This Summer as my children and I wandered among the ruins at Mesa Verde National Park as well as Canyon de Chelley in the Navajo Nation my heart kept insisting, “These are not ruins, they are simply places left behind.”
“These are sacred memories, not something ‘ruined’.”
Ruin means destruction, to harm beyond repair. In my eyes and heart when something is ruined it is junk, unworthy of being patched or pieced together for anything worthwhile.
On the other hand, I find places that have been left behind by other people to be completely inspiring. I love being where others have been and are no longer there. I hear their voices rising from the floors, I feel their fingers reaching to mine from the walls.
The wind sings their songs, the leaves show me which path to take. These are not ruins, these are dear friends, like we used to say in the 70’s, that we haven’t come to know yet.
Sometimes ancient ruins, places left behind, are left in small scraps: a pile of rocks here, a can of sardines, there. Once my father found a tin can left behind from the turn of the 20th century as we walked around the high desert in Northern Arizona. I hadn’t even seen it but his well trained eye for objects left behind found it right away and put it back for others with keen eyes to find.
I am reminded of the words of Terry Tempest Williams. She wrote “Women piece together their lives from the scraps left over for them.”
These places belonged to my sisters in history, to my aunties, my cousins, my grandmothers grandmothers. This is the thread I feel. If my memories were a quilt, it would include these memories that don’t live in my intellect but live in my genetic blood memory and in my gender.
When I visit, I honor them, just as when I visit “ghost towns” in Gold Country here in California or investigate a chimney in the middle of nowhere just to breathe in the air and ask it what I am – and what I am not – seeing in the places left behind.
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© 2012 by Julie Jordan Scott