This book is about the abandonment of an ancient village, Tyuoni, by the Anasazi (ancestral Puebloans). The spectacular Tyuoni ruins, along with the cliff dwellings, served as enough reason for the United States to establish the Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.
I based this novel on the legend about the Great Migration, where the spinning sun led the Anasazi away from their ancestral homelands to new locations. I associated the role of the spinning sun to the cloud, in the Book of Exodus, that led the Jewish people out of Egypt. The legend intrigued me, because records of the spinning sun are found, not only on petroglyph etchings throughout the Americas, but also on ancient Buddhist temples in Asia, the place where the Great Migration is believed to have originated.
When one visits Bandelier National Monument, Chaco Cultural National Historical Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, or any other Anasazi site, one cannot help but imagine what it must have been like to have lived in such an exciting community. We can envision the many festivities and societies taking place within the massive, complex, and elaborate structures. These people must have lived a good and secure life. Yet, they left everything behind and moved to other locations. I find it difficult to fathom how any new settlement could possibly approach the appeal of the places they left behind.
Some anthropologists have stated that a severe and prolonged drought led entire villages to pack up and leave. Others hypothesized that war would have been enough reason for them to have abandoned their villages. However, by considering the legend of the Great Migration, especially when coupled with the fact that religion was at the center of these peoples’ lives, I propose that religion must have been the real reason. I wrote this novel to show how this could have been the case.
I could not write about the Anasazi without addressing the role that Chaco must have played amongst the myriad of villages in the Four Corners area comprising of vast sections of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. The impressive array of roads leading to Chaco has been compared to the “all roads lead to Rome” phenomena. I chose to portray Chaco as being the center for religious activity.
There have been many misconceptions about the religion of the Native American. What has been labeled as dance or art form is actually sacred prayer with Great Grandfather (God, the Almighty Creator) and with the gods (angels). The gods would prescribe how to heal the sick, answer prayers, or even how to look into the future through the use of intricately prepared rituals. Ceremonial dress and makeup, the words used in their prayers and songs, the various body movements of their prayer dances, and the symbols and figures used pertained to their religious beliefs, not art.
The impetus for this novel was my personal quest to better understand the Native American. I enjoyed my half-Apache grandfather’s stories about his college baseball playing days. He was one of the first students to attend Saint Michael’s Indian College in Santa Fe. He passed away when I was a teenager, which limited my opportunity to ask him more details about his experiences growing up, especially those pertaining to his Native American heritage. I patterned the love and attention he gave his grandchildren into the elderly protagonist’s traits in this novel. Grandpa Thomas certainly wanted us to grow up to follow the path of life set forth by our Almighty Creator. My childhood memories, discussions with Native American friends and acquaintances, and literary research on the Anasazi were implemented in the development of this story.
It is of interest to note that the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of the atomic bomb, sits on a mountaintop above Tyuoni. A portion of the land occupied by the Anasazi for hundreds of years has now been settled by several thousand scientists and engineers involved in nuclear weapons research and development. This ancient place, once home to a society based on religion, is now home to a most modern society based on the latest advances of science and technology.