Jul 09

Ruins and Echoes



I have this love affair with ruins.  Ruins are the quintessential dreamscapes.  Wandering among them conjures up a host of impressions that entertain my imagination.  And yet, as much as I can indulge in some fantastic reverie, they also hint of other realities.


You can easily see this depicted in the reliefs on the crumbling walls.  There are whole cavalcades of stern rulers and conquerors, wizened ascetics and sages, palace dancers skimpily clothed, servants, slaves, the rich, the down trodden, hordes of beasts both imagined and real, demigods, and deities, and on and on.  At one moment each is front and center as you walk through an extended gallery. And as you continue your walking each dissolves back into distant memory as you pass.


Every step revealing new twists and turns of the human enterprise echoing in my mind. Over there is the remnant of a relief carving of a young maiden braiding her hair for eternity.  And further on, carved into the overarching doorway dancers inviting you to participate in their joyful movements. 



Everywhere there are stories wanting to be retold, beckoning us to reawaken to the marvels that once were.  These ruins return me to childhood, to a time when I could think and believe in possibilities, to when animals could speak, to when heroes went on adventures, to magic amulets capable of spells and protection, to a world of magic.  Ruins, like at Angkor, conjure up scenes out the Jungle Book and Just So Stories of Kipling for me.


There is this constant shifting of levels and layers. Tumbled building blocks, broken and strewn about still hinting of some great hall still overseen by the watchful gaze of some unknown deity while, in turn, is sheltered by and looked over by tall banyan trees.


The jungle all about and uninvited encroaches upon the remains contributing a different kind of creation.  Here you find the roots of some huge tree draped over a collapsing wall hinting at some master puppeteer about to pull the strings of a marionette and the strings of my imagination.  Near by a sudden presentation of inadvertent coloring of reliefs, which add a deepening accent to what is depicted.  There is the artist’s touch everywhere, revealing whole palettes of colors and unexpected shading.





And here and there appear these mysterious doorways inviting inquiry to shed light on what appears so dark from the outside.  In one room there is a jumble of headless Buddha statues inadvertently suggesting that the way to salvation is not by thinking: it is beyond the head and even the body.



Sometimes you stumble across a crumbling wall that gives the appearance of steps climbing up into some hidden realm yet to be revealed.  There is this ongoing suggestion of something else.  Ruins are always pointing beyond themselves.  The ruins have become monuments to something much bigger than their intended construction.



A certain irony exists.  What was meant to last for a very long time is but a fleeting moment in comparison to what now exists.  And that which remains will remain much longer even in its steady march towards oblivion. The imprint that is left is not so much an aspect of what existed in history, as it is a lingering desire to reach for something deeper in our humanness. They don’t represent a unitary vision in of themselves.  Instead, they propose a multiplicity of perspectives.


Like all Places, ruins are multi-layered, containing stories upon stories to be read and contemplated.  There is this zooming in and out of views reaching back further and further to the beginnings of Time itself.  Everything changing, everything connected, everything eternal:  up and down and in and out, so many threads that can be easily woven back into a tapestry of my own making.


Ruins are haunted places reverberating with the echoes of souls across the passages of time.  So much of the human enterprise focused in one place and celebrated only to be lost and then found again. 


Ruins are a testament to how we can charge a place with an energy that is now intertwined with the land.  Long after the demise of these buildings this energy remains.  It has known the touch of people and beckons more of such intimate association.  The ruins speak of a betrayal, an abandonment of a loving relationship. 


Now, in the present, we return to a possibility of reconciliation. As we wander the remains of what was, we once again are invited and, I dare say, are required to energetically return something to such places.  And with this re-investment of our spirit we affirm that such places remain for our collective dreaming.



Skip to comment form

  1. Iris Stanfield

    Wow! Jeff, this was the best so far, and I have loved the previous posts. The photos blow me away, and you have a real talent for relating them in writing. Poetic comes to mind. Keep it up. Not quite sure I know how to share this on my FB page, but I am about to try.

    All best,

  2. Shelley Wininger

    Hey Jeff, this particular blog really made me think. I hope my response doesn’t come out too scrambled, since my thinking is quite chaotic right now. So, sitting in my Brooklyn apartment, I think about our architecture, art, age of our country, movies, specifically The original Planet of the Apes, restaurants, museums, cemeteries , skyscrapers. NYC’s older buildings, like the Chrysler Building, with its Art Deco design. Inside a Thai restaurant in Brooklyn, with reliefs similar to your picture of dancers. Old pre-war apartment buildings, walking distance from my house, with beautiful carved designs on the outside. Steel and glass skyscrapers, all geometric designs without any carvings, but beautiful aesthetically. (Does that make sense?). Green-wood Cemetery, in Brooklyn, with amazing monuments. These are just a few of the “relics” that might be found a few thousand years from now if we were to be left to ruin. Although I think the new buildings would be flattened, it could be quite a scene for explorers.
    Now, about The Planet of the Apes. I was on a kibbutz in the 1970’s, watching a movie outdoors. They were showing the original, and at the very end, Charlton Heston is on a beach, and sees ruins from an ancient civilization. Just then he sees the head of the Statue of Liberty.

    1. jeffkelton

      Shelly, thank you for your reflections on this posting. I appreciate your extending the discussion into the future. What becomes of all those dreamings? What will our “ruins” say to those who encounter them down the line? What unfinished business will still be speaking out prompting us to really wonder where we are going or who we really are?

  3. Henree Weiner

    Your article is thought-provoking. As I ponder through the ruins of Spain and Greece this Summer, I wonder about the lives left behind and how it felt for them, and what it would have been like for me if I had been there when these places, Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Salamanca, Barcelona, the Acropolis and Athens, and now Santorini would have really been like at their prime. And now, as we tourists come, and walk through these ancient steps, beyond the picture-taking, I sit down to ponder, what do we really take away from all of these? I am seeking the answers, meanwhile I appreciate the precious moments and the experience.

  4. Prada

    great points altogether, you gained me as a reader.

  5. Cheeps

    Nice submit. I have been searching regularly for related blog and also I’m thrilled! Helpful details especially the past part as I have been frequently looking regarding such details. I’ve been searching for this type of blog for some time. I will keep my attention of this site. Thanks and all the best!

Comments have been disabled.