I’m not a morning person, but I plan to rise and meet the solstice sun, just as the Ancients have done for centuries. Many worshipers, like those at Stonehenge, built temples to catch those first rays of sun on the Summer Solstice.
This little-known site near Sedona, Arizona, consists of tall rock wall slabs with 1,032 petroglyphs carved into the rock surface by a people known as the Sinagua.
The petroglyphs are done in what’s called the Beaver Creek style, and include images of turtles, deer, birds, humans and snakes, as well as spirals, concentric circles, and zigzag lines.
The designs and their placement are far from random. They have archaeoastronomical significance.
The Sinagua people had designated “sunwatchers” who closely observed the passage of the sun throughout the year. One large panel at V-Bar-V, referred to as the “solar panel,” exhibits unique shadow patterns created by three boulder wedged into the rock face.
Scientists have worked with regional modern-day tribes to decipher the petroglyphs, and they’ve discovered that the rock slabs act as a solar calendar. The play of light and shadow across the cliff face mark the precise dates of the Vernal Equinox and Summer Solstice, as well as monsoon season, important events for planting and harvesting.
In his book about the V-Bar-V site, Sinagua Sunwatchers, Kenneth Zoll also suggests the shadows cast duplicates the ridgeline of the San Francisco Peaks (as viewed from the Wupatki National Monument area southeast of the mountains). Located about 45 miles north of the V-Bar-V, the San Francisco Mountains are sacred to several native tribes in Arizona, including various Pueblo groups and the Navajo. These prominent mountains are the home of the katsinas, ancestral spirits who bring the rain clouds to the Hopi villages.
There is also a petroglyph that acts as an aerial map of Wet Beaver Creek. Despite 800-plus years of erosion and natural changes to the river, the map still holds up incredibly well.
Unlike most of arid Arizona, Wet Beaver Creek is one of the perennially flowing tributaries of the Verde River. Fed by an underground stream, it provides permanent water, a lush riparian habitat, and alluvial soils--a combination that have attracted people to its banks for several millennia. Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well, Lake Montezuma Ruin, V-Bar-V and Sacred Mountain Ruin are all major Anasazi and Sinagua sites located in an approximate 20-mile stretch along the creek.
At all of these now-abandoned sites, people look across the dusty red earth and think, “why on earth would people pick this place to live?” Then the guide says, “Wait. Listen carefully,” and they quiet themselves and hear the water, completely out of place in the landscape. Most importantly, never ending, due to the underground springs.
It’s impossible to know exactly what the Sinagua intended to convey through their petroglyph imagery beyond the solar calendar.
When I visit, I always allow enough time enjoy the sense of peace, the sound of the wind in the cottonwoods and the gurgle of the nearby stream. I examine the figures and try to interpret the messages that come to me. Researchers have named the wall in the photos above the solar calendar wall.
Unfortunately, this moon panel is slowly eroding away, so we may never know.
“As above, so below” is the theme of the Summer Solstice, when day and night are equal and the world falls into a magical balance, an “in-between time. So take a moment to reflect on your time on this earth, and the timing of your life’s actions.
Timing is everything. When to plant, when to sow.
When to pause and listen.
When to speak and communicate. And to do so before those chances in your life erode away, like the Sinagua images on a moon wall.
The Summer Solstice is a crossroads. Next week, the world will literally begin filling with darkness, as the Wheel turns ever slowly toward winter and the end of another year. Until then, we stand at the world’s still center and survey which path to choose.
So look in the mirror. Meet the eyes you see there directly, because they belong to the only person in this world you can truly change. Be attentive to the thresholds and boundaries of your life—the places where metamorphosis occurs. Find the lines you want to allow and those to erase—or re-draw.