Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde, CO
They built their homes of stone and mortar into the sides of the cliffs.  The building was an exercise in patience - they had no metal tools, and used stronger stones to shape the weaker ones.  They did their work some 800 years ago - then left the area because it was time to go, so say the modern Pueblo people.

When they left, they left their spirits behind.  Even in the midst of the crowd of tourists, I swear I could feel their presence.  Some of the protected areas of the dwellings still show the marks of soot on the ceiling.  I can envision someone coming home to the welcome warmth of the fire after hunting in the cold, someone baking the daily corn tortillas to feed their family.

wall painting, Mesa Verde, CO

In one tower, you can see a picture left behind on a plaster wall.  It's simple, red on white.  To see it now, you must lean in and look up.  Then, there was a floor right there - it's just at the right height for wall art if one is sitting on the floor.  (The picture here rotated itself 90 degrees; it's feeling contrary this morning...)

Mesa Verde, CO
They were an agile people.  The dwellings are well-sheltered, but built halfway up (or down) the side of the cliff.  We tourists used sturdy ladders to get down to the site and then back up to the parking lot.  Next to the ladders, we could see the hand and foot holds they cut into the rock to get to the top to tend their crops (they farmed the mesa tops), and down to the base.  I'm sure they had a way to get the injured and less-able up and down, but the journey would not have been for the faint of heart.

Though the weight of time between the days the buildings were new and now was palpable, I wanted to meet them, the long-departed engineers and artists.  I admire their tenacity, their spirit, their love of beauty.

They stayed here just three generations.  It is said they left because there was a long period when the crops failed, and they moved on in search of a place where the corn would always grow.  (Obviously, they never got to Iowa!)  They abandoned their buildings and moved south and west to join the other Pueblo peoples.

I wonder who was the last to leave the village.  Did they linger and cast a longing look behind, or did they resolutely move forward, looking only to their new home?  I can only imagine.

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