Corn and Sky: Life in the Desert

Living in AZ

I have slowly settled in here at Roosevelt these first couple of weeks. Our park is two hours away from Phoenix and about 30 minutes from the nearest grocery store, which is something to get used to after being in Atlanta for three years. I started my week by staffing the Lower Cliff Dwelling by myself, which was so fun! I enjoy hiking up the trail every day and being able to tell others about why this site is so important. I also love to hear about visitors’ lives and how they got here! Even on slow days, the dwelling is still fantastic. I love to spend my time journaling and walking around to see what else I have yet to notice in the dwelling.

Museum Plans

After more discussion on the museum exhibit, my preliminary idea is to shed light on the 12 indigenous groups with a cultural association with Tonto National Monument. I want the museum exhibit to showcase that indigenous people are still here and did not disappear as some people think. A draft of my work will be sent for tribal consultation, which usually takes a while to process. This means that I will probably not see the fruits of my efforts. However, I care more about having the input and opinion of these 12 communities on the exhibit than seeing it finished. The descendants of the ancestral people of this land deserve to have a say in what museums showcase because it focuses on their ancestors, culture, and lives. I would like the exhibit to compare material culture like Salado pottery to modern pottery. In this way, we can support the lives and craftsmanship of Native Americans today and also show how their traditions have thrived.

This is corny

We have a vegetable garden near the visitor center that grows corn, beans, squash, and amaranth. We water our plants daily and use an irrigation canal just like the ancestral people of Tonto Basin would have used. A garden in the desert can never have too much water, so every time I water the garden, I make sure every plant gets a good drink. Our hard work has paid off, and now we have corn beginning to grow! At my past field school, we learned from a Hopi man that they sing to their vegetables and that once corn leaves touch the ground, they are considered toddlers. Whenever I water the garden, I hum, since my singing isn’t the best! Many of our corn stalks are now toddlers and are growing rapidly.

What’s Underneath?

Here is a close-up view of the lower cliff dwelling. On the left is a giant boulder that fell before people began living here in 1350 AD! They just decided to build around it, and an original wall is on top of the boulder. Under the boulder, there is a little seating area for people after they finish hiking up the trail.

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If you look closely, you can see a line of holes near the middle of the photo, where the two metal bars stand supporting the wall. These holes are called postholes, and this was where wood was placed to create the ceiling and floor of two rooms! The ancestral people of this land used pinyon and juniper logs for the postholes and then used saguaro ribs, reeds, and agave stalks to create the base. This would then be layered with adobe and upkept throughout the years.

Nature’s Wonders

There was a full moon on June 13th that was bright in the sky early in the evening. I sat out to paint, and the weather was absolutely fantastic. The sun here kisses your skin and keeps you warm throughout your time outside. The blue, pink and yellow gradients make the sky look beautiful, and I just had to snap a shot.

Bottom pictures and descriptions

Left- I found out through another intern here, Jaz, that we had a taxidermy Gila monster! It was smaller than I could have imagined, but it was cool nonetheless!

Middle Left- Not only do we have a garden at the visitor center, but my roommate also has one at our place! She told me the milkweed was not growing and could not figure out why. One day I gave the plants a drink of water and later on saw this friend laying down by the milkweed! The culprit was taking advantage of the cool soil and eating dinner. 

Middle Right- This little guy likes to hang out around our house! We often see him skittering around on the walls because they retain a relatively stable temperature. He was also hung out with me when I was painting during the full moon!

Right- When there are not many visitors stopping by I like to journal away, and I was joined by a friend who also wanted to write! This mantis accompanied me during one of my shifts and is one of the tiniest insects I have seen.

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