Ghost Songs on the Gila

I was early on the day I visited, a mid-winter weekday after the holidays. It was in the low 40s with a brisk wind. Apart from a ranger and a docent trying really hard to stay warm, I was alone. I walked the site slowly, almost tiptoeing, to sustain the quiet.

The wind freshened as it shifted a few degrees, and I heard a low keening come from the ruin. I froze in place, listening intently, turning my head. I was in the center of the site, and it was one of those moments when you feel like you, like Billy Pilgrim, have become unstuck in time.

The interaction of the wind, the ruin, and the rafters of the shelter were interacting to play tricks on me, I rationalized. It’s nothing.

As I looked back toward the ruin, I saw a jackrabbit close by. He was on his haunches, regarding me. I regarded him back. We continued this for about a minute. Then I lost the contest, turning to look again at the ruin, but when I turned back toward the jackrabbit, he had vanished, and the keening stopped.

I heard a car door slam, and a family, bundled against the cold, began walking my way. The spell broken, I headed into the gift shop to warm my ears and buy the postcard in the photo.

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