I went to Mesa Verde hoping – expecting – to have a spiritual experience of one variety or another. As those of you who’ve been reading this blog know, the last few months have been rather unsettled for me. Not necessarily bad, just unsettled – like I need to be doing something, but I don’t know exactly what, or why, or how. I was hoping to find some sort of guidance, clarity, enlightenment – pick your term.
A Native American site is probably not the best location for me to go looking for spiritual guidance. I don’t buy into the PC obsession over “cultural appropriation” (borrow from the best, just don’t pretend to be something you’re not), but I tend to not resonate well with Native American practices. Still, I figured that whatever natural forces drew the ancestral Puebloans to Mesa Verde would speak to me as well. No humans are truly native to this continent – their ancestors just got here about 10,000 years before mine.
So I went to Mesa Verde with high expectations. We drove to the visitors center, picked up some pamphlets to help us figure out where to go, bought the obligatory t-shirts, then headed into the park.
We hadn’t gone a mile when I saw a coyote trotting up the side of the road, coming toward me on the other side. He reminded me of a marathon runner out for an easy morning jog – moving quickly and efficiently, but like he could care less if there were cars on the road or not. I didn’t have time to get a picture, and didn’t know if I really wanted to or not. Coyote is the trickster, and the message I took was “you ain’t getting what you want, so you better be open to what you get.”
We went on to Far View House, and I could sense a little energy, but as at Hovenweep, most of it had either dissipated or was overwhelmed by the spirit of the desert. I got the same thing at most of the other stops we made.
Then we stopped at this overlook. There was an older couple there – they took a few pictures and then left, in silence. Cathy asked if I was getting anything, and I couldn’t answer. The wind picked up, so strong I pulled down my chin strap so I wouldn’t lose my hat. I took a couple of pictures, including this one, but I stopped after I realized that what was important here couldn’t be photographed.
I can’t really describe what I felt. I wanted a vision or an audition – this was neither. There were no words and no pictures – just a sense of the wonder and power of nature. And in that moment, I felt right.
And then the moment passed.
We went on from there to the Balcony House overlook, which involved hiking a little over a mile in what by then was close to 95 degree temperatures, at 7000 feet altitude. We had been in the park for about five hours and we were both exhausted. There was much we didn’t see, but decided that was all we could do. We headed out of the park, and on the way out we had to stop for three deer in the process of crossing the road. One of them looked right at me – that was all the sign I needed that I had done what I came to do.
It was a good day.