Sunday, September 23, 2007

Comb Ridge - Post Six, recent and recomended

If you're interested in Comb Ridge this book; Sandstone Spine, by David Roberts is a good introduction. This is the book that led me to Comb Ridge. It is the story of Climber David Roberts, climber and writer Greg Child, and wilderness guide Vaughn Hadenfeldt's backpacking trip along the spine. It has much about the Anasazi, but the narrative isn't terribly exciting and they fail on describing both the natural history and the history of the place. All in all a good read.

For some really great prose and desert wonder I recommend House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest by Craig Childs. This man knows the desert and is an excellent writer. I admire his style and knowledge.

Through his studies of the land and its history, seeking out of oral tradition and hundreds of miles of walking the landscape in search of clues, Craig Childs has turned his considerable talents for reading the landscape and turning his observations into wonderful prose towards the mystery of what happened to the Anasazi of 800 to 1000 years ago. Childs uses his travels, his inquisitiveness and imagination to write a plausible history of the Anasazi... tracing their exodus from Chaco and the Colorado Plateau south into Mexico. An academic could never leap to the conclusions that Childs postulates, however most archaeological papers don't touch the soul. Child's book does. He has crisscrossed the desert southwest to find out how this ancient civilization converged on places like Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde, where its culture thrived and flourished, and why these hubs of civilization dried up and its people seemingly scattered into the wind.

One of his other great books is The Secret Knowledge of Water. In a poetic account he brings the sand to life in these pages. His writing on pockets and tinajas is especially good. Childs shares beauty, science, historical anecdote and research in a nice balance and with extremely good writing.

For reading about the Anasazi a good primer is The Mesa Verde World: Explorations in Ancestral Puebloan Archeology edited by David Grant Noble. Key topics include farming, settlement, sacred landscapes, cosmology and astronomy, rock art, warfare, migration, and contemporary Pueblo perspectives. Winston Hurst, an archaeologist who has been most kind to me, has a chapter about sacred Landscapes.

Winston said this: "Sacredness is not implicit in the landscape. Rather, it is a purely subjective property that exists on in the eye or heart of the beholder." I find a lot of that. I hope you enjoyed the Comb Ridge series and have a real sense of the place.

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