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I recently had the chance to broaden my horizons and travel down to Mexico to see a few historical sites. I'm speaking of the wonders of Chichen Itza and the walled city ruins of Tulum.
I am absolutely fascinated by the stories embedded inside the stones of such a place. As a child, my family was prone to visiting such places, but I can honestly say I don't remember much about those trips, unless my brother and I got into some form of mischief. The difference between those trips as an adult and as a child has to do with hiring guides.
Now, for some people, a tour guide is a man (or overtly chipper woman) in khaki short shorts who giggle at their own jokes while telling cute tales about whatever the heck it is you are looking at. Maybe I've just been lucky, but for the last few years, I haven't been traveling so much with tour guides, but story tellers.
The magic that lies inside the stones of an archaelogical site can only be released when one hears the tales of what transpired within. There is a certain air of mystery in wandering the cold, dead halls of a forgotten temple, or city, but to hear those stories brings everything back to life.
One story that comes to mind is one that occurred before I wrote Anasazi. I was visiting Mesa Verde, and they have guided tours done by the rangers there. We were visiting the Balcony House (embedded up in the cliffs of the park itself). You have to climb ladders down to even enter the site, and it would be an easy feat to do what most guides might do (which is to simply talk about the history of such a place). Now, our tour guide did these things, talking about the different structures, the agriculture, what they ate, etc. What struck me towards the end of the tour was when he had us all gather around one of the pits and stare out over the valley.
"These people lived here in this dwelling for several generations," he told us. "Their ancestors were buried here, this was all they ever knew. I want you to look out at the valley. This was the same sight they saw every day. I want you to imagine living here your entire life. This is all you know. One day, in this very spot, men and women, children and grandparents, they all sat here and discussed leaving this place. Without knowing what the future could hold, they had to make the decision to take what they could carry on their backs, leaving the rest behind. Tears were undoubtedly shed on that day, tears which lie in the hard rock at your feet. There are emotions trapped within these stones, stories we will probably never be able to hear. As you stand here, listen close to the stories the dead are so desperately trying to tell us."
Now, when I go to these places, I live to hear these tales. Maybe they're embellished, maybe they aren't even true, but there exists magic in the stones around us, always. It just takes a quiet mind to listen for them, and a story teller;s voice to share them. No matter where you travel, always try to find that magic. Let it drive you, inspire you, and humble you.
That's just what was on my mind today.
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