“The past speaks to us in a thousand voices, warning and comforting animating and stirring into action.”
The sun shone through my office window and there I sat thinking and wondering where the day would take me… I was feeling the need to escape these four walls and find something of significance… something that could speak to me perhaps with not a word ever spoken.
I had been told of an old ghost town south of here by a couple of hours. Recently, I was finding myself a little fatigued of the words of the living. I decided to go out on an adventure to experience the silence of those long gone and hopefully not forgotten. It was a cold and windy day and so I made sure to dress accordingly. I grabbed my camera, my bag, mittens and asked Siri to lead the way.
As I made the 2 hour drive south, I was feeling a bit worn for lack of better a word. I had engaged in so much communication over the past week that my body and mind begged for a little rest and relaxation. So, I turned on some songs that settled my mind, put Cherie on cruise control and there we were making our way, literally, to the middle of nowhere.
Siri announced a turn toward Bodie National Park. A ghost town up in the desert mountains where an active mine had this town once bustling with business and life. Today, it sits as still as can be, as if the people simply up and left and disappeared. I was feeling curious and inquisitive about what I might find… a building maybe two… an old mine… perhaps a house or two… The thoughts and visions were circling my mind as if a soup were stirring over the stove. The sign said “Bodie 10 miles ahead”. Then after just a short couple miles, another sign read that the paved road ended.
I was a bit concerned as I found myself driving up a rutted, bumpy dirt road with a cliff to my right and views that were simply nothing short of breath-taking… I had to remind myself to focus on the road ahead.
A winding rough road it was and then at some 8,375ft I settled up over a ridge-top and there before these wondering eyes did appear a town! An actual ghost town! Not one building or one house…. the shell of an actual city that once graced this mountaintop. I stopped for a moment in absolute awe. I rubbed my eyes in an attempt to clarify the view, as if what I was witnessing couldn’t be so. When I opened my eyes there remained no difference. I placed Cherie in drive and we entered the park/city of Bodie. I parked the car and went backwards in time.
Before I had departed on my adventure I had made sure to hop on the Bodie Historic Park website to find out all the pertinent details. Here is a simple description of what I hoped to experience:
“Bodie State Historic Park is a genuine California gold-mining ghost town. Visitors can walk down the deserted streets of a town that once had a population of nearly 10,000 people. The town is named for Waterman S. Body (William Bodey), who had discovered small amounts of gold in hills north of Mono Lake. In 1875, a mine cave-in revealed pay dirt, which led to purchase of the mine by the Standard Company in 1877. People flocked to Bodie and transformed it from a town of a few dozen to a boomtown.
Only a small part of the town survives, preserved in a state of “arrested decay.” Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods. Designated as a National Historic Site and a State Historic Park in 1962, the remains of Bodie are being preserved in a state of “arrested decay”. Today this once thriving mining camp is visited by tourists, howling winds and an occasional ghost.”
The moment I stepped out of the car a large gust of wind hit me, leaving me to catch my breath. Heavy sigh…. I grabbed my jacket, mittens and camera and off I went. As I began the walk into the city, I was mesmerized with feelings and thoughts of what this town once looked like… I could almost see the shadows of spirits that walked the dirt roads and visited the store, restaurant, church, school, mine and the many other establishments that still stood.
As I approached the church, I suddenly felt a sense of calm blanket me. The wind had stopped and the silence was deafening. And just then I heard an unmistakable creaking… I looked up and there above the building that stood across the church was a weather vane. Although I felt no breeze, it swung 90 degrees. I tilted my head to the right as if to try to justify this as the air was as calm as could be. I simply vocalized a “Hmmm…” and turned to walk toward the church. There the warped and heavily weathered wooden plank steps welcomed me to the entry to God’s house. The church was not open but a view could be seen through the doors. Lined on each side were pews that held the memories of those who sat and worshiped in their traditional ways. Old, does not describe the church. It was layered in desert dust. But time couldn’t hide the moments sanctified there… I could feel the excitement of baptisms, the joy of wedded bliss, and the sorrow of long goodbyes… I turned and walked away.
The next house over was open for viewing. As I approached, I tried to envision my thoughts if I were to live there… walking up to the home it was evident it was a tiny house, of course weathered but still standing. As I walked in, I stopped in awe… A deep breath at what I was witnessing… The house stood as if the owners simply walked away. The kitchen was small…bowls, cups, cooking utensils still in place. To the right was a room for the baby… a crib seen partially rusty, but still intact, and sat as a reminder of the spirits that once breathed life into this house. I stood and just thought about the difficulties that this mother and father faced in a mining town with a little one in tow. The fear of mine collapse, hot temperatures and disease… how many never survived… how many hoped for better times and yet, here in this tiny house, with but the bare necessities, this family did what they could. I stood as a cool breeze could be felt on my bare legs… I sighed with delight… here I stood in a moment of history with the spirits gone that lingered…. To them this is home…
I felt the need to stay a while visiting this tiny and humble house, and when the moment struck, I left and began to meander around the town. Building after building, I walked the dirt road and was left in complete amazement as history stood still. I could almost hear the horse and buggies as they passed by… The jovial sounds of laughter that escaped the saloon and pool hall… the children’s voices as I walked past the school… and then as if to thank me for the visit, that eerie familiar creaking of the weather vane summoned me back. Alas, the park was set to close as the sun had begun to set. I stood for just a moment looking back down the road at the buildings, the sky above and then I closed my eyes. There I stood as the wind blew by… I could still hear all the sounds of yesteryear… with the creaking weather vane to remind me this was all too real. Yes, I could feel the energy of the once bustling town… the joy, the pains, the sorrow, the fears… carried by the wind and spoken by the spirits as they bid this shy girl their long goodbye…
As I made my way down the mountain, I could see the sun begin to set over the mountain range ahead. The pull was magnetic in nature… to stop and walk among the sage brush… to feel the sun’s last rays penetrate this body after a day visiting a ghost town that held so many memories.
My mind was full of pictures of days gone by and yet this day was coming to its finale. There I stood in the gold light as it illuminated the sage that graced me… I whispered to the heavens my appreciation for another day, another opportunity, another sunset… Perhaps it was more than most as many that once resided in Bodie may not have seen many days of happiness and exploration. They faced hard times, but made the best of their minimal existence. Something in my heart told me that there were still many… many that linger… many that hold on to their memories… perhaps not even knowing of the years that have passed… kept in a time saturated with memories that keep them there…
Feeling in awe, humbled, grateful and connected…. Wondering what tomorrow will bring…