Friday, December 01, 2006

WIAO P-16; ITD-4, Hey, Hey, Canyon de Chelly

If signs are metaphors written in creation, then what is vision? Lord knows we can only answer that question for ourselves. Personally I find it more than a little hubristic that we, mere members of the universe, dare assume the mantle of its only voice. It speaks in volumes written in a language only the heart can understand. But we have to listen.

This spring I sat in Canyon de Chelly, actually Canyon del Muerto, one of several canyons in that National Monument. It’s in the state of Arizona although it’s more a state of something less official and more a state of being. The Tsaile Creek flowed before my hiking boots on the way towards Chinle Wash. The ground I sat upon was that typical high desert of red dirt and sparse tough vegetation.

Canyons! This was my first visitation and to tell the truth I’d been fooled. I always thought there would be two walls rising high around me, and although maybe geographically that’s the case, it doesn’t seem that way. Rather, all around you walls of one thousand feet climb vertically, as any sense of distance is broken by the winding nature of the surrounding landscape. It’s what I imagine the Oval Office to be. Powerful and self-restrictive.

But it was what was across the creek and within one of the canyon walls that made all the difference. There was what the National Park Service calls Mummy Cave Ruins, a great adobe complex of more than 90 rooms built around the thirteenth century by the Anasazi and abandoned for reasons speculated by many experts but actually unknown by all.

I had separated from my tour group, and was sitting by that fast-flowing creek all alone, looking at the ruins in the canyon wall, no more than a football field away. The washed-out color red dominates the landscape like so much sun-dried blood. The ruins are surprisingly intact within the recess of the canyon wall. Its windows look well-defined. The eyes of a people who once inhabited this glittering world are looking through me. The creek at my feet is speaking in tongues, and the sun is breaking through the cloud cover.

There is no past of ruins. There is no future of some tour. The creek is flowing like the here and now it was and will be, that Heraclitean present differentiated by our lesser senses as a line of time. But there is no line. There is no time. I sit on one side of the circle and the Anasazi are sitting on the other side of that self-same coin. Still.

I guess if signs are the metaphors of creation, then visions are its poems.

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