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