THE SENIOR ASTRONOMER


           THE SENIOR ASTRONOMER
     Shadows of Chaco Canyon, Chapter Ten:

The senior astronomer rolled off his sleeping mat to bid farewell to the night sky above Chaco Canyon. Kota gave thanks for the breath of life filling his lungs and shared it with the embers in the fire pit. He nourished the coals with twigs and bark. A drop of sap flared and crackled as small flames tentatively explored the new offering. Kota murmured a prayer of welcome, and his gentle words strengthened the weak flames. The senior astronomer then rested partially burned logs from the previous night against the fire, turning the charred sides away from the embers. With whispered prayers of encouragement, he bent close to the ground and breathed new life into the ceremonial fire.

Years of drought had made fire building an art, and Kotaís small fire would place little demand on the dwindling wood supply. His room would never be warm, but it was enough not to see his own breath in it. Kota crouched over the fire pit and warmed his hands before moving next door to a room on the perimeter of the great house. This room was much colder, but it was an honor awarded to the most senior and respected member of the Astronomical Society. Although all the people followed the movements of the moon and sun, it was the senior astronomer who was entrusted with keeping accurate records.

When the stars were no longer visible, Kota greeted the coming sun with a prayer of welcome. He watched the first ray of sunshine pierce an opening on the east-facing wall as the beam of light was channeled directly onto the stone column on the opposite side. Tentatively at first, then with a sacred luminosity, the sunís rays proceeded directly up the column while remaining perfectly centered. Only on the solstice would there be no light spilling over the edges of the column.

 
     




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