Climbing down that ladder at Bandelier's Longhouse seemed
very shaky. But it was me who was shaking, not the ladder.
Did I faint, have a spell? Did I actually have a vision? At that
point I wasn't sure about anything. Still shaking, I managed to
walk to my car and drive home.
For a so-called "reasonable person," it seemed as if I had
landed on the other side of myself--whatever that might mean!
All I knew was that I had a profound experience, an experience
completely outside my personal parameters. And for awhile
I didn't know what to make of it.
Eventually I gathered my wits and decided that I would study
the history of the Anasazi, and try to learn what the *Sun Priest"
was--and what he might have meant to these ancient Indians.
Consequently, I made arrangements to take a break with all the
places where I was teaching or counseling. As for my contract
with the monastery, the year I had signed on was due to end
soon. While waiting, I hit the books about the Anasazi.
From what I could tell, the Sun Priest actually existed. He had
two functions--as an astronomer and as some sort of religious
figure. The ancient Anasazi were mainly farmers, and under-
standing more correctly the change of seasons was of prime
importance. They needed to know when to plant their crops,
for example. So someone special was designated to watch the
sun, day in, day out. And that was the duty of the Sun Priest.
Also the kiva, a partly underground chamber, was used for
religious rites. Some archaeologists speculate that again
the positioning of the sun, rising or setting, matched certain
parts of the kiva. They thought. too, that there may have been
an altar where the Sun Priest carried out rituals--and that
during this time the sun was positioned to hit directly behind
the altar, thus illuminating the Sun Priest.
After I sifted through a number of books, that pretty much said
the same thing, I realized that I needed to visit some of these
Anasazi sites, talk to the people in the National Parks Service
who now ran these places and see up close more of these
Finally my contract with the monastery came up for renewal. I
explained that I needed to take an unpaid sabbatical for awhile.
I hadn't had a break in my work for ages, and I wanted to do
some traveling. I was careful *not* to cut off all ties with the
monastery, because I liked the place, the work I was allowed to
do. So I hinted strongly that I would like to come back in a year.
The monks were amenable, so I happily drove away for awhile.