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The first thing I did in February, as if out of habit, was start noting the sunset position on the horizon.
It was south over the rims of the Dolores River, and week by week I watched it roll north, approaching the La Sal Mountains, a set of snow-topped Batman Wings on the farthest horizon.
With a calendar and Google Earth on my computer, you’d think I wouldn’t need the horizon any more, but I find I need it more than ever.
After 15 years living in the same house tucked into the West Elk Mountains of western Colorado, I moved this winter a few hours southwest into mesas and canyons looking from the edge of Colorado into Utah.
At Parowan Gap in Utah, a pair of rocky hills form a V and on the summer solstice, the sun sets directly into the crook of that V.
The gap itself is awash in rock art, a placement that wouldn’t seem clear unless you happened to arrive for this sunset.
It became a Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve in 2002 and a Local Nature Reserve in 2003.The Southwest is decorated with pre-Columbian rock art placed where lunar and solar cycles manifest onto painted or pecked images, casting light and shadow through gaps in the rock.The whole landscape was a calendar and people recognized it with their art.A park ranger told me that when he moved to Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, one of the largest, most intact early Pueblo settlements in the Southwest (dating back to at least 1100 A. It became a pastime of his, like morning yoga, to go to particular spots where at certain times of the year he knew the sunrise would be dramatically framed by shapes on the horizon.He kept track of the first shoestrings of light slipping through arches and boulder gaps, tracing them to where, for a moment, they touched a pointed rock tip of hole in the cliff wall.
He said that this pursuit felt natural in this particular land, with the sky so huge overhead and the horizon picketed with cliffs and buttes.