Chaco Canyon, New Mexico Archaeoastonomy

(Join the Earth Walks program in a three day journey to Chaco Canyon October 6-8, 2018 camping under the stars, guided by a New Mexico Pueblo family who consider the site as their ancestral homeland.  For information on cost and registration: https://earthwalks.org/ )

Pueblo Bonito Kiva and Complex at Chaco

At an elevation of 6,200 feet, Chaco is a high desert, sun-scorched in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter. Despite these harsh conditions, evidence of human presence in the area stretches back to as early as 2900 BC. These groups were largely nomadic, until around AD 200, when the first farmers settled in the area and built small pit houses.

Then in roughly AD 850, a great change took place. The people began building in a radically different manner, constructing massive stone buildings unlike any that had been built before. These structures soared to four or five stories and contained up to seven hundred rooms and dozens of mostly circular underground ceremonial rooms.

The architecture was a feat of engineering, often built along celestial alignments, they included water-collection systems and were linked to outlying communities by an extensive network of roads. These elaborate buildings evidence a sophisticated and highly organized culture, with Chaco Canyon at its center.

Full moon over the Canyon

The people of Chaco demonstrated extraordinary observations of astronomical phenomena which they incorporated into their buildings by designing, orienting and locating their major buildings in relationship to solar and lunar events.  This required advanced architectural and design skills, scientific observation and social cohesion.  Some think the civilization that flourished here parallels that of Aztec, Mayan and Inca cultures.

New Mexico Pueblo Prayers

It was August 4th, 2018 and I was at Kewa (Santo Domingo Pueblo) south of Santa Fe, New Mexico to attend the annual Corn Dance Ceremony and Dances.  Really more like a prayerful event, in which hundreds of dancers of all ages participate from the village.  As I made my way through the maze of walkways into the central plaza area, I ended up walking next to a group of dancers who were headed in the same direction.  Not wanting to disturb their focus, I was silent.  Then one of them called to me:  “How are you doing today?”  That opened up a friendly conversation.  They were all teachers at the Santa Fe Indian School and I had worked in the Santa Fe Public Schools for many years.  It felt like a blessing and honor to be in conversation.

I shared with them an experience I had almost 40 years ago when I had attended the dances for the first time.  Taking a break, I took my sack lunch out to the parking area in an ocean of trucks and cars.  I found a concrete curb to sit on and began to eat.  Then from behind me somewhere a woman’s voice yelled at me:  “What are you doing?!”  Uh-oh.  I thought perhaps I’d violated some Pueblo rules or etiquette.  I turned around to see the woman standing in the doorway of her home, adorned with a kitchen apron and waving at me.  “Come in!  Come in and eat!”  And so I did, with strangers who felt like family.  That was my introduction to Pueblo generosity and friendship.

Helping Harvest Corn

Santo Domingo Pueblo, on the east bank of the Rio Grande about 40 miles north of Albuquerque, is the scene each August 4th of the largest Indian dance ceremonial held annually in the southwest. This is the feast day of St. Dominic, patron saint of the historic Indian Pueblo, and more than 1,000 Santo Domingo Indians join a presentation of the colorful Green Corn Dance.

Men, women and children, all in beautiful ceremonial attire, dance under the sun in the big plaza of the old historic pueblo to the sound of chanting and pounding drums. The Green Corn Dance at Santo Domingo Pueblo each August 4th attracts thousands of spectators from all parts of New Mexico and even from the far corners of the world.

Feast Day activities begin with a morning mass in the picturesque mission church at the east edge of the Pueblo. After mass, a statue of St. Dominic is carried in a procession from the Church to a place of honor in a bough covered shrine on the pueblo plaza. Here, St. Dominic will remain until the ceremonial dance is completed. Then it will be returned to the Church.

The Green Corn Dance begins in front of the Church by 10 am and will continue throughout the day. Members of the Squash and Turquoise clans will alternate in the dancing. Pueblo Indian potters and silversmiths will display their wares for sale on the tables and on the grounds in the Pueblo and food concessions and carnival rides will be set up. Since this is a religious observance, no photography, sketching, or tape recording will be permitted. No alcohol beverages/illegal drugs or contraband are allowed on the Pueblo.

As I drove away from the Pueblo, a huge cloud had begun to form over the Jemez Mountains to the East.  Looking back it seemed to be like a giant feather stretched over the wide New Mexico sky, spreading its blessings of coming rain over the Pueblo and dancers.  Ah-ho!

JOIN EARTH WALKS ON JOURNEYS THROUGHOUT THE SOUTHWEST.  TO SEE MORE GO TO: https://earthwalks.org/

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

THE END IS NEAR…AND SO IS THE BEGINNING!

“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:  info@earthwalks.org

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!
               

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

Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly

Includes:

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 info@earthwalks.org

Itinerary:
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: info@earthwalks.org

Walk in Beauty!     Doug Conwell/Earth Walks

Earth Walks Director Doug Conwell

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:  info@earthwalks.org

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

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

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