100 Days of National Parks: Day 19 – Cliff Palace Ruins, Mesa Verde

Cliff Palace Ruins

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Walking through the Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado, it’s impossible not to feel transported to a different era, and to marvel at the mystery of the Ancestral Puebloan people and their mysterious disappearance centuries ago.

I’ve always been fascinated by ruins and abandoned places, relics of a bygone age that time has long since forgotten.  There’s so much memory in these vestiges of civilization, so much that we can learn about the way people lived before us.  I love to wander through old buildings, to think about what the world was like back then, to imagine what it will look like when we’re gone.  It’s a morbid fascination, but one that I’ve carried with me since childhood.

Mesa Verde is probably one of the triggers for that fascination.  I recall taking trips with my family to visit the Anasazi sites here and at Canyon De Chelly to the south.  I have indistinct memories of climbing into Kivas and up replica wooden ladders leading to more cliffside ruins.  I find when I return to these places as an adult, those memories never fully line up with the reality of what I see, and I find myself questioning the nature of memory itself, and how fleeting and misleading it can be.  The permanence of these ruins is so diametrically opposed to the immaterial nature of our memories, which makes their preservation all the more necessary to our understanding of where we came from.


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