Of all the National Parks and State Parks we visited on this year's vacation, my friend in prison perked up when I mentioned in a letter that we had visited Mesa Verde National Park. He wrote back to say that he had visited there, and asked me to send him a photograph from our trip. His affection for the park in no way surprises me, for of all the great parks we visited, Mesa Verde was the most Human.
Curious about how the Native Americans lived? There's no better place to visit. From pullouts along the road, you'll see a plethora of family homes and small communities dug into the canyon walls.
The rangers offer tours of some of the more impressive communities, most for a minimal fee. It's interesting to listen to the rangers describe these ancient communities. Each ranger finds their own perspective on how these people lived hundreds of years ago. Each ranger wades through the archeologists' field reports, and their understanding of Native American culture, to translate how these first settlers of the United States in terms that current residents can understand.
People travel there from different states and countries. Children proved as interested in how people lived there as adults. Visitors faced only one requirement: they must be physically capable of climbing up and down stairs and ladders. If they did so, they could accompany their fellow time travelers back hundreds of years, for an hour or so.
They could understand the Native American communities delved out duties and social power to the sexes. They could learn about how people saw their world from practical and spiritual perspectives. They could imagine themselves living in these times, sharing confidences with friends, dating people from other families or communities, cooking, singing, and worshipping.
Then they could return to the present, taking with them their understanding of these ancient peoples' simple, and yet surprisingly complex lives.