Stepping into the mystery: Cedar Mesa, UT
The frogs are even louder tonight. They sound like chanting. To me, this seems fitting since I’m camped in a canyon surrounded by ancient Indian ruins. Today brings more ruins and petroglyphs than imaginable. This place was a village. Around every corner, more cliff dwellings come into view. Each more elaborate than the last. But it’s the petroglyphs and pictographs that I find most interesting. What are these strange animals, figures, and spirals about? A flying camel? A man with a frog head? More arrows, hand prints, centipedes. Visions from dreams, or just elaborate doodling? Figures to ward off evil spirits, or to appease the gods? We’ll never know. But this is what makes them so fascinating. I’m irresistibly drawn to them. They seem to have a life of their own. Like guardians of the canyons.
The frogs have finally stopped for the moment, but I can still hear the bats, sounding their sonar as they hunt for mosquitos. Very few this time of year. The air feels cooler than last night. I think I’ll sleep in my tent tonight.
Nothing but the sounds of birds, and pristine desert silence. The air is a still 45 degrees. I make tea and oatmeal and sit for a while. Looking at my map, I realize I’m camped directly beneath a large ruin. No camping at the ruin or the surrounding bench my map clearly states. Whoops. Although I’ve seen no one, I pack up tent and sleeping bag anyway. Now I’m no longer camping. The morning ensues. No one comes by. The huge sandstone wall behind me is completely lit up in sunshine but my “camp” is still in the shade. I should go and inspect the ruins. But instead I continue to sit in silence. Plenty of time for poking around old cliff dwellings. For now, the morning silence is thrilling enough. I think of the cliff dwellers. Waking up each morning with the sun. A symphony of birdsong. I think of their breathing. How it must have been slow and deep. I think of their eyes. Peaceful, yet alert. Their hearing as sharp as cats. Perhaps even with the threat of attack at any moment, peace of mind must have prevailed in a place like this. Predator and prey have always been the natural order of things. Like the birds, who wake up each morning with song, yet build their nests high up in the trees. Far from danger. They live in the present moment, yet have the common sense to protect themselves from harm. Is it for the fear of fire that we do not put our hand in the flame, or is it simply because we do not want to get burned? We don’t live our lives in constant fear of fire. We just have the common sense not to put our hand in it. Perhaps these cliff dwellers simply had the common sense to build their homes high up on the cliff walls, away from danger. Like the birds. Living peacefully and happily in this place of immense beauty and solitude.
What purpose does fear really have? People have fear in times of war and depression and in times of peace and prosperity. What purpose does it really serve? Is fear really ever based on reality, or on some imagined future situation that never arrives? Is fear simply a disease (dis-ease) of the mind? We fear losing our jobs. Losing our money. Losing our possessions. Losing our loved ones. Our friends. We fear our own annihilation. But do we need fear to survive in this world? Do we need fear to keep us safe, or just common sense? Is fear serving us, or is it sabotaging our lives? Did these Indians leave their cliff dwellings due to real threats, or did their own fear finally drive them to madness and mass exodus, leaving these pristine desert canyons for a fear that was only in their heads? Much has been written about this. All theories. The truth remains a mystery.
The sunlight has finally reached me. The air turns from cool to suddenly, exhilleratingly warm. Perhaps it’s time to go poke around some old Indian ruins.
To be continued . . .