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Skies of the Ancients

I thought back to the haunted house and the door that opened on its own. It must have been over 16 years ago.

The house was in Midtown Memphis—just a few miles from where I live now—and I still don’t like looking at it, even as an adult. I remember the room upstairs next to the attic; it was my room. My room had a friendly ghost (I think), one that liked to open the door if I climbed the stairs with my hands full, one that would at times tickle the ivories of a stringless piano in the room next door.

That house was over 100 years old.

The homes at Mesa Verde are over 800 years old. Built in the 12th century by a civilization we still know little about, the homes hang thousands of feet in the air, clinging to the side of Colorado’s green cliffs.

For me, the houses are not a new discovery. I remember learning about them 16 years ago, in that strange house in Midtown, from a kid named Jonny Quest.

“The Anasazi,” he called them. That’s who built this place, or at least that’s what Quest called them, borrowing the word from the Navajo. To them, Anasazi meant “ancient enemies.” But all we seem to know now is that their civilization—no matter how or why they built these sanctuaries in the cliffs—is gone now.

This is a fitting place for the beginning of the end. As I tend the campfire, watching the galaxy rise over this land of ancient people, I can’t help but think of bygone days.

Really, I’m thinking of bygone campfires.

I remember the giant fire in California at Mount Shasta, the wet fire just a few days ago in the Bighorns of Wyoming, the stubborn fire near the arches of Utah.

Tonight’s small flame will be one of the last for the Souled Outside journey. In about two weeks, I’ll be back in Tennessee. The route home takes me to fewer and fewer campgrounds, and I’m not sure if I’ll even have a chance to set up my brother’s old tent again.

It’s all a bit sad, really. I hear the cries to come home. And I suppose I am approaching a line between vacation and lifestyle that, to the less adventurous, seems dangerous to cross. But the truth is that I’ve never been on vacation out here. I’ve worked the entire trip, and that in itself has forced Souled Outside to become a lifestyle.

It’s a lifestyle of adventure, exploration and appreciation—one where you can watch the Milky Way climb over the canyons of a long lost civilization; one where you can hope that, like that ancients, you lived and thrived in some of the world’s strangest places for a reason.

It’s a lifestyle I’ve grown used to.

I’ll think of skies like this often when I look up at the sky.

Written by

When an urban developer bought my apartment building in 2016, it pushed me out of the soulful streets of Memphis, and outside, into a life on the road. I soon found out that travel was both a cure and an addiction. And I plan to keep going, with readers alongside, for as far as this road can stretch.

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