I had written about Santa Fe some weeks ago in this post. It's time now to revisit New Mexico and take a stroll through time ... we will visit an abandoned pueblo (village) at Bandelier National Monument where the Anasazi, or the Ancient Ones, lived over 700 years ago.
There is a short loop trail in the park that takes us through the Frijoles canyon to the remains of the pueblos. Tall cliffs tower over the landscape, silently watching history unfold below them.
Humans arrived in Bandelier over 10,000 years ago, when nomadic hunter-gatherers followed their migrating wildlife-prey through these very canyons. Ancestral Pueblo people (the Anasazi) settled here over 700 years ago. So these cliffs have seen the drama of life and death play out countless times here, over many centuries ...
After a short walk we come to a Tyuonyi, which is a pueblo of about 400 rooms - one to three stories high - arranged in a circular pattern around a circular Kiva - a room that was used for religious purposes by the Anasazi. What remains now are just the walls of the rooms around the Kiva. When they were functional, these rooms had thatched roofs and ladders to get up to the higher levels.
Here below, is the Kiva. Imagine a thriving community here. In these rooms entire lives were lived. People got together around this Kiva to celebrate and pray, to dance and to sing. If we could put our ears to these walls, maybe we can hear the rhythms that they have absorbed over the years ...
A short distance from this pueblo are the cliffs of Frijoles Canyon. The canyon was formed by erosion when Frijoles Creek cut through the volcanic rock in these cliffs, which are full of natural cavities. The cavities were formed from air pockets in ash deposits from volcanic eruptions several thousand years ago. The Anasazi moved into these natural caves and created homes there.
There is a walkway there now, with a railing one can hold on to. As I walked along this path, I imagined young boys and girls scrambling over these rocks and through these holes, playing and sometimes falling, as their anxious mothers looked on ...
I was amazed to see this face appear on the rock wall. Tuned in as I was to the many ancient lives and stories here, I imagined the many stories that this face could tell me.
There are ladders in a couple of places, by which one can crawl into these cliff cave homes to see the world through the eyes of the ancient ones for just a few minutes ...
These walls contained life at one time. Families slept here, huddled against the elements. Within these rooms there once was laughter and grief; mischief and melancholy.
Little babies crawled on these floors, young children played hide and seek. Dreamy lovers sat here watching the sky fill up with stars ... anxious adults tended to their aging parents, and found shelter here from the rain and snow ...
Can you see the festivities down at the Kiva below, with crackling wood fire lighting up the dancers, and music reverberating off the cliff walls? What a sight that must have been!
So many untold stories buried here ... life's transience was never more apparent.
Further along there are more clusters of homes backed up against the cliff walls. These homes must have been several stories high and must have connected with the cavities in the walls as well.
Cactus fruit adds a dash of color ...
The Anasazi were artistic people, as we know from their exquisitely decorated pottery. Artists must have lived in this pueblo as well, drawing inspiration from this very landscape ... there is one well-preserved petroglyph along the trail. One can only wonder at the fingers that created this one.
As we walked back along the snow-covered trail in the warm sunshine, other natives of this land watched us go by. Their lives are woven with our own ... their ancestors provided company and nourishment to our human ancestors who lived here. This is their history as well.
By 1550 the Ancestral Pueblo people had left their homes in the Frijoles canyon, and moved to other regions. This abandoned site was designated as a National Monument on February 11, 1916.
Back home, I made a small 6"x9" painting of a familiar Native American motif to remember this visit by.
Have a wonderful weekend!