Earth Walks to Jemez Pueblo May 31-June 3, 2018


“Tending the Garden”

Fields and Lands of Jemez Pueblo

As one seasonal cycle ends, another begins. Join Earth Walks for this exceptional opportunity to experience the time honored traditions of Jemez Pueblo and Bodhi Manda Zen Center. Both foster a vision of culture and life that nourishes body, mind and spirit.

Learning through service, Earth Walks will join hands and hearts with Flower Hill Institute in their fields at Jemez Pueblo and in the nearby Bodhi Manda Zen Center community garden to help prepare and plant for the summer crops. There will be a way for everyone to participate, regardless of physical ability or age. Pueblo elders and community members will guide us in their ancient traditions and Abbess Hosen will offer the contemplative Zen Buddhism experience. Children from the Pueblo will perform a Butterfly Dance to encourage pollination of the newly planted gardens.

Remarkable dialogues, laughter and sharing meals of food from the garden will accompany time alone for quiet reflection and enjoyable soaks in the hot springs at BMZC alongside the Jemez River. Bring instruments for music making and your favorite memories for storytelling!

Lodging: Dormitory style. Limited number of private rooms available for additional cost on first come basis. Delicious vegetarian home cooked meals.

Registration: $375 Includes: Nine meals from Thursday dinner through Sunday lunch. Lodging, dormitory style (additional cost for single room, limited availability). Access to hot springs pools. Honorarium to Pueblo elder. Workshop materials. Optional: instruction and participation in meditation practice. Transportation by carpooling or on own.

For information/registration:

Flower Hill Institute:  Flower Hill is a native-owned, community-directed nonprofit. Its objectives include preserving and enhancing cultural resources, preparing youth to inherit leadership, improving economic self-sufficiency, organizing inter-tribal movements, and improving climate change resiliency through experimental farming, seed banking and youth science camps.  Flower Hill organized an effort by the All Indian Pueblo Council of Governors to publish a response to the encroachment of oil and gas development into the area surrounding Chaco Canyon National Historic Park, an area of utmost cultural importance to the Pueblos.

Bodhi Manda Zen Center: The philosophy in the Bodhi garden recognizes and supports interdependent roles played by a range of organisms in a natural environment. Modern tools used employ practices that hearkens back to indigenous peoples throughout the world. Fresh healthy vegetables from the garden are shared at mealtime to honor all those who help provide sustenance for the health of our bodies and minds and support Buddhist practices of mindfulness and compassion for all beings.Visitors may enjoy the hot springs on site adjacent to the Jemez River.
Roger Fragua, Flower                                          Abbess Hosen, Bodhi
Hill Institute Director                                            Manda Zen Center

 Greenhouse seedlings at Bodhi–         Preparing plant seedings for fields            
       Diggin’ it at the community garden                   Hot Springs at Bodhi 
                                                       Clearing the fields                                                                                                                                                               
                                      Doug Conwell, Earth Walks Director
                                                       Come Join Us!

Canyon de Chelly–Walking in Beauty

Canyon de Chelly: First Memory Time Begins


A thunder cloud-cannon explodes somewhere overhead. Cottonwoods tremble in a rising wind, then wave their arms wildly in the invisible turbulence. And here am I, a thousand feet below the rim of red earth, sandstone cliffs towering above my little human figure, brilliant blue sky canopy above. Suddenly out of nowhere, a huge bucket of rain dumps down, sending me scurrying to the canyon wall for protection, back flat against the sun warmed rocks. But there is no escape. Waterfalls materialize in every direction, crashing down in a gushing symphony where there was only dry bareness before….a scene from the creation story when time began. Then the wall which is just barely sheltering me from the storm becomes a vertical ocean, rippling waves of water propelling down the cliff face behind my back] onto the canyon’s sandy floor. As the drama unfolds around my feet, tiny desert frogs appear from the sand where they are buried, waiting for this precise moment in time.

The moment is over almost as soon as it starts, this desert madness and miracle of passing storm. Sun sparkles over wet leaves, now glistening and refracting the light in delight at the welcome moisture. At least that is how I am feeling as I breathe in the fresh fragrance of wet sand, sagebrush and juniper.  Waterfalls slowly recede, their crashing, gurgling noise passing like a dream. Frogs return to their subterranean hideouts…and I step out into this new world, like everything else in this desert  more alive in the radiance that only rain can bring.


Canyon de Chelly, Arizona. Just a name on a map to many, and not the name it is called by those who have lived here for generations. To the Dine, this is Tseyi, or “inside the rock,” a place that echoes with memories of their ancestors and the ancient cliff dwelling Pueblo people. Their voices whisper in the winds that wend their way through willows, cottonwood and Russian olive trees, past coyotes howling their songs under starry night skies and down trails and pathways known only to those for whom this place is home. But the canyon holds memories for me as well, experiences that have changed the course of my life. Those experiences are the subject of future blogs that will include visits with my service learning program, Earth Walks

My first visit to the canyon was in 1991, assisting a tour led by  a guide from the Santa Fe, New Mexico area. Our group overlooked the awesome canyon, visited the National Park Service museum and learned about its history and geology. All well and good, but that was only a brief introduction to one of the longest continuously inhabited places in North America, and not the heart and soul of the canyon. I was to learn more about that in the years to come. History and geology are important, though.

Perhaps geology is a bit more objective in the telling: The de Chelly sandstone was laid down during the Permian period over 200 million years ago. The formation is unusual because it is not horizontally deposited but rather as a cross-bedded formation composed of many steeply dipping wedges, typical of windblown dune deposits. The canyons were carved over millennia by erosion from the Tsaile and Whiskey creeks forming Chinle Wash, creating awesome vertical walls. The area encompasses a long three-armed canyon on the northwest slope of the Defiance Uplift sloping to the west where the de Chelly sandstone plunges under the land just east of the town of Chinle.

Now for history, which is more subjective and depends on who is doing the telling. I will try to do some justice based on what academic research I could find. For nearly 5,000 years people have used the canyon as a place for campsites, shelters and permanent homes. Artifacts and rock imagery of the Archaic and Basketmaker people have been found in the canyon. According to anthropologists and archaeologists the first settlers built pit houses that were replaced with more sophisticated homes built into south-facing alcoves of the canyon walls to take advantage of sunlight and natural protection. Research indicates Pueblo people left the area in the mid-1300s to seek better farmlands. The Hopi, descendants of the original Puebloans in the canyon, migrated to the area in the 1300-1600s, and then left to settle on mesa tops to the west.

For the record, researchers have long used the word “Anasazi” to refer to the ancient settlers of the area. Because that word in the Dine language often translates as “ancient enemies,” it gives offense to the Hopi and other current-day Pueblo descendants. The word now most often used is “Ancestral Puebloans.”

The Dine came to the area around 1700 and have lived there ever since, except for the tragic and brutal event known as the Long Walk  when they were force-marched into exile at Ft. Sumner in Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. Reportedly there had been a long history of trading and raiding among the various indigenous tribes and then later with Mexicans and peoples from the United States. Sprinkled throughout that history were broken promises and treaties. Be that as it may, the U.S. decided to put an end to the Dine resistance to their authority and in the winter of 1864 Army Colonel Kit Carson arrived on a scorched-earth mission to expel them from their native homeland.

Dine guide Daniel Staley with weaver Kathryn Paymala


It’s hard for me to imagine this where it is now serenely quiet, but instead of the calls of ravens and hawks, the canyon walls must have echoed with thundering horse’s hooves, gunfire and rampaging violence as Carson’s men torched cornfields, captured prisoners and chopped down some 2,000 peach trees. The Dine—including women, children and elders—were then forced to walk in bitter cold 400 miles east to Ft. Sumner. There they remained for four years in deplorable conditions of captivity before being released to return to their homeland. Many people fell ill during the relocation. Many died. It is a shameful atrocity and a sorrowful chapter in chapter in history.

It is said that on their return when the Dine reached the crest of the mountains of Albuquerque and on the horizon saw Mt. Taylor–known to them as Tsoodizil (Blue Bead or Turquoise Mountain)—they fell to the ground in prayer and gratitude. I think of my home as a physical address where I live or the town where I was born.

But talk with a traditional Hopi or Dine person and the thing called home will be a different story, layered with myth and meaning, some of which the English language cannot begin to express.

Because the streams running through Canyon de Chelly are not raging torrents like the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River, it has long supported farms and homes. Anasazi dwelling sites etched out of the vertical cliffs are found throughout the area accompanied by rock art petroglyphs and pictographs on the copper-hued walls, weathered into luminous “desert patina.”

One day while walking in the canyon with Dine guide Daniel Staley who has now become a friend, I was told: “When there is only one creation story left, it will be the end of the world.”

I won’t pretend that I know or understand the venerable complexity of Dine cosmology. But I do know that Grandmother Spider—who some say wove the web of creation for First Man and First Woman—has been a presence in my life since graduate school in 1971, long before I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s a tale I’ve told in other Earth Walks blogs. Here in Canyon de Chelly there is a towering monolithic spire called Spider Rock that I’ve visited repeatedly over 30 years, and in future I’ll share some of my experiences with this iconic sandstone tower.

Earth Walks takes guided journeys to Canyon de Chelly every year, led by Daniel Staley and his family members.  Come join us!  Go to the website at to sign up for future service and travel activities.

Earth Walks on a recent visit to the Canyon

Register for Earth Walks to Canyon de Chelly October 19-22, 2017

Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly


Guided walk on trails into the spectacular red sandstone canyon (equipment brought by truck; transportation option for those who choose)
Two nights camping (final night motel/optional camping)
Traditional sweat “bath” (lodge)
Day of solitude at Spider Rock
Day of service on a weaver’s family farm in the Canyon
Cost:  $615   Does not include: transportation to and from Chinle, AZ, last night in motel (free camping option available), meals outside the canyon, gratuities to guides

To register:  Deposit to save a space for you on this journey is $200 (trip is limited to 14 participants).  Remainder is due September 19, 2017.  Make checks payable to:  Earth Walks/PO Box 8534/Santa Fe, NM 87504.  (A limited number of partial work exchange scholarships may possibly be available.)

Information:  Contact

Thursday, October 19  travel by carpool from Santa Fe, past Shiprock, NM

From there 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, October 20 we travel by truck to the Spider Rock for contemplation and time exploring the spectacular area around Spider Rock in the quiet of the canyon.

Saturday, October 21  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.

Kathryn Paymella, 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, October 22.

Contact Earth Walks for registration details and information:

Walk in Beauty!     Doug Conwell/Earth Walks

Earth Walks Director Doug Conwell

Chaco Canyon Earth Walks: register by May 5, 2017

Pueblo Bonito Kiva and Complex at Chaco

Chaco Canyon Earth Walks!
Register by
May 5, 2017

Come join Earth Walks on both an outer journey to a remarkable ancient World Heritage Site and a journey of inner discovery in vast silence, discovery in the community of fellow travelers.

We’ll be guided by the Tesuque Pueblo, New Mexico family of sisters Bea Duran and Reyes Herrera, for whom Chaco is ancestral home ground.

Cost: $350 Includes all meals, Friday evening through Sunday morning; guiding services; campground fees. Does not include: transportation (by carpooling) entrance fees to Canyon, gratuities to guides.

For more information/registration:

For more about Earth Walks and the journeys, tours and pilgrimages offered in the American Southwest go to: 

Happy and peaceful trails wherever you may roam!

Earth Walks Journey to Chaco Canyon 2017

May 19-21, 2017

Pueblo Bonito Kiva and Complex at Chaco

Join Earth Walks on both an outer journey to a remarkable ancient World Heritage Site and a journey of inner discovery in vast silence with the community of fellow travelers.

We’ll be guided by the Tesuque Pueblo sisters Bea Duran and Reyes Herrera and their family.   They consider Chaco Canyon as ancestral home ground.

Our time will include guided walks through the ancient sites, time alone to experience the vast silence of the Canyon and group sharing and conversation around the evening fires and meal times.  Bring a drum or musical instrument!

Cost:  Sliding scale.  $350 is the minimum, and if you can afford an additional amount it will help Earth Walks continue offering these journeys throughout the American Southwest.  Includes all meals, Friday evening through Sunday morning; guiding services; campground fees.  Does not include: transportation (by carpooling) entrance fees to Canyon, gratuities to guides.

For more information/registration:

Earth Walks has been leading journeys through the Southwest and Mexico for over 20 years.  For more information about our program, go to:

Full moon over the Canyon

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

Pueblo Bonito Kiva and Complex at Chaco

Image result for images of santa fe nm free

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.

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: )

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

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 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.

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 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: 

Earth Walks plans to return to the canyon in the fall of 2017.  We will also travel to Chaco Canyon, NM in late May.  This coming spring, we will be based at Bodhi Manda Zen Center in Jemez Springs, NM helping with an organic farm in Jemez Pueblo  as well as making traditional flutes with Pueblo resident Marlon Magdalena

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!