Sedona’s Ancient People

Today, we went to three, local places that featured examples of dwellings and petroglyphs of the Hopi and other tribes that called this place home for 700 years.

We began the day in the Cochino National Forest at what is currently known as the V Bar V Ranch.

Note: like the other two stops, this is a place with a decidedly inappropriate name given by the people who took over these lands. Among other things, we learned that some of those names are undergoing change through negotiations between tribe elders and the Forest Service. That’s long overdue, excellent news that will certainly encourage more respect from all parties.

At this first stop, we spent a leisurely couple of hours checking out the unique vegetation and then examining petroglyphs (scratchings on a vertical wall) that told stories and showed the immense technical know-how of these sacred farmers. Thanks go to our docent, Peter, a volunteer who made the wall come alive with his knowledge of the current archaeological understandings of these scratchings.

Peter and his partner Dawn are volunteers who spend six months onsite before moving to other state parks in Utah and Oregon. They live on the lands in their RV in exchange for 3-4 days of work at the monument, in the gift shop, cleaning the restroom and interacting with visitors. You could tell that they love their work, so we spent an extra thirty minutes or so learning about their journey to this life and the rewards of simple, frugal living. As you can imagine, Beth and I were very interested in their impressions of life on state land. We could do this one day, for sure!

Our next two stops have been saddled with the moniker “Montezuma” for no good reason because this is nowhere near formerly Aztec lands. As I said, names are slowly changing.

The Montezuma Well is a small but very deep body of water surrounded completely by cliffs. Around the edges are two sets of dwellings, one set high into the cliffs, presumably for the colder months and another matching set nearer to the water for the summer when temps reach 115 degrees.

The energy here was very strong and calming. I cannot explain it, but Sedona – once you get out of its commercial center – exudes a kind of quiet strength. Like the trees and other hardened plants the survive here, it’s got a decidedly prickly and weathered exterior that protects a heart of deep and abiding love for the earth. I imagine the people who lived here must have been equally strong, resourceful and interdependent. It is sacred come to life in a way that says (to me), “Be as the rock, the tree and the sky, but be soft and connected too.” Perhaps, as our friend Katie said, this is the message that Sedona has for me.

A Juniper Tree

Our final destination was the Montezuma (grrrr) Castle, an even more startling example of the ingenious way the Hopi created pueblos (towns) among the rocks. The dwelling below is probably 100 feet off the ground and has multiple floors inside where people slept, prepared the 3 sisters (corn, beans and squash) and raised their children.

All in all, it was another good vacation day that ended with Beth taking a dip in the indoor pool and hot tub, a hardy meal of beans and rice, leftover bbq, Sandi’s delicious spaghetti squash, Beth’s guacamole (thanks Blake) and a salad made by me.

My thanks go out to Paul and Sandi for a a post-dinner, deep educational dive into the history and politics of the Middle East. This included a look at some of their photos from a trip to the West Bank and Jordan some years ago. My favorite part was listening to Sandi’s uproarious laughter as Paul showed us his encounter with the deep muddy waters of the Dead Sea. Imagine a man up to his hips in mud trying to right himself while his wife yells at him from the shoreline to flip over and float. It was entertaining to Sandi then and remains so today!

P.S. As we enjoy Arizona, Gary and Judy are enjoying Lake Tahoe in Northern California. It’s been great receiving videos of their ski runs 11.5 hours north west of us!

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