Posts Tagged ‘Ruins’

I was transported across a golden bridge and through a long dark tunnel to another world today. A world of magical mountains with secrets buried inside, guardians of stone, and a light that shone for all to see. … and then i came back.

 I rode a bus to Marin Headlands across the golden gate bridge, the hills that have called to me many a time. I had yearned to go, but put it off, for the bus only runs one day a week, so my timing had to be right. Though it is so close as the raven or the hawk flies, and above my head they did, it is also so far away. Though physically so close, it is another world – especially when you leave the vistas of the bay.

Marin Headlands is yet another old army fort turned part of the golden gate national park with barracks and more built into the hills and a lighthouse at the entrance to the bay; The hills speak to me as ancient pyramids (i believe they lay everywhere) and in a few of the rocks on the cliffs you can see faces (of the guardians there). The sun had come out after days of rain, and slowly the magic seeped into me.

It was not present when i first arrived and focused my attention on the old military installations and the fighter jets soared above the bay. But after a walk out to the lighthouse, my vision changed. I opened up to the call of the land and the presence that was there, being guided in my footsteps, and the magic entered into my soul. I felt like i was truly in another world and time. Faces in and on the stones, the shape of the hills, and the curious relics we leave behind for generations to come all came to life. I came to life as i became enchanted with the mysteries there, and truly felt the earth as a living entity and became connected with the all. It truly felt like another ancient holy place.


This is more a description of my day, but what i wrote at first sounds so much more romantic – and i hope to experience more of life that way – enchanted with the world.

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I write this from what i have written in my journal for it all seems so far away – yes a bus ride and a day and a half but it seems so much further ago than that – it is a different zone, an energetic zone, a place of being, an area and i have now reentered the colonial town zone and wonder what i have done.

I visited Palenque three years ago on my last trip to Mexico and i wanted to go back there – the place made a deep impression on me then – not just the ruins, the pyramids and ancient architecture, or even mainly them, but the faces i saw in stones in the waterfalls, faces that were made real and spoke of the decline of the place, and of shifts and rises and declines of places the world over – i called them the monkey men to myself at the time for i had no other name, and i imagined i saw them in other powerful stones where i have been, and in sculptures and carving. There was still something there, though i did not see it at first as i stood on the low suspension bridge, taking off my glasses so i could see so clearly. Then i saw the face, and others, not as haunting as before, but still there, still speaking of some deeper mystery.

And perhaps why it was not as intense is that i have experienced many energies in stones since, presences of the oh so distant past, of those who were here before us, and therefore it is not so shocking to see. And this time they did not seem to mock me, or ^us^. And why did i need to go back – to prove to myself that they were there, that i had not imagined it, but i know they are.  I came back to see, but now to move on, for something is changing.

I had deep thoughts while i was there – up on a trail above the central square, and in the cross group where i sat at watched people walk up the stairs to the main structure, their being light, close to translucent against the denseness of the stone. And it was that one group that spoke to me, the religious centre, for in the site i felt the power of war and decline and inequality and a society turned inside out – upon itself, the elite and commoners divided, and the elite losing track of god and more, a loss of what had once been at its core. And i wondered who these people were, so many theories and i have no answers, from elsewhere – or more so than those of us here now – and were they the maya as we now know them, the people here today, descendent of the rulers or the ruled and were they the same group of people or were they two. But all is linked and intertwined. at least those are the thoughts that came to me.

And the energy of palenque did not seem as strong as i had remembered – had the place changed or was it me. For some was still familiar. I stayed once again at el panchan and felt it a place in decay, yes the jungle and its humidity claiming back buildings and more constantly, but it was more, an unkempt feel, a feel that it had seen better days, that energy was chaotic and still, flowing out and not in. That it was living on past laurels, and that we, as visitors, with the partying and drugs and drinking, while some a celebration of joy, but some, a decay, and adding to it, and becoming a part of what had transpired once before.

Still i slept well and now in part yearn for the jungle and what i experienced. For the jungle was lush and dense and with shiny greens, and fragrant and heavy, the air heavy, and the sounds at night before the music got going and in the morning at dawn – insects, birds, the eerie sound of the howler monkeys and more and i lay in my shabby wood and screen (with some missing) cabana listening i felt conected and at peace. Here is some of what i wrote in my book

I feel sad – the jungle here is lush and green and heavy and so is the air, the dark squiggle so much more visible here, a denser heavier feeling here in the lower lands, cloying almost, but the foliage is dense green and it keeps the ground cool blocking out the intensity of the sun, a world beneath the branches where all comes to life. and it is moist, so moist, the earth dark and the moisture on all, on the worn footbridge and on the buildings on all, on me too i´m sure, clinging, fading paint. And i feel that this area is worn and the denseness clings to me – molecules moving slowly, but live comes, slowly spinning, dense. Tomorrow i will head to a new zone one where i will probably crave the lushnesss that is here – the undergrowth and the soil. Still here i could see the changes in vibrations more clearly… (not i have felt that denseness many times, when i come out to the pacific in the northwest, getting off the bus for the ferry to vancouver island, and it envelops and hugs the body, caressing, but then heavy and clinging and at times both, a heaviness that descends upon me)

I lay in bed listening to the sounds of the jungle, birds of diverse sorts call, i do not know their names or even their sites but their sounds.. i listen to the sounds of nature and of god, feel the air come in and sleep deep.

I felt it was not a place to stay and came for the city, and now i walk around wishing to leave, commune with a deeper being. Still, Palenque was revisiting for me, a site of the past, one that we have dug out from hiding and rebuilt and keep trimmed, a memory that more existed before. And in my memory all is similar and different – both the site more manicured, have been with it and can walk away, and the zone of el panchan

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i made it to Tikal today – the ruins in the middle of the jungle with tall temples rising up high, visible above the canopy from above. It was quiet there, few people on the grey day (which thankfully kept it cool) – the sounds of birds and the rare howler money could be heard as i and then with the people i met strolled the forest paths from group to group. Even the central plaza was quiet and empty as i climbed the temples to observe the scene below. It was wonderful but also made it hard to imagine the city in its prime – full of people, probably mainly deforested, and noisy i am sure. The life that exists there now is different from what was before, over a thousand years of existence, and now only partially reclaimed from the forest. The temples large, but with little decoration or sculpture – at least that remains.

The area that spoke to me the most was the Mundo Perdido, the lost world, with its large pyramid (rather than temple that were in the other groups) dating back to 500 bc. I came from the backside, seeing a hill, and a bit of exposed stonework at the top, ¨hey, this must be a pyramid¨ i said, i climbed down from my perch and walked around, and on the other sides it was exposed, it was. And it made me think of the pyramid shaped hills i has been seeing over the past few days. And as we walked around the main excavated area, we saw many more hills, which were structures, still unearthed, and others partially exposed.

And i began to think about how many sites of previous people there are, as yet Undiscovered and unknown to us. There are so many smaller sites, and so much of even Tikal that needs to be explored. And how rich is this land, not only in Guate, but all around the americas and elsewhere in the world, discoveries of previous cities, found, and how many have been built over, and what secrets does the earth hold. What have we forgotten, and what has existed before, only to be covered over and forgotten, only to be called up from the jungle or forest or lands again, and what knowledge and spirits and memories are enclosed in the land. And what does it mean that we have ¨found¨them again, and what are we calling forth in reclaiming them.
In Lanquin, where the land felt dear to me, a special edenesque feeling, i noticed that the lower hills in the valley reminded my of pyramids, so many of them, with a special feel, mainly uninhabited, and i wondered if they were in fact ruins, and i think it is more and more possible that they could have been. There was a feel to the place. And in the river, near Semuc Champay stood a stone with a face, and it looked so much like the stella in these sites.
And it is possible that people lived and built so many more places than we know now, for after all, what is known today is different that 100 or 200 years ago. And on the long bus ride here, between coban and sayaxhe, there were more of these hills, not only in the mountains but going into the lowlands, and i sat staring out the window wondering what lay beneath.
For what we know is only partial. and at tikal, with many partially reconstructed temples and buildings, we have made interpretations based on what we have found and know. And likewise with the sculptures. We dont really know what was there for sure, we can only imagine as far as our imaginations will stretch – Tikals heyday was at least 500 years from 400-900 ad, though it existed for so much longer with new structures built upon old, and changes made. And it was only known to the outside world in 1848.
And what will people make of our ruins, a discussion of north american homes with the large ornate bathrooms and kitchens, toilets as fountains or home temples, and the eco-construction in a few in guate – with plastic bottles filled with plastic garbage used as filler in concrete walls etc.
The land is rich with what is not known and there is so much that has not come into our vision or consciousness. What is really hidden below.
I walked the site with some others, in the jungle, nature reclaims and all changes, the natural and human (or beyond human as some will say) lives both, an interplay, and i climbed up the temples to look below at the jungle stood below looking up, different perspectives, and looked onto the central plaza from the north and south, and from the highest temple, number 4, only the peaks of the other main temples were visible, but was once afforded a view of the entire city.
And it is an amazing site – but still today was the first dat is over 6 weeks that i have not been surrounded by the mayan women in native dress who live today, only saw 2 – with families as tourists, snapping photos as well, all is change and so much is unknown – how many civilizations are still lost and how many of those hills are buried structures. I wonder if a piramid really exists under lake atitlan (see previous entry) I will stretch my mind forward and past and now.

(photos to come)

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How much do you rebuild, and when do you let something be and let it have a life of its own? Las Ruinas de la Parroquia de Santiago Apostal in Cartago begs such a question. It is the remains of a church that was rebuilt time and again, only to be destroyed by yet another earthquake.

It was first completed and dedicated in 1575, and was reconstructed several times in the colonial are after being damaged by quakes in 1630, 1718, and 1822. It was destroyed by the earthquake of San Antolín, on the 2nd of September, 1841. The new construction in stone was started a few years later, but before it could be completed, the temple, along with most of Cartago, was completely destroyed by the famous earthquake of Santa Monica on May 4, 1910. Finally, after its final destruction in 1910, the city abandoned the church as cursed and left it as the ruins we see today.

Still, Las Ruinas, as it is popularly called, is as beloved today as it was then. It stands in the center of town, in the central square, where it is beloved by those who come to visit it, and walk in its interior gardens if they are lucky enough to find that the gates are open, and by those who come to take a break in the square itself, and by those who pass through, catching the buses that stop beside or near the park or who go shopping in the stores and markets that surround. It is there, and while a shell of its former self, it is grand and alive. The gardens inside are maintained, with flowers, plants, benches and ponds. The worship of place may be different than it was once, but perhaps it is more pure.

It is not, and maybe never was, as grand as Cartago´s most famous church the The Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (Our Lady of the Angels Basilica) which stands a few blocks away and can be seen for miles around. The basilica is a place of pilgrimage and a shrine to La Negrita, the famous black madonna. First constructed in 1639, it too was rebuilt and destroyed by earthquakes many times including that of 1910 (which destroyed the entire city) However, it was rebuilt¨- its current construction was completed in 1930. Today it remains a holy place. Mass was about to begin when i went to visit, a wedding was held later in the day and pilgrims come to visit the Negrita. Still, it does not seem as alive as Las Ruinas.

The city of Cartago itself is not what it once was. Founded in 1563 it is Costa Rica´s oldest city and served as the nation´s capital until 1823, two years after independence from Spain and a year after a major earthquake of 1822 when it was moved to San Jose. Cartago is now a provincial capital with few remnants of its colonial grandeur, but it is alive – like the ruins at its centre.

What do we rebuild? What do we leave be? When can signs no longer be ignored, when are we being told something? It is a question that is hard to answer. All rises and declines, much is destroyed and rebuilt. Yet, civilizations fall into ruin or are abandoned only to be ¨discovered¨ many years later. But here there is life among the ruins. It has been almost 100 years, and the structure still stands, and life flourishes inside and out.

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Why is it that i can’t seem to write about the place i came back to, perhaps came to stay, the very city where i was born and the place where i will leave once again- Buffalo, New York. My energy has been removed from this town, as has the energy of so many for so long. As i write this i feel hollowed out like the city itself, and i wonder just how much has the place of my birth had an impact on me.

I ride into town along the expressways, roads that guide the traffic along and through, not really taking in what is there with the limited exits and fast motion that just passes by. As we get closer, the trees turn to town, the core with its tall buildings visible ahead We pass so empty factories and broken down homes – homes with patched or partially missing roofs and boarded up windows, home that i still notice, but that the driver, who passes this scene daily no longer sees.

As we drive into the center of town in the early morning,  passing broken down buildings on empty streets my heart sinks. We park in one of the many cheap parking lots with bumpy pavement that are plentiful in the area. We slowly jaywalk across the streets. She enters one of the few new office buildings and i make my way to Main Street, onto the block by the stop called fountain plaza – banking centers on a single block, with modern towers and the historic gold dome of the M&T bank – in car-free zone where the metro runs. But if you walk but a block down the street, stores stand empty, with for rent and sale signs on ornate historic low rises. And the street stands empty, not just now in the early morning, but throughout the day – a few folk out at lunch and others with no where else to go.

And i feel myself  sinking and i know it is not just the rain or the clouds above. There is  a heaviness in the air as too many poor shuffle about, some teens on the way to school, a few office workers with sallow faces all who do not seem notice the emptiness and decay that surrounds. I stop for a coffee to get out of the rain, Spot Coffee an oasis of sorts with couches and chairs for lounging, dark roast coffee, and wifi which i do not use.  I glance across the street where a new resto sits, bars, and a Starbucks and i know that all is not dead.  I remember other walks, up Delaware Avenue past the mansions and churches that line the boulevard, past  fountains in roundabouts that do not flow, but that once had different colours of water streaming from lions’ mouths,  by the art deco city hall, I  think of the glory that Buffalo must once have been, the city of my mother’s youth and that of my grandmother.

I cannot but feel how grand the city must once have once upon a time as i look at the remnants of a bygone era, of  a glorious age and a brighter moment in time when Buffalo teemed with life, dreams and prosperity. In 1900 Buffalo was a booming place – the 8th largest city in the country and its glory years continued up through the 1950s when it had a population of 580,000. It was also a center of  industry with the largest grain-milling center in the country, and the home of the largest steel-making operation in the world  and while you can still smell the Cheerios from general mills at times, the landscape is littered with factories that no longer produce and warehouses that sit empty and thankfully black smoke no longer blows in the distance. Buffalo once had more millionaires per capita,  and now it has the nations third highest poverty rate for a city of over 250,000. While the mansions, the parks, the galleries and the architecture speak to the riches, the posture of so many and the proliferation of dollar stores speak to the poverty that remains.

  At one time it a major transportation hub. It was the nation’s largest inland port and its history tied up with that of the Erie Canal.  After the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, transportation on the canal declined and so did the city.  It was a major railway hub, and for a while the second biggest rail center. But when i arrived on my cross-country journey by train two months ago, i came into a small building out in the suburbs, a single waiting room beside the tracks, in the middle of nowhere from what the eye could see. And the energy has left the city, moving out and away. My family left when i was a young child in 1970 , at the beginning of a decade that saw the city lose over 100,000 people. The population in 2000 was well below that of 1900.

 It has been years since the decline began and ended, and while there is some hope, i feel that i must leave, for i feel the loss. I spend my days out in the country, where all moves slowly and is settled and still, near the village of East Aurora where there is more life. It lays beyond the suburbs where most people live, with malls, thruways, even some new subdivisions and most of the middle class that remains.  The center is hollowed out like a donut. While the suburbs could be “anywhere USA”  in some ways i feel that i am in a time warp. At times  it feels like the 1970s or 1950s of something.  A feeling that little new has come in, and what there is seeps in slowly.

As i write this i feel that i am not being fair.  “It is coming back” i hear them say, but i heard that last time i spent any period of time here almost 20 years ago. While a few buildings are new, others have fallen under, and i do not feel that much of a difference. Parts of the west side are grand, the Elmwood Strip is a vital place and has been ranked one of the best neighborhoods by some magazines, a new art gallery was opened a year ago, but somehow i feel that they are pockets – pockets of light – the music scene, research and more. And you can live here and make your way through those zones of light. But even near downtown, near Allentown – a patchwork of galleries, restos, nice homes and decay, in the zones where poverty abounds, you will see flowers or more recently, Halloween decorations on simple homes that sit beside the abandoned boarded up houses, showing signs of life and of hope. Buffalo calls itself  the  “a city of good neighbors” and it is a friendly place with people who help and care. 

Will Buffalo come back – i do not know. It cannot be what it was, for that was a bygone era. Maybe the outward flow has stopped. Although the tide is no longer going out, it is not coming in, for the slack tide endures, a stability of sorts. How long can it last, before it starts to flow again, and in what direction will it go. But even in the slack tide, there is life and motion.  But once again feel like i am but treading water slowly drifting out to sea and do not have the energy to push the tide back in. Perhaps i should turn my eyes away from the reminders of the past, and focus on what light there is here and now.

 But I turn again to look at the ruins, the falling down buildings with grand facades. I think of the ruins that i have travelled miles just to see  – the Mayan ruins of Mexico, the indian ruins of the Southwest, and the remnants of castles and monasteries in Ireland and those around the globe that i wish to visit. Why is it that so many of us seek out ruins, memories of past civilizations, travel to them and relish in them while at the same turn a blind eye to, and run away from, ruins in out midst. 

I think of the rise and decline of civilizations the world over, and life that emerges from the ruins, the places which endure and are continuously built upon, and others that come back after periods of decline not as flashy and grand as in its heyday, but life goes on. And i remember that the ruins stood for years before they were rediscovered and that by visiting them and restoring them we give them life and energy once again.

But Buffalo will not empty out. Buffalo is a city of resilience, that is what  people pride themselves on. Maybe the stagnation i feel is really a settled life. But i cannot help but ask what are we settling for as i  remember the poor indigenous people selling trinkets outside the rebuilt “ruins” .

 While part of my energy lingered here, it no longer does.  So  i join those who removed their energy from this place.  Just as a place cannot go back to a previous time  neither can I.  Although i lived my early childhood on the tails of its glories, it has been almost a lifetime since it was home.  It was not a time to which i belonged, nor is it one that i truly yearn for. Buffalo was an industrial city with a focus on material gain – that of a time and of a nation. While there was and is much more, spirit, culture and love, that was at its core. I feel that way of life with the focus on the consumption of things, that which transcends much of America and the world is in decline and seeps away.

And all is change, it rises, sinks and ebbs. And that is the way of life, it has been and will continue to be. I’ll stop treading water and swim out to see.  And i will continue to flow as will Buffalo.

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