FORT LARAMIE, WYOMING, USA – I spent my days inside, researching and writing, hiding from the cold Wyoming winter. Sitting at a small bar in the kitchen, I watched families snow sledding in the park across the street, blanketed after recent flurries.
We decided to spend a day at Fort Laramie, not far from our apartment in Cheyenne. We drove out on a clear Sunday. The snow covered plains turned to snowy patches and eventually into dry land as we headed northwest. The landscape surrounding us was flat, everything the color of straw. The sky was covered with light grey clouds that allowed only occasional breaks of white sun. Everything felt monotone, earth and sky.
The fort was near empty, both in people and structure. There were maybe a dozen small buildings, mostly houses. We trekked from the visitor center, originally one of the two long public buildings on the fort, to an isolated structure on a hill, removed from the cluster of the other buildings. It was a ruin, the only structure on site that had not been maintained, had been left to the elements. Crumbling stone walls stood in sections like fading cream colored monuments to time. I walked across the bare earth that made up the ground of the structure, my feet crunching on hard yellow grass, peering through doorways and windows into other spaces. I could not figure out what purpose the building once served.
I turned and snapped this picture as the sun sank and the clouds broke, providing some splendor to the scene. I then walked through the doorway, stood on the hill, and looked out on the tiny cluster of buildings and the endless empty landscape that stretched, unbroken, in every direction. I thought of the people who once lived here, exposed to Native attack, to winter, to the psychological pain of isolation. It was a familiar feeling of the wonders of old, but with a haunted awareness of how alone one could feel, at any point in time. I thought of what their lives must have been.
The sun died, and the emptiness of the place became eerie. The wind blew, and it was the only sound there. I shivered.