I remember a summer night at Chimney Rock National Monument, the tallest and most isolated of Chaco Canyon’s “outliers”. Among other things, the Ancestral Puebloans from over 1,000 years ago used Chimney Rock as a celestial observatory. The center is run by volunteers, people who care about the land, its history and traditions. On the night of the full moon, we gathered at the base of the mountain, waiting to be escorted to the peak. A long switchback road and a short archeological tour later, we began walking to the summit, helping and accommodating those who had trouble walking the trail.
At the top, the view was forever. Fortunately the astronomy talk didn’t go on forever. A local Native American began playing his flute – and it was the kids shushing their parents this time, not the other way around. From somewhere to the east, a howl answered the flute, joining it in my consciousness. I was drifting; I’m not sure where. We all scanned the same horizon, looking for that sliver of silver white. It arrived as pinkish orange, reflecting the still setting sun. Camera clicks replaced cricket chirps, but didn’t detract as much as they could have. It’s one of the few gotta-get-that-shot places I’ve been to where people were actually considerate of each other and didn’t step in front of other photographers. If nothing else had happened, that made the moment magical.
The moon was high. The musician done. Still, no one spoke. The Park Service volunteers made appropriate cautionary announcements about walking down the dark side of the cliff. We all helped each other and people illuminated the trail with their phone flashlights.
Next time, next place, I probably won’t bring my camera, probably won’t join a lot of others. Sometimes true magic requires solitude. But shared magic is nice, too.
Oh, and one more thing. As we were nearing the parking lot, I heard someone ask. “Do they have these full moon ceremonies every night? Or just on Sundays?”