The Ghosts of Chichen Itza

Some things are more than you expected.  They need to be experienced to be believed. Seeing the pictures really is nothing compared to the sheer sensory experience – the sense of being transported through time and space and "other stuff" – that you get from being there.

Sedona, Arizona is like that -- photos show a desert but it's a lot more when you go there. Another place like this is Chichen Itza, Mexico.

You're walking through subtropical jungle – past mounds of rocks and weed and undergrowth. It's very ordinary. You almost don't notice you've arrived at "the place" described by guide books. You're just walking a wooded path. Then you're in a wide open courtyard.

And all at once you're staring at It. This out of place structure that seems to belong there. The temple of Kukulkan. It's not an abrupt experience. It's gentler, like when you see a beautiful, standout cloud.

You stare at it because it pulls your eyes – not as a monstrosity, but as a delicacy, as a rainbow makes you look. Something that seems bigger than it ought to be, or emanates when it shouldn't. 

You have to go stand near it to get a sense of it. And what you "get" perks you up. Something's happening here. It's the strange way the stones are laid. The singular way time has dressed them. The smell of earth-between-stones that has been there for a thousand years. 

If ghosts are stories that cling to the fabric of spacetime, the closest we get to the ghosts of a place is by going there. Listening. Summoning. Magnetizing stories, asking for ghosts to whisper, noticing when they do. In some places, you can't help but notice.

The overlapping other-worlds feeling of a storied place like this old temple is very real.

Chichen Itza is an easy place to sense the overlaps.

Beautifully, however, all of the world – every place – transports you if you let it.

It's just that certain places – and maybe certain words – teach you better how to notice.


Kathleen Hurley