Tuesday, June 27, 2017


A year ago, or maybe two, Lou told me the story of an avid researcher of Anasazi culture who discovered an unopened storeroom and decided to leave it as he found it, even though he would never know what was inside. The man, Craig Childs, had written House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest. Lou recommended I read it. I bought the Kindle version and was going to read it after I finished some other books. Then I forgot about it.

Last year I drove from Durango to Albuquerque. I saw the signs on US 550 for the turnoff to Chaco Culture National Historic Park but passed by because I had other plans on my mind and I’d read that the road there was 25 miles of washboard.

A week and a half ago, dinner guests who had lived many years in New Mexico asked if I’d been to Chaco Canyon.

“Not yet, but I want to.”

“Oh, you should definitely go.”

A week later was Kat and Joe’s wedding. Afterward, Cyan reported on Facebook that she’d seen a man at the wedding “wearing an animal skull with a scarf through the eye sockets as a tie.” (I remembered seeing him and admiring his neckwear.) Forrest introduced Cyan to him. It was Craig Childs, who lives off-grid somewhere in the area and, evidently, is a friend of Kat and/or Joe and of Forrest. Cyan wrote, “I try not to go all fan girl because he's the author of the book I'm reading!” Which is the book I was going to read. Eventually.

So I pulled up the book. It starts with the story of the unopened room. A couple of chapters later Childs is at Chaco Culture on the summer solstice.
No one moved as we huddled at the eastern arc of Casa Rinconada this morning. All eyes peered to the west. Suddenly, the sky split open, and a meteorite slivered the blue horizon, its metallic green streak bright even in the morning glow. A full second of arcing, electric light marked the whole western sky. Voices of alarm rose from the crowd. Everyone had seen it, a coincidence of position. The meteorite fell beyond the horizon, striking the desert somewhere out past Standing Rock.
As this vein of light faded, many people gasped. Some laughed almost uncomfortably. I heard the word omen spoken under someone’s breath. The Tewa-speaking man who had sung the morning song said nothing. He had already turned to face the east. I turned also and saw a pinprick of orange light break the horizon. 
...The sun’s light was channeled through a portal of Casa Rinconada. A square of sunlight landed on the opposite wall in a niche just its size. I looked east, straight into the light, and saw great houses illuminated in the distance, miles of stonework ruins positioned to mirror and regard the turning sky. Across the canyon stood the behemoth of Pueblo Bonito, looking like a ship stranded in the desert, its five-story hull open, wooden ribs sticking out of the masonry. I lifted my hand to shade my face. The summer sun began scalding the bare landscape, shrinking every shadow back into itself, turning this place from an immortal calendar back into a searing desert.
I will definitely go to Chaco Canyon.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting author. I'm going to start with his book, Soul of Nowhere.