Moonhouse     Pastel on paper   by Akiko Hirano

Dark Moon

Tim Wong & Akiko Hirano

Fall, 1268 AD.  Another year of relentless drought. Moon-Gazer was worried. His people would not have enough corns to last the winter. Even more worrisome were rumors of escalating violence to the east. People were leaving the area. Though his clan had fortified their pueblo with a defensive wall, no one felt safe anymore. He gathered his clan together for a meeting over meal. Everyone agreed, they had to leave that canyon. 

Moonhouse    Photo by Tim Wong

May, 2005 AD. On this hot sunny day, she was wandering on a mesa top dotted with stunted pinion pines and sage brush. She loved the wide-open space and the intense colors of this landscape. Having grown up in a densely populated metropolis in Japan, Southern Utah was the kind of place that let her body and mind roam free. Shallow pools of water from a recent rain still remained on the slickrock. Barrel cactus and prickly pear were in bloom. Savoring the beauty of the land, she came to the edge of the mesa overlooking a canyon flanked by red cliffs. 

She sat down under some shade to have a sip from her water bottle, watching a pair of ravens riding the wind over the canyon. It was then she saw the wall halfway up a cliff across the canyon. Its salmon pink color blended so perfectly with the surrounding rocks she would not have noticed it if not for the dark rectangular opening in its center. She put the water bottle back in her backpack and set off looking for a way down that canyon. 

Soon, she was standing on the sandy bottom of a dry wash looking up at the pink wall tucked under enormous bands of red rock. It was clearly a man-made structure, cleverly constructed to merge with the surrounding. Off to the left, a white circle was painted on the red rock like a rising full moon. What could be hidden behind that wall? She carefully climbed up to the rectangular opening and poked her head inside, expecting to find a darkened room. Instead, she saw a corridor leading sideways towards a series of inner rooms. She pulled herself through the chest-high opening and was immediately engulfed by coolness and utter silence. 

 

She let her eyes adjusted to the dim light and started to explore the inner rooms. Looking through the small window, she noted that one of the rooms was littered with dried-up Anasazi corncobs, its ceiling blackened by smoke. None of the other rooms had corncobs on the dirt floors. She walked to the far end of the corridor. Through a ventilating opening, she could see the rock face outside with the painted white moon that she saw from the canyon below. Next to the moon was a row of dots and a zigzag snake pictograph, all painted white. The largest room was elaborately decorated, its outside walls painted with the same white dots over a thick white band with inverted triangles. She peered through the doorway into that room with her small flashlight and drew a deep breath. The inner walls were painted with the same design. Below a line of white dots, a wide white band encircled the room; and in the midst of that band, a perfect circle was left unpainted, evoking image of a dark moon. What were the occupants trying to convey? She fumbled for her camera to take a photo of the image. Suddenly, she heard muffled voices. Thinking she had company, she hurriedly gathered her belongings to leave the place for the new comers. 

As she climbed through the opening of the outer wall into the late afternoon sun, squinting her eyes to look for the new visitors, she froze. There was nobody in that canyon.