Dreaming Life

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I never could have imagined


the dream I am having now


of inhabiting a house not far from the river


where the sound of water


flows by a pebble strewn island.


A path winds from cottonwood

to scrub,


parallel to a sometimes raging torrent


down to the water’s edge,


winds over a bridge


into a cattail filled bosque,


where iris and lilies find home.


Mud swallows soar, Sandhill cranes


cry out as they pass overhead


heralding the change of seasons.


‘The peace of the wild things’


has spirited me to this place


where I am loved


for who I am.


A Gift beyond all imagining.

North Pond


Loon on her nest – author


Above: Eaglet at the nest  Barbara Haskell

One of the activities I look forward to most each summer is spending time in my kayak exploring North Pond that is just down the road from me. There is a wonderful marsh that is tucked in a corner of the lake (a portion of which was deeded over to me because it wasn’t useful i.e. build-able), and it is full of cattails and wild orchids, not to mention a loon’s nest and many Redwinged blackbirds who hang out on slender twigs of the swamp maples that catch fire in the fall.



Above: loon chicks



Above: Loon chicks  with parents Kathy Hurd


Author enjoying wandering around on the rocks around one of the islands. Barbara Haskell


This year I have been spending time on the pond with a friend who likes to watch eagles like I do. We pack lunches and take our kayaks out to the rocks and moor them there listening to the eaglets’ cacophony. These youngsters are now almost as large as the adults, and are still screaming for fresh fish. Because we are patient we are always able to witness the parents flying into the nest with a silvery fish, dropping it in the there and then heading for the next island to get away from their youngsters’ incessant screeching, I am convinced!


Although never far away, the parents leave the eaglets on their own and the two spend a lot of time flapping their now huge brown wings to strengthen them for flight and jumping in and out of the nest. One of the mole brown eaglets is larger than its sibling, which is often the case since one is usually more aggressive than the other and gets more food. Sometimes, the second chick dies of starvation, but not this one. Last week we witnessed one of the eaglets fledge. One moment he was in the nest, and the next he was in the air awkwardly landing on a neighboring tree. Within seconds one of the parents arrived with another fish and dumped it in the nest as if to say “well done!”


While we pick a few berries from the bushes on the island and I scour the shallows underwater for sunfish and fresh water clam shells we also have also been watching two loons that fish quite close to the island. Loons like to fish in deep water and I am always amazed to watch one swimming along with his/her head under the water scouting for fish before a black and white herringbone body suddenly disappears below the surface. Barbara and I have commented to one another how curious it is that this pair hunt so close to the island where their would be predators nest, although an eagle would probably not be able to take an adult loon. I think it is the deep water that draws both eagles and loons to the same hunting area.


Eagles are, unfortunately, predators of loon chicks and as an Audubon loon counter for North Pond I often have conflicting feeling about the bald eagles because they predate on the young and for the last couple of years have gotten the babies even though the parents are so vigilant. This year it rained on the day of the loon count and I didn’t see one chick. I was so disappointed believing that once again North Pond was without the possibility of the next generation of loons.


Then, just yesterday I was talking with my neighbor and friend Kathy Hurd at her beautiful old family farm on North Pond when she spied two loons with two babies between them. I couldn’t believe it! These two adults were swimming with their fluffy brown offspring close between them and I watched spell bound as Kathy ran in and got her camera to take pictures of the little family. This sighting made my day!


With August just around the corner, I am looking forward to more kayaking on those glassy mornings when the water reflects the firmament above like a mirror. Kayaking as to be the most relaxing form of entertainment for a naturalist like me. And I never know who I might meet next.

“Under Distress”


Overheard at a grocery store by someone waiting in line behind a woman speaking in another language on her cellphone.  Ahead of her was a white man.  After the woman has ended her phone conversation and hangs up, he says, “I didn’t want to say anything while you were on the phone, but you’re in America now.  You need to speak English.”


“Excuse me?”, the woman says.


The man says, very slowly, “If you want to speak Mexican, go back to Mexico.  In America we speak English.”


The woman replies, “Sir, I was speaking Navaho.  If you want to speak English, go back to England.”


Postscript: My friend Bob sent me this gem and I want to pass it on…


Changing Woman Speaks


(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.


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.


(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.




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?


Above: Big Bird with hole below for offerings?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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…


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.


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.


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!