Traditional Cultural Farming At Jemez Pueblo New Mexico

In Service to Mother Earth

Register by March 17, 2017 for a wonderful experience in service learning at the Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico. We will join Roger Fragua and elders on a farm at the Pueblo planting seeds for the coming growing season.  We will be joined by Pueblo youth and community members.

Roger has said, “Farming with nature (the root of organic farming) lies at the hear of practices used by native farmers in the Southwest for millennia.  Traditional cultural farming can teach us a great deal about how to build a resilient and regenerative agriculture.”  

The day of service is part of a three day retreat sponsored by Earth Walks of Santa Fe.  It will include a flute making workshop with Pueblo artist Marlon Magdalena.  Lodging will be at the Bodhi Manda Zen Center in Jemez Springs.

For information and cost, contact info@earthwalks.org

Santa Fe New Mexico Sense of Place Award

Santa Fe New Mexico has been recognized with the “Sense of Place” award by National Geographic Magazine. The award is bestowed on an organization or place that enhances cultural authenticity and supports historic monuments, vernacular architecture, indigenous heritage and artistic traditions.

Let Earth Walks be your guide through Santa Fe and the Southwest United States country. Experience the land, people and culture of the spectacular country. We can provide a wonderful experience!  You can reach us at earthwalks1@info.org

Pueblo Bonito Kiva and Complex at Chaco

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Flute Making & Traditional Farming in Jemez Pueblo, NM

Flute Making and Farming at the Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico

March 30-April 2, 2017

Join us for this special opportunity in creative arts and service learning.  We’ll be based at Bodhi Manda Zen Center in Jemez Springs, NM with opportunity for rest, relaxation and participation in meditation practice if you wish. Abbess Jiun Hosen will warmly welcome the group and explain their traditional practices at Bodhi.Healing hot springs are located at the Center, adjacent to the Jemez River.

http://www.bmzc.org/the-center/the-grounds/

Friday, March 31 we will meet with Jemez Pueblo flute maker and player Marlon Magdalena.  Marlon says, “I proudly participate in all aspects of Jemez Life; for instance, I speak the Jemez Language, I plant Jemez corn, sing Jemez songs, and dance Jemez Dances. I am proud that I am from a place that still continues our ancient ways of life.”Marlon has been an artist for much of his life and creates paintings and traditional crafts.  He also makes and performs on a wide variety of hand-carved flutes.  He will lead us in the making of traditional cane flutes and explain the important meaning of flutes in the life of Pueblo people. (See: http://www.aluaki.com/bio.php )

Saturday, April 1 the group will enjoy a time of service with Jemez Pueblo resident Roger Fragua on his farm, helping prepare the fields for spring crops and learning about traditional values.  Roger has said,  “Farming with nature (the root of organic farming) lies at the heart of practices used by native farmers in the Southwest for millennia. Traditional farming can teach us a great deal about how to build a resilient and regenerative agriculture.”Sunday, April 2 following breakfast, the group will depart.  Participants are welcome to linger longer at Bodhi if they choose.

Cost:  $525  Includes dorm style lodging three nights (individual rooms available for additional cost); delicious vegetarian meals Thursday noon through Sunday morning, flute making materials.  Transportation: on own or by carpooling.

More information and to register:  contact  info@earthwalks.org

The Silence of Chaco Canyon

The great kiva complex at Pueblo Bonito

The great kiva complex at Pueblo Bonito

It is early morning, November 11, 1980 and the visitors’ center is not open. I sit in my car waiting. And watching. Watching the meditation unfold in front of me here on my first pilgrimage to Chaco Canyon National Monument. A Dine (Navajo) man is slowly, methodically and silently sweeping the entrance sidewalk, starting from one side and carefully making his way to the other. Not with a store bought broom, but rather a hand made broom from brush and plants gathered from the area. Unlike me, the man is not in a hurry. He is bent over somewhat, intent on each sweep of the broom, each passage down the sidewalk like a reverent monk at a Buddhist temple. There is no one else but us around. We two and the early morning birds, unseen insects and other life forms waking up to the day. Deep breath, palms together, deep bow as Chaco greets me, conveying a message that I will carry with me through the decades of visits I will make through to the present.

For over 2,000 years Pueblo peoples occupied a vast region of the Southwest in the U.S. Chaco Canyon, a major center of ancestral Pueblo culture between 850 and 1250, was a focus for ceremonials, trade and political activity. It is remarkable for its monumental public and ceremonial buildings and distinctive architecture. It appears that it was both solar and lunar cycles were integrated into the architecture http://www.solsticeproject.org/lunarmark.htm Huge building sites were in alignment with each other over many miles and great straight roads radiated out from the center of the Canyon to distant outlying settlements. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeoastronomy#Chaco_Canyon

Light in the Kiva (underground ceremonial chamber)

Light in the Kiva (underground ceremonial chamber)

 

Some who visit the Canyon feel an ominous energy. Over the 30 years of personal visits and leading Earth Walks groups http://earthwalks.org/ here, my experiences have been only positive and transformational. The indigenous Native American people who guide our groups revere Chaco as their ancestral home and approach the Canyon appropriately. I have chosen to do so as well.  Come join Earth Walks as we travel to Chaco in May 2017.  May you Walk in Beauty!–Doug Conwell, Earth Walks Director

Full moon over the Canyon

Full moon over the Canyon

Walk in Beauty

In September 2016, Earth Walks traveled to the spectacular Canyon de Chelly with 12 participants.  It was a deeply memorable time, which included camping in the canyon under a blanket of stars, Dine (Navajo) friend and guide Daniel Staley playing his beautiful flute music to the echoes of the notes and his  ancestors and a day of service on the family farm of Kathryn Pemala.  Canyon

 

Our canyon campsite was on Daniel’s grandparents’ land where he maintains a fruit orchard and a traditional hogan.

daniel-with-apples-canyon-de-ch-2016One magical evening found us around the campfire with Daniel playing his flute and singing traditional Dine chants in his native language.  One participant had just acquired her first drum and she sent it around the group, asking each person to add their own drum beat, song or words to empower it for future drumming.  The group spent a day of solitude near the powerful Spider Rock.  That evening the group participated in a traditional sweat lodge.Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly Our final day in the canyon was spent in a service activity on the family farm of Kathryn Pemala, long time weaver, who has lived her entire life in the canyon.  As she weaves, she hears the voices and stories of her ancestors which are woven into the fabric of her work.

Dine (Navajo) weaver

Dine (Navajo) weaver

The group help harvest corn and plums, pulled weeds and enjoyed conversation with Kathryn and family members.  It was all too soon that we had to leave.

Helping Harvest Corn

Helping Harvest Corn

One of our participants, Sallie Bingham, is a writer and published author.  Her blog on the journey is well worth the reading.  You can view it at:  https://salliebingham.com/the-beauty-way/#comments 

Earth Walks plans to return to the canyon in the fall of 2017.  We will also travel to Chaco Canyon, NM http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/353 in late May.  This coming spring, we will be based at Bodhi Manda Zen Center in Jemez Springs, NM http://www.bmzc.org/ helping with an organic farm in Jemez Pueblo http://www.jemezpueblo.com/  as well as making traditional flutes with Pueblo resident Marlon Magdalena http://www.aluaki.com/

If you would like to join us on these or other journeys or create a special Earth Walks for yourself, family, friends or business please be in touch.  Meanwhile, Happy Trails and may we all Walk in Beauty!

Earth Walks Director Doug Conwell

Earth Walks Director Doug Conwell

Solitude at Spider Rock, Canyon de Chelly

Spider Rock is one of the most awesome and sacred places in Canyon de Chelly, Arizona.  Earth Walks will be there on the next journey, September 8-11, 2016 and there are only a few spaces available for those interested.  On the second day of our journey, we will travel through the red sandstone canyons, past groves of green cottonwood trees and a trickling stream to Spider Rock where there will be time for solitude and meditative time at this place of awesome beauty.

Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly

Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly

Spider Rock is the home of Spider Woman who is highly honored as a deity among the Dine.  Some say she chose the top of Spider Rock as her home and is the teacher of weaving.  On our final day in the canyon, Earth Walks will spend time helping with a variety of needs on the family farm of long time weaver Kathryn Pemala.  Kathryn will share the practical and mystical meaning of weaving for the Dine.

Kathryn Pemala, Dine Weaver

Kathryn Pemala, Dine Weaver

We will camp in the canyon on family land of our Dine guide who will lead a sweat lodge.  The final evening, participants have the option of staying at the Sacred Canyon Lodge near the entrance of the canyon.  Free camping is available adjacent to the Lodge. We depart on Sunday, September 11.

Cost: $420  Includes guiding fees, meals while in the campground, sweatlodge preparation and materials, transportation in and out of the canyon.

Deposit:  $140 due  August 8, 2016.  After this date, deposit is nonrefundable due to obligations with guides and those making arrangements from out of New Mexico.  Remainder of fee due August 22.

Not included in cost:  Carpooling to and from Canyon de Chelly, personal snacks/food, last night at motel ($113 per room, double occupancy–each person paying half of this amount; single supplement available); last night meal

Contact Earth Walks for registration and information.

Only a few spaces available!

 

 

Canyon de Chelly Journey in September!

Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly

Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly

Join Earth Walks September 8-11, 2016 on this both inner and outer journey to Canyon de Chelly.  Thursday, September 8 we travel by carpool from Santa Fe, past Shiprock, NM:

Shiprock, New Mexico

From there we cross the Chuska mountains to the town of Chinle.   Dine (Navajo) friend Daniel Staley and his family will guide us into the spectacular red sandstone canyon to his family land where we will be camping.  Those who wish will hike to the site; others can ride vehicles which will be carrying our camping gear.  The first evening we will participate in sweat lodge, a powerful way to begin our stay in this land which has been sacred to local people for so many generations. (Those who wish can stay outside the sweat and assist with the fire and prayers.) Meals in the canyon will be a group activity (preparation and clean up.)

Friday, September 9 we travel by truck to the Spider Rock for contemplation and time alone in the quiet of the canyon.

Saturday, September 10  we visit Kathryn Pemala who has been a long time weaver on her family farm in the canyon.  An important element of every Earth Walks is “service learning”–learning about traditional cultures while we offer service and “return the gift” of living in this great land.  We may be clearing weeds from farm land and orchards, helping with the animals, doing repairs or a variety of other activities.  Kathryn will share her method and meaning of weaving with us and we will share lunch together as well.

Dine (Navajo) weaver

Kathryn Pemala, Dine (Navajo) weaver

Our final evening, participants have the option of staying at the Sacred Canyon Lodge near the entrance of the canyon.  There is free camping available adjacent to the Lodge. We depart on Sunday, September 11.

Cost: $420  Includes guiding fees, meals while in the campground, sweatlodge preparation and materials, transportation in and out of the canyon.

Deposit:  $140 due  August 8, 2016.  After this date, deposit is nonrefundable due to obligations with guides and those making arrangements from out of New Mexico.  Remainder of fee due August 22.

Not included in cost:  Carpooling to and from Canyon de Chelly, personal snacks/food, last night at motel ($113 per room, double occupancy–each person paying half of this amount; single supplement available); last night meal

Contact Earth Walks for registration and information.

Walk in Beauty!

Amazing Aztec mythological images

 

Worthy of note is the work of author, artist and scholar Richard Balthazar of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Richard has an amazing biography, which can be viewed at his blog/website https://richardbalthazar.com/art/coloring-book/

One of his current projects is a “coloring book” called “Ye Gods: Icons of Aztec Deities and Commentary” which is downloadable and totally free. Here’s the intro to the site:

 I find the Aztecs’ pantheon larger, more diverse, and flat-out scarier than that of any other culture I know of in the world.  Indeed, the Hindus may have a dozen or two deities, including fairly weird ones, and the Egyptians kept a veritable divine zoo, but the Aztecs worshiped around sixty divinities, many right up there with your worst nightmares.  In that pinnacle civilization of the Americas, the uniquely human propensity to personify (whether singly or multiply) the divine, the ineluctable, and/or the supernatural, ran hog wild.

The ancient Mexican culture was of tremendous influence in the American Southwest, including New Mexico.  It’s iconography and mythology pervades much of the culture still today.  It’s fascinating stuff.  Richard’s work and the rest of his blog might be of interest.  He’s written several scholarly books on Native America that are also available to the public.  Here’s one image from the coloring book:

ICON #8:  ITZPAPALOTL, The Obsidian Butterfly

Itzpapalotl, The Obsidian Butterfly

 

 

 

Chaco Journey Almost Full!

Saludos!  The Earth Walks to Chaco Canyon May 20-22, 2016 is nearly full.  If you have been thinking about going, register as soon as you can to reserve your place.  The trip will be led by a wonderful family from Tesuque Pueblo who consider this a “homecoming” to the site of their ancestors.  I think you’ll find it an inspiring “coming home” as well.

Happy Trails,

Doug Conwell

Pueblo Bonito Kiva and Complex at Chaco

Pueblo Bonito Kiva and Complex at Chaco

Snake Medicine and Prayer Sticks in Chaco Canyon!

August 11, 2012:  I am on a solo journey to Chaco Canyon.  I take a favorite walk from the Great Kiva Rinconada through the south gap towards the trail that leads to the mesa above the kiva and the ancient site of Tsin Kletzin.  The subterranean Great Kiva was once utilized for religious activities and ceremonies.  It had 39 foot passageways from the underground structure to above ground levels. Casa Rinconada is one of the many buildings in the Chaco area that have documented astronomical alignments.

 

On the walk all was silent save for the wind. Suddenly I encounter two large deer, or possibly elk or antelope.  There are two farther on.  How they survive in this harsh environment should be a lesson to us all.  I feel blessed by their wild animal presence.  Back in camp, I sit in mottled shade of nearby low growing cliff bushes and create prayer sticks for friends facing challenges as well offerings to my home.  Knees bent, “feet standing,” I silently wind colored yarn, feathers and other found objects into the sticks.

These “ofrendas” are a meditation practice given to me long ago at the LBGTQ Spirituality Gathering at Lama retreat center north of Taos, NM by Maria Elena.  Maria Elena is of Mexican Huichol ancestry and had the gift of being a “dream healer.”  She could enter into the dream world of a person and offer help and interpretation.  As a young child in Los Angeles, where her Mexican parents had immigrated, she occasionally found herself in that dream world, seemingly floating above her bed and having other unusual experiences.  Experiences that her parents did not want her to have, as they had immigrated to the U.S. to forge a new and hopefully more prosperous life.  So, they put her in parochial school to help her forget the old ways.  But Spirit will have its way, no matter where we are.  At school, Maria Elena made friends with an African American maintenance man and together they went out to the desert and did prayer and ceremony,  further deepening her healing abilities. This secretive time in ceremony and prayer helped her make sense of her natural talents. Maria Elena said that if she had been living in her Huichol community in Mexico, the elders would have recognized her gift and taken her to be trained in the ways of their people.  Fortunately for me and many others, she did not lose that gift and indeed was willing to share some of her healing ways.

Back to Chaco and the prayer sticks.  As I sat there quietly making prayer sticks, slowly sliding out of the low bushes emerged a two foot snake that just as quietly made her way under my legs, stopping briefly among the colored balls of yarn and feathers to give me a quick glance, then travel on her merry way.  For some indigenous cultures, the snake is the most sacred of animals as it travels with its heartbeat closed to that of Mother Earth.  I was both in awe and gratitude for this silent serpentine gift.

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Earlier in the day driving into Chaco, the cell phone buzzed with a message from work at the public schools in Santa Fe.  As I listened, I recoiled and contracted, wanting to be as far from an increasingly difficult work situation as possible. But soon thereafter I heard this internalized message:  “Say yes! to all that does not compromise you or your core values…keep your spirit shield firmly in place, beware delusional thinking, but do not contract in fear of change or letting go to new conditions or requirements or adaptations to the material world.”  Perhaps this was the message the snake was giving me in advance of our special encounter.

Join Earth Walks May 20–22, 2016 on a special journey to Chaco Canyon, led by a wonderful Pueblo family.  To them–and perhaps you as well–this will be a homecoming journey.  Contact Earth Walks for more information…the trip is designed for only 12 participants, so be in touch as soon as you can.  (This fall, Earth Walks will journey to Canyon de Chelly, Arizona.  We are available to also create your own special trip in Santa Fe, New Mexico or the Southwest USA)

Happy Trails,          Doug Conwell     Santa Fe, New Mexico

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