Remembering Things

peublo people homeWalking through the ruins of the ancient Pueblo people’s homes in Bandelier National Monument, I was thinking of Dan’s  comment about our attachment to items that function as placeholders for our important memories.

When I felt the urge to give away my things, it was only with regard to meaningless items that felt like heavy, material obligations. Most represented a failed effort to comfort myself through acquisition. I never intended to part with any of my sentimental objects.

But the accidental reality of living in such a small space is that I no longer see most of them.

And now, I am having a new and unexpected experience and it is going to sound kind of loopy. But I am feeling it, so I am going to share it with you.

The loss of objects that function as an external placeholder for special memories is fostering the growth of a new interior space. I feel like I am beginning to hold these memories inside of me, rather than outside of me, in objects.


Jennifer in cave at BandelierThe experience is almost inarticulable, but gives me a deep sense of comfort and connectedness. It is another unexpected re-filling of empty material space.

At Bandelier, it was mistakenly believed that the inhabitants of these ancient Pueblo ruins simply ‘disappeared’. Years later, their descendants began their educational campaign of “We are still here.

The homes in this canyon were left behind when the Pueblo people packed up the few items they could carry and moved south. Now settled along the Rio Grande River, modern day Pueblos still remember through storytelling and traditions.

Their stories and traditions teach them that their ancestors are not absent, but present and living in the ruins.

I expected to find Bandelier interesting and beautiful, but was struck by the spiritual presence I felt there.

I used to fear the loss of objects that I believed comforted me. This new growth of something that can’t be lost is an unexpected and blessed gift.


“Through oral traditions and dances we know that the spirits of our ancestors are still present in our homes on the Plateau.” – Gary Roybal, San Ildefonso Pueblo


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