Wednesday, March 31, 2010

El Morro National Monument

Here are some photos from today's visit to El Morro National Monument here in El Morro, New Mexico. The monument is an impressive park with an informative visitor's center stocked with interesting and worthy books. The paths and hikes within the park are memorable and spectacular, with unique features of natural beauty and splendor that capture the imagination and are simply candy for the eyes.

One of the highlights of the park is "Inscription Rock", a place where hundreds of travelers carved their names and other information in the sandstone over the centuries. From U.S. cavalry to Spanish explorers and Mexican officials, many men (and only a few rare women) took the time to make sure their names and history were recorded in stone.

At the top of the cliffs,  the ancient excavated pueblo of Atsinna affords a glimpse of the past and even more spectacular vistas from on high. Atsinna was active from 1275 to 1350 AD, with more than 800 rooms carved into the sandstone or constructed from mud and adobe bricks.

Images from El Morro

The high rock towers where we hiked on Tuesday

Keith high above the valley below


Alligator juniper (a rare species of Juniper)

Tina against the Alligator Juniper

Twisted trees high on the mesa

Mary at sunset with the campground's rainbow flag

Face in the rock

Peace sign at the top of the mesa

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In the Wilds of the West

After our sweet visit to Wits End Cooperative, Keith and I decided to take the "work week" off from visiting intentional communities. After possibly finding our new home in the hills outside of Santa Fe, there is a feeling of greater ease seeping its way into our journey, this journey of a lifetime that our time on the road truly is. I am grateful for it all, and especially to Keith who has been such a great traveling partner and devoted blog writer. I realize that my voice has been unusually quiet on "Mary and Keith's Excellent Adventure" for some time now, and it has taken this journey futher into the wilds of the West to inspire me to share some of it with you all once again.

So, embracing a collectively renewed sense of adventure and openness, we decided to take a left hand turn at Albuquerque and explore the Pueblo areas to the west. Usually we take care to not travel too many miles in one day, but yesterday was an unexpected exception as the miles continued to invite me into the greater reaches of the Land of Enchantment. If you've ever had a peak hike or an ultimate drive in the country and been completely mesmerized by the beauty, power and splendor of nature, then you can understand how I've been feeling since we headed west, young man (and woman).

Yes, yesterday's journey west consisted of eight hours of rig driving, but it also consisted of one of the most specatacular drives of our journey--and possibly of our entire lives---seeing Pueblo after Pueblo of tribal lands where sovereign indeginous people live their lives, and having the unique experience of being within the United States but not really being in US territory.

We are glad that during this ecstatic ride we mustered up our courage to stop at the Santo Domingo Pueblo and initiate a meaningful conversation with two Cochiti gentlemen. Our chat took place in their Santa Domingo Mission Church. This church was built fifteen years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and still possesess records dating back to 1605! Visitors to this Pueblo are welcome to worship side by side with the Indians and we felt honored and humbled to be personally invited to come and celebrate Easter Sunday with them next weekend. Our  friends encouraged us to knock on the doors of local artisans' homes, assuring us that we would be welcome guests. Since we are not into collecting material things at this time, we simply thanked them and went on our way in our loud diesel rig, attracting curious stares which we met with our gentle waves and smiles, most of which were duly returned.

I am still beholding the stunningly beautiful, vast open stretches of earth punctuated with diverse, layered mountainscapes and miles of mesas below them with blue, blue skies and the warmest red sunset above the amazing rock formations we call mountains. The day ended with the two of us watching the full moon rise over one such mountain we are nestled safely beneath in our "Rig-a-Tina"---not too shabby.

The peak sunset drive of yesterday landed us in the perfect place to camp here in El Morro, New Mexico amidst like-minded folks until we head back to Albuquerque to continue our community search on Friday. Not so fast will we return to the big city. We will linger here and lead a Laughter Yoga session in a community arts and events center called "The Old School", which is just across from the campground. Tomorrow we will visit the Zuni Pueblo and even though we are taking a break from the intentional community quest,  we can't help but visit the Zuni Mountain Sanctuary. ZMS is an intentional community of "radical faeries" near the Zuni Pueblo to which we were graciously invited by our generous campgound host who happens to be a co-founder and friend of ZMS!

In our lingering here in the wilds of the west, we will hike, eat, read, write and rest some more. When we finally peel ourselves away from this magical spot, we hope to visit the Acoma Pueblo en route back to Albuquerque. Acoma is place that beckons us to explore it more thoroughly, amazing Acropolis of the west that it is. This time we will be taking turns with Tina care as one of us takes the little bus up to the mesa village known as "Sky City". (No other way is permitted up the mountain). We cannot possibly live in New Mexico without this experience. Once back in Albuquerque, we will be visiting with the folks at Sunflower River Community just 4 miles south of the city over the weekend.

If you ever come out this way, dear Reader, be sure to camp at El Morro RV Park and Cabins where, at the base of a hikable mountain, there are little cabins, campfires, tent and rv sites, a yurt where massage, drumming circles and a Reiki clinic take place, and also the Ancient Way Cafe, which has the best pancakes ever (and we haven't even tried lunch yet!) In addition to the above-mentioned amenities, you can climb to breathtaking overlooks on amazing rock formations on the edge of the mesa some five hundred feet above the campground. (On our hike today, we had to make joyful sounds while hiking due to the bears that are waking up from hibernation. And hey, we found evidence of a coyote tracking us, most likely hoping for a snack just about Tina in size! We're also aware that there are at least a few elk and a mountain lion living in the hills nearby.)

Today we are resting up after our hike and these wild, dusty, spring winds of change blowing in from the Southwest. Manana we will go to "Inscription Rock", a nearby national monument, and hopefully visit the Wolf Sanctuary too. This certainly is "God's Country", and I am humbled with gratitude for all of this space in our lives, for the original people of "Turtle Island" and the perseverance of their cultures, languages, and what remains of their ancestral lands.

May you enjoy the links to all of the above and a few photos of our hike today. Because we are honoring the tribal laws that forbid photographing of Tribal Land without a purchased permit (with a maximum fine of $1,000), we won't have photos of the other scenes I'm barely able to even crudely describe to you. If we manage to buy a photography permit at Acoma Pueblo, then you can have a glimpse of the beauty we are blessed to behold here in one of the hearts of Indian country.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Cochiti Pueblo

Late this afternoon we arrived to the Cochiti Pueblo, an Indian reservation between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and we quickly encamped at Cochiti Lake Campground which sits alongside the nearby Cochiti Dam, one of the ten largest dams in the United States.

From our brief readings, the Cochiti Dam was constructed beginning in 1965 by the Army Corps of Engineers against vocal protests by the Cochiti people. The dam diverted the river and flooded ancient tribal agricultural lands, having a huge economic impact on the life of the Pueblo as more than twenty years of farming was lost as lawsuits and protests were mounted. In 2001, the Corps of Engineers issued an official public apology to the Cochiti people, and the Pueblo is now integrally involved in the long-term management of the dam, the lake, drainage regulations, and the resources therein.

The Cochiti Pueblo is home to approximately 1,500 people who have managed to successfully retain their native tribal language of Keres, as well as ancient customs and  practices. The Cochiti people are well-known for the making of ceremonial drums, and there are several shops where high-quality drums can be purchased. No photography, sketching or recording is allowed on tribal lands, so we will not be posting any photos of the Pueblo itself here on our blog.

We are learning that water rights and mineral rights are lightning rods here in the West, and the Native Americans of the pueblos and reservations seem to know only too well how eminent domain and governmental hubris can change the course of history and negatively impact the lives of a people almost overnight. We're keen to learn about life in the Pueblos and how the people have managed to retain their languages, resources and economic independence despite the intervention and frequently callous disregard of the US government.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

At Wits End

We're happy to report that we spent a wonderful evening, night and morning at Wits End Cooperative, high on the mountain overlooking the mesa below.

We were received with great warmth by the two members who are currently living full-time on the land. This morning we were treated to a hearty breakfast of potato and egg frittata, organic decaf coffee, fresh fruit, and homemade banana bread, a meal made even more satisfying by the excellent company and the sense of instant friendship born of a passion for intentional community.

Wits End is a community in the early stages of actualization following eight years of planning, meetings, hopes and dreams. With one lovely straw-bale home now built, a deep well dug, by-laws established, and many of the pieces falling into place, two members now live on the land and others visit and take part in the planning process for further building and expansion. Many of the members of the cooperative are classical musicians specializing in what is known as "early music", but being a musician is not a prerequisite for joining. While the members are mostly middle-aged, there is certainly openness to younger members and even children.

Sustainable living and planning ahead for the "golden years" of community members are two factors that seem to keenly (and wisely) inform the plans for the design and execution of subsequent buildings. Both of these issues---sustainability and aging---are in harmony with our own motivations for seeking a life within the social fabric of intentional community.

As we grow older, living alone in isolated and energy-inefficient dwellings is no longer a scenario that we are willing to embrace. Living in community and sharing responsibility for ourselves, one another and the land is one way to transform the isolation that so many Americans experience in their day to day lives.

The folks of Wits End are actively building a dream wherein the members can live, work, play and care for one another as a vibrant community in an environment that is astoundingly beautiful but close enough to the city for access to health care, employment, culture, and the other good things of life.

We look forward to watching Wits End bring its complete vision to fruition, and to what we hope will be a long and lasting friendship, whether we take part in life at Wits End as members, or as friends of a community that is certain to grow, prosper and succeed.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

From Santa Fe to Wits End

Having spent the morning taking leave of our campground (dumping waste tanks, filling the fresh water tank, topping off the propane, etc), we passed the early afternoon enjoying the sights, sounds, smells and people at the Santa Fe Farmer's Market, Artist's Market, and indoor flea market.

The Farmer's Market was a plethora of local goods, live music and crafts, and we happily sipped decaf coffee while tasting local honey, goat cheese, apples and other goodies. The Artist's Market was small but mighty, and the dog-friendly indoor flea market was an absolute highlight as Tina made many canine and human friends as we browsed through the aisles of wares on offer.

Marketing completed, we washed and vacuumed our friend Kate's van before returning it with gratitude for the convenience and mobility that it allowed us during our time in Santa Fe. Without the van, visiting the Deva Lands Sanctuary every day for the last three days would have been quite difficult, and our explorations of the Santa Fe area would have been significantly curtailed.

Leaving Santa Fe behind was bittersweet, but the short drive south to the town of Los Cerillos rewarded us with spectacular vistas (more on that when we have a faster connection) and a soft landing at Wits End Cooperative, a small community still in the midst of planning and building a haven for those who wish to livecommunally in the beautiful and slightly remote hills above the town. 

This evening and tomorrow morning we will explore the cooperative's land and visit with the two current residents who live in a lovely home overlooking a view that is nothing short of breathtaking. In fact, as we arrived, a snow squall worked its way across the mesa, gracing us with a brief and light dusting of flakes that soon gave way to sun, blue skies and a pastel sunset. 

Meanwhile, Keith realized that he has apparently lost his down jacket, along with our dear deceased friend David's hat, and a wonderful wool hat purchased in Iceland some years ago. Some mourning for the lost items continues quietly with emotional support from Mary. 

For now, Mary just pummeled Keith at a game of Rummy 500, and Tina snores on the floor at our feet as the darkness of the mountains envelops our rig. Since we're not plugged in and want to conserve energy, we type on our computers by the light of two battery-powered lanterns and munch on pinto beans, sprouted wheat tortillas, sunflower sprouts and fresh cilantro. Tomorrow, we will breakfast with our hosts and walk the land which is now obscured by the inky darkness. 

Good night to all from this remote mountaintop somewhere in New Mexico, and we give thanks for the blessings of food, friends, freedom, and all good things. 

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Winds of Change

The wild winds of change are blowing through the Glorieta Pass (where a key Civil War battle was waged) today as we settle in at a new campground for one final night in the Santa Fe region. Our previous campground was due to be overrun with huge 40-foot rigs today for some RV rally or another, so we moved house and rolled up Interstate 25 to Rancheros de Santa Fe Campground. Gusts up to 40mph are forecast for this afternoon and evening, with as much as 2 inches of snow by morning. 

This evening we will attend a Shabbat ceremony at Deva Lands Sanctuary, and also engage in further conversations about the possibility of us renting a casita on their land in September and joining this small and growing community. 

For breakfast this morning, we met an old friend of an old friend at Real Food Nation, a lovely bistro/cafe which is located at a busy crossroads along I-25 about 15 miles north of Santa Fe. Meeting friends of friends is always fun, and we are making new connections here every day. Santa Fe is indeed feeling more and more rich as we hang around. 

Like our new friend Colin said, Santa Fe is the best city to live outside of, and we feel clear that we love it enough to live nearby but not enough to rent a place in town. 

So, as we ready ourselves to move further south to visit more friends and communities, the potential for returning here to Santa Fe and Deva Lands is high. The decision to live here would put us a mere 90 miles from our son, daughter-in-law and good friends in Taos, 50 miles from good friends in Las Vegas (New Mexico), 50 miles from a friend in Albequerque, and incredibly close to a decent-sized cadre of friends and acquaintances in Santa Fe. 

Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico are now on the "short list", and we will move forward with the understanding that our return here over the summer is highly likely.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Deva Lands Sanctuary

Today we visited The Deva Lands Sanctuary, a retreat center and small but growing intentional community in Glorieta, New Mexico, just 25 miles north of Santa Fe. Deva Lands offers individual and group retreats in every season of the year, and The Deva Foundation has trained facilitators throughout the world to help others in connecting with their deeper spiritual and emotional selves through specifically designed healing modalities and workshops.

In addition, Deva Lands is the host each summer to Creativity for Peace, a groundbreaking and important summer camp for Palestinian and Israeli girls where creativity is used as a vehicle for co-creating peace and understanding. These girls, who are often separated by literal or virtual walls, would never have the opportunity to connect with one another under "normal" circumstances in the Middle East. Almost 150 girls have come to New Mexico over the last seven years to experience the transformation of working and playing together at Deva Lands, and the project has blossomed into a year-long program where the relationships created during summers in New Mexico are further nurtured and explored. Here are a few photos of art projects by recent campers:

The beauty of the land at Deva Lands is phenomenal. Even at the beginning of spring when snow is falling and the mud is deepening, the loveliness of the land is very evident. There are fruit trees waiting to blossom, a garden to be sown, and rocky vistas to climb. Visiting at this time of year is actually a blessing, in that we get to see northern New Mexico at its "worst", allowing us to eschew our rose-colored glasses and embrace the wind, snow, mud and fickle temperatures which can range from the upper 60s to the teens at night. Despite it all, we are still enchanted.

As for the people of Deva Lands, we were welcomed today with warm smiles, open arms, and the genuine hospitality of community. Being with the people of Deva Lands is kind of like putting on a pair of well-worn shoes---comforting, warm, and easy.

The Santa Fe area is certainly feeling increasingly attractive to us as we meet more and more people of like mind and heart, and we will be spending the next several days acquainting ourselves more deeply with Deva Lands and its kind stewards.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Day at Ojo Caliente

Today, we drove an hour north with our friend Kate to Ojo Caliente, a famous hot mineral springs resort in the high desert. Although it was chilly and in the upper 40s or lower 50s, we enjoyed the springs, sauna and steam room, and reveled in the iron, lithium, soda and arsenic baths, which are all said to have various healing properties.

Kate has been kind enough to loan us a car, invite us to an evening of sacred circle dancing, put us up for a night while our rig is in the shop (with a broken furnace), orient us to the city, and generally show us a great time here in Santa Fe. Thanks to Kate for a wonderful day at Ojo!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Even More Images of Santa Fe

Our current temporary abode at the home of our friends Rosemary and Dick in La Cienega, a rural part of Santa Fe

Trees and shadows, by Mary

Aspens, which remind us of the birch forests of New England

The splendor of snow and aspen trees against the New Mexican blue skies

Snow and water on adobe