[An unpublished essay by Linda Lay Shuler was recently uncovered by her estate. Shuler, who died in 2011, is best known for her novels, "She Who Remembers," "Voice of the Eagle" and "Let the Drum Speak" which comprise a bestselling series and tell the multi-generational story of two Pueblo women from the Native American Anasazi tribe in the late 13th century. The novels were rereleased by Amazon Publishing in 2013.
This essay tells the story of what inspired Shuler’s hero Kokopelli in "She Who Remembers," and how the book ultimately brought the Kokopelli into popular culture.]
REMEMBERING KOKOPELLI By Linda Lay Shuler
Under the jutting brow of the mesa, high, high in the cliff, a great cave broods through the centuries. Here, deep in the mesa's womb, are ruins of a remarkable stone city built by those whom the Navajo call “Anasazi” meaning “The Ancient Ones.”
Today it is known as Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, one of a number of cave cities built skillfully, stone by stone in inaccessible places. Access from the canyon floor was by hand-holds cut into the cliff's face. Paths and ladders give access now to countless visitors who gaze in awe, murmuring.
How did these builders do it? Who were they who built these many rooms, these kivas dug into the cliff's belly, these stone walkways, storage rooms; this tower soaring to the ceiling’s vast dome?
They left no written record. What were their dreams, their fears, their aspirations? Were they much as we are except for the accumulation of knowledge we possess? Who were they, really, those ancient ones, the people of long ago?
I wanted to know. I had to know. I was writing a novel about these people and although I had learned much of what anthropologists and archaeologists believed, something was missing. How much do artifacts reveal of the passions and beliefs of those who created these remarkable objects? It was necessary for me to make contact as it, were, with those ancient ones--to discover the special person my story required.
I had my heroine, Kwani, whose blue eyes made her suspect as a witch and who was cast out to die alone in the wilderness. Who would be her rescuer? It was he who would determine the success or failure of my story. This was my first novel. It was essential to find him.
I visited Mesa Verde three times, lingering among the ruins of Cliff Palace and other cave cities perched like eagle's aeries high in the cliffs. Cliff Palace, crouched under the brow of the mesa, rose in levels from front to rear. Roofs of dwellings and kivas formed pathways where I lingered, seeking someone, I did not know who, but someone unique. Totally.
Hours passed as I peered through windows of stone dwellings, gazed down into kivas. Were those drums and flutes echoing? Was it he who beseeched the gods? Over a doorway nine handprints were lined in a row. One for each month of pregnancy? Whose?
I stared up at strange small rooms in the high, back reaches of the cave, searching in my consciousness for intimacy with the people who lived there. Spirits of those ancient ones thronged the place. Who among them was the one I sought? Who was the man like no other?
There was no answer.
Perhaps he might be found in the museum; I returned there to search. I had seen the objects displayed, but maybe I had overlooked something--a clue."...