Within eye line of the famous Chumash “Burro Flats” solstice observatory, ceremonial site, pictograph cave is Sage Ranch Park (Simi Hills, Los Angeles). The ranch is on a high plateau perforated by sandstone fins extending their peaks toward the sun. Pioneers found native artifacts in the rock shelters and one historic account hints that it was “a place like a god”, which, in the native expression, means cemetery. On this Fall Equinox I ventured into these hills to see if I may find an equinox observatory in this “place like a god”.
I went into this walk blind, as an exploration, but with the intention of letting the landscape speak to me. As I walked I contemplated the significance of an equinox. A day of solar equinox is a day of harmony. Light and dark are equal. Day and night are in perfect balance. I resolved to let this be a day to reset imbalances of anger, resentments and sadnesses I’ve been harboring and allow a balancing neutrality to flow back in.
I can’t get over being astonished at how, when I’m in a positive flow, strikingly helpful coincidences smack me in the face and say, “Hi! How are ya?” As I’m scanning the sacred landscape for clues to a solar observatory and meditating upon the concept of equilibrium, I decided to click open my Podcast app and see what one of my favorite history-oriented podcasts was up to this week. Well, surprise! This week the host had decided to launch an entirely new mid-week series featuring short interviews with pre-eminent authors explaining and instructing ancient wisdom teachings. This inaugural episode happened to include a 5-minute meditation about how to gain access to the universal wellspring of inspiration and knowledge. I listened to her talk about herself and her teachings, but when she came to the part where she was to guide a meditation I pressed pause. I wanted to save that part until I found the perfect sitting spot to enjoy it.
I poked my head in and out of a number of wonderful rock shelters and took some pretty pictures, always keeping my eyes open for a landform that screamed “sky observatory”. I climbed a couple of cliffs that faced the sunrise and looked promising, but were misrepresented from below by a trick of shadow. Finally, in the very center of the park I saw a sandstone fin that stood above all others and authoritatively and majestically pointed toward the sun. I had a very good feeling about that spot and followed my nose.
I expected there would be a cave under the lip of the sandstone spire, but I was mistaken. It was just a narrow ledge with a couple of boulders between the wall and a drop-off below, but it still spoke to me so I looked a little closer.
One of the boulders was a wide, flat, remarkably comfortable platform on which one could sit and see a panorama of land to the east. The sun would rise over the distant hill and warm the rock face behind this platform until mid-day when it would drop behind the fin and arc toward the ocean.
The boulder in front of the platform had a pretty perfect 90 degree notch that angled to the right. I thought, “What the hey? I’ll see if maybe this is a sight that lines up with anything in the distance. I bet you can guess what I saw. The sight line of the notch lined up perfectly with a similarly angled boulder/notch on the distant horizon that, by my eyeball calculator, would be about where the sun would rise over that hill. My heart started beating a little faster. I fired up my Star Chart app and dialed back the clock on the app to 7am that morning. It placed the sun very close to that notch as it rose over the hill. (In my next post I will show where the sunrise would have been during Chumash occupation of this land. The wobble of the earth’s axis slightly changes where the sun rises on the horizon over several hundred years.)
Honestly, I felt faint. I had set out this morning with an intuition that there would be additional sun observatories in an area so close to the famous “Burro Flats” sun cave, and by intuitively reading the landscape, I had found one. Yet another meaningful “coincidence” that helps affirm that I’m on the right path in a spiritual sense.
This, of course, would be the perfect place to listen to Colleen Mauro guide that meditation. I sat comfortably and clicked it on and was further astonished to hear exactly what she had to say. She instructed that through this meditation I could learn to access universal inspiration and knowledge by imagining my soul as a ball of white light about six inches over my head. This was another coincidence because the heat and light of the sun at this hour, with my eyes closed, gave the sensation of there actually being a ball of white light about six inches above my head.
As I sat and meditated I had a vision of what it would feel like to sit on this platform all morning, from the time of sunrise until the sun fell behind the fin, and feel the movement of the equinox sun. The warmth and light would steadily intensify throughout the morning until it shifted to cold and darkening after midday when the platform fell into shadow. The platform itself would feel like a clock that measured exactly half of a an already perfectly balanced day. Incredible.
I don’t know what more to think of this humble sun observatory. It isn’t elaborately decorated with pictographs like its showy neighbor at “Burro Flats”. It is so simple and yet so perfect. In its eroded state the observatory just looks like a naturally occurring accident of sandstone and its possible that’s all it is. It is also equally possible that the boulders in front of my observatory platform were at some distant time cut to create a sight line with the distant notch and that the platform itself had either been cut or moved into place as an alter or sitting place or both. I really feel that the perfect alignment of all the elements of this little shelter are too coincidental to be an accident: a high place, a prominent landscape feature, a fin that divides the sky, an arrow straight sight line to a distant notch that frames the sunrise, a flat stone alter, located near a world famous pictograph cave that is known to be a sun observatory and ceremonial hub for a confluence of local tribes, in a former village site that is also suspected to be the location of “a place like a god” where kinsmen were laid to rest…
Today’s equinox observatory was perfect in its simplicity and simple in its perfection. Efficient, tidy, humble, and holds a person between the cupped hands of landscape and the heavens. Could there be a better prescription for a place of worship?
Update: I went back the next day at sunrise and made some more discoveries. See the updates in my next post…