Full Online Books
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsOur Italy - Chapter 16. Fascinations Of The Desert.--The Laguna Pueblo
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
Our Italy - Chapter 16. Fascinations Of The Desert.--The Laguna Pueblo Post by :jamesc96 Category :Nonfictions Author :Charles Dudley Warner Date :May 2012 Read :2463

Click below to download : Our Italy - Chapter 16. Fascinations Of The Desert.--The Laguna Pueblo (Format : PDF)

Our Italy - Chapter 16. Fascinations Of The Desert.--The Laguna Pueblo


The traveller to California by the Santa Fe route comes into the arid regions gradually, and finds each day a variety of objects of interest that upsets his conception of a monotonous desert land. If he chooses to break the continental journey midway, he can turn aside at Las Vegas to the Hot Springs. Here, at the head of a picturesque valley, is the Montezuma Hotel, a luxurious and handsome house, 6767 feet above sea-level, a great surprise in the midst of the broken and somewhat savage New Mexican scenery. The low hills covered with pines and pinons, the romantic glens, and the wide views from the elevations about the hotel, make it an attractive place; and a great deal has been done, in the erection of bath-houses, ornamental gardening, and the grading of roads and walks, to make it a comfortable place. The latitude and the dryness of the atmosphere insure for the traveller from the North in our winter an agreeable reception, and the elevation makes the spot in the summer a desirable resort from Southern heat. It is a sanitarium as well as a pleasure resort. The Hot Springs have much the same character as the Toeplitz waters in Bohemia, and the saturated earth--the _Muetterlager_--furnishes the curative "mud baths" which are enjoyed at Marienbad and Carlsbad. The union of the climate, which is so favorable in diseases of the respiratory organs, with the waters, which do so much for rheumatic sufferers, gives a distinction to Las Vegas Hot Springs. This New Mexican air--there is none purer on the globe--is an enemy to hay-fever and malarial diseases. It was a wise enterprise to provide that those who wish to try its efficacy can do so at the Montezuma without giving up any of the comforts of civilized life.

(Illustration: CHURCH AT LAGUNA.)

It is difficult to explain to one who has not seen it, or will not put himself in the leisurely frame of mind to enjoy it, the charms of the desert of the high plateaus of New Mexico and Arizona. Its arid character is not so impressive as its ancientness; and the part which interests us is not only the procession of the long geologic eras, visible in the extinct volcanoes, the _barrancas_, the painted buttes, the petrified forests, but as well in the evidences of civilizations gone by, or the remains of them surviving in our day--the cliff dwellings, the ruins of cities that were thriving when Coronado sent his lieutenants through the region three centuries ago, and the present residences of the Pueblo Indians, either villages perched upon an almost inaccessible rock like Acamo, or clusters of adobe dwellings like Isleta and Laguna. The Pueblo Indians, of whom the Zunis are a tribe, have been dwellers in villages and cultivators of the soil and of the arts of peace immemorially, a gentle, amiable race. It is indeed such a race as one would expect to find in the land of the sun and the cactus. Their manners and their arts attest their antiquity and a long refinement in fixed dwellings and occupations. The whole region is a most interesting field for the antiquarian.

We stopped one day at Laguna, which is on the Santa Fe line west of Isleta, another Indian pueblo at the Atlantic and Pacific junction, where the road crosses the Rio Grande del Norte west of Albuquerque. Near Laguna a little stream called the Rio Puerco flows southward and joins the Rio Grande. There is verdure along these streams, and gardens and fruit orchards repay the rude irrigation. In spite of these watercourses the aspect of the landscape is wild and desert-like--low barren hills and ragged ledges, wide sweeps of sand and dry gray bushes, with mountains and long lines of horizontal ledges in the distance. Laguna is built upon a rounded elevation of rock. Its appearance is exactly that of a Syrian village, the same cluster of little, square, flat-roofed houses in terraces, the same brown color, and under the same pale blue sky. And the resemblance was completed by the figures of the women on the roofs, or moving down the slope, erect and supple, carrying on the head a water jar, and holding together by one hand the mantle worn like a Spanish _rebozo_. The village is irregularly built, without much regard to streets or alleys, and it has no special side of entrance or approach. Every side presents a blank wall of adobe, and the entrance seems quite by chance. Yet the way we went over, the smooth slope was worn here and there in channels three or four inches deep, as if by the passing feet of many generations. The only semblance of architectural regularity is in the plaza, not perfectly square, upon which some of the houses look, and where the annual dances take place. The houses have the effect of being built in terraces rising one above the other, but it is hard to say exactly what a house is--whether it is anything more than one room. You can reach some of the houses only by aid of a ladder. You enter others from the street. If you will go farther you must climb a ladder which brings you to the roof that is used as the sitting-room or door-yard of the next room. From this room you may still ascend to others, or you may pass through low and small door-ways to other apartments. It is all haphazard, but exceedingly picturesque. You may find some of the family in every room, or they may be gathered, women and babies, on a roof which is protected by a parapet. At the time of our visit the men were all away at work in their fields. Notwithstanding the houses are only sun-dried bricks, and the village is without water or street commissioners, I was struck by the universal cleanliness. There was no refuse in the corners or alleys, no odors, and many of the rooms were patterns of neatness. To be sure, an old woman here and there kept her hens in an adjoining apartment above her own, and there was the litter of children and of rather careless house-keeping. But, taken altogether, the town is an example for some more civilized, whose inhabitants wash oftener and dress better than these Indians.


We were put on friendly terms with the whole settlement through three or four young maidens who had been at the Carlisle school, and spoke English very prettily. They were of the ages of fifteen and sixteen, and some of them had been five years away. They came back, so far as I could learn, gladly to their own people and to the old ways. They had resumed the Indian dress, which is much more becoming to them, as I think they know, than that which had been imposed upon them. I saw no books. They do not read any now, and they appear to be perfectly content with the idle drudgery of their semi-savage condition. In time they will marry in their tribe, and the school episode will be a thing of the past. But not altogether. The pretty Josephine, who was our best cicerone about the place, a girl of lovely eyes and modest mien, showed us with pride her own room, or "house," as she called it, neat as could be, simply furnished with an iron bedstead and snow-white cot, a mirror, chair, and table, and a trunk, and some "advertising" prints on the walls. She said that she was needed at home to cook for her aged mother, and her present ambition was to make money enough by the sale of pottery and curios to buy a cooking stove, so that she could cook more as the whites do. The house-work of the family had mainly fallen upon her; but it was not burdensome, I fancied, and she and the other girls of her age had leisure to go to the station on the arrival of every train, in hope of selling something to the passengers, and to sit on the rocks in the sun and dream as maidens do. I fancy it would be better for Josephine and for all the rest if there were no station and no passing trains. The elder women were uniformly ugly, but not repulsive like the Mojaves; the place swarmed with children, and the babies, aged women, and pleasing young girls grouped most effectively on the roofs.

The whole community were very complaisant and friendly when we came to know them well, which we did in the course of an hour, and they enjoyed as much as we did the bargaining for pottery. They have for sale a great quantity of small pieces, fantastic in form and brilliantly colored--toys, in fact; but we found in their houses many beautiful jars of large size and excellent shape, decorated most effectively. The ordinary utensils for cooking and for cooling water are generally pretty in design and painted artistically. Like the ancient Peruvians, they make many vessels in the forms of beasts and birds. Some of the designs of the decoration are highly conventionalized, and others are just in the proper artistic line of the natural--a spray with a bird, or a sunflower on its stalk. The ware is all unglazed, exceedingly light and thin, and baked so hard that it has a metallic sound when struck. Some of the large jars are classic in shape, and recall in form and decoration the ancient Cypriote ware, but the colors are commonly brilliant and barbaric. The designs seem to be indigenous, and to betray little Spanish influence. The art displayed in this pottery is indeed wonderful, and, to my eye, much more effective and lastingly pleasing than much of our cultivated decoration. A couple of handsome jars that I bought of an old woman, she assured me she made and decorated herself; but I saw no ovens there, nor any signs of manufacture, and suppose that most of the ware is made at Acoma.

It did not seem to be a very religious community, although the town has a Catholic church, and I understand that Protestant services are sometimes held in the place. The church is not much frequented, and the only evidence of devotion I encountered was in a woman who wore a large and handsome silver cross, made by the Navajos. When I asked its price, she clasped it to her bosom, with an upward look full of faith and of refusal to part with her religion at any price. The church, which is adobe, and at least two centuries old, is one of the most interesting I have seen anywhere. It is a simple parallelogram, 104 feet long and 21 feet broad, the gable having an opening in which the bells hang. The interior is exceedingly curious, and its decorations are worth reproduction. The floor is of earth, and many of the tribe who were distinguished and died long ago are said to repose under its smooth surface, with nothing to mark their place of sepulture. It has an open timber roof, the beams supported upon carved corbels. The ceiling is made of wooden sticks, about two inches in diameter and some four feet long, painted in alternated colors--red, blue, orange, and black--and so twisted or woven together as to produce the effect of plaited straw, a most novel and agreeable decoration. Over the entrance is a small gallery, the under roof of which is composed of sticks laid in straw pattern and colored. All around the wall runs a most striking dado, an odd, angular pattern, with conventionalized birds at intervals, painted in strong yet _fade colors--red, yellow, black, and white. The north wall is without windows; all the light, when the door is closed, comes from two irregular windows, without glass, high up in the south wall.


The chancel walls are covered with frescos, and there are several quaint paintings, some of them not very bad in color and drawing. The altar, which is supported at the sides by twisted wooden pillars, carved with a knife, is hung with ancient sheepskins brightly painted. Back of the altar are some archaic wooden images, colored; and over the altar, on the ceiling, are the stars of heaven, and the sun and the moon, each with a face in it. The interior was scrupulously clean and sweet and restful to one coming in from the glare of the sun on the desert. It was evidently little used, and the Indians who accompanied us seemed under no strong impression of its sanctity; but we liked to linger in it, it was so _bizarre_, so picturesque, and exhibited in its rude decoration so much taste. Two or three small birds flitting about seemed to enjoy the coolness and the subdued light, and were undisturbed by our presence.

These are children of the desert, kin in their condition and the influences that formed them to the sedentary tribes of upper Egypt and Arabia, who pitch their villages upon the rocky eminences, and depend for subsistence upon irrigation and scant pasturage. Their habits are those of the dwellers in an arid land which has little in common with the wilderness--the inhospitable northern wilderness of rain and frost and snow. Rain, to be sure, insures some sort of vegetation in the most forbidding and intractable country, but that does not save the harsh landscape from being unattractive. The high plateaus of New Mexico and Arizona have everything that the rainy wilderness lacks--sunshine, heaven's own air, immense breadth of horizon, color and infinite beauty of outline, and a warm soil with unlimited possibilities when moistened. All that these deserts need is water. A fatal want? No. That is simply saying that science can do for this region what it cannot do for the high wilderness of frost--by the transportation of water transform it into gardens of bloom and fields of fruitfulness. The wilderness shall be made to feed the desert.


I confess that these deserts in the warm latitudes fascinate me. Perhaps it is because I perceive in them such a chance for the triumph of the skill of man, seeing how, here and there, his energy has pushed the desert out of his path across the continent. But I fear that I am not so practical. To many the desert in its stony sterility, its desolateness, its unbroken solitude, its fantastic savageness, is either appalling or repulsive. To them it is tiresome and monotonous. The vast plains of Kansas and Nebraska are monotonous even in the agricultural green of summer. Not so to me the desert. It is as changeable in its lights and colors as the ocean. It is even in its general features of sameness never long the same. If you traverse it on foot or on horseback, there is ever some minor novelty. And on the swift train, if you draw down the curtain against the glare, or turn to your book, you are sure to miss something of interest--a deep canon rift in the plain, a turn that gives a wide view glowing in a hundred hues in the sun, a savage gorge with beetling rocks, a solitary butte or red truncated pyramid thrust up into the blue sky, a horizontal ledge cutting the horizon line as straight as a ruler for miles, a pointed cliff uplifted sheer from the plain and laid in regular courses of Cyclopean masonry, the battlements of a fort, a terraced castle with towers and esplanade, a great trough of a valley, gray and parched, enclosed by far purple mountains. And then the unlimited freedom of it, its infinite expansion, its air like wine to the senses, the floods of sunshine, the waves of color, the translucent atmosphere that aids the imagination to create in the distance all architectural splendors and realms of peace. It is all like a mirage and a dream. We pass swiftly, and make a moving panorama of beauty in hues, of strangeness in forms, of sublimity in extent, of overawing and savage antiquity. I would miss none of it. And when we pass to the accustomed again, to the fields of verdure and the forests and the hills of green, and are limited in view and shut in by that which we love, after all, better than the arid land, I have a great longing to see again the desert, to be a part of its vastness, and to feel once more the freedom and inspiration of its illimitable horizons.

If you like this book please share to your friends :

Saunterings - Misapprehensions Corrected Saunterings - Misapprehensions Corrected

Saunterings - Misapprehensions Corrected
I should not like to ask an indulgent and idle public to saunter about with me under a misapprehension. It would be more agreeable to invite it to go nowhere than somewhere; for almost every one has been somewhere, and has written about it. The only compromise I can suggest is, that we shall go somewhere, and not learn anything about it. The instinct of the public against any thing like information in a volume of this kind is perfectly justifiable; and the reader will perhaps discover that this is illy adapted for a text-book in schools, or for the use

Our Italy - Chapter 15. Some Wonders By The Way... Our Italy - Chapter 15. Some Wonders By The Way...

Our Italy - Chapter 15. Some Wonders By The Way...
CHAPTER XV. SOME WONDERS BY THE WAY.--YOSEMITE.--MARIPOSA TREES.--MONTEREYI went to it with reluctance. I shrink from attempting to say anything about it. If you knew that there was one spot on the earth where Nature kept her secret of secrets, the key to the action of her most gigantic and patient forces through the long eras, the marvel of constructive and destructive energy, in features of sublimity made possible to mental endurance by the most exquisite devices of painting and sculpture, the wonder which is without parallel or comparison, would you not hesitate to approach it? Would you not wander and