Time: Then, Now, & Forever

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“You are preoccupied with time; we have been here since last week, tomorrow, and forever.”

Prior to our journey to San Juan River, the crew and I made a visit to the center of the Navajo Nation Reservation. On this hollowed land we met with Will, a Navajo orthodox or the Native American Church with traditional beliefs and customs yet a refined contemporary attitude toward spirituality in the complex world of the 21st century. He believed that in a world consumed by media one much come to terms with the reality but find time and space for introspection and reflection on the natural world that thrives and dies beyond the commercial realm.

Will showed us how to properly introduce ourselves; in the case of the Navajo it would be giving ones name, what tribe the are a part of, where they came from/where they grew up, the names of grandparents and parents, what they do for a living, and whatever else they wish to include about themselves like their interests, what they do for fun etc. For everyone else the introduction is similar, but for the most part the tribe affiliation is not applicable. We went around the circle, each introduction taking at least one minute which seemed inadequate compared to Will’s lineage and history imbedded within his person.

After our introductions, I feel like in that short time I had gotten to know everyone in the group a little better than before and vice versa. Will then proceeded to show us a very special part of his homeland, where the holy ones lived. In the center of the Navajo Universe, an area between four mountains and spanning into all the Four Corner states, lies the ancient ruins of the first Navajo People. The Holy Ones, the sacred forefathers of the Navajo had been in this place infinitely and indefinitely. How you ask? well when I asked Will how long the Navajo had been there he replied:

“You are preoccupied with time; we have been here since last week, since tomorrow, and forever in time.”

This way of understanding the nature of time was familiar to me because I had heard it from a spiritual medium and dear friend before departing from Baltimore for this Adventure in the Southwest. She had channeled my spiritual advisors and they told her of my past lives and what my soul has been through before entering the world again in the form of yours truly. I asked how could that be? She replied with an eerily similar answer I later received from Will the Navajo:

We are told time is linear, and each moment that passes is immediately gone. Time is not linear, from moment to moment. Rather, the past, the present, and the future are all one within one entity. Time is a circle of continuous existence. Whatever was continues to be, whatever is has always been, and what will be in the future is forever before us and behind. Time is the grandest of illusions, as is death.

To be continued

 

The San Juan River

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Upon arrival at Recapture Lodge in Bluff, Utah, the gang and I were drawn to the two pianos, bongos and guitar that were in the lobby. This trip had music everywhere we went in some shape or form which was grand. After playing many a tune that filled the building we took a look at our plan for the next day. At 9 AM we depart on a 26 mile journey down the San Juan River, the mightiest river in the Southwest. With great anticipation and suspense I thought about the glorious plan for the next day, rafting and kayaking one of the biggest and fastest rivers in the Four Corners regions.

At the launching point the next morning we learned the ground rules for the trip from Marcus the guide, a true Navajo in every sense of the word. Along with Marcus was Louis and Greg, and these they sure knew their history and a great deal about their ancestral homeland part of the country.We made our way onto the San Juan and the current was so strong that paddling wasn’t necessary, sometimes paddling against the current so not to get far ahead of Marcus’s raft. There were three big sky blue rafts and four dark blue Duckies, kayaks made with rubber like the rafts instead of wood or plastic. My amigo James and I were in a two person ducky kayak for the first stretch of the journey.

After about 4 miles of a beautiful trip down this powerful river, we pulled off and landed on the right side of the river and hopped out. From where we stopped, we walked about 50 feet through the trees and up a small hill up to the canyon face. On a long flat stretch of the face of the canyon wall were hundreds if not thousands of petro glyphs all over 800 years old. Each image had its own significance and story, and they were all incredible works of art for the primitive technology used to carve them into the sandstone wall. I will put up pictures of some of them as soon as possible because they are truly magnificent.

Continuing down the river, I admired the canyon layers, the geologists dream, and in watching the scenery slowly pass by that I was uncertain I would ever see again made me savor it even more. The trip to this point has been so fast paced and we were always doing as much as we could fit into the time we had, and at this moment floating down the river, time completely stood still. It wasn’t like the Animas river of Durango with its huge waves and crazy rapids; it was more serene and peaceful, even when it kept you moving at a good clip. Even few miles we stopped to view more petro glyphs, each more surreal than the one before. Never in my life have I seen such raw and tangible evidence of the presence of ancient cultures. Their artwork represented symbols of their society, spirituality, community, and what they held most important to them. They depicted everything from long horn sheep to their own hands and feet. Standing where they stood, close enough to touch their markings from centuries ago was very special to me because you felt the presence of the people that used to live in the San Juan valley for multiple generations living off of the land.

Everywhere I go, I find myself looking at things and wondering how they got there and what was involved in the making and changing of them. On this river, I look at the canyon walls, the oldest part about 127 million years old. This river has been carving out this canyon for an unfathomable amount of time, and you can see the stages of time in each layer of rock. It’s on the top 5 sites for geologists to visit in the world because of how far back in time you can see. If you will, let’s look at a broad example of how things came to be.

You are walking down a city street, surrounded by tall buildings, walking on a cement sidewalk, next to sighing automobiles on a hot asphalt road. This is the kind of urban environment over 50% of the world lives in, completely built by man, complete with sparse trees strangled by more sidewalk. Everything around you is made of natural resources, but is doesn’t naturally occur without the intervention of mankind.

Nothing we do as humans is really “unnatural” because we are a part of the ecosystem we live and we have simply labeled ourselves as separate; humans are spectators second to prospectors of the natural world much to the demise of our recently estranged mother. Back to the thought, you cross the aforementioned street and see a building under construction next to a building being demolished. Upon looking at the latter, you see the bare bones of a strong structure made to support millions of pounds of material within and atop itself. This structure will soon look like its clean cut neighbor next door that currently towers above the sapling skyscraper. Looking at the former, you see a building being demolished. The barebones look like those of the one that is being created, yet all that effort and ingenuity that went in to creating the building is all for naught as it pulverized into oblivion.

Let it breathe for a moment.

I look into the petroglyphs and picture the people who made them steady at work right in front of me chipping away at the wall for hours on end. Consciously or subconsciously they are making something that they want to be around forever. They are leaving their mark and passing on their traditional beliefs and cultural values in a visual realm. This can be said about the Navajo Nation and many other tribes of Native Americans. From passing their ways down through the generations, they are trying to make something last forever just like a strong house that weathers the storm. Back to our example, a building is being destroyed to make room for another building. The building in question might have had a few flaws, but it still had structural integrity. However, when outsiders wanted to have the land where that building stood, it was time to tear it down. To spell it out, the building under construction can be seen as the European colonization of the “new world”, and the building being demolished is the Native American societies, cultures, and structural integrities annihilated just to make their land available.

After an unbelievable 18 mile float/paddle down the San Juan, we set up camp on the river. I made my spot around the bend from the main camp in a place where I could see a half mile down the river and the greatest stretch of canyon. I watched the sun set on the Canyon, and one by one the stars began to wake up for the night. As we sat around the campfire, Louis and Greg, the other two guides who were hilarious and great friends to have, told some horrifying stories of the Skin Walkers of the Southwest and the dreaded La Chupa Cabra. These scary campfire stories were not for the faint of heart I’ll say that much. After stargazing and contemplating the universe for a few hours I hit the hay, ready for the remaining eight mile ride the next day.

Thoughts: the Mind, the Media, and the Manifest

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Reader don’t care:

A generalized transgenerational ramble with no scholarly significance or reference to folklore, from a nomad currently tracking the daily grind of a monster digging up the ocean floor. A train of thought that ran off the track, standing on the sea with the wind to his back.

Audience unknown, I am a digital media immigrant, typing words onto an empty screen, this virtual throne, freedom of speech is just a sentiment, it rhymes so it must be known, use your brain, go ahead, your brain is all you actually own. What a miraculous thing we grew in our heads from eating so many bugs to keep that machine fed. If our ancestors hadn’t eaten all this good protein our minds would be as small in reality as we currently make them seem judging by the erroneous arrogance of those living the “American dream”.

With the most powerful asset in the animal kingdom between the eyes, we still find ourselves obsessing over currency and the notion of freedom in disguise. I’m talking to you, you meddling kids, take your eyes out of that screen and look at what is. You’ve been domesticated by a system in place to produce consumers that can be subsequently procreated in space. Now you can’t have a conversation because all you do is type at each other, you are supposed to be the “future of a nation” but you don’t have the compassion or strength to look out for one another. America the bulletfull, another one bites the dust and then another, how can we see the truth behind the bull if we have no trust in what we discover?

Think

Think about when you were younger and you didn’t flood your mind with so much brain fattening media and entertainment, stare at a screen to avoid human interaction and social lament, look around at the world and you seem impatient, ignoring that which has been tugging at your shoestring everywhere you have been and everywhere you went, but you don’t have the time to stop and tie it up because it wouldn’t be time well spent.

If you want to read my two cents, I’m surprised you read this far, with all other things you could be doing I feel like a superstar, you must have a better attention span than a 5 year old at disneyland or a lesbian at a gay bar, On the other hand I’d rather give a kid a book by Ayn Rand then all the video games and other mind numbing contraband. When asked if there is one thing I can’t stand, I’d probably say nothing but a room full of 21st century digital boys and girls with their heads in the sand, stuck trying to look at their own hand through a glass mirror in wonderland.  I’m talking about your life, your existence, where you might stand.

The way things once were whenever they will never be again, for better or worse and forever we have bestowed upon ourselves a curse, a curse of disillusionment in a world of clarity, a curse of virtual representations of self as the new reality, living in the 21st century of endless opportunity the rich get richer and the poor live off the middle man’s tax capacity, while streets are too loud to ever hear freedom ring, yet you ask me for a dollar, funny, I was about to ask you the same thing.

Next time you are looking at a screen to murder some time, think about the nature of our being what it means to be sublime – of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe. That is what we can be if we set ourselves free, that’s what the world is  has always been from the mountains to the sea, live your life with eyes that see, feel the earth below your feet, listen to the wind in the trees, and be thankful for everything.

 

Thoughts on the Empire

Thoughts on the Empire

Destiny Manifesto, East meets the rest. Looking out at the enchanting landscape of the Southwest, I think of Europeans clashing with the natives on a waves crest. Who violated every human right of those here first before they could even stand for less. Congeniality toward one’s fellow man should be the bigger plan but I digress, it seems we plan for the best but stay lost in the desert looking for quick sand until our untimely death.

A Dialogue Between Savant Savages

Barnabus Cornucopia III and Garfield Humperdinck IV on a journey to the new frontier. Elitist, racist, and proud British men standing face to face with a land of opportunity and no one to stop them except the true savages; themselves.

B “What are these savages doing here breathing the white mans air?”

G “They are naked and wild but they do not seem to care!”

B “I suppose they live here, but why is all this good land going unused? I’d say it is being abused by these fools and land they might as well loose”

G “Why Barnabus we’ve struck gold here I do declare!” But what of these savages? They’re absolutely everywhere!”

B “Oh they’ll be gone soon, I’ve brought them blankets to keep them warm under the cold moon and with a wave of my wand they’ll be dust before noon”

G “Indeed. All this land, littered with red and brown beings with nary a dubloon?! And they expect me to walk among them like a buffoon! HAH! Before that happens ill be drunk dead in a saloon! by George I’ll tell you these animals must be slow for what am I? A baboon? A common polyglot? most certainly not, I am a man with a shut door with an engaged lock, a window surrounded by pain, and plenty of potential financial gain before time runs out on my O’clock, so why refrain? My good Barnabus can’t you see! Open your eyes this world is just a single grain of salt in the deep blue sea. Surely its no surprise to find that it was made for people like you and me”

B “You may be right dear cousin, savages like these are a dime a dozen, perhaps we’ll be doing them a great favor by giving order to this place, or perhaps they’ll award us for bringing in a superior race, whatever the case I’m sure we’ll be welcome with open arms, and if welcomed we are not I suppose we’ll have to open arms.”

G “What then do you think will happen old chap? If they do welcome us are we still taking them off of the map?”

What Has Become

The white man (according to the naturalization act of 1790 the term white does not apply to the Irish, Italians, Bohemians, Jews, etc.), and conquistadors completely changed the traditional ways of life in Native America by forcing western old world customs and religion upon the natives and obliterating their cultural identities. The love of power most definitely defeated the power of love, and life in this country took a new direction, far from the course of peaceful coexistence.

Many people of the native Southwest view the white man as evil.They were the people that destroyed their way of life and left them yearning for change and for their lives to return to the way they once were before being worn down to nothing. They have become what the white man has made them. The destruction of cultural connections is an extensive act that cannot be undone. They hate and they have all the right to because they were here first minding their own business. They have always been here, and everything was taken from them except cheap alcohol, undesirable land, very profitable casinos, sadness and poverty.

How can we expect natives to forgive and forget? How can we expect anything but hatred and disdain for what has been done to their ancestors that negatively effects them to this day? There will be no change until congeniality towards the fellow man is the bigger plan. Love, acceptance, reparation, forgiveness, and prayer for coexistence beyond co-dependence through the cease of this continuity of oppression. These are the things that will lead us all out of the dark, by it seems the majority of us are still too blind to see.

Mesa Verde & The Anasasi: Not your typical Corn, Beans, and Squash

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There are universal interpretations of ancient ruins, and the most commonly heard are those based on the intelligent speculations of archaeologists and historians. However with no written language and unclear motives of the people who lived there, the speculation has no real ground. Everyone has their own ideas about Mesa Verde, but oral traditions passed  through generations tell the truest story. Our guide at Mesa Verde, a wise young man of Anasasi decent, told this would be your typical corn, beans and squash tour of a Native American site. He stressed the idea that we should not be tourists of history but instead we should be critical thinkers of history, investigating and finding our own interpretations of a place like Mesa Verde. As for myself, I saw Mesa Verde as a place of shelter and peace, where the Anasasi were protected from the Spanish and warrior indians in a place deeply connected to the Earth and creator spirit, physically built into a spectacular limestone alcove.

From the oral traditions passed down to our guide, he told us that the Anasasi that lived in Mesa Verde were a farming people engaged heavily in far reaching trade in the Southwest, including places like Chaco Canyon, a central post in the trade network I wrote about 4 posts ago (See Chaco Culture: Archaeoastronomy & Ancient Architecture). In Mesa Verde they grew corn, squash and beans (yada yada..), but most interestingly they grew potatoes brought all the way from Peru! This means that the trade network of the Anasasi led them all the way to South America for Potato seeds and other trade goods. For a good read about potatoes in Peru see my post entitled Parque De La Papa about the Sacred Valley in Peru, where over 3600 varieties of potatoes are grown. The kind and peace loving Anasasi were exceptional at trading but more importantly at making the very most out of their environment as possible.

The Anasasi way of life was simple- give and receive, but never take without contributing back. A lack of contribution would lead to being seen and treated as an outcast and otherwise useless member of the group, uninterested in the greater good of the people. In a smaller group of people this system works. It is the same simple system of reciprocity that the Inca in Peru lived by, the very same people the Anasasi traded with for potato seeds. Perhaps they traded ideals and morals along with goods from their home. Today, the contemporary way of life is much different than their traditional ways because their world was flipped upside down through generations of hardship brought on by European conquest. A similar story applies to essentially all Native American people.  A new group of pale faced strangers that believe the Earth belongs to man, when according to Native values man belongs to the Earth, takes over over the land once revered and respected by those who were here first, and the country has suffered for it culturally, environmentally, and socioeconomically.

The Anasasi and Inca were doing it right: living harmoniously of the principal of reciprocity in a world where if you didn’t contribute you didn’t eat. It seems as though we are becoming a country that breeds self interested, privacy loving, mass consuming, non-contributing nothings that care about nothing and nobody at all, where kids don’t know how to have real life conversations because they text more than they speak. We can learn from the past and live compassionately and generously, but only when we teach young people that life isn’t about toys and money, it is about connecting with and helping your fellow beings on this great big planet floating through space. We should also teach them that life isn’t about quotes about life.

 

 

Silverton Railroad and the Animas River

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The Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Coal burning locomotive from 1919, and the railroad on which she rolls is a sight to see. I felt humbled by this great machine nearly a century old, but even more so by the manpower and ingenuity needed to navigate and construct a narrow gauge railroad through mountains of the dense San Juan Forest and right on the banks of roaring upper Animas River. The whistle blew and I was brought back to my childhood, when I would blow a wooden train whistle with the exact same sound. As a child I was captivated by all vehicles, but trains stood out as the mightiest of them all. I dreamed of one day riding on an old steam engine with a whistle that echoed through the mountains. Returning to the present, I realize how fortunate I am to be able to fulfill that life dream with great friends on a historic train travelling through one of the most beautiful areas in the Rockies. The whistle blew once again and we set forth at a slow churn, eventually chugging up to a comfortable trot of about 8 mph. The tall train rocked side to side on its narrow tracks while we passed lush green fields and farmland nestled between huge mountain ridges. In the distance you could see the destination in the form of the biggest snow covered mountaintop in sight.

Climbing up the walls of the San Juan National Forest, I look down at a pristine lake about 400 ft below. The train pulls me along as my breath is taken away by the magnificent views around every bend. At one point the train ran so close to the river on the left side that looking over the side it seemed as though we were a steamboat heading upstream, and on the right was bare granite rock face no more than a foot away from the train. I see see powerlines here and there, and think of how hard it was to put them perfectly straight on these steep mountainsides angled at least 45 degrees slope. The will of man to build a railroad through the mountains from Durango to Silverton is no small thing. People could not do this without some burning fire inside and persistent determination to get the job done using mainly manpower over machines.

Of course there are environmental costs to building a railroad next to a river, such as digging into the mountainside to clear way for the train. This causes erosion and decreasing river quality in places like Peru, where the railroad built from Cusco to Machu Picchu left the river a rust red color from scraping the mountain. However, in this river, the walls of granite and other hard rock in the Rocky (hence the name) mountains don’t wear away like some of the soils in the Andes. I bring this up because over this trip, this summer, and essentially the past few years I have been seeing recurring tradeoffs of economic progress at the cost of ecological degradation. Much of my past writing has touched on overfishing, but the effect of earthmoving on habitats is the oldest way we have disrupted ecosystems.

Right now I am using my hand written journal to write about what happened about a month ago, catching up on things if you will. I want to write about my current experience in Miami working on the deepening of the Miami harbor through Hydraulic Cutter Suction Dredging, an extremely destructive process that puts habitat at risk and the measures that have been taken to mediate this impact.However, I will be posting in chronological order so as to not jump around in time.

Speaking of jumping around in time…

There we were, after a spectacular and glorious three hour ride on the train we had made it to the historic silver mining town of Silverton. Walking on mainstreet you Immediately you could imagine what it looked like in the times of the lawless wild west. After exploring the town, some of the gang and I went to a saloon/bar/grill called Grumpy’s where we heard classic ragtime piano being played by an elderly gentleman, obviously not his first rodeo. The bison burger and French onion soup were extraordinary. I would highly recommend. Anyhow after peering into more nooks and crannies of the great American mining town we hoped on a shuttle back to Durango, a ride with scenery just as incredible as those seen on the train ride up. We took a shuttle because we were heading to part of the Animas River just north of Durango where we would raft back into town.

The white water rafting on the Animas river was incredible. We had come at the time of the highest and fastest water year. By the time the water reached where we were about to embark from it had been only 30 hours since it was frozen in the mountains, so naturally, the water was a little too cold for a casual dip. Regardless, after our trip downriver over some exhilarating and somewhat terrifying river waves we were all soaked in freezing cold Animas riverwater, and loving every second of it.

We returned to the beautiful Strater hotel in one piece, exhuasted but ready for the morning when we would head to the infamous Mesa Verde cliff dwellings of the Anasasi People.

To be Continued…

Durango, Colorado: Music & People, People & Place

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When we rode past a ‘Welcome to Colorful Colorado!’ sign we had officially left the Land of Enchantment. Within minutes we found ourselves ascending into the lower Rocky Mountains toward Durango. I had heard of this town before from a friend, and they highly recommended going there whenever possible. With Rocky Mountain High blaring on the radio as we sailed into the lower Rockies,  Abigail, a gal on the trip who had slept through the drive into the mountains, was routinely slamming her unconscious noggin against the van window much to our amusement and delayed concern. The glorious American road ahead of us and the dust of the desert behind, we had entered a whole new world just across the border from New Mexico.

We blew into town and made our way to the historic Strater Hotel. A picture in time, the large late 1800’s hotel had stood the test of time and seemingly gotten better with age. Walking in, one smells a subtle scent of red oak and grandmas house with the welcoming aromas of freshly cleaned carpets and burlesque waitresses briskly passing by with trays of bourbon and glasses. Incredible woodwork embellishing the interior lit by ancient chandeliers, the subtle glow of oil lamps and conversation from of the olde tyme bar within, and the brilliant front windows flooding the lobby with the rays of a most beautiful Saturday .The allegedly haunted hotel felt comfortable and welcoming, but two of the amigos on the trip, (the only other males on the trip out of the 10 of us, not necessarily a bad thing) and myself were on a mission to find a music store to purchase an inexpensive guitar for the trip and beyond.

We walked the clean, colorful, cool streets of downtown Durango towards a place we had seen on the drive in. After a short and telling encounter with some delightfully toothless vegabonds who we would later realize were pretty much the only homeless people in Durango, we continued on and like a beacon in the night a sign ahead read “BAND WAGON MUSIC STUDIO” with a giant guitar on it that beckoned us forward. Before entering the store, outside of it was a group of people playing music outside. Like their own private gig, open invitation, saturday jam session. The owner of the store, Tim, introduced himself and invited us to play. I play the drums among other things,  James picked up an acoustic electric calling his name and Lin sat with a jet black bass. We all fit into place like we were expected to show up.

There was a elderly player of the Native American flute named Jim with Beautifully handcrafted flutes that he had made. A young man named Augustus shredding lead guitar, a gal named Heidi playing accordion, an middle aged former smoker with a hole in his throat named Brad who could play the Jembe (tall hand drum) like ringing a bell. And of course, Tim the owner on the harmonica and freestyle vocals.

There wasn’t a plan, and it is usually better that way. James layed down something funky and we just started rolling. Our music went from funk to blues and jazz to latin/bossanova to upbeat disco funky poprock & roll Jim jam jubilee and beyond all in about an hour or two of solid playing. Music brings people together in a way that nothing else can which is one of the reasons I love it so much. We played loud and we played with soul, with feel. A crowd formed around the side of the store where we were playing and folks were loving it. Eventually people moved on with their days and some folks had to leave the session. James was then busy finding the right guitar and we had simmered down to some funky polka just Heidi on the accordian and myself on the drums. Within an hour of arriving in Durango we had already played some great live music with people we just met who were great and we got ourselves a guitar for the rest of the trip which came in very handy. Augustus, the guy playing lead guitar, is a student at Fort Lewis who showed us around the spectacular FL campus overlooking the great town nestled between grandiose mountains and large hills.

On our way back down to Durango, a man in a Land Cruiser asked if we needed a ride because he saw the (new) guitar on James’ back. We hoped in the kind stranger’s vehicle and he told us he plays guitar too and was about to set up for a show at a local bar with an outdoor venue in the back. Naturally we had to check it out. And so we arrived at Moe’s Tavern (like from the Simpson’s) and saw some incredible music with a lot of fun people full of life and laughter and the most serene joy. The had the demeanor of folks that once had a vision of where they wanted to lived if they could live anywhere in the world, but no longer thought like that because they had arrived. With day one in Durango, Colorado there were many lessons about living the life you want to live.

First, if you smoke crack, you will loose teeth and become the friendly mountain town bum. Just kidding but not actually drugs are bad for you. I was reminded that no matter what, music is there for you and it can form new bonds with people and strengthen the older bonds.  I learned that the same genuine kindness that will get you taken advantage of or taken for a fool in one place will bring you joy and happiness in another. It is all about the people that make the place everywhere you go, but the place also makes the people, and shapes the people that go there. Even if it only takes one day.

Chaco Culture: Archaeoastronomy and Ancient Architecture

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From 850 -1200 AD, Chaco Canyon, deep in the heart of New Mexico, was the center of a far reaching trade network where the exchange of ideas, ceremonies, goods/services and politics occurred for a vast area of the Southwest. The Chacoan contributions to architecture, art, astronomy and agriculture are a major part of the cultural legacy of Southwestern Pueblo Indians. Since they had no written language, archaeologists, historians, and other interested parties speculate immensely on the true intentions of the Chacoans. Why did they live there in such a harsh climate? Some say it was more lush and even tropical at the time of the Chacoans, but the climate of the high desert during their time was actually very similar to the arid and unforgiving climate that it is today. People also speculate that a 40 year drought is what drove the Chacoans away from their homeland. However, one of the main aspects of this culture in question is why they built the buildings where they did, and for what purpose.

 

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The Pueblo Indians of Chaco Canyon, the Chacoans, were astronomers and observers of their environment. The people would memorize the sky, where the sun and moon rose and fell on the horizon, and monitor the ever changing positions of the stars. With this information they communicated predictions of the changing of seasons. On of the most honorable and important roles in Chaco Culture is that of the Pekwin – The Sun Priest. The Sun Priest observes where the sun sets on the horizon everyday, and can confirm solar alignment with geographic markers the summer and winter solstices. If the Sun Priest does his job wrong, the entire population would suffer the consequences of his mistake.

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For example, where the Sun sets on the bottom right angle of a range of cliff faces on October 29th, just past Pueblo Bonito, the main center of Chaco, this marks the beginning of the Winter Solstice. How do we know that the Pueblo figured this out so accurately? It all comes back to the astronomy and architecture. Every structure built in the times of a thriving Chaco Canyon, and many other parts of the southwest, were structurally oriented so that certain corners or windows would line up with the Sun where either the Summer or winter Solstices were indicated on the horizon. The same goes for the Fall and Spring equinox’s. The Chacoans were masters of the land, and even greater masters of the sky. Thus, their calendar was built into their everyday lives. That is how immensely important it was to know the changing of the seasons. To give some context, in Chaco Canyon the temperature range is 138 degrees. This means that in the Summer it gets as hot as 105 F and in the Winter it gets as cold as -33 F.

 

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For the Chacoans, the Winter Equinox represents the Father (the Sun) going to his winter home and asking his children: Are you worthy of life? The extreme winter temperatures are seen by the Pueblo as the fathers test of endurance, survival, and of the will of the human spirit to live on. From this test they come to grips with the fact of life: either you come to grips with the rules of your environment, or you die-learn the rules. Since they had no written language to communicate these rules of survival, the Chacoans used rituals, ceremonies, and tradition to pass on the customs of their people to the next generation. With no tradition the rules would be lost, and thus the people would be lost.

 

The cultural preservation of Chaco, once the major center of trade, ceremonies and politics in the Southwest, has a top priority for the descendants of Chacoans and they have been successful in keeping the Chaco Culture National Historic Park essentially untouched and unscathed by archaologists and flocks of tourists. This is in part because Chaco is in the middle of the New Mexican Wilderness and ~120 miles from the nearest city.

Chaco is now one of the last dark sky zones in the United states where you can see trillions of stars in the sky and the milky way clear and bright. This is because there is no light pollution from surrounding towns and cities. Visiting Chaco as the first stop in our journey gave us a definitive sense of place and an incredible look at how the prominent Pueblo people survived in an unforgiving landscape.

Our next stop on the way to Durango, Colorado was Aztec, New Mexico, where we went to a site full of similar architecture and museum of the Pueblo Aztec way of life.