You can stand in a place rich in historical events, or deeply steeped in emotional turmoil, and feel that it is haunted. Not the haunting of ethereal figures floating about, but with our knowledge of what has taken place, and our senses working with our imagination. Haunted in this context means having a connection to what other humans passing through this place in a different time might have felt and experienced.
I can still remember visiting Gettysburg with my grandparents when I was in college. At Devil’s Den, steamy heat drenching my skin, I looked out over the green battlefield, strewn with large boulders like a giant’s game of oddball marbles. I could almost see the soldiers in their ragged uniforms of grey and blue, using their waning strength to push heavy cannons over the giant rocks, sweat running in rivulets down faces grimy and exhausted. I could almost hear the wounded and dying, moaning as they lay helpless in the sun’s pitiless glare. And then, as a tiny breeze swept across the hilltop, bringing a brief coolness to my damp arm, I could almost hear the terrible silence of the aftermath of battle.
The Puye Cliff Dwellings in Los Alamos, New Mexico, are another opportunity to connect with the past. The small shelters carved into the cliff face, and tiny apartment cubicles and ceremonial kiva atop the cliffs, are something to see. The Puebloans moved along the steep cliff faces, between dwellings, on tiny paths. Through hundreds of years, their feet created deep imprints in the sandstone so that one literally walks in the footsteps of the previous inhabitants. Walking in those footprints is to experience an ancient past.
Walking the storefronts on Lincoln Avenue here in Steamboat Springs you can put a hand to brick and mortar, some of that masonry laid by Carl Howelsen, the famous Norwegian ski jumper who lived here from 1913 - 1922, and helped start the Winter Sports Club. You can almost glimpse his trowel smoothing the cement before laying the next brick.
Looking up to the ridge above the Heart Spring, the current site of Old Town Hot Springs, one can almost hear the cries of the battle the indigenous Utes fought there, leaving the dead where they fell as was their custom.
And out at Perry Mansfield, the oldest operating performing arts school in the United States, lantern-lit paths guide you to lively evening theater in the summertime. Wandering the campus, founders Charlotte Perry and Portia Mansfield are still integral to the feel of the place they began in 1913. Their influence lingers over the whispering aspen groves, the intense creativity on-stage, and the serenity of the coral sun setting in a lavender-pink sky.
History, hauntings. Connecting with these people and their experiences, though decades and even centuries have passed. It is a reaching back through time and prior occurrences. Connecting via the mind’s eye, through the senses, bringing history alive.
Jacqueline Denny, ACC, CHPC, LMT