Friday, November 12, 2010

ghost towns

They're called living ghost towns - the bits of civilization once bustling with people: miners and merchants and settlers and soldiers. Now the streets are empty, choked with thick tumbleweeds and scrub brush. Buildings fold in on themselves, their foundations crumbling.

It's hard to imagine anyone living out here, but they did--- they founded schools and stores, they lived out the drama of their lives under the New Mexico sun. And they still do--- those few brave souls who live in houses built 130 years ago. They plant gardens. They attend church. They drive two hours to Walmart.

It's quiet here. The kind of quiet that seeps into your bones--- has you slowing your pace, bending down to pick up colorful stones. You can hear someone whisper from several feet away. I know this because we tried it: Chip standing beneath a cottonwood tree, its leaves burning yellow in the fall sunlight. I walked down the road as he talked to me in a low voice. It was uncanny how clear our voices were in the whispered quiet.

And it was uncanny how clear our thinking, too, as we wandered the ruins. I wondered over a town of people once upon a time: a population rising into the thousands now gone. How families were made here and grew into the generations.

And in the quiet, I felt each of us surrounded by ghosts. The ghosts that accompanied me weren't those of coyboys and gunslingers from the old west, or grizzled miners eeking out a living under the New Mexico sun. They were the memory remnants of people gone in my lifetime: my father-in-law, my grandparents, Aunt Chris, my friend Carol, Uncle Reed, Jackie and Ralston, my birth mother, Buddy. I felt them trailing after me in the rising desert wind.

I wondered over the rise and fall of a town, and the rise and fall of the lives surrounding mine. Their ranks are growing with every moment that passes. My own personal ghost town.

Where do you go to find quiet?

On a sunny afternoon in New Mexico, I found it in a ghost town. And though there was nothing but empty desert, beautiful and stark rolling hills around us for miles, we weren't alone. We never are.


Sibley Saga .... said...

You've captured some of what New Mexico is and how I feel about some of the small towns here. In some places, the quiet is deafening. I also COMPLETELY get what you mean about ghosts. It's almost like all I have to do is spin around fast enough and I'll get a glimpse of a host of people trailing behind me.

Andrea said...

It can be hard to find quiet. I've been looking for it, I know. Glad you did.

tearese said...

We used to go camping in ghost towns when I was a kid, so my dad could go treasure hunting. Have you ever read "" Its a kids book, but I think you might like it.

tearese said...

wow, what happened to the book I just typed? It was "The Worry Stone." Also, "The Tale I Told Sasha."