Saturday, November 22, 2008

(4) Marching Trees

When you are busy the years roll by very fast. As I had put
upon my arrival, I really enjoyed the desert. When I wasn't
leading nature walks or telling amateur rock-climbers to
watch where they put their hands--to avoid rattlesnakes who
lurked in crevices--I spent my spare time observing the
colors, the night sky, and savoring the few quiet moments
I found after the tourists had left. Indeed, I walked among
the Marching Trees and felt a certain pulse in their midst!

I did find some time to talk to the park's archaeologist about
the early Indians who once lived in the vicinity of Joshua
Tree. There were three tribes: the Serrano (who first settled
in this area), the Cahuilla, and the Chemehuevi. And before
these tribes arrived, there was the Pinto Culture that settled
in this area for some four to eight thousand years before

Though sparsely populated, the Serrano and the Cahuilla
shared the "Oasis of Mara" that existed in the Twenty-Nine
Palms area. It consisted of a small spring and some grass-
land. And the Chemehuevi setttled for some 400 years in
the eastern portion of Joshua Tree.

There's evidence that these tribes actually flourished in this
desert environment. They hunted bighorn sheep, deer, birds,
rabbits, reptiles, and amphibians. At the oasis they actually
planted beans, pumpkins, squash, and corn. And, as
gatherers, they picked acorns, nuts, seeds, berries, and
cactus fruits.

It appeared that these Indians were a cultural and spiritual
people, leaving petroglyphs that dot the landscape of
Joshua Tree. Eventually they were pushed out of this area
by miners and cattlemen during the 1870's-1880's. But in
spite of their small populations, some still exist today in
nearby reservations. There's the Serrano Morongo Band
and the Serrano San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. And
the Cahuilla are, today, represented by the Agua Caliente
Band near Palm Springs--replete with a resort/spa/casino!

As time flicked by, I thought that perhaps I would eventually
retire here in the desert, perhaps drifting into Palm Springs.
That wasn't to be, however. One day--at sunset--driving near
the Joshua Trees, I stopped, got out of the truck to take pause.
As the sun slowly drifted down I thought I saw the shadow of
a man walking toward me. Gasping, I realized that it was my
ancient Indian guide. Standing near, he said "Go stand
before the Patriarchs." Then he faded and disappeared.

Then and there I knew that I would be making yet another
move. Deep down I knew it was wise to pay attention to this
ancient Indian spirit. Yet, once again, what/where will all
this point? The "Patriarchs?" The message almost sounded
biblical, but by this time I knew they had to be a place! And
likely it was a park.

So, once again I started searching the job opening pages.
This process went on for almost a half-year; then, suddenly,
a photograph popped out before my eyes. It was a picture of
the Three Patriarchs, three mountain peaks in what was called
the "Court of the Patriarchs" at Zion National Park.

I applied for the position, and soon I was on my way to Utah.

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