12.18.2008,12:44 PM
Palo Duro: Campfires in the Canyon

It was time to head back to camp. With one last look around the town that time had forgotten, we headed back to the highway. As my wheels touched the highway pavement, I transcended through a hundred years of the past to that moment. For several minutes riding on Hwy 287 my mind had to catch up with my body in motion and leave Goodnight -and the era- behind.

As I rode back in the chilling air, thoughts tumbled through my helmet (as they usually do). Many times I'm still back in time -decades, hundreds, even perhaps a thousand years- and I'm caught in between being there and being here. Like I had just visited some Eight Dimension and seen what had been, what was to come, and what will be, all at once. Many times I'm still stuck or tormented with events and emotions of being there and being here. Then I step back in my own mind and intellectually resolve the history, now and the future.

You can read all the text books, academic papers, popular non-fiction and fiction, historical markers, and listen to countless stories. But to understand, comprehend, develop empathy and 'know' to our limits, you have to stand on the land or in the water. You have to 'be there' - surrounded by the same sky, soil, vegetation, smells, sounds, animals, as much as you can immerse yourself in. It is physical as much as it is mental or intellectual to experience history. It is sensory, sometimes even sensual.

History is the process of learning about ourselves and our humanity, how much we all have in common. Hopefully, it can prepare us for the future. Maybe.

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." - George Santayana

We barely beat dusk back to our campsite. A campfire was very welcomed; it's warmth, glow and heat to bake cornbread and sausages on sticks.

Wiley enjoyed it, too.

With several other isolated campfires down from us, I entertained myself with an image of this is how it might have been with the Plains Indians camped for the winters in the shelters of the canyons. Their lodges and campfires nearby, their ponies grazing the lush grasses in the canyon bottoms. I'll never know, but I can imagine it.

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posted by Macrobe
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