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.
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 https://www.ramdass.org/about-ram-dass/) 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!