The first time I visited, I was overwhelmed by the spirit of the ancients who inhabited the canyon. “I could feel the ancient people as I stood among the ruins,” I am prone to describe to others. It was a profound spiritual experience for me.
And, so, on my journey across the continent to reset my emotional, spiritual, and physical being, I planned to camp in the canyon. I would spend the next day among the ruins meditating, praying, and writing. Alas, the campground was full when I arrived late in the day.
The fifteen miles on the washboard, rutted, muddy road to Chaco Culture National Historical Park is not for the faint of heart. But I think the challenging journey – the commitment – is part of the power of the indigenous ruins dating back to 850 AD. In the isolated canyon, the sounds and conveniences of modern life are left behind. Only the impressions and spirits of the ancient peoples and the ruins of their stone structures remain.
I made my way across the difficult road, planning and expecting another profound experience. But I was late in the day and thirteen years was a long time ago. The first time was filled with relief at arrival and was a time of awe and wonder at the ruins and residual spirits. But I have carried that spiritual experience with me for nearly a decade and a half. It is now a memory. It is a memory that has evolved and interacted with my lived experiences since that time.
Arriving late and unable to get into the campground, I had limited time if I was going to return to paved roads before sunset. Driving those undeveloped roads in a Prius C after dark was simply not an option.
I had an hour to wander among the ruins. I felt rushed and tried a little too hard to re-create a memory. That hour was worthwhile and meaningful, yes, but my time in the canyon this time did not have the same impact. Had my plans played out my time of meditating, praying, and writing may have allowed room for the Spirit to speak. Perhaps, not. I do not know.
I do know two things: No matter how hard I yearn, memories of the past cannot be re-created and spiritual experiences do not come on schedule. The sacred speaks when the sacred speaks. My task is to be patient and leave space so I can discern the Spirit when she is ready.