Thomas Doty – Storyteller

A Native View

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At Symbol Bridge

Under the glare of the desert sun, I walk to the lava cave called Symbol Bridge in search of an ancient painting of the sun traveling underground.

On rock the color of dusk, I see the symbols: two parallel zig-zag lines suggesting movement through this tubular cave, and between the zig-zags, the distinct sun, circled with rays. On other rocks are drawings of the moon. The symbols are near the cave entrance, almost glowing in the mythic half-light that moves the world from day to night and back again. It is here I feel air currents catch the desert heat and send it swirling down the cave as if the sun had recently rolled through and left a warm path for the lukewarm moon.

In Modoc mythology, the sun and moon rise in the east and spin west across the sky to a crescent-moon-shaped ridge called Shapasheni, "Where the Sun and Moon Live." There they rest before rolling through lava caves to rise again in the east.

These underground tubes were formed by intense heat, and there are gold and silver sparkles in the rock as if the sun and moon had passed through not long ago.

At Symbol Bridge, sun and moon stories are alive in an ancient painting, in the endless shifts of night and day and rushing air, and in the colors of rock. In the twilight shades of sun-and-moon-light, I walk out the cave entrance and head toward home.