Winking at a Snake in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico


I was on a solo journey to Chaco Canyon August 11, 2012, taking a favorite walk from the Great Kiva Rinconada 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.  Many know the Great Kiva for the archeoastronomy event that occurs on summer solstice. PBS video

On the walk all was silent save for the wind, whipping around me in a deafening roar. Suddenly I encountered two large deer, or possibly elk.  There were two farther on.  How they survived in this harsh environment could be a lesson to us all in this time of global climate disaster.  I felt blessed by their wild animal presence.  Back in camp, I sat in mottled shade of the nearby low growing cliff bushes and created prayer sticks for friends facing challenges as well offerings to my home.  Knees bent, “feet standing,” I silently wound colored yarn, feathers and other found objects into the sticks.

These “ofrendas” were a meditation practice given to me and others long ago at the LBGTQ Spirituality Gathering at Lama retreat center north of Taos, NM by Maria Elena.  Maria Elena was 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 said made friends with an African American maintenance man and together they went out to the desert and did prayer and ceremony, helping to further deepen 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 her healing ways.

cute <b>snake</b>&#39; Sticker | Spreadshirt

The ofrendas had also become a part of my healing and prayer practice.  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.

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 interiorized 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.

And all it took was a quick wink.

Georgia Guidestones

I was in mid-flight on October 8, 2009 to fulfill one of my fantasies, “Autumn in New York” and the fall colors of the Hudson River Valley when I read William Least Heat Moon’s “Roads to Quoz.”  Quoz is the mysterious, incongruous, odd or peculiar.  The unknown.  My mother long ago started me on the author’s prolific literary road by giving me a copy of “Blue Highways,” his first travel documentary.  His work is kind of like a memoir in present time, much more than travel documentaries, and inspiration for my work with Earth Walks.  Here are some quotes from “Quoz”:

  • 10…A genuine road book should open unknown realms in its words as it does in its miles. If you leave the journey exactly who you were before you departed, the trip has been much wasted, even if it’s just to the Quickee-Mart.”
  • 13…But for me it is the last reason which underlies all the others, for to go out not quite knowing why is the very reason for going out (on the road) at all.
  • 14…this fragment from a Navajo chant: “Remember what you have seen, because everything forgotten returns to the circling winds.”

On another dream come true, in 2010 I saw the South full springtime bloom when I visited a cousin north of Atlanta.  Boiled peanuts, bluegrass music, church services. And a “quoz” indeed:  the Georgia Guidestones, a mysterious Stonehenge -like monument near Elberton, GA.  Eight world languages were carved in the stones urging humans to preserve and protect the earth and life in harmony with the creator. Unfortunately, in 2022, a bomb was detonated at the site, destroying one of the stones and ultimately resulting in its dismantling.  The mayor and town were shocked and saddened at the senseless act.  See also: and

“There’s More to Life Than Just Us”

Our Earth Walks group was at the farm of Don Bustos on July 20, 2002.  Don’s family had roots here in Santa Cruz that went back almost. 300 years. Don Bustos Bio   Both he and his farm was smiling with organic strawberries, melons, lemon cucumbers, corn and much more. We watched with fascination as a flesh colored bulbous headed “child of the earth” insect re-buried itself into the wet folds of mother earth.  These harmless and unusual looking critters are relatives of the cricket. Child of the Earth

Don shared his gentle passion for the earth, his gratitude for God’s gifts.  We all shared smiles, muddy footsteps, and common concerns about the environment. “It’s hard to explain why I chose this life style,” Don said.  “I get a certain pleasure out of doing something that others appreciate and making money at it..  It’s important to acknowledge that there’s more to life than just us.”

To honor the rest of life, Don knew that some of his growing field was for birds, animals and others.  “The life cycle is part of a Higher Power that is always there,” Don said.  Undoubtedly Don sensed this when he experienced the moon, rain and sun and other elements.  Cradling melons in our arms, we walked past an acequia, the life-giving ditch that channeled water from the high mountains above Santa Cruz to the fields below.

Giving thanks to Don and his hospitality the group traveled on to the beautiful farm and teaching gardens of Eremita and Margaret Campos who lived north of Espanola along the Rio Grande in Embudo.   The Campos Farm It was open house on the farm, and we tasted delicious, mouthwatering delights prepared in the open air under a ramada lovingly and artistically crafted by the Campos family.  Gentle rain fell, a welcome blessing on the fields.

Nearby on the desert mesa above the valley, stone mason and artist Ra Paulette showed us his incredibly beautiful sandstone home, carefully and painstakingly carved from the cliffs.  His work has gained international recognition.

We headed home to Santa Fe, tired and grateful, filled with the good food from the land, generous hearts and hard-working hands that love the earth and all of life.


Photo by Getty Images

For a number of years, I led a Ghost Ranch Conference Center’s winter college level “Jan Term” class I called “The Spirit of Place.”  In 2003, our class traveled to San Ildefonso Pueblo for their annual Deer Dance ceremony.  We left later than planned but my irritation and concern about missing the dances dissolved into the blood red sunrise over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and was replaced with acceptance, prayer and trust.  In fact, we did miss the dancers coming over the hills, but just as we entered the Bupingeh (see video at Respected center of the Pueblo) the dancers and crowd entered from the opposite side. The sacred ceremony began just as the sun rose over the eastern mountain ridge, its rays illuminating the shrine of feathers, corn meal and specially selected pine tree.


Photo by Dreamtime

After breakfast at Dollie’s restaurant in Espanola, we proceeded to the Santuario de Chimayo, a Catholic pilgrimage place since 1816.  Native people were reported to have found the earth around this site endowed with healing properties. Indeed, there was a small side chapel at the church where visitors could gather some of the earth which no doubt was imbued with the power of fervent prayer as well.  As we parked the van at the Santuario, I noticed a man selling arts and crafts at the acequia (small water canal for irrigating farm fields). In my perspective, this seemed a violation of the sacredness of the place and reported him to the priest who good naturedly walked out to meet and greet this alleged criminal. I later saw the nuns giving him food, which he first offered to his dog.  As people passed by, he gifted them with stones he had gathered somewhere along the way.  One stone was given to a student in our group, who expressed appreciation.

Perhaps I was at the Santuario for my own healing from this rush to judgment about this stranger. I shared with our class a Navajo (Dine) lesson I had heard once:  never point your finger at someone, because you will find three fingers pointing back at yourself. That’s just what  happened symbolically that day.  I pointed out what I thought was wrong doing by someone, when it was really me who was in error.  Perhaps it was “Christ in drag” (Ram Das’ delightful phrase or “Christ in all His distressing disguises,” Mother Theresa’s words) at the steps of the church who had come to teach me a lesson in humility!