Thursday, July 30, 2009

El Morro, Atsinna, Dragonflies and Thunder

This morning we climbed El Morro, which means 'the bluff' or 'the headland', a bulwark of red and white sandstone standing against the sapphire sky. At the top was a partially excavated Zuni pueblo, called Atsinna.

A Zuni ranger popped out from under the half-buried first floor and greeted us. He told us that over a thousand of his people once lived there and that they travelled first from the Grand Canyon and went all through the West. Each time they moved, it is because they were given a message by the Sun or the Moon. He spoke of the Red-Gold and Turquoise Dragonflies as spiritual messengers. We stood in the middle of the world, he said, what the White Man calls the Continental Divide, the saddle in the North. Other rangers, he explained, would tell people to stay away from this, don't touch that, don't sit on the ruins, but not him, he invites, beckons people to join and listen. He said sometimes people came and told him they were one-quarter Navajo or one-eighth Lakota and that they would ask him what he was. He shook his head. "We are all mixed." He pressed his firm, flat hand against his heart. "It is here that matters." He told us he was restoring the pueblo because now that it has been excavated they must repair it frequently to keep it from eroding. Grandmother, Grandfather or Sister is here in these rooms, watching and laughing, he says, they can see me but I can't see them. They knew of this time now, when the world would become heavy, too heavy for the gods to hold, because there would be too many people. There would be a great time of scarcity and sometimes the future is sad, but he would continue to teach people, tell the children the stories of his Grandmothers, all the children, regardless of their skin, because this is what he must do. He talked to us a long while and finally said he must end his break.

We thanked him and ventured down and around the box canyon. We were thirsty and hot. A pool under the bluffs harbored bees and dragonflies, just past the petroglyphs of rams, hands and snakes. In a very short while after coming down from the ancient Atsinna, in time for us to take shelter at Inscription Rock Cafe, the monsoon poured down cool rain and hail on the desert.

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