Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cliff Dwellings

For the last half dozen years every time I made the journey to St. Mary's in the Moonlight we took a pause at Canyon de Chelly.  There is the fabulously out of a time warp Thunderbird Lodge cafeteria where you can have a Salisbury steak or old school ambrosia or a Navajo Taco as big as your noggin.  It is a deep valley of sandstone cliffs and the famous Spider Rock.  This is a valley where the Anasazi may have been, the Hopi people have been, and the Navajo people still live raising livestock and orchards.

One of the most amazing overlooks is the one that looks down at cliff dwelling ruins, called 'the White House' by some wise ass.  Cliff dwellings always raise for me the question of who thought of it first?  Which man or woman looked at his tribe and said, "we would be safe from the floods and our enemies if we carved out homes, way up there, in that cliff."  Clearly this person won their argument, but I presume there was an argument about the notion.
Cliff dwellings in the tiny nook 

Those cliff dwellings and that valley have been occupied by different tribal groups over time.  They are known to argue over who was there when and 'whose it is' and how they may or may not be related to one another.  However,my point is this: there is almost always someone who was there before you.  I have never moved into a new home or a new church.  By new I mean completely previously unoccupied. There are dozens of things that make me wonder: whose idea was that? In my previous setting more than one person thought that avoiding right angles was a good choice for Sunday school classrooms.  At another parish the classrooms originally didn't have windows.  The fire escape plan was to somehow get lots of panicking people out through a SKYLIGHT.  A new era and the experience of living make these ideas seem ill conceived.  However, more than one person thought they were good enough to build them that way.  Which serves to remind me that no matter how awesome and agreed upon our new ideas may be, a future generation may scratch their heads and wonder 'what the heck were they thinking.'

In my new setting there are interesting choices all over the place.  I wonder about the holes in the backs of pews that once held something; a careful choice well funded that later was erased; leaving only neat little screw holes in dark wood.  I wonder about the hands that have rubbed the pew backs from their dark stain to something much lighter.  I also have a half dozen ideas about how we can best serve this era with this space; and hopefully without frustrating the servants who come after us.  

What old choices have you encountered in a parish or home or new work setting that made you wonder or created frustration?