Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 22, 2012

What Remains Behind

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

For more than 700 years, the Anasazi people, also referred to as Ancestral Puebloans, lived and flourished in a place called Mesa Verde in the southwestern part of what is now Colorado. The Anasazi were remarkably resourceful people who learned to use the natural resources available to them in the Mesa Verde region. They survived on a diet of corn, beans, and squash and learned how to find and preserve water in the hostile canyon environment. The Anasazi also built elaborate communities in the sheltered alcoves of canyon walls. What remains behind is a testimony to theirs skill as builders. The walls of their cliff dwellings are straight and true and the interiors extremely functional and well thought out. Everything the Anasazi did served a purpose — survival in a tough environment. However, in the late 13th-century, the Anasazi left their homes and moved away. Some speculate that they were forced to leave because of a severe and long-lasting regional drought. While we may never know for sure why their abandoned their homes, we can be certain of this, what remains behind is evidence that they built their homes with great care and consideration for the safety and survival of their families.

Dad and I spent all day today visiting the ancient ruins of the Anasazi. This is my second visit to Mesa Verde so I was delighted to take Dad to all of the premier sites in the park. Throughout the day we could not help but talk about how these ancient people learned to use everything at their disposal to help them survive and thrive. I thought it interesting that one park ranger said that their efforts to patch some of the places in the ruins in need of repair have failed. So, the park service has been experimenting with various mortar mixtures used by the Anasazi to do repair work on the ruins. “Their methods were obviously better than ours,” she commented. “After all, the particular materials they used have survived for more than 800 years.” That is just one more thing that points to just how smart these ancient people were. There is no question that life in Mesa Verde was hard, but what remains behind shows that the people who lived here actually thrived until forced to leave by factors beyond their control.

I have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Mesa Verde because I am always interested in learning more about people like the Anasazi — ancient people who lived on the edge, both figuratively and literally! There is much that we can learn by studying what others have left behind. Among other things, ancient people like the Anasazi remind us that people through the centuries have cared about the same things that concern us — things like the safety and survival of our families and intentionally passing our values on to the next generation. Today I have been challenged to think about what I will leave behind and whether it will be as enduring as the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi. If that is to happen, then I better make it a point to mix my mortar just right and to make sure that my walls are plumb. If I fail to do at least that much, then what I leave behind will have no enduring value.

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