Of The Earth

Chaco_Canyon_Pueblo_Bonito_doorways_NPSChaco Canyon is home to one of the best preserved ancient pueblos in the United States. Over one thousand years ago the Anasazi people built stunning multi-story brick structures that housed thousands of people there. The buildings are remarkable for their beauty and mystery. The native Americans who lived and worked in this land appear to have been rather advanced in their engineering skills and knowledge of the heavens. Excavations have revealed a culture that centered around religious events and included travel and trade with the inhabitants of faraway places. The land is sacred and spiritual. One treads through the long abandoned ruins with a sense of awe. It is difficult to imagine how people survived so well in a region so wild and barren.

Evidence tells us that the Anasazi not only managed to exist in this untamed place but also to thrive. Archeologists have found parrot feathers, jewels, and pottery inside the trash heaps. There are buildings aligned so as to accurately mark the change of seasons and phases of the moon. This now desolate home to spirits was once a center of learning, trade and religious events. The people lived well which is rather surprising given that scientists doubt that they would have been able to support such a large population with only crops grown in the village. Many believe that this grand example of early architecture in the Americas may have been the residence of a ruling class who were provided sustenance by servants who brought in food that was raised in other more fertile and wet areas.

Nobody knows exactly why the lovely structures were eventually abandoned but for whatever reason the people who had lived and worked and laughed inside the walls simply moved. Over time the place was forgotten and left to the elements. It was not until the nineteen twenties that a random discovery of one of the structures led to worldwide scientific and archeological interest in the site. Today it is preserved as a national park and is a haven for astronomers and historians alike. Among the pueblo people it is a sacred repository of the spirits of their ancestors. The rocks and the shards of broken pottery are pieces of their hearts.

I love Chaco Canyon. It reminds me over and over again just how small my part of history really is. I feel the pulse of the men and women and children who once lived here. I marvel at their resilience for I wither in the heat. The warm wind blows across my face and leaves dirt in my eyes. I grow weary and need shelter and water in a short time. Those who were once here may have laughed at my weakness. How brave and remarkable they must have been.

In Chaco Canyon I am reminded that history continues in an infinite arc. The story of mankind will continue because of or in spite of us. The things that bother us so much today may one day seem insignificant to our descendants of the faraway future. They may wonder why we did things the way that we did. I hope that they will understand us and forgive the mistakes that we made for surely we are an imperfect group.

I always feel quite blessed in Chaco Canyon. I all too often take the luxuries of the modern world for granted. It is difficult to ignore how much we really have when faced with the realities of a people who had no running water, cooling systems, vehicles, or the many accouterments that I rarely celebrate. I find myself thinking about less fortunate souls all over the globe who still lack all of the conveniences that I enjoy everyday, even in the trailer that I pull behind my truck. I realize that having enough food has rarely been a worry for me. I turn the handle on a faucet and have cooling liquid to quench my thirst and clean the dirt from my body.

The world is filled with so many wonders and Chaco Canyon is one of them. It stands at the end of a road so pocked and bumpy that only those who truly wish to be there ever arrive. it’s climate is hellishly hot in the summer and brutally cold in the winter. It is not a place for the timid but for those who do seek its secrets it is a miracle. I have been to few places on earth that have left me as profoundly changed.

Chaco Canyon is of the earth just as we are of the earth. It lived gloriously for two hundred years and then just seemed to die. The reality is that it was never really gone, only waiting for a new generation of people to honor and cherish the ingenuity of humans of long ago. It tells a story of mankind that lives on in the hearts and souls of every one of us. It is a connection with a past that continues to reach out to the future. The voices of the individuals who lived there are in the rocks, the brick and mortar, the petroglyphs and the many rooms. They call out to us and remind us that our own time is limited. We have only a moment to leave our marks, tell our stories and preserve the land that sustains us. We must do our best to make our own contributions worthwhile. The moon will keeping repeating its patters and the seasons will come and go. One day we too will return to the earth.