"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Equinox, when you can see time

Camping at Chaco Canyon, watching time move in morning shadows on equinox
The sun blinds you, driving due east or west, morning or evening. You can almost feel the earth move under your feet, each day this September as the sun inches due west or east. It's not moving, but we are.
As urban dwellers, as citizens of the age of science, as people removed from nature, we may not notice, other than the inconvenient glare in the windshield or rear view mirrors early and late in the day.
Our media will announce the official start of autumn, but we miss the point that our ancestors, and those still in tune with the earth, know well.
Equinox--the day the night and day are of the same length, the slow tilt of the earth's axis that will bring the end of the planting seasons, the start of the harvest seasons, the coming of the cold seasons, the preparation for another year's "end."
Many people will gather at ancient sites like Stonehenge in England and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico to observe the day, to relive rituals lost in time, trying to retouch our instinctual past, and something more.
There is something powerful about the day, about those sites, that transcends science, but we've largely forgotten it the more removed we are from the physical world as we dwell in air conditioned cocoons. Perhaps, like our appendix and shortened tail bone, there is a vestigial element in our memory that calls out to us. I hope so.
Having camped in  Chaco on more than one spring equinox, I know you can see time there, time moving,  shadows moving up and down sandstone cliff faces. Those ancient "Anasazi" measured and marked with great accuracy over the years-- in feats of patience and civilization--the movements of the sun and moon. 
It may have been of necessity for an agricultural society, and it almost surely had religious significance. When you're that close to nature in  everyday existence and survival, the earth and universe are certainly alive and spiritual. You know who you are and how small you are. At night there, watching the stars wheel across the sky, you can almost  feel the earth move beneath your feet. 
You are not in charge of the world, or your life, but just a small part of it, and it's best to honor and respect that universe.
You can still feel that power at Chaco, and  dwell on what we "civilized" people have lost with science, as you watch the sun "come up," on equinox here in Oklahoma and elsewhere.

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