Changing Woman Speaks

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(Above photo of me taken by Iren Schio)

 

The two climbed steep hills

and rubble to reach the meadow.

The flat – topped mountain peered down

at the women

gathering stones (from her body)

as if they were diamonds.

Amber, moss, pearl white,

rose red and orange,

gray and ebony – a luminescence

emanated from each,

almost as if the moon had

infused each flake and boulder

with her translucent light.

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The mountain absorbed

their child-like wonder

with pleasure,

and gifted the one

who climbed to her summit

with a stone

that told a story

of a sea of shells and plants

that once lived here.

Stones speak to

those who love them.

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(Above photo of plant and shell fossils in the chert was taken by Iren Schio)

 

Working notes:

In Abiquiu, New Mexico the flat – topped mountain we call the Pedernal can be seen from most directions and has been painted and photographed from every angle. Indigenous peoples considered this mountain to be sacred. The mythical (Navajo) Changing Woman was born on this mountain, and it is said that she lives there still. Each year she is born in the spring, emerges as a young woman during the summer, becomes a mother in the fall, and turns into an old woman during the winter season, only to be born again. The multicolored stone called chert and its darker twin, flint, are structural (quartz) parts of this mountain. These stones were once collected to craft the finest arrowheads for hunting.

 

I have a passion for all stones but especially chert because of its colors. Chert and flint are microcrystalline varieties of quartz. Their crystals are so tiny that chert and flint fracture more like glass than quartz crystals. Skilled Native peoples chipped chert and flint pieces into arrowheads, spear points, scrapers, and other tools. The only difference between chert and flint is color: flint is black or nearly black, while chert tends to be white, gray, pink, or red and can be plain, banded, or preserve fossil traces.

 

When my friend Iren told me that chert/flint could be found around the base of the Pedernal I was very excited. She also told me that someday we could make a trip there to collect some stones. It is only after most of the snow is gone that the serpentine dirt roads become passable, so I have been waiting for that day to arrive for a long time. Yesterday, it came.

 

We made a very skilled (Iren is the best driver I know) windy, bumpy, truck ride up the back side of the Pedernal to a steep meadow. Shaded by evergreens and small stands of oak, we left the truck and stood below the peak in a place where hunks of chert lay on the ground everywhere. We “lost time” in the process, climbing around, exclaiming over colors, shapes and examining “chert caves” –places where the stone had been extracted by hand first by Indigenous peoples, and then perhaps by others. We picked up our favorite stones, filling our bucket, Iren’s backpack, and our pockets with these natural wonders. Iren, of course, carried almost all the stones back to the truck.

 

Iren, who I call “Mountain Woman,” scales peaks effortlessly, including this one, whose back side is a shear cliff face. She has stones of every conceivable shape, size, and type placed artfully around her house inside and out. (Not surprisingly, she is one of the finest artists that I know). All of these stones Iren collected on her mountain climbing adventures, and she patiently tells me where she found this one or that one as I follow her around her property. Whenever I visit her house the stones call out to me for attention instantly! When I am alone at her house “stone watching” becomes a form of meditation…

 

Hunks of chert line her pathways that wander in many directions making it easy to avoid trampling down the natural vegetation. The desert is a fragile environment and Iren is an “earth mother” who cares deeply for her land.

 

Yesterday’s adventure was highlighted when Iren discovered fossils in one piece of chert. We were so excited by this rock and mulled over the possibilities of how the fossils came to be embedded in the stone and what they were. I was so happy for her that I felt like I could burst.

 

This was the second time I had been with Iren when she found a stone treasure. The last one was an exquisite flint arrowhead. I told her that Nature had gifted her with this present (and probably all the others) not just because she climbed mountains but because the mountains knew how much Iren loved stone, and how generously she shared what she had with others.

Nature thrives on reciprocity.

 

Mountains know.

 

This morning when I looked at the multi-colored pile of chert in front of the house I decided I would simply leave them there for a few days before beginning to use them to line more pathways. I just want to look at them. As I pick the pieces up and turn them over in my hands, I wonder what stories they might still have to tell.

 

This poem emerged out of my gratitude to Iren and my love of stone.

Poshuouinge

 

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Above: Photograph of Kiva site .

The first time I climbed up the rubbly rocky switch-back path to the ruins it was a beautiful blue and gold autumn day. The view of the river valley, the surrounding mountains with the Sangre de Christo range rising in the distance was absolutely stunning. The mesa is situated about 150 feet above the Chama river. I could see the outline of the dark brown buildings, the rocky remains of the Poshuouinge ruins stretching out in front of me. I sat down on a flat stone beside the path imagining what it must have been like to live here around 1375 CE when the pueblo was first built and inhabited by the ancestors of today’s Tewa speaking people. Apparently there were about 700 ground floor rooms, and some were three stories high. The pueblo had two main plazas and a large kiva near the center of the eastern courtyard. There were two springs nearby for water. I wondered if the women plastered the mud walls here like they did in neighboring Abiquiu.

The Pueblo Indians are one of the oldest cultures in the United States (perhaps the oldest). They are believed to be descendants of the Mogollon, Hohokam and Anasazi peoples with their history tracing back 7,000 -10,000 years. The Anasazi (“Ancient Ones”), believed to be ancestors of the modern Pueblo Indians, inhabited the Four Corners country of southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and northern Arizona from about A.D. 200 to A.D. 1300, leaving a heavy accumulation of house remains and debris behind when most migrated to New Mexico.

Recent research has traced the Anasazi to the “archaic” peoples who practiced a wandering, hunting, and food-gathering life-style from about 6000 B.C. until some of them began to develop into the distinctive Anasazi culture in the last millennium BC. They built pueblos on tops of mesas or in hollowed out natural caves at the base of canyons. During the last two centuries BC, the people began to supplement their food gathering with growing maize. By 1200 CE subsistence farming was a way of life. They hunted, grew corn, squash, and beans, raised turkeys, and developed complex irrigation systems.

The Tewa are a linguistic group of Pueblo Indians who speak the Tewa language and share the same pueblo culture. The word Tewa means: village above the muddy river. Their homelands are near or on the Rio Grande and Chama rivers north of Santa Fe. Included in this group at present are the pueblos of Nambe, Tesuque, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Okay Owningeh (San Juan), and Santa Clara. Today, the once oral language of Tewa is being taught to children who are learning to read the language as well as to speak it.

The Tewa have a story about their origins. In the beginning they were one people. As they began their journey they divided themselves into two groups called the summer (squash) people and the winter (turquoise) people. They traveled along the banks of the two big rivers, the Rio Chama and the Rio Grande making many stops along the way, building a village at each location. When the people reunited they built one village together. It was called Posi- ounge, and this ruin is situated a few miles south from Poshuouinge along with a number of others some of which are now on private property…

Poshuouinge was one of the larger pueblos. About 1500 Indigenous peoples made their homes here for about 100 years before the pueblo was abandoned. The Tewa people of Poshuouinge were using terraced gardens. They grew maize, beans and squash and also hunted deer, elk, and rabbits and gathered pinion nuts, wild plants and roots. Oral histories tell us that an epidemic struck and the people were forced to leave. Climate change may have also been a factor that forced the people to abandon this and many other ancestral pueblos. Poshuouinge was definitely deserted before the European invasion began, as were many other pueblos in this area. Descendants of these people now live in Abiquiu, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, and San Juan or Okay Owingeh.image4.JPGThe sense of peace that I experienced sitting on the rock that first afternoon called me back to the mesa a number of times. The last time I climbed the stony path was just before the winter solstice on a beautiful warm almost winter day. The sun was so low that it cast deep shadows on the hills and surrounding mountains. In the distance to the east, the Rockies were covered with snow. As always, the view was astonishing. Is this why I had missed the petroglyphs the first couple of times I walked up the steep hill beyond the ruins?

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Above: Big Bird with hole below for offerings?

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Above: Serpent attached to ?

When I first saw “Big Bird” I wondered what kind of bird the artist was thinking of when he pecked this petroglyph into the basalt rock. Was this a turkey? On the other side I saw another drawing. This one depicted a serpent swimming horizontally; the snake was connected to some kind of figure I couldn’t identify. I had seen this type of petroglyph before and its meaning continued to escape me. Serpents, however, appeared on most of the petroglyphs I had seen thus far and were associated with the element of water as well as with the underworld. On this same rock there was also a smooth area that was used as some kind of grinding/sharpening stone? Very curious. Another eagle-like bird petroglyph was pecked into the side of this same rock. As I gazed into the distance I imagined that this spot must have been a lookout because it was about half way up the steep hill and the ground was level around the rock. The Tewa, (who were peaceful people) feared the nomadic warrior tribes like the Comanche, Ute, and Apache and even the Navajo that raided these pueblos and often took Indians as slaves – particularly the children.

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Above – grinding stone?

I had brought some blue cornmeal as an offering to “feed” the spirits who lived here. I left some on this rock that also had a strange looking hole bored into it. It suddenly occurred to me that these holes might be places to leave offering too.

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A bit further on I discovered a stone that must have once held a petroglyph that had been completely lifted off. I felt a sharp sense of grief. What part of the story has been lost as a result of this pillaging?

As I climbed to the summit the view claimed my attention once again. Whenever I came here I felt as if I could see forever… It seemed to me that these Pueblo peoples chose places that were stunningly beautiful for their homes in addition to being well suited for their protection.

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I wanted to follow the path further but it was getting cold. Ruefully I acknowledged that every time I came to this place time ceased to be…I wondered if the Ancestral Spirits of Place captured me in some indefinable way.

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Retracing my steps I made a quick descent to the mesa. Unable to resist leaving the path, I wandered over to the ruins to look at the pottery shards scattered on the ground. I had already learned that the earliest pieces of pottery were those with designs – black on white. I picked up a piece of plain black pottery, and then one that was earth toned. There were a few shards of buff with red. Each piece was a different shape and I imagined putting the shards together to form a mosaic…

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Putting down the gently curved clay pieces my eye caught a gleam of bitter orange. This stone I knew was chert, most often used for making arrowheads. There were many small chips gleaming in the late afternoon sun. I knew that the Tewa and their ancestors traveled to the Pedernal, the flat mountain on which (Navajo) Changing Woman had been born, to get this particular stone because it made the sharpest arrowheads. There were translucent smoky gray, black obsidian, and midnight blue chips as well as rusty orange flecks. I also found a few pieces of what I thought might be pipestone. Sadly, scattered throughout the ruins there were also deep holes that had been dug into the ground by thieves to find whole pots and other artifacts that were then sold illegally.

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Meandering back to the path I passed junipers that wafted a sweet and pungent scent when I touched them. I reluctantly made my descent as the sun slipped below the horizon thanking the spirits of place for another timeless experience on this mesa that I had come to love.

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The above photo was taken by my friend Iren Schio. Three concentric circles might represent the three worlds as understood by the Tewa. I still haven’t found this one!

 

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.

The Turning of the Wheel

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Guardians…

I invoke the Wild Goddess who comes to me through the Lady of the Plants.

The Fall Equinox is the time of “the gathering in” and this year I long to gather the pieces of myself back into one as we move into the dark of the year. This coming to the desert has been a time of wonder and wandering but also filled with difficult practical adjustments all having to do with this little stone/adobe brick house that seems to have problems with locks, broken windows and screens with holes, videos, and more serious, a gas leak. Having lived in Guadalupe’s house for six weeks I feel detached from “Her,” no doubt due to the fragmented parts of myself that struggle to regain grounding, and some semblance of balance and perhaps because it isn’t yet “Her Time.” (?) For the past couple of days a strange depressed state is pushing down hard on me. Oh no, someone cries out – not here too. This, with all this beauty around me, the little red or golden hills, the stark reptilian mountains that weave layer after layer of depth into the whole… Tiny whiptail lizards are scurrying about. Yesterday I saw the first male sagebrush lizard I have seen since Shadow’s death with his shimmering cobalt blotches regarding me with interest while sitting on the rock wall. Shadow’s sagebrush (fringed) that I planted did survive; little green sprouts push up new leaves and I feel like this lizard lives on in me! Yesterday new friend took me to a “Lizard house”… a possible future rent. I picked up a piece of chert (stone) and brought it home with the intention of creating a thread to this lovely house. Today I went to El Rito and met an artist I liked ever so much and she too has a little studio in the trees – no view but much less rent.  I brought home chert from the artists house as well.  Someone else may also have a place to rent. I have nothing to lose by looking for another place for the future if not now but my favorite is the Lizard House facing my favorite Sierra Negra mountain range…

I scattered many wild seeds yesterday while picking up more! Many wildflowers are seeding up and I have spent joyous moments encountering exquisite mounds of lavender a bouquet of which was given to me as a gift. Deep purple, magenta, lavender and pale blue wild asters line the washes and back roads. The buttery yellow chimisa, and blazing stars stun me with their beauty; all of the latter are just coming into bloom even though the fall equinox is upon us. The snakeweed is fading like the sun. Best of all last night it rained (and rain continued through the turning with lightning crackling through the inky blue  skies). I think Nature is blessing the desert because the air is unbelievably sweet and fresh, permeated with wild sages. I have seeds everywhere in the house! Pinion nuts and pine cones, and bean shaped beeweed pods, and the prickly pods of Sacred Datura. This little house is also filled with Artemisia frigida, the sweetest sage of all …and I lit a smudge stick that I made to purify and cleanse the air of this baffling dark energy that swirls around me.

I think of the ancient wild goddess Artemis and her precedents who live on through the telling of Her Stories…. Artemis’s love for animals, women, and the wild stag in particular seems like a powerful influence that may guide me now as it has before. I long for the presence of this ancient wild goddess’s healing power… When the fringed sagebrush called to me I heard the call but didn’t know what it meant. I cry out especially to the fringed sagebrush Artemesia frigida because this is the one I first fell in love with…I trust that she will help me sort through the tangle of dream threats and possibilities that are materializing before me.

The quail and rabbits are a joy as are the canyon towhees and the mourning doves. Yesterday the bird – bath was on the wing with astonishing cobalt western mountain bluebirds gathering for a drink. Later a deep blue pinion jay also visited. The hummingbirds have left except for a few stragglers. Less wondrous is the heavily spotted fat ground squirrel who finally found us and devours seeds like a hoover vacuum that can’t stop running! I watch for the stars to rise in the night sky waiting eagerly for the velvet curtain to drop suddenly as a glowing orb slips below the horizon. Venus is a jewel in the western sky.

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Although a southwestern exposure is hard on my eyes I have fallen in love with these sunsets. I have also become attached to Guadalupe’s house in spite of the many problems that she has with her structure. I really don’t want to abandon her now; but my vision is clouded and I must allow the future to guide me. I don’t understand how I could have been so sure about coming here when this house has been such an issue, and boundary violations have been extreme. Perhaps trial by fire is part of some kind of initiation? Perhaps I relied too much on what I wanted and needed? Perhaps all of this has nothing to do with me at all? … Perhaps it’s both. I discovered that no one has ever inhabited this house for long and that may be part of the problem too. However, the desert has been kind and oh so generous with her bounty. One day last month I finally felt I had turned a corner and then Shadow died, smashed in the door by an aggressive woman, followed by the deaths of a hummingbird and a number of finches. Continuous stomach issues remind me that my poor body is still protesting.

Lily B’s attack was bizarre and terrifying; yet Debra took me to a wonderful vet who saved his life and now he is flying free and bathing in the afternoon warmth that spreads through this house… I have made a few friends, and most people seem kind in this small community where there really are things to do. A couple of days ago I had a sharp momentary sense that all the problems would eventually work themselves out and that I can stay here after all… because as upsetting as they might have been most are being resolved – even the gas leak is scheduled to be worked on – but then that feeling faded… I may be stuck in an overreaction? (equinox dream suggests no – the threat is real) I don’t know how to trust myself because I have to live through something to understand it…I will be 71 in a few days. I swing back and forth between the usual extremes without clear vision.

On the night of September 17th a dream told that Lily would sing again, and the next morning he cooed. It felt like a miracle.

I have acted out this seed gathering time in a very satisfying way feeling as if I am participating in the ancient ways of the Grandmothers whose gathering of seeds, whose weavings, whose pottery created the first peaceful culture without weapons or war…If it happened once the pattern is there to be lived through once again. I continue to act out this story, choosing to believe in Her…even as I give thanks for this last day of equal light and dark. The wheel is turning towards the winter night…

I remind myself that balance is an illusion. Even the Earth stays in balance for just a moment before  turning…

May She Bless Us All.

Guardians….

Abiquiu 1

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We have been living here  in Guadalupe’s little round stone house for about two weeks making the acquaintance of many rabbits and hares, three kinds of hummingbirds (ruby, black chinned, rufous) and the canyon towhee, a rose colored house finch, flycatchers, and a multitude of gorgeous desert lizards – the stunning blue green collared lizard, a yellow and red striped fellow that I think is the chihuahuan whiptail, and my favorite, the sagebrush lizard who seems to like hanging around the house. These friendly little lizards like the stone ledges to  bask in the sun. The desert cottontails come in for seed in the early morning and evenings. Black tailed jackrabbits (hares) meet and greet one another, leap around the scrub, fragrant sage and rabbit brush at the edges of each day. They too feast on sunflower seeds. Yesterday a juniper titmouse called out to me from its tree in the wash. Juniper and pinion pines seem to dominate the landscape but there is one juniper or cedar (cypress family) that reminds me of the northern white cedars of Maine that I can’t identify. Wildflowers are abundant and the wild mounds of Datura with their violet tipped trumpets are sweetly fragrant in the early mornings and are humming with bees. I have huge clumps Datura everywhere outside my door and will sow seeds around Guadalupe’s house as soon as the thorny pods are dry and brown to usher in the coming of autumn. I also have diminutive clumps of sky blue blossoms with a yellow beak, bushy mounds of delicate yellow star-like flowers and masses of Russian sage.  I also discovered a barrel cactus under its nurse tree, a helpful Juniper. I dug this up and planted it in a pot. The washes are full of little mounds of magenta flowers. Tiny plump bushes of asters dot the landscape. Yesterday while watering my small juniper I saw an emerald green praying mantis amidst the thorny leaves and the broad winged katydids bring in the night with sounds so soothing they put one to sleep. Ravens squawk from the highest buttes. I have seen night – hawks soaring, scissor -like at dusk and heard the hooting of the great horned owl on the full moon. Huge puffed up cumulus clouds rise up in the afternoons; every day the desert folk, animals, plants and people pray that rain, carried by shark gray clouds and flashes of lightning will come to sooth the parched cracked earth. Abiquiu, like much of the rest of the country is suffering from drought. The mountain ranges and little red hills are astonishing in their beauty – peppered in subtle sagebrush grays and greens –  sunsets catch the sky on fire.

 

We have a community dog named Snoopy that belongs to this cluster of houses. Mine is set off from the others and has it’s own long winding road. This is probably a good thing because Snoopy has not been welcomed by one of my Chihuahuas, who, because of her behavior has been named the “Barracuda” by one of my closest neighbors! Wild dogs are a nuisance and bark at night while coyotes sing up the stars.

 

I have met two wonderful people who have helped me in so many ways already that I feel that I will be indebted to them forever! It is such a gift to have so much in common with these kind generous hearted folks. And for me, having people I depend upon for help finding my way by car has become necessity because of my severe directional dyslexia. I was told by someone who knows me and lives in Abiquiu that I would have no trouble negotiating the driving to get groceries and other necessities. That assessment was incorrect. I am so used to fending for myself that it is hard to depend so much on others for such basic help, but I have no choice. Thus, I feel doubly blessed by these neighbors and their offers of  assistance…

 

What follows is a list of the birds that I have seen and I think I know by name:

mountain blue bird

pinon jay

mourning dove

raven

crow

turkey vulture

scrub jay

great horned owl

black chinned hummingbird

ruby throated hummingbird

black chinned hummingbird

flycatcher

nighthawk

canyon towhee

house finch

coopers hawk  (landed on Lily B’s outdoor cage terrorizing him)

juniper titmouse

 

August 19th

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