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Three Rivers Petroglyphs (graphics and text by A. Leon Miler)

February 12, 2012

Sieirra Blanca

The Jornada Mogollon people lived at the foot of Sierra Blanca in the Tularosa Basin on a stream that flowed year round from the surrounding Sacramento Mountains. They lived there for 500 years until a 2 year drought struck around 1400. The streams that came down from the mountains into the desert dried up never to return. The inhabitants left, perhaps to other Mogollon settlements further west, or joined one of the pueblos on the Rio Grande, or perhaps to Mexico. They never developed a large pueblo complex as many of the other settled farming tribes did, rather, they lived in pit houses, grew their squash, corn, beans and cotton, and gathered and hunted for the rest of their provision.

For 500 years they lived there, had children there, grew old there. For 500 years they also left their images on the rocky hill overlooking their homes, images of turkeys, rabbits, people, hands, geometric abstraction; the things of their world. They sang songs in a language none of us will ever know, they had their dances, their feast days, their high holidays, good days, and bad days. Young men and young women fell in love, and looked at each other the way young lovers do. Children laughed and played. Men went off to work the fields or hunt. Women gathered together to grind the corn, chat, and make the clothes from yucca and cotton; warm blankets from turkey feathers and cotton tail fur. The sounds have all blown away in the wind, the dreamers with their dreams have all gone, but the writing on the rock remains. The images are still there.

At 5000 feet in altitude, and 10 percent humidity, the stars on a moonless night are spectacular. The Milky Way is a cloud of stars. On cold winter nights, Orion’s belt hangs brilliantly, Sirius blazing bright, Betelgeuse is a bright twinkling red , and in the dark the coyotes are talking. I’m told Betelgeuse would fill half of our solar system, and yet on our speck of dust, the wind still blows, sometimes gently, sometimes not.

500 years of dreams, where voices echoed, the voices now are only transient visitors just passing through. They leave and the wind keeps on blowing, scouring out the discordant noise.  But the stones still stand and in silence speak to those who have ears.

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