Monday, April 12, 2010

The same mesa twice

Well, it wasn't totally ego that led me to leave that last post up so long. I drove to Albuquerque and back and was away for about a week. And on the drive home, I took a slight detour. I saw an exit sign that said Acoma, and I remembered untold years ago, when my future husband and I rented a car and drove around the West, we stopped at Acoma Pueblo the first day. Acoma is "the oldest continually inhabited city in the US" (maybe) -- people having lived on top of the mesa since about 1100. But it wasn't Acoma that has always stuck in my mind from that day. It's the other mesa, the far one in the picture above, the one called the Enchanted Mesa. The story there, which is to a certain extent born out by archeology, is that the Enchanted Mesa was inhabited as well, until a storm washed away the handholds in the rock which enabled people to climb up and down. The people on top of the mesa slowly starved to death, while those left below went to live at Acoma. I supposed it's called the Enchanted Mesa because the spirits of those who died haunted it. Or because, as we might say today, "there's just something weird about it."
I know that's how I felt when we first came over the ridge and saw both mesas below us. I didn't know the story then, but I found my eyes drawn to that mesa as we followed the road down to it. And when we stood on Acoma during the tour I kept looking over at it. It seemed large and alone and bigger, more dominant than Acoma. I don't remember much about Acoma but I've never forgotten the sullen power of that mesa, sitting on the skyline.
So, on the way home from Albuquerque, I left the interstate and drove, bewildered, across the high desert, hoping I could find my way back, until I came to the same ridge, and saw the two mesas rising from the valley floor.
It wasn't quite the same. I guess in years of living out West I have seen a lot of mesas and they no longer seem as dramatic as they once did. You can't step in the same river twice and you can't see a mesa with the same eyes that you saw it years ago. If there was no longer a sense of mystery, of haunted power, about the way it stood alone in the desert, there was now unity and peace. Once the mesa had loomed on the horizon. Now it was small and part of the landscape.

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