Travel Pics Theme: Q for Quotations. Light chases away Darkness.

Ancestral Pueblo cavettes

Ancestral Pueblo cavates

“The morning light teaches the most basic of truths: Light chases away darkness.”

There’s much to be said for Jared Diamond’s environmental call-to-action, “The Collapse” .. it was a book that certainly shook up our views on how weather interacts with sociology.

It considers how changes in the climate can lead to massive changes in human culture … and how human culture can have massive impact on climate.

But Diamond can also be a bit overblown .. for example, in one chapter , he writes “But the Anasazi did manage to construct in stone the largest and tallest buildings erected in North America until the Chicago steel girder skyscrapers of the 1880s. ”

That’s true – but its also misleading. And a bit culturally insensitive.

For a start, the name ‘Anasazi’ is in fact a Navajo word meaning ‘the enemy’ – so to call the Ancestral Pueblo people Anasazi is to only define them in relation to others.

But more importantly, there is a world of difference between building a skyscraper and digging a cave into a rock-wall.

Yes, the Ancestral Puebloans did build six-story buildings from adobe and timber, under rock overhangs at places like Mesa Verde .. but more often, they built one or two story buildings near cliffs – and carved rooms into those cliffs, like those seen here at Bandelier National Park in New Mexico.

Ranging across an area encompassing much of Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, the Ancestral Puebloans were inveterate builders – but much of what they built has gone, destroyed by the ravages of time – and of drought, and fires, and of human intervention.

But some remains – like the cavates at Bandelier, near Los Alamos.

These are rooms carved from the tuff, a type of rock made from volcanic ash that has been compressed. It’s easier to handle than most other rock – although the tuff at Bandelier is what’s known as a ‘welded tuff’ rock that was formed as a pyroclastic flow heated the volcanic ash enough for it to weld together.

Anyway, the cliff-faces here are made of that tuff and the Ancestral Puebloans carved structures from the walls.

Some were small cavates (or individual rooms), others entire dwellings – and even meeting halls, or kivas.

It’s possible to climb into some of them – and there’s a certain sense of awe that you get, as you reflect on the past and of the people who built these cave-dwellings, and their (since collapsed) ground structures.

Which brings us back to the quote, today “Light chases away darkness”.

That comes from the Anasazi Foundation’s book “The Seven Paths”.

The Anasazi Foundation is a ‘behaviour modification’ group based in Arizona which aims to help troubled teens by ‘wilderness therapy’ – taking them out into the wilderness and teaching the lessons of First Nations elders.

It has a reasonably good reputation, and it’s tried to distil some of its teachings into that book subtitled ‘Changing One’s Way Of Walking In The World.’.

While many of the aphorisms are quite trite, I was struck by the observation that each day brings us a reminder that light chases away darkness.

And by extension, the observation that we can effect change (in ourselves, and in our environment) no matter how dark things may seem at the moment.


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