Visit to Chaco Canyon
I recently visited the 1000 year old ruins at Chaco Canyon, in a remote area in Northwestern New Mexico. To get to the ruins you drive about 20 miles down a dirt road, under an expansive sky with faraway horizons punctuated by mesas. I saw a group of horses that may have been wild as I was nearing the ruins.
Chaco Canyon has the densest concentration of ruins in the American Southwest and is among the best examples of ancient Puebloan architecture. It is also among the least understood.
This is a very special place. The stillness, being alone in such a desolate location and being one of only two people in the entire canyon created a sense of solitude and timelessness. But, I was also overcome with a sense of presence and human life. Walking and standing amongst the millions of stones laid down by human hands over a thousand years ago was much like standing in front of brushstrokes in a painting made long ago. I could sense the makers of these impressive structures by contemplating the labor and decision making involved in the placement of each individual stone, much like one can sense a bygone painter by standing in front of a painting (where they stood while making it) and contemplating the individual brushstrokes and decisions that comprise the painting. It is a way to connect with the spirit of human life, but from a different time and place.
The builders of Chaco Canyon are known for their advanced knowledge of astronomy and aligned many of the structures at Chaco Canyon with celestial events. Best known is the Sun Dagger, a grouping of petroglyphs that track both solar and lunar cycles. Other petroglyphs at Chaco Canyon depict the Supernova of 1054.
Being there creates a broader sense of time than one has in day to day life. Out there, it feels like millennia can go by like minutes.