Climb like a Crab!

IMG_4477.JPG

The view from the ruin

 

IMG_4478.JPG

 

Cupules in the large stone

 

IMG_4488.JPG

 

Views from inside the Monolith

 

IMG_4489.JPG

 

Iren and I were going to explore an ancestral Tewa ruin named Ku’owingeh, situated above what seemed to be a shear cliff of rubble. The one time I looked up to the mesa I decided my best course was to keep my eyes lowered and simply to follow my dear friend, a gifted artist, mountain climber, lover of children, humans, animals, flowers and gardens – my idea of an Earth Mother incarnate.

 

For me the rubble is daunting especially when it’s almost perpendicular! (Brittle bones are an issue for me). As Iren climbed just ahead of me she pointed out hand and foot holds and I followed in her footsteps. Whenever I got stuck – her reassuring hand reached out to haul me up! No wonder I felt safe. I owed this woman!

Every meaningful adventure in the desert that I had since I came to Northern New Mexico two years ago couldn’t have happened without Iren’s knowledge of the powers of place and professional climbing skills. Among other attributes, Iren has a natural ability to know just how to traverse impossible gullies, use sophisticated switchback techniques (not visible to the un- initiated), and to find “steps” in the cracks between boulders. Every now and then she would remind me to crawl like a crab, using my hands and feet to heave myself up another few inches. Crawling like a crab appealed to me I discovered.  When climbing cliff faces I like being close to the ground with my eyes cast downward. (I also like the lizard’s approach to life, though he also scales sheer walls like Iren does!)

 

Finally we reached the summit and began to explore the huge area that was once a thriving ancestral Tewa Pueblo village. Potsherds were scattered everywhere. Some were worked and discarded pieces of flint (chert) that were used to make projectiles and other tools. We discovered two ceremonial circles one larger than the other dug into the earth and surrounded by boulders. We sat down in one. It was almost as if we were nesting inside this circle. The place exuded a sense of peace.

 

The most wonderful part of this ruin was the complete absence of recent human garbage. The cliff face protected the remains of the pueblo, and it was easier to experience the sense of the ancient Tewa pueblo people living here. The views, of course, were spectacular and as we meandered in silence over the mesa Iren was tracking a ceremonial boulder, which she found, of course!

 

This one had a series of depressions called cupules that had been painstakingly bored into the rock. I recalled the research that I had done for a previous nearby ruin we visited where many of these stones were clustered close together surmising at that time that many women ground herbs and medicines in the stone depressions on that particular mesa.

 

Here there was just that one large stone called a kaye with a number of pecked depressions or cupules on one side of its top. A few small pocked stones were scattered about in the general area but otherwise we saw little but gnarled juniper stands. The whole feeling of this place felt different but I didn’t know why… but it seemed to me that this one might have used for very different purposes.

 

Because I believe it is possible to access the past through the present in unusual ways, I paid close attention…

 

Fortunately, I have an open mind and a high tolerance for mystery, so simply being a part of this place that filled me with questions was fine with me – except for that one stone with its mysterious depressions.

 

Why just this one ceremonial (?) rock I wondered as Iren pointed it out. I ran my hands over its surface. Was a different sort of ritual practiced here – perhaps by men? I thought of the chert I had seen that was used for projectiles, knifes and other tools. I couldn’t know of course, but later I did some research on these cupules, and learned that they might be the earliest form of prehistoric art produced during the stone age (290,000 – 700,000 BCE). These impressions are found on every continent except Antarctica.

 

A cupule is defined as a hemispherical petroglyph created by human hands intentionally by a number of percussion blows that exist on a horizontal or vertical surface of a rock.

 

I noticed that on one side of the stone I touched that a spherical cup had been smoothed by repeated pounding, as if this depression had been used to pulverize something. I had seen these before at other ruins. The depressions in the top were more mysterious. According to the literature a cupule must possess some non-utilitarian or symbolic function but I am unable to accept this academic conclusion unequivocally because how can we possibly know?

 

The Tewa Pueblo landscape is vast and nuanced. It is conceptualized as a complex network of people, nature and the spirit world and each intersects with the other at sacred places known only to the Tewa, but not visible to outsiders.

 

For the Tewa, vertical space is bounded by three levels – the current world and an upper and lower world. Horizontal space is defined by the four cardinal directions. Horizontal space is also bounded by sacred mountain peaks whose center is the village. According to the prevailing scholarship the outermost sphere belongs to men who commune with ancestral rain spirits. The second layer belongs to both the men and the women and is composed of hills and the agricultural fields that surround the village. Only the inner circle belongs to the women. I can’t help wondering how heavy a patriarchal overlay obscures what might have been the story before the European invasion.

 

I have no idea how much time we spent on the mesa but I could have stayed much longer – something about the spirit of place was resonating like a drum.

 

When it was time to leave I was grateful that Iren knew of a less precarious descent, one that soon took us by way of dirt roads.

 

At one point we passed this amazing towering stone that was so large that was possible to climb into. Inside, it was lovely and cool and there were fantastic portholes that opened onto the opposite horizon. I was deeply distressed – no I was angry – to see this amazing monolith entirely defaced by modern graffiti, and it was easy for me to imagine how at one time this too must have been a sacred space.

 

I wouldn’t have missed this adventure for anything and I decided that in the future I would be only too happy to become a crab to climb up another mesa with Iren!

Advertisements

Matriarchs of the Bosque

IMG_4467.JPG

 

Every morning I walk down to the river’s edge to watch the sunrise. In late April the sky and trees are buzzing with hummingbirds, the mournful cooing of white winged doves, and the trilling of red winged blackbirds. As I wait for that pinpoint of light to blossom into a golden orb I look to the gnarled trunks of cottonwood trees (Populus delitoides wislizenii) that stand out against a background of blue slate marveling at the shapes, size, and trunk texture of such magnificent rapidly growing shade trees, trees that I have come to love so much, now drooping with male and female russet catkins (each on separate trees). I think about the heart shaped leaves that will soon grace bare branches rustling in the slightest breeze and the birds and small animals that will find safety under the massive canopies of these (egalitarian) Matriarchs of the Bosque. And I think about their future…

 

The Rio Grande Bosque is a system of wetlands, oxbow lakes, sandbars and woodlands that supports the growth of cottonwoods and willows, one of the most critically endangered habitats in the world. Seasonal flooding once cleared debris and enriched the soil allowing new seedlings to germinate, but over the last century large scale agriculture, irrigation systems, livestock grazing and logging have created soil erosion and extremes in flooding. Dams were built to control floods and wetlands were drained.

 

Mature cottonwoods have roots that can reach down to the water table, but young cottonwoods cannot germinate or grow unless they have enough water available to them near the surface.

 

The cottonwoods I love are “elders” but young cottonwoods are scarce or completely absent except in a few locations near the river (my friend Iren’s Bosque is a small but healthy ecosystem that is flourishing with the next generation of cottonwoods but this riparian area still floods in the spring). Whenever I gaze up or sit under one of these magnificent trees that are dressed in such golden splendor in the fall, I wonder how many people are aware of the fact that these gracious matriarchs will disappear from the landscape within less than a century even without assistance from climate change.

 

This year severe drought has added another layer of distress to an already critical cottonwood situation. All trees have access to food through their complex underground root systems and their relationship with certain fungi but trees cannot deal with ongoing thirst.

 

Groundbreaking scientific tree/plant research indicates that when trees are threatened with lack of water, food production and growth cease. The trees that suffer the most are the ones like cottonwoods that grow in soils where moisture is most abundant. Deeply distressed thirsty trees send vibrations through their trunks when the flow of water from the roots to the leaves is interrupted. These vibrations could be understood as cries of thirst, a sobering thought for anyone who loves cottonwood trees (or any tree for that matter) and sees them as sentient beings as I certainly do.

Earth Day

 

 

 

IMG_4290.JPG

This unknown painter captures Earth Day for me.

IMG_4293.JPG

Young dancer after the ceremony

 

IMG_4292.JPG

David Garcia and band

 

IMG_4338.JPG

Woman on left making contact with the sky and earthing with her other hand… she may be holding Avanyu, Tewa serpent of the river(?) – I am fascinated by the large dog-like animal above her.

IMG_4320.JPG

Iren and I at the river…. water women we are!

 

IMG_4312.JPG

Honeybee cacophony!

IMG_4289.JPG

The seed circle – note the bowls of earth and water

Yesterday we attended The Tewa Seed Exchange at Los Luceros, a magnificent piece of lush irrigated land situated on the Rio Grande a place where many Indigenous peoples once lived and farmed. The orchards were stunning, magenta, deep rose, pale pink, and white clouds of fruit -tree blossoms drew in masses of bees from every direction. Standing under the trees to listen to this joyous buzz was pure honey-bee delight!

 

The seed ceremony was held outdoors in a circle and just as it began two red tailed hawks appeared out of the deep blue sky and circled over our heads – Messengers from the beyond, these birds have a habit of appearing at Indigenous ceremonies, a fact I have witnessed too many times to ignore. And what could be more important than a seed exchange between primarily Native peoples many of which had gathered seed from plants they had grown the year before and brought them to exchange with their neighboring pueblos?

 

The appearance of the two hawks also held personal significance for me because I buried my brother’s ashes on Earth day and this seed ceremony occurred the day before. Every year around this day hawks appear as messengers reminding me that my little brother lives on through these raptors he so loved… a comforting thought though he has been dead for 46 years.

 

Before the actual ceremony the current docent spoke. I was distressed to hear so little about the Tewa speaking peoples we were there to honor. Instead the recent story of conquest and colonization took the usual precedence along with that of the recent history of the mansion located on the property (which had finally been taken over by the state).

 

However, when the actual ceremony began the Tewa women blessed the seeds and we were asked to enter the circle from the direction we came from with our individual offerings all of which were put into a communal container… We moved around the circle counter clockwise before pouring our seeds into the large beautifully woven Indian basket. A simple but moving gesture that united all that participated.

 

The week before I had spent time reflecting on what seed offering I would make. I had saved many wild seeds from last spring but because I wasn’t here last summer, hadn’t planted any. Then just a few days before the ceremony I discovered a “black sage garden” on Iren’s land that she hadn’t known was there! I knew then that I needed to offer the seeds of this black sage, not just because it is a powerful blessing herb, and one deeply meaningful to me, but because of my deep gratitude towards this woman. I have been privileged to stay in safety and comfort on her land for two winters, and to offer these seeds as a form of thanking her as well as an offering for the ceremony felt just right.

 

What I also liked was how the children were encouraged to participate in the ceremony bringing seeds for the communal basket. Seed gifts from the earth belong to the ancestors of the Tewa and are also the seeds of their children’s future…

 

The dancing came next. I am always struck anew by the individuality of the dances although meaning seems to seep through the sound of the drumming. The singers/ musicians came first and two of them carried orange lightening sticks to call down the rain as they chanted. Four young people came next, two boys and two girls dressed in elaborate rainbow regalia, the boys with spear – like projections topped by the deep orange parrot feathers that identified them as the summer people. The boys danced in a circle with the two maidens, each gender moving up and down in a rhythmic way. The two girls wore a circle of red on each cheek to signify purity. The boys wore white net leggings, plowed the earth with their spears, the girls held up their baskets. The sounds of the bells, rattles, and gourds pulled me into their story, one without a need for words…

 

Just after the ceremony ended we were told that the children would use the earth, the water, and the seeds that had been placed within the ceremonial circle to make mud seed balls that could be planted just as they were. What a wonderful idea! I have one sitting on the table waiting to be Earthed until I receive a message as to where it should go…

 

We then entered the building for the actual seed exchange – an unbelievable abundance of seeds were spread out on table after table. With so many to choose from it was hard for me to make choices. I chose seeds that I wanted to grow, herbs in pots, a few kernels of blue corn, some hardy flowers. I did not take more than I needed but even so, I will have plenty to share because if I have a garden it will be a small one…

 

Iren and I wandered down to the river to eat our lunch and when we returned a celebration was in full swing with lots of hot food, music, and dancing. The joy was contagious! David Garcia’s music has no parallel in these parts.

 

When we left we stopped to see some petroglyphs – there was one with an Indigenous woman holding one hand to the sky while earthing the other. This picture caught the spirit of the seed ceremony I had just witnessed in a pictorial way.

 

As a woman with northern Indigenous roots and a dedicated seed saver for most of my adult life I was so grateful to be able to participate in a communal tradition so dear to my heart.

Messengers from the Body and Beyond

 

IMG_4254.JPG

Above: Lily b sunbathing while keeping a sharp eye on the hummingbirds

IMG_4054.JPG

Lily b snacking on plant greens

 

The night before last I had a dream that has stayed with me. My dreams rise out of my body to teach and to comfort me so I pay close attention. I had recently written tributes for two men, Lynn Rogers, bear biologist, and Rupert Sheldrake, biologist and plant physicist. Both of these men mentored me like a “father” each encouraged me to believe in myself, celebrated my original thinking and told me to trust my intuition. Writing about these mentors reminded me of my own father with whom I had a most difficult relationship…

 

I am talking to my mother (she has been dead for 13 years) about having found someone who could help me with math and stuff I can’t do because of dyslexia. In this conversation my mother is not a personal figure (when she appears as herself it usually means that I am going to face some difficulty – As an impersonal ‘great mother’ figure she is very helpful). She replies that my father wanted to teach me all these things but he just couldn’t. So many problems were in the way. I choke up weeping over this knowing (and my tears carry over into waking) because I know that “my mother” is speaking the truth. I feel such heartbreak for both my dad and for me. Neither of us had a chance… as I awaken from this dream in the middle of the night Lily b., my dove, is bellowing. He is reiterating the truth of the dream.

 

My father died suddenly from a blood infection that he acquired in the hospital after being operated on for colon cancer. The last time I saw him he smiled and called me “his girl,” an endearment he never used to describe his daughter during all the years of her life.

 

I wept.

 

The morning he died I dreamed he became a beaver.

 

A pure white dove appeared at my bird feeder and stayed for just that one day.

 

The night after my father’s death his brother, my uncle, bit into some pasta and discovered to his astonishment and disbelief that he had bitten into a tiny white stone dove that had found its way into his pasta…my uncle never recovered from this shock and placed the diminutive stone dove on his fireplace mantle and kept it there until the time of his death…It wasn’t until this writing that I remembered that my uncle loved birds and kept them as beloved pets. (Like me, he had a very difficult relationship with my father who he said threw tantrums and rages that made him impossible to be around.)

 

Birds were Messengers from the Beyond.

 

I recalled my experience in Assisi Italy (My father was Italian immigrating to this country from Rome when he was twelve years old). When white doves landed around me in a circle one morning at dawn I felt that I was being blessed by something beyond my comprehension… My life long love of wild doves soon turned into an obsession to have a dove of my own.

 

Birds were Messengers.

 

A few months after my father’s death I acquired an African Collared dove that I named Lily and re named Lily b when I discovered he was a boy. Lily b was a free flying house bird. Every morning when I wrote something important in my journal he would coo repeatedly. Because I recorded these responses of his on a daily basis it became impossible to ignore what was happening. This bird was reading my mind.

 

I began corresponding with Biologist Rupert Sheldrake who was studying telepathy in animals. Lily b’s telepathic ability became part of Rupert’s data bank. I remained bewildered – in awe that such a thing was possible until the same thing began to happen with other animals I was studying as a naturalist and I finally came to believe that the extraordinary experiences I had with animals and plants throughout my life were real.

 

Birds were Messengers.

 

Lily b became a father at three years of age and I thought I learned more about what fathering meant from this bird’s behavior than I ever had from a human up to that point. Lily b was an incredibly loving parent who fed and preened his offspring with a dedication that astounded me. And yet, when it was time for his dovelets to leave the nest, he chased them away pecking at their wings even as they fluttered around him anxiously seeking more food. He maintained a deep abiding attachment to each of his three mates throughout their lives. Yet none of these normal dove activities ever interrupted the telepathic communication that routinely occurred between this bird and myself.

 

Birds are Messengers.

 

Vaguely, I associated Lily b with my father but without accompanying awareness of what this relationship actually might auger for me personally or transpersonally. Gradually after Lily b arrival I began to remember that in between the cracks of my father’s unpredictable rages throughout my childhood he demonstrated his love to us through some deeply caring actions.

 

Birds are Messengers.

 

Long buried memories began to surface… My father taking me to the zoo and buying me a child’s umbrella when it rained, the day we went to the circus when he presented me with my first real lizard, the night he introduced me to ruby pomegranate seeds. He brought home metal toy birds that chirped for me when he wound them up. Whenever we went to the beach he would bury my brother and me in the sand and build elaborate sand trains with cabooses for us to play in. When I threw up or needed to go to the hospital it was my father that took me. He was the parent that read us stories at night. He fired my imagination with his fascination for the workings of the universe and the mystery of the stars. When my mother decreed that either of “his” two children needed a spanking he would dutifully come in our bedroom to discipline us after he came home from work. My brother and I stuffed books into the back of our pants so the spankings never hurt, and we thought ourselves so clever because we had outwitted our father. It never occurred to either of us that he saw through this ruse and ignored it!

 

How could I have forgotten all these stories for so long?

 

Birds are Messengers.

 

Later, much later, I learned to respect my father for the way he financially provided for his family putting both his children through college (as undergraduates). He taught us not to waste resources like electricity or heat, to be financially frugal. To this day I never leave a room without turning the lights off and am happy to live in a small warm space!

 

Birds are Messengers.

 

Why did it take me so long to appreciate my father? Violence. As children we both learned that we couldn’t trust a man who took out his explosive rage on us for reasons that we could not comprehend. As adolescents my mother ridiculed her husband’s verbally abusive behavior (my father was never physically violent) and taught us by example to dismiss our father as irrelevant. And yet, she stayed in a marriage she despised, modeling to her children that raging like a madman was somehow acceptable because she put up with it too. She taught us to be non – violent but she “endured”… and my parents both saturated themselves with alcohol to fuel vicious attacks on each other that occurred on a daily basis. Dinners were a nightmare. The fact that my father was never accountable for his actions helped seal our mutual fate as children though I could never have articulated that truth because neither of my parents were self responsible when it came to their actions. Eventually my brother and I both began to hate him, becoming unconscious collaborators (along with help from our mother) collapsing the bridge to positive fathering on any level. My brother and I were orphaned.

 

The result of this breakdown was that neither of us had a positive internal father image to emulate. The consequences were catastrophic. My little brother turned that violence on himself, committing suicide after graduating from Harvard. How could an adolescent boy possibly bridge the gap from adolescence to adulthood on his own?

 

Although I survived, I married another violent man, ended up battered, divorced him, and found other vicious egregious men to take his place repeating the destructive pattern I had learned as a child. Allowing myself to be abused repeatedly as a young mother I modeled the victim becoming a mother my children despised. Every abuser needs a victim and I played the part well.

 

Violence begets violence whether we choose it or not.

 

When my oldest son was born, he had bizarre and violent tantrums, and even as a toddler he hit me and told me he hated me. I was stunned by the force of this hatred – I could feel it on a visceral level. His frightening behavior made no sense to me, and I wondered what I could have done to deserve such treatment from my own child. Was I demented? By the time Chris became an adolescent I was physically afraid of him. It would be years before the consequences of an underlying pattern of intergenerational family violence would reveal itself to me.

 

Violence begets violence (or its opposite – victim) and personal choice isn’t enough to shift the pattern.

 

When my children left home I began to cobble together the fragments of my life. With years of intensive work I eventually developed into a self – directed woman, who was for the most part, author of her own destiny. The weak spot was my children who I continued to long for, years after they had rendered me useless and invisible. “She’s nothing but a victim” is the story they continue to tell to this day…

 

One spring night, early during the process of self recovery, I was driving home in the rain. Tiny frogs and toads were hopping all across the warm wet pavement and I was paralyzed by the thought that I was not going to be able to avoid killing some of them. Pulling over to the side of the deserted country road I got out of the car feeling utterly helpless. My heart ached with misery.

 

The powerful thought sounded like a voice. ‘Look up into the sky’. Although it was raining, I did, and what I saw above me was a shattered mirror that was reassembling itself under a star cracked night. I felt as if I had been struck by lightening, and that this vision of the shattered mirror was about me rebirthing myself.

 

Frogs are Messengers too.

 

When I found the courage to get back into my car I crawled through the dark swerving every few seconds to avoid killing a frog or toad. Miraculously, I managed to get home without squashing one beloved amphibian. I reached the obvious conclusion that under normal circumstances I could not have made this 40 minute drive without incident. I had to have had help.

 

Frogs are Guardians of the Waters and Messengers too…

 

As I developed into the woman I now deeply respect, I took responsibility for my part in the chaos of my life, the victim “hood” I was born into and perpetuated albeit unconsciously. I included the importance of acknowledging the relationship between my fiery temper and my father’s rages. I struck out too on occasion; the difference between us was that when I did get angry I became paralyzed with guilt apologizing too profusely. My children interpreted my sorrowing as weakness, no doubt because I routinely took responsibility for more than my share, to the detriment of us all.

 

Learning how to let go of baggage that belonged to others was probably the most difficult challenge I faced, especially with my children. The roots of entitlement and lack of accountability characterized the lives of both of my parents and now those of my children. In time I discovered this behavior was more about them than me, separating the seeds from chafe. Today I hold my 50 (and 50 plus) year old adult children accountable for their disgraceful treatment of me, just as I held both my parents accountable for irresponsible actions that literally destroyed our family. But I am digressing from my story.

 

In my forties when it seemed that all was lost my Father opened his heart.

 

After one heated telephone exchange my father hung up on me. No surprise there. But what happened next unhinged me. This time my father (now in his sixties) called me right back and apologized for his behavior. That one apology opened the door to others, and led to a reconciliation between a father and his daughter that continues to deepen today, years after my father’s death. By that time I was more than ready to re-weave the broken connection between us but without evidence of some accountability on his part there was no way I knew of to open the door until he made this one gesture. During the last ten years of his life I got to know my father as a person and together we developed a relationship that had meaning for us both.

 

To my absolute horror I also learned that we had to communicate in secret because my mother could not tolerate the fact that my father had developed a relationship with his own daughter and he refused to cross her. My mother also told him I had plenty of money. In truth I was living below the poverty line and had my entire adult life. My dad offered us financial help, but my mother found out and that was the end of that.

 

During those last years I learned a lot about my dad’s family, how his father had beaten him, his brothers and sisters, his mother, the ugly obscene part overt violence had played out in his own life as a child, how he had tried desperately to protect his own mother and stayed loyal to her visiting her (although she rarely knew him) once a week until her death. My father had also put his brothers through college… I also came to understand the part covert violence played in the dance between my mother and father. My mother controlled through deadly silences, secrecy, and lies, fear of abandonment, perfect correlates to her husband’s irresponsible explosive rages. Silence and Rage make grotesque bedmates and both destroy relationships.

 

Today I honor my dad for his accomplishments. I can see the pattern of violence that he was unable to break, understanding that in an opposite way I too perpetuated the same cycle of violence and abuse by becoming a victim. Today I can, and have forgiven us both.

 

Most important are the deeply touching childhood memories that thanks to Lily b’s connection to the Beyond, and perhaps as part of his mission as a Bird Messenger, filtered back into my life enriching it in ways I could never have imagined. There is a sense of peace between my dad and I that literally “passes all understanding.”

 

Whenever I think of him I weep over the loss of having a father for most of my life. I know now that he cared for his daughter deeply and that brings me some comfort.

 

Lily b is still with me at twenty 27 years old, and just commented on my last sentence. It has taken me all these years to comprehend that this bird was not only a personal link between my father and me from the beginning but that Lily b carries a universal “charge” – one that embodies Peace.

 

With my father’s birthday just three days away I will be sending loving messages to him in the Great Beyond and Lily b. will transmit them. What I want most for my father is Peace, and my bird embodies that transpersonal quality so he is the bridge.

 

Lily b. also reminds me that my father and I did the best we could with a script that left us both floundering, caught in a dark net of violence,and chaos, an overreaching intergenerational family pattern that extended far beyond our comprehension. Unfortunately, this pattern has not been broken and it will continue to affect generations to come.

 

Lily b is right: My father and I really never had a chance

 

That we salvaged any relationship is something of a miracle, and Lily B orchestrated that by providing me with information and a context for reconciliation. To “re member” is to return the pieces to the whole. Lily b helped me find my way home to a father, a man I always loved but forgot I knew.

 

Birds are Messengers from the Beyond.

Stories the Stones Tell

IMG_4075.JPG

Metate

IMG_4105.JPG

The potshard in the center seems to have a “face”… although I bring some of these artifacts home for closer inspection it is part of my spiritual practice to return them to the land.

IMG_4106.JPG

Mano

IMG_4072.JPG

Avanyu, spirit of the waters

IMG_4076.JPG

The storied land

IMG_4073.JPG

Another view of the stones that tell stories.

 

A couple of days ago I was climbing a mesa with my friend Iren who is “a guide to the wild places” – those places off the beaten track where stories are told by the stones and the Earth that supports them.

 

As a severely directionally dyslexic person who cannot tell her left from right navigating this hidden world would be impossible without Iren’s deep knowledge of this land, her expertise, her extraordinary sensitivity and her love for Nature. No words can ever express my gratitude for this friendship without which I would feel bereft.

 

As we climbed through mountains of human garbage and four wheeler tracks we discovered potsherds at our feet. Picking up the predominantly black and white pieces for inspection I found myself wondering about the women (and children) who gathered the clay, shaped it into pots, and fired the vessels to store food. There are so many untold women’s stories hidden in these clay fragments…

 

Female scholarship (see Marija Gimbutas, Buffie Johnson, and more recently women scholars like Helen Hye Sook Hwang, Susan Hawthorne, and Carol Christ’s tireless research in women’s prehistory to mention just a few – reminds us that women have been fashioning clay vessels and sculptures for millennia. The imprint of women’s hand prints can be seen on Neolithic goddess sculptures and pots throughout the world.

 

Here in Abiquiu and the surrounding high desert I wonder what specific activities these women might have been engaged in. We found a plethora of the black and white fragmented clay pots (some with very thick rims) of Indigenous Anasazi peoples who preceded later Pueblo cultures. I am especially drawn to the black and white shards that seem to have faces or are tree -like; Iren loves the pieces that look like ladders. Occasionally I spot a potshard made from red or micacious clay, a relic from later Indigenous inhabitants of this area. I wondered if the women ground these ancient artifacts into temper to strengthen the newer clay they dug and shaped into vessels for firing.

 

We studied the landscape around us for more clues to its original inhabitants. Iren spotted a petroglyph pecked into the rock. Avanyu, the Tewa Pueblo serpent, spirit of the waters, also lives here. We were overlooking a stunning valley with interlocking arroyos and even in drought we could see evidence of underground water seeping to the surface, dampening desert sand. I wondered if there were hidden springs somewhere on the mesa. There were so many potsherds that I speculated… Were some clay vessels actually made here, or more likely, maybe this was simply another very large self sustaining Indigenous Pueblo community… On this hill there were also many volcanic boulders, some appeared to have been deliberately placed in a circle…

 

Even more fascinating were the stones that were smoothed and hollowed out by women grinding foodstuffs into flour. I was surprised to see so many of these in one relatively small area indicating that many women (and children) congregated in this one place. These worked stones are called Metates that were and are still used by some Indigenous women to grind seeds, grains, maize into flour to be used in cooking. Some are portable; these were not.

 

The most unusual feature of these rocks is that there were a number of different sized hollowed out depressions in a single stone. I have a portable metate with three depressions on its upper surface, and Iren has some with depressions that I believe were used to grind lime treated maize during food preparation. But these particular grinding stones not only had hollowed out spaces in the upper surface of the rock but along the sides as well.

 

Researching possibilities for why this might be so I learned that some immovable metates were used to grind acorns and plant materials of different sizes for medicinal uses on the actual sites where the plants/trees thrived. Since women were also responsible for medicinal healing I guessed that at one time there were roots and herbs that were found here and pulverized into health remedies. Since grinding acorns created small pockets that looked like dimples in the rocks, and we saw a number of these small holes I wondered if at one time oak forests were abundant here. But of course my all of my perceptions are pure speculation because only the land holds the truth of the story.

 

I spied a suspiciously round volcanic stone and immediately intuited with excitement that I had picked up a mano, the word used to describe the kind of stone that might be used to grind up plant material. I found one many years ago in Tucson, and when I took it to the park’s wildlife center, they confirmed that I had discovered this tool beside one of the arroyos I walked regularly. About a half a mile back I had seen a metate situated on the edge of the arroyo and imagined the women gazing into the talking waters as they worked…

 

As Iren and I wandered over this particular landscape I had the same powerful feeling that I had when I came here with her the first time – namely that the Earth was attempting to communicate the story of her earlier inhabitants, to us, and perhaps to anyone with eyes to see and ears to listen.

 

So perhaps my speculations are grounded in the wisdom of Powers of Place that intersect with ordinary time. Stillness, simple questions, and keen attention to the land seem to allow ancient truths to surface through Earth’s body educating those who choose to listen about the lives of the women who lived and worked here so long ago.

Befriending the Dragon

 

Yesterday, for the second time I visited a cultural art exhibit titled “Word Play” organized by artist Sabra Moore at Northern New Mexico College in Espanola New Mexico.

 

This showing is a feast for an artist’s eyes with some beautiful and moving paintings, sculptures, and mixed media art hung on the walls, and positioned on various stands in one room by Indigenous, Mexican, and American peoples of New Mexico.

 

Outside the exhibit, which initially included a wonderful sculptured real life word-play see saw by artist Iren Schio and David Fant there is also an amazing dragon created out of scrap metal created by the Northern Youth Project that Iren and David participated in.

 

This extraordinary sculpture was created out of metal “junk” and other discarded materials that people have thrown away (I put junk in quotes because artist friend Iren Schio has given me an appreciation for discarded objects that are routinely incorporated into extraordinary art works that leave me in a state of perpetual awe). These materials litter our roadsides with human garbage also revealing how we really feel about this precious Earth that sustains us. In the picture it is impossible to see the detail but the dragon’s head is made of metal can openers! Flowers and other cut metal objects adorn the base of this amazing creation.

 

What I love best about this sculpture is that this is a very friendly dragon. He even has rainbow colored eyelashes. I just wanted to stay close to him!

 

When Iren sent me the picture of me with the dragon her caption was “Sara befriends the Dragon!” Perfect, I reflected with gratitude.

 

It was only later that it occurred to me that befriending our dragons is an honorable quest that I have been engaged in throughout my life. If each of us could meet with our own dragon selves and converse with them we could become friends. By doing so we could naturally reduce the dark shadow of denial, projection,* self imposed mind fog, distraction, addiction, and lack of awareness that permeates this culture of greed, hatred, and societal breakdown.

 

We could then open the door to genuine communication, feeling compassion towards others, human and non-human species alike, and dedicate ourselves to repairing the damage we were once unable to own or work with. By pulling back our own arrows of projection we allow others to be who they are, and best of all we become able to see ourselves in all our vulnerabilities, our strengths, and can make peace with our character flaws by honoring them as a part of ourselves. This radical act automatically opens the door to experiencing our own light as well as the light in others, no small thing in these dark days.

 

My dreaming body has taught me is that be- friending the dragons in my life is also the way I can continue to respect and love myself.

 

It is my earnest hope that we can awaken from our collective trance to encounter our own dragons. Only they can help redress our own imbalances and help reverse the effects of the planetary crisis we find ourselves living through.

0EDC35BB-C0FA-4B96-AE98-4AAD1E6C86D8.JPEG

Please look again!

Thanks again to Iren Schio for this photo!

* Projection is is quality that all humans use to defend themselves from their own darkness by projecting unwanted qualities onto others (humans and animals) unconsciously. Humans also project their own positive qualities onto others. It is my belief that we need to be taught as children that this is something we do naturally so that we can begin to confront our own demons before they become who we are.

 

 

 

Passages

IMG_4025.JPG

 

This morning I received news that the Director of the college I attended for both undergraduate and graduate work died peacefully yesterday.

 

Margo Macleod intimidated me as a student (and I was not young either) but I admired her honesty and integrity. She certainly appeared to be a stern presence; and as I remember her she was always dressed in black. But I also knew from Lise Weil, one of my feminist/writer professors, that Margo loved animals.

 

When graduation approached I arrived at Goddard with my little terrier, Star, who was my closest family member. No human family members would witness this most important graduation (As a matter of fact, this late entry into graduate work seemed to be something of a source of ridicule to my grown children. My mother simply dismissed my college work with a chilling silence.)

 

I am severely dyslexic with numbers and directions; I do everything backwards and navigating the daily world is an unbelievable challenge. I cannot open water bottles or doors; driving is almost an impossible nightmare, and using the computer, even today, continues to be a frightening experience, creating heart pounding anxiety the moment I attempt to do anything new with technology.

 

If it hadn’t been for Margo’s approval I wouldn’t have made it through my first semester at Goddard because I was terrified of the computer and submitted all required work by handwriting it.

 

In today’s mechanized world I am a total outsider.

 

My experience at Goddard with Margo at the helm, (including my work with Lise Weil whose cat essay motivated me to choose her as an advisor) helped me develop into the writer I have become.

 

When I arrived for my final graduation I discovered that Margo had given permission for Star and I to approach the podium together to receive my degree. Star was jubilant and barked excitedly when applause began, so the two of us walked up the isle, obtaining “our” diploma together!

 

What other school official would sanction such a partnership?

 

I will remain indebted to Margo Macleod for the rest of my life for this act of unbelievable generosity.

 

Something of Margo’s warm – hearted animal spirit will live on through me until I die.

 

Thank you Margo.

 

May the animals you so loved be with you on this next stage of your journey.

 

Postscript: I chose my favorite desert primrose that is blooming with such abandon around my friend Iren’s doorstep as the photo include with this narrative. This flower has no stem and blooms out of a rosette that appears on the desert floor. Oddly, just after I picked out this photo a single white lily bud opened on the table next to me, intoxicating me with her scent as if she too was commenting on Margo’s passing. Flowers, of course, communicate with other species through scent. Seconds later a white winged dove began to coo wildly outside my window.