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What does it exactly mean to say bones are bleaching? Specifically, does it mean

their color is getting whiter 

or

they are moldering

A context:

Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anaemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. In the end the starved bones of the hoped-for deer herd, dead of its own too-much, bleach with the bones of the dead sage, or molder under the high-lined junipers.

Thinking Like a Mountain

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    What reason do you have for thinking it does not mean to become white? – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 2 '17 at 19:46
  • @StoneyB Because 1) they are already white and 2) while it makes sense to say bones are moldering, what is the point in saying bones are becoming white? – Sasan Feb 2 '17 at 19:49
  • I think it's referring to the herd, not the bones. So the herd is becoming white from the bones. – Barmar Feb 2 '17 at 20:31
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    You've been posting lots of excerpts from this text. He clearly writes in a very archaic manner, and with lots of poetic imagery. Trying to understand him literally just seems wrong. – Barmar Feb 2 '17 at 20:33
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    @ab2 I had looked up "bleach", "molder", and "sage". Their meanings are are clear. The question is however about the meaning in context. In that respect, my question is pointed. – Sasan Feb 2 '17 at 21:23
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Bleached bones are weathered laying in the sun and all weather of course. Bone is primarily white and "yellows" and "greys" as it ages exposed to the elements; nutrients leech out and the color changes. This actually occurs differently depending on location i.e. in the north bone trends to be on the off-white/ "grey" where mid climates "yellowing" (Ive no experience in other climates).

  • Hi @Andy Sayer, please indicate where this information comes from. Questions on ELU should ideally include some cited sources to back up the information being provided. Thanks! – freeling10 Feb 2 '17 at 23:21

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