Thursday, August 16, 2007

Colorado Vacation- Mesa Verde

The house is far from being done, but with all the stress of plumbing and having the closet in the garage, we were in desperate need of a vacation. Since Colorado is beautiful and Kristi hasn't ever been there, we packed up the VW bus with two dogs (Jester went to grandmas) two bikes and two back packs and took off. We left late Tuesday night anxious to get as close to our destination as possible. We drove into Colorado and stopped just across the border at the Ute Indian reservation. Ignoring the signs warning against trespassers we slept on the first dirt road we came across, ready to skedaddle at first light. Our first stop the next morning was Mesa Verde National Park. It was really cool. We got there early, ate breakfast on the side of the road inside the park, and proceeded to the visitors center. Soon after we got in line to buy tickets to the larger cliff dwellings, the flood gates opened and a swarm of people began to inundate us. Within about 5 minutes there were people out the door and around the corner waiting to buy tickets. We decided to buy tickets for the later tours, since we were already going to stay in the area that evening. While waiting for the later tours to start we started at the ruins that were free. We hiked a short distance and came to a deep canyon with a whole cliff dwelling village at the bottom. Surrounding the canyon was an arid mesa, but with in the canyon seep springs dripped from the walls creating a virtual garden of Eden. The Spruce ruins, so named from the giant Spruce trees growing from the canyon floor, was surrounded by scrub oak and plants that served as medicine among other things. The air was surprisingly cool, and water abundant enough to support a tiny village. The ancient Puebloan culture that lived there (sometimes referred to as Anasazi) farmed on top of the mesas and transported their crops to the dwellings and the holy people who lived there. At first the dwellings were used as habitations, but as the culture progressed and their beliefs strengthened the dwellings began to serve as places of worship and food storage, rather than just shelter. Deep underground arenas were fashioned, called kivas. These kivas were about 8-10 feet deep and covered over with a weaving of cedar logs for a roof. The people would enter through a hole in the roof and down a ladder. At the bottom one would find a circular room with a fire pit in the middle. On shelves around the walls there would be sacred items used in their private ceremonies. To keep from asphyxiation there were air tubes allowing outside air inside. Traditionally one would think to build a fire in it's own air tube, thus drawing air from the surrounding room and exhausting the smoke up the chimney. In the ancient Puebloan culture it was the other way around. Air was drawn down the chimney and around a monolithic looking rock upright in between the fire pit and the air tube. This monolithic rock served as a buffer to keep the fire from being blown around. Along-side the fire pit was a smaller hole. This hole served no purpose except that it was a representation of the Kiva and the beliefs that the origins of man came from such a hole. This made the hole sacred, and taboo if one stepped in or on it. One wonders why the entrance to the kiva was also the chimney, causing those who enter or exit to do so through the smoke. Legend has it, that young boys who climbed the ladder were blessed by the smoke as it swirled around them. It must have also has some additional significance intertwined in thier beliefs. Notice the similarities between the ancient Puebloan ruins and the modern ruins of my house.

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