Ancient History


   Sothis. Known through Egyptian hieroglyphics to be todayís Sirius, brightest star in the sky; responsible for the Sothic Year, the first calendar of 365.25 days, also Egyptian. I mention Sirius because, if you do not know the Glen Canyon Dam EIS story well, itís too long to tell right now. Itís easier to talk about deities and history and horse sense to paint the same picture. It might not all fit together, but, Iíll try.

   In ancient Egypt when Sirius crested the morning sky beside the Sun, came the Nileís yearly flood. Sirius, in the constellation Canus Major (Big Dog), signified the spate that brought prosperity. Each year it renewed again the agriculture which supplied the ancient world with wheat and barley. Without flood, the quintessential lifegiving event, and the ability to predict its coming, Egyptian civilization would have perished long before it did.

   Switch rivers with me. Letís try the Colorado in Grand Canyon. Iíve had some really weird things happen when Sirius was rising and I was rafting. One that keeps me wondering is when I camped at 124 Mile and saw a flying saucer! Maybe it was a military jet, you say. Iím not so sure. It was just above the rim, almost silent. Huge...it was huge, bright blinking lights crawling effortlessly, very quietly, through space straight above us. I remember trying to fit all of that together. It doesnít make any more sense now than it did then.

   Sirius returns in July: Dog Days. On schedule, and known for centuries. But this particular time the star rises abreast the final 30-day comment period on Glen Canyonís EIS. And this is just too weird. A profound moment approaches. But there will be no corresponding flood in Grand Canyon to herald the event. There probably would be a flood, you understand, if Glen Canyon Dam werenít in place. But thatís the way the world works these days. Its people control the dam and river. Mother Earth doesnít have a whole lot to say about it. I cannot explain that either, except for politics which, in context, seem more like astrology, the reading of tea leaves, or Tarrot cards, to predicate a hazy, hoped for, future.

   Politics is not science, like astronomy, which the Egyptians defined spectacularly wellósimply to ascertain Siriusí heliacal event. They did not attempt to control the river as we now do. They were smart. They realized, even then, that natural cycles ordained the only measurable manifestation of their civilization. It was the heavens that said when the water would come. Soothsayers did not do the trick.

   It is different today, both at Aswan and Glen Canyon. It is all backwards. We use politics and enormous piles of cement to challenge time eternal, the mandate of heaven. We have reinvented the calendar but learned nothing from its creators.

   Sirius, I say, is rising.

Shane Murphy