Feast Day at the Pueblo

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I arrived at the square in front of the Adobe church just as the bells were being rung just inside the open door. Mass was over. When the drumming began the bells seemed to be ringing in harmony. The hair stood up on my arms and involuntarily I looked up into a cobalt blue sky remembering the story…

Abiquiu had a unique heritage… no one knows exactly when the village was settled but the story goes that in ancient times ancestors of the Tewa Indians had come from Mesa Verde in Colorado and some peoples called the Asa settled in the Chama valley around Abiquiu. There are at least ten prehistoric pueblo sites that can be found in this area. In the 16th century ( perhaps earlier) the Asa left their homes and began to migrate south to Santo Domingo and west to Acoma, Zuni, and Hopi villages. Sometime later the Asa were forced to leave Hopi country because of severe drought and joined the Navajo in Canyon de Chelly. Here they were treated well and food plants like peach nuts were exchanged. As often happened, some women married into the tribe and later the people returned to Hopiland and built new homes at Walpi, defending the Pueblo’s south side.

From the Great Pueblo revolt beginning in 1680, the Hopi’s were secure on their mesa top and were able to resist Spanish domination for a long while. Other tribes were not so fortunate. Eventually sometime in the 1700’s some Hopi’s began to listen to the Catholic friars and agreed to move eastward. A group of descendants of the old Asa people, about 400 people, returned to New Mexico and settled at Abiquiu for the second time, for this was the place from which their ancestors had departed centuries earlier. Other Indians – the Pawnee, Wichita, Apache, Comanche and Kiowa – had been raised from childhood in Spanish households as servants. In New Mexico both Hispanicized members of these nomadic tribes and Pueblo Indians like the Hopi who broke with their own cultural tradition became known as Genizaros. The Hopi settled in one area of Abiquiu away from the plaza and were known as El Moque. The other group, descendants of Plains or other nomadic Indians clustered around the plaza and village church of Santo Tomas Apostel. The women and children of the Ute and Navajo were often taken in battle and adopted by Abiquiu families adding additional Indian blood to the mix. In 1754 Abiquiu was recognized as a legal community when the village was issued a Land Grant to its Genizaro Indians. Today the villagers think of themselves as Hispanics but they also acknowledge and honor their Native roots that extend back to the southwestern soil with two yearly celebrations, the Feast of Santo Tomas, always held during the last weekend of November and the Feast of Santa Rosa that is held in August…

The drumming became more insistent as the procession appeared at the church door. Santo Tomas led the procession as four young girls dressed in bright red regalia complete with brightly colored ribbons danced in circles along with (led by?) one gifted male dancer named Maurice. The girls had bright red spotted cheeks to signify their purity and held turkey feathers in each hand. This dance honored the young Indigenous girls that were taken as slaves during raids and battles between Native peoples, Mexicans, and Spaniards. New Mexico’s history was so bloody and lasted for so long that I was amazed that these Indigenous peoples survived with any traditions intact. Later, in the evening, the women that were also taken as hostages would be honored at a dinner held in one of the buildings on the plaza.

I joined the people following the pageant around the church. Each time they stopped the dancers circled around, and loud whoops punctuated the air as a gun discharged its bullet. I wondered if the roar of the gun was symbolic of the Spanish Invasion but I read in one of local histories that the point of the Civil war gun blast was to ward off evil spirits. Both could be true. After circling the church the dancers dispersed and disappeared quite suddenly. It was a beautiful morning as my new friend Iren led the way up a steep and winding hill past village houses with astonishing views and crossed Abiquiu creek (which we walked through!) to one of the homes where a celebration was already under way. A table was set up outdoors with Posole as the featured dish. The corn and the sauce were separate and even though I wasn’t particularly hungry I appreciated tasting yet one more rendition of this delicious Mexican dish. Traditional cookies were passed around a number of times with two kinds of cake afterwards. Coffee and wine were also offerings. Three musicians gathered around the metal tables to sing songs and then all were invited to dance. I felt awkward not knowing the steps, and after a few turns left the drumming circle so I could watch everyone else dancing. The general effect was hypnotic.

Eventually the clouds closed in and it became quite cold (it felt like snow) so Iren and I started down the serpentine hill. When we passed the cattails on either side of the road I could understand why this location was chosen for a village because the creek (whose waters were crystal clear) once provided the entire Pueblo with it’s drinking water, and the upper fields were watered by Acequias from the same creek. Below the fields were irrigated by acequias from the winding Chama river. Iren told me that cattle were still raised here, and I saw a horse munching grass in a small pasture with surprisingly thick green grass. I loved the way the houses were perched on flat areas that were surrounded by mountains on every side. When Iren and I parted to enter our separate cars, she thoughtfully waited to make certain that mine started because I was having serious engine/brake issues.

It wasn’t until I got home and began reflecting on the day that I experienced a peculiar sense of kinship with the village of Abiquiu. Each time I visited the Pueblo I had this same experience, either at the library or at my friend Beatrice’s house. I felt honored to have been invited to this gathering of people that included folks with such varied ethnic backgrounds. I wondered about my own Native Passamaquoddy roots and wished that the oral traditions of the northern Indigenous peoples had survived…

I know how grateful I am that Abiquiu Pueblo is attempting to bring back more of its earlier traditions. The Abiquiu Library and Cultural Center (totally dependent upon grants) is doing what it can to help the people here any way it can. “People of Abiquiu…have never refused to shelter anyone, regardless of their obscure or humble origins,” wrote Giberto Benito Cordova author of a folk history of Abiquiu. The Pueblo itself sets an example for the rest of us. Although times may be hard for many people in this country there is a sense of determination and pride present in these Indigenous people that reflects their strength and character – providing a cross cultural beacon of hope for all of us to live by.

Photo Taken by Iren Schio –

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What happens when Hate wins?

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What happens when Hate wins?

Do the sandhill cranes stop singing?

Do the junipers cease to release their scent?

Do the stars fall into the sea?

Does the white moon weep??

 

I want to keep writing stories…

 

The wind still ruffles fine sand in the wash.

Cottontails leap, jumping through twilight.

Scaled quail still peep as they scurry over red ground.

The thrasher gobbles his suet without restraint.

A woodpecker taps at my window.

 

I want to keep writing stories…

 

My heaped up heart aches with loss.

It’s not just a bloated misogynist’s win

It’s the loss of personal power and hope.

 

I keen for the women with wings –

women who support women

through difference, vowing

to meet on a common plain…

 

Where are the women with wings?

(And the men that support them)

 

I listen to the sandhill cranes cry out

as one holy body in flight.

United in purpose

they know their destination

cannot be reached in isolation,

by splitting parts from the whole.

Birds know betrayal by name

and do not choose it.

 

Oh, where are the women with wings?

 

Scattered like seeds of wild grasses,

keening as they journey alone.

Working notes:

Grief: the problem with grief is that it isolates us from others, especially those whose anger turns outwards in blame, targeting one individual or perhaps a whole group. Those individuals or groups then become scapegoats for the rest of us who do not have to suffer having a hole ripped through our hearts.

Historically a scapegoat is called a “sin eater.” One person is cast out of the group and that person takes on the sin/burden for all – a chilling reminder of what humans are capable of doing to others. This devastating election has brought the sin-eater to life as HRC. Our country continues to blame Hillary even though she has lost the Presidency. I personally am exhausted by the anti –Hillary rhetoric and would like us to begin to focus on how we are going to survive the dangerous new world we are entering – the one where the earth is trashed, where women have lost control of their bodies and their self hood, a world where human decency and integrity is mocked and humiliated, a world in which lesbians and gays, other races and immigrants are under constant threat of attack.

Walking through the desert has been my greatest solace during this first week. The sandhill cranes are migrating south. Their haunting collective cries comfort me, reminding me that for now, at least, the skies are still full of birds… I can give thanks for their songs.

Sandhill cranes are an ancient species. Some say they are the oldest bird fossils ever found, and they can be viewed from Northern North America to Siberia. To see them in the sky and to listen to their calls reminds me that in Nature, at least, reciprocity in relationship is still commonplace.

Where We Are Now

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I have this frightening dream after I finally fall asleep election night.

Just an image: I see bleached, broken, slashed, and severed tree roots scattered over the entire horizon – which seems to stretch out in front of me in all directions – the ground, as far as I can see is flat and has become a wasteland. The only color in the dream is ash gray.

Context:

In my personal mythology I see the “Tree Mothers” as Wise Ones, Guides, some are personal friends of mine who literally support and nurture me (and all creatures and peoples) on the Earth.

Without trees I cannot (literally) breathe. Either can other mammals.

On an archetypal or collective level the image speaks to the World Tree or the “Tree of Life.” The trees have been shattered, severed and uprooted. The trees are dead. The bone –like aspect of the trees is “familiar” – the tree roots look like human bones.

Roots are what hold us in place. Roots attach us to trees, each other and to the earth – we have been severed from our roots.

The ground is barren – unable to support life

The bleached tree, person/animal like bones speak to death and the wasteland ahead.

Commentary:

When I came here to the high desert of northern New Mexico I fell in love with every fragrant juniper and pinon pine. People who come here complain the the trees are not big enough, and I watch how the birds fly in and out of their thick boughs which in the fall are thick with “berries” and can only feel gratitude that these trees will get to live out their natural life spans – Junipers can live to be thousands of years old. I find the gnarled trunks of the junipers especially beautiful and the roots extend out in the most imaginative ways – snaking around stones and the infrequent flooding of the washes.

My home in Maine has many trees on it that have been nurtured and loved by me for thirty years. As much as I love it here I still miss my northern trees. What I don’t miss is knowing that the trees (except for mine) will be slaughtered before they reach thirty years old because we log continuously in the area where I have my home… Maine has less than 16 percent of “mature” forest left. To be living in a place where I can simply be with trees in peace without ongoing grief has been such a reprieve.

So to have this bone – dead tree dream here in a place where I can appreciate trees and their roots, not to mention their age, on the night of the election seems especially alarming.

It is apparent that Nature knows she is under siege like never before.

Coyote Woman

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As a woman and as a feminist I support Hillary Rodham Clinton as the next President of the United States.

I have struggled to understand the antipathy the public has/had for this woman who has lived her life so courageously, dodging countless vicious attacks from women and men, the press, and succumbing to none.

During the last election (when I would have voted for Clinton had she gotten the nomination) I was dismayed to hear so many women speak out against her. Baffled, I would often ask why and the most frequent answer I got from women was that she was not likeable. When I asked what not likeable meant specifically, women shrugged. Other stated that they didn’t trust her; she was too secretive. These value judgments seemed unduly harsh. I didn’t know then that Hillary understood before she became a governor’s wife (as a young woman) that she was not “likeable,” or that she became secretive as a result of being targeted endlessly and unfairly by the press. After asking many women this question I began to perceive that women’s envy might be part of the equation.

I thought about how many good things Hillary did for women and for children all over the world, her many other accomplishments, the skill with which she out maneuvered her opponents during her lengthy political life. When she finally got the nomination for President every facet of her public and private life went under attack, again. I winced privately, kept my opinions to myself and continued to query what it was about this woman that created such hatred in others?

I could understand that she might be threatening to many men, who probably unconsciously feared being “dominated” by a woman President. After all, we live in an  unbalanced Patriarchal society in which Caucasian middle class white collared male workers hold the most power, and one in which women continue to be marginalized and raped (Rape is, above all, about power and control of women). As I see it a perceived reversal of the present power structure could be experienced as a real threat.

But it was only recently that I came to understand that Hillary Rodham Clinton, was a woman to be reckoned with because she broke all the rules.

As a young woman of the sixties she was a feminist who refused to take her husband’s name; she wore glasses, was well educated, and practiced law in a predominantly male field. She was ambitious and didn’t attempt to hide it, yet when faced with deep humiliation she chose to stay with a man who had betrayed her.

Hillary is detested by many people because she doesn’t fit any particular mold. She spirals through her life first moving in one direction and then in another for her own survival. She isn’t predictable. She uses both her mind and her body (feelings) to make decisions.

As a woman, I know from painful personal experience that if you break the rules you are ostracized by family and culture, and this woman has broken the rules throughout her entire life.

It’s her refusal to be categorized that gives me the greatest amount of hope because no one knows what Hillary might do after she becomes President!

And yes, the fact that she is also a woman is critically important because we must address the imbalance in our thinking, bring feeling into the equation, and begin to make decisions that are more embodied and less abstract. As a rule women think less in either/or right/ wrong truth/lie absolutes. We need to elect a President who is capable of thinking in terms of “both and,” one who perceives nuances and is capable of using her intuitive skills to help solve complex issues. We simply cannot solve future problems using the same monotonous power over strategies and war mentality that we have used in the past because we are destroying the earth and ourselves. Humans have become the most destructive species on the planet.

Because Hillary has literally had to claw her way to the top to become a Presidential candidate I also think she has developed the necessary humility to lead our country away from further self/other destruction. One of her greatest accomplishments might be that she has survived personal suffering and has become stronger and more compassionate as a result of it.

In a few days we will be casting our ballots for the next President of the United States. I can only pray that we will choose a leader who is capable of leading our country with intelligence, keen judgment, strength, and one who possesses an ability to shape-shift if necessary. I believe that Hillary Rodham Clinton, a true coyote woman if there ever was one, is that person.

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Postscript: I include some Datura flowers here to wish her well.