Tuesday, February 8, 2011

We Get Running Water and Ponder the Lives of Those Who Never Had It

Well, now that I've depressed us all with that photo of the inside of our torn-apart hot water heater shed, I'm happy to report that all is back in order today--neat, tidy, and shipshape--and looking like nothing ever happened. It's too dark out still for me to get a photo of the little shed, all restored and looking much better, but it is so. We have water, blessed running water. We have it in hot, and we have it in cold. We don't have any yet to the back bathroom (this house has multiple additions, built on over time, and that back bathroom is pretty darned far from where I sit in the original front room of the oldest part of the adobe), but that will come once the plumber and his good men have made sure all their customers have running water of one sort or another.

In the meantime, I've been reading a book about people who lived in far more ancient adobe structures in this part of the world with no running water at all. The book is called House of Rain, and is written by Craig Childs, the wonderful Southwest nature writer.  According to the back flap, he is a "naturalist, adventurer, desert ecologist, and frequent contributor to National Public Radio's Morning Edition."

The Ancient Puebloans, formerly called the Anasazi, disappeared from their elaborate cultural centers in the 14th century--leaving their cities pretty much intact, with the dishes still on the table, so to speak. Where they went has always been a great mystery in this part of the world, and Childs sets out to find what happened. Childs journeys through the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado; then down into northern Mexico, tracking this vanished civilization.

In following the trail of these "lost" people, he makes the reader aware of the abundant archeological record that they left behind, just under the surface of our own towns, cities, and agricultural fields. I have the sense now that every rise in the landscape must hold some key to the mystery, some other piece of this old civilization's ruins. It's a bit like when I was a child and convinced that every rock I found was a geode, full of wonders within.

We have personally experienced this link with ancient times most strongly at Pecos National Historical Park, where we were stunned to realize that the place was littered with artifacts. What we had first assumed were pieces of rock alongside the paths were, when examined more closely, actually thousands and thousands of pieces of ancient pottery sticking up out of the ground.

I also came away from reading this book with a feeling of admiration--real awe, to be exact--at how today's Pueblo peoples have continued their culture and kept their secrets in the middle of a modern American society. We still don't know what happens down in their kivas, and I don't think we ever will. After all, as Childs tells us: It was none of my business, really, the private rites of another civilization.... These were someone else's secrets, not mine.


becky said...

Hi Clair,
Glad you got everything put back together & have your precious resource back. This book looks excellent- I will have to get it! With our cold spell, I was actually thinking about the cultures before us... and how tough they must've been to survive bitter winters. I was thinking of how "soft" we are in the 21st century... myself included! Our expected low tonight is zero, but I've got heat... how lucky/spoiled am I!
Oh, PS- YES, Pecos is amazing. Love Chaco, too.

JC said...

I saw on the news about your freezing water problems. I told my H, I know someone there. (it was mentioning N Mex and the El Paso area being frozen and all the water shortage problems)

I can't imagine how it was in older days but I would assume they were used to their lives. Just like we are now.

I grew up camping so I know that living a simply life is do able.

Nan said...

Yay! It really was a good picture, though.:<)
Oh, and also, your header is stunningly beautiful.

Sandy ~~~ said...

Hey...will probably put that on my list as soon as I get around to reading The Secret Knowledge of Water!

Linda said...

Fascinating. There is so much about American history I don't know.

Off to read about your shed saga.