Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
The central plaza at Wolatowa, called the Middle, is where ancient human dwellings have become indivisible from the earth. Here, Abel first encounters the albino, a man who comes to embody a snake-like evil for Abel. Later, outside Paco’s, a bar about four miles south of the pueblo, Abel kills the albino as he would kill a snake.
*Seytokwa. Location of an early Jemez settlement. The Winter Race, run by Pueblo men for bountiful harvests and good hunting, starts here, when the first sliver of the sun appears over Black Mesa (today’s Mesa Chamisa). The race winds along the wagon road for several miles to end in Wolatowa’s Middle. The novel’s prologue, a flash-forward, shows Abel running in the Winter Race, through snow that covers the dunes, through cold rain that turns the juniper and mesquite trees black with wetness. At the book’s end–after Abel’s grandfather dies–Abel is shown again as the “Dawn Runner,” his spiritual sickness healed in communion with the land.
*Valle Grande (VAH-yay grahn-DAY). Large volcanic crater on the western slope of the mountains above Wolatowa described as “the right eye of the earth.” The crater’s valley is grassy, with a river running through it and clouds drifting above in the pure sky. On the crater’s rim, Abel’s separation from the land becomes apparent. He admires two great eagles as they “dance” with a rattlesnake, taking turns dropping it and diving to catch it again. Abel seems at one with the “eagle spirit” that can possess the land, but is uncomfortable with the “snake spirit” that is possessed by the land. The latter is the same spirit that Abel symbolically slays when he kills the albino.
*Benevides house (beh-neh-VEE-dehs). Large white house of stucco and stone in the canyon north of Jemez Pueblo. The novel places this house at the settlement of Los Ojos, which is not the modern town of that name. The Los Ojos of the novel is called Jemez Springs today. Staying at this house is the beautiful Angela St. John, a married white woman who comes to the springs alone to take the mineral baths. The canyon landscape comes alive to Angela. At night she even sees the Benevides house as part of the landscape, as a “black organic mass” as old as the canyon itself. Later, Angela has an affair at this house with Abel, who becomes, for her, an animal extension of the land.
*Los Angeles. California city in which Abel settles after spending six years in prison for murder. Although the middle portion of the book takes place here, Abel’s spiritual separation from his Jemez homeland is intensified by the huge city’s alienness. Abel relives the pattern that took place earlier at Wolatowa, but, being further removed from the healing land, has no more success than before at curing his inner sickness. However, while he is in Los Angeles, he learns of two more “holy” landscapes from other displaced Native Americans. One is Rainy Mountain, a knoll arising from the Oklahoma plain, a place of blizzards and tornados where, one senses, creation began. (Momaday later wrote a book about Rainy Mountain.) The second holy place is Wide Ruins, Arizona, an austere landscape of brush and red rock gullies.