Spence here: Thank you for perusing our site once again! The huckleberries are back on the road and currently trying to catch up with documenting this year’s adventures. In the Spring we took an amazing trip to Chaco Canyon. The condition of the dirt road out to Chaco was surprisingly good, however, I was still thrilled we had purchased a jeep last summer. The weather during the day was warm and dry, but the nights dropped to the single digits after the sun went down. Luckily, a cute family visiting from Flagstaff, Arizona, camped next to us and invited us over to share their big campfire. We talked at length about the environment, climate change, getting back to the land and how families can raise kids in a society which values monetary success above all else. To celebrate the Spring Equinox, we decided to bear witness to the sacred sunrise at Casa Rinconada, a gigantic kiva ruin. The view at sunrise included a direct alignment through two doorways, matching up exacting with a vertical wall of rock on the horizon. The thoughtful and precise placement of the buildings was astounding, for peoples’ deemed “primitive” by Western standards, (which as a label, has always bothered me.) The information the rangers provided for us during the tour, (we had to have a tour at that time of the morning, since the park wasn’t officially open yet), was paltry. I am not sure if it is the fault of the rangers or the park service, or the fear of speculation/lack of fact, since no one seems to have a definite answer to what happened to the Ancestral Puebloan peoples of that time. The insistent denial that drought did not play a part in their “disappearance” however, was ridiculous. The Chaco River which used to flow through the canyon on a regular basis, if not all year, was dry as a bone as our time of visit and hadn’t flowed in quite some time…years. Drought conditions in other areas may have affected peoples’ travelling to Chaco as well, as migrating to wetter areas may have turned their attentions. Another interesting thought about the area was the people may have realized their powers were becoming too great and thus intentionally walking away from the great houses and villages. (Many kivas had been closed in with bodies sacrificed and burned, something the rangers definitely weren’t willing to discuss.) The sites are still sacred to the people of the area, with ceremonies still being held and ancestors being reveled and honored. Perhaps some respect has been show in not revealing the information, as it has more to do with tribal affairs than Western curiosity.) The visitor’s center at Chaco mostly focused on the archaeological education of the Westerners who came to excavate the site. According to local author, Craig Childs, who grew up in the Four Corners area, as a people, the Ancestral Puebloan (“Anasazi” is a pervasive term used to lump all the distinct tribes of people of that time period together, which is actually considered derogatory by the descendants–Ancestral Puebloan is preferred) never actually “disappeared”, but have evolved into other native groups, who continue to be marginalized in our current North American world view. Childs has written many intriguing books on the desert, its native peoples and travelling through the lands on foot. House of Rain has the most detailed and researched information of the vast network of ancient roads, kivas, great houses and villages, including Mesa Verde, the Gila Cliff Dwellings, Hovenweep and Bandelier. (The Secret Knowledge of Water, Finders Keepers and House of Rain are my favorite books of his.)
Billy here. While at the Gila Cliff Dwellings, our first trip of the year in January, I picked up an absolutely wonderful book called Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future. Containing contributions from such leaders as John Mohawk and Winona LaDuke, it speaks to all of us about what it is to be a human animal. It may be my favorite book in years.
It takes an entire lifetime to pull myself back into the present. Our culture is so obsessed with speed and new, shiny things that we forget the simple turns of the seasons. Once our ancestors celebrated the shifting of the seasons, sun and moon with song, dance and feast in stone monoliths and mead halls. We had time to sit out of our daily chores for several feast days a year to absorb our literal place in the cosmos. To simply take account of where the sun, moon and stars are in the sky. To notice the air and the state of the trees. Are the oaks leaves budding out yet? Are the ants awake? And where in the cycle are we in our own lives? So every solstice and equinox, at the very least, I make an effort to watch the sun rise and set, to sit and have the patience to be where I am. This takes gentleness with ourselves, for unless we are of the dying hunter gatherer tribes, we each have at least a foot in the fast current of human technocracy: blogging, phones, cars, factory goods. It has been a mission of mine since I was very small to become independent of the industrial empire. I drew maps of the village where I would live in the forest when I was seven: where the blacksmith would be, the water wheel, the huts. But decolonization starts in our own hearts, minds and mythology. Mythology was taught through the stars and stories in every culture there is. If we lose touch of our connection with those star stories, we are lost in the rivers between worlds. Our current time of moving forward and leaving tradition behind is not evil, we are learning some important lessons about the institutional oppression of women, children and our non-human brethren. But there will come a time when we will also recognize the wisdom of thinking with our hearts as well as our minds, using our minds to recognize static repressive beliefs and to move beyond religious fanaticism. There are things we must leave behind as we evolve, such as slavery and hatred of the other, but there are things we will inevitably return to: that we are part of nature. And as long as we think we are separate from her, we will behave just like the cell that forgets it is part of the larger body and reproduces uncontrollably.