Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer solstice, so worth getting up for

I was so very lucky to catch a ride to an early-morning field trip to one of the solstice markers in the park. One of the seasonal rangers knew about this place, offered to lead a hike, and my hand went up like a shot.

We met at a pull-out near the Flat Tops area of the park, which is home to many mesas, which have flat tops. Funny how that works. It was an early meeting, 0430, because we had to be at the petroglyph before the sun rose. And this is what greeted us:

Predawn at Martha's Butte

We hiked through a dry wash to get to the petroglyph at a location called Martha's Butte, supposedly named for Martha Washington.

Exquisite morning light on Martha's Butte

Here's a close-up of the marker, with the rising sun casting a shadow that makes a slow regression across the face of the stone. 

In the photo above, this stone is the one on the right front that shows an arc of light across it. Now look to its right to the stone that has a notch in the top edge. That notch casts a curve in the shadow that crosses the marker. Also look at the fascinating glyph on the left face of this rock. I've never seen one like that. We were speculating as to what it could be. An eagle. A thunderbird. Corn. Of course no one knows. We just appreciate the mystery and beauty of the hidden messages.

The soft morning light is a delight to see. Even bare land like this glows in the low-slanting light.

Back to checking out the glyph. Further movement of the shadow brings the notch closer to the center of the spiral.

And here we are. The shadow connects with the center of the sun-spiral just so. It nestles in perfectly. How long, how many years do you think they watched and plotted before making the marker? How do you think they greeted the longest day of the year, these people who depended on the sun and the rain so they could live? With reverence? With joy and celebration? Another thing we may never know.

Proof positive I hauled myself out of bed at 0300 to be there. You can see the shadow moving off the right side of the marker as the sun rises.

After all the photos were taken, we walked around to the right of the Butte to see these other petroglyphs.

And this one. How wonderful is this?

And this one! I've never seen anything like it.  Look at the size of it, and the variety of forms. I saw at least three variations on the sun: the spiral, a partial circle with rays, and a solid circle with connected rays all the way around. It's magnificent.

We hung around taking group shots, reluctant to head to work on this gorgeous morning. That's Kevin, my ride this morning, shooting two-handed, and the long-legged group looking back.

Thought[s] of the day:

I'll tell you how the sun rose a ribbon at a time.  (Emily Dickinson) 

and another one:

We don't say 'good morning.' Well, now there's a way to say it in O'odham, but we never used to say it. Everybody just knows it's a good morning. Things like that are understood. (Danny Lopez, Tohono O'odham educator)