we can to protect them from vandalism, thievery and natural decay. We consider the rock writings to be cultural treasures. Often they are located at known sacred sites, several of which are currently active. We encourage respect and a light footfall.