Tuesday, December 30, 2008

American Ruins





The other night I dreamt I was exploring Anasazi (also known as Ancient Puebloan) ruins that went on forever. The catch? In my dream they were a combination of the utility of Bill Morgan’s Dune House, with the startling beauty and efficiency of the cliff dwellings themselves. Oh, and they were carpeted.

On my trip out west (which was cut short die to poor engineering on my brother’s part), the one thing I wanted to do more than anything else was explore the cliff dwellings. Exploring the ruins at Bandelier National Monument, I was overcome with the stark beauty of the place, the practical application of the houses, hand-holds, and even the views from the dwellings.

The combination of practicality (it is postulated that in order to cultivate crops, the Ancient Ones lived in the cliff dwellings for maximum use of the river bed) and the beauty of the rock formations made me wish I was a fearless ten year old again instead of a lumbering, cautious adult.

Though the lives of the Anasazi were often short and brutal, these people were not without self-expression. Carved into the exterior walls of canyon were still barely visible pictographs, and one painted image, now protected behind Plexiglass.

Because historians estimate that Bandelier has housed humans for over ten thousand years, it has ruins form different eras, from structures built of mudbrick, to longhouses, to the more recent remains of an Anglo ranch that later became a guesthouse. As a sort of living document of human habitation it speaks volumes about the way that humans think about and use the land. Even the path it took to becoming a national monument, along with other ancient sites, is a story that illuminates specific aspects of Anglo-American views: both unsavory and those that recognize the wonder of these places.

Really though, it was an experience that made me want to look more closely at the ancient history of America. It was an experience that made the past tangible in a way museums can’t. It was an experience where I climbed to the top of a 140 foot ladder.

On my next trip out, we’re trekking to Mesa Verde.

1 comment:

Catherine Aird said...

Q: but Catherine said:

"If you can't be a good example, you'll just have to be a horrible warning"

A: I was told that we are not vehicles...