Category: the Americas


 

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Did you ever wander

 

Among the winking

 

Cobwebbed nooks

 

Of times gone by,

 

Among the darkened, wind-shifting streets,

 

Or else leaf through

 

Broken backed and faded books

 

On the forgotten shelf?

 

Or peer at a copper plate

 

Of unremembered scripts

 

Of ancient deeds

 

And hero tales long left

 

Unsung,

 

Or drift among those lost stone gods,

 

Their noses knocked asunder

 

By mortar fire

 

In some unmentionable war,

 

Or, through rain that falls in opalescent sheets,

 

Seek out temples entrenched under

 

The thick jungled trunks of time, of seeding pods, and twilit weeds,

 

Or visit deep in crypts

 

Where rest the tales, in a lost urn,

 

Of eons flown,

 

Of higher, rainbowed hallways in the sky

 

Where gods and beings once had shone

 

When trees were worshipped,

 

As they ought to be,

 

When holy rocks

 

And elf

 

And giant

 

Roamed among the crowds

 

Of shimmering lilies in the mist,

 

Where deer run free

 

And hummingbirds hover

 

In the half-lit glimmer of the dancing dawn

 

On those wildflowered ilses – still untouched, radiant –

 

Or have you

 

Heard coursing hooves ringing

 

Through the starbright forest

 

Of a green-mossed eternity,

 

And did you ever gasp

 

To glance back

 

At the paltry present time that seemed

 

So suddenly all awry,

 

So shorn of grace?

 

Look now – a poor cut-out,

 

A false façade,

 

A parody concocted of every chemical,

 

Torn metal,

 

And toxic dust,

 

A humdrum bar-coded day,

 

Bereft of meaning,

 

Meant to squander,

 

And nights of mechanical terror

 

That grate

 

Against the soul,

 

Though all quite scientific and practical,

 

Of course.

 

Did you ever find the present world a little lacking?

 

Cars chrome-bright, junkyards of rust,

 

Oil wells bubbling

 

And spewing out the oddest orange river,

 

Computer graphics jingling a frantic caper,

 

Medical mirages, ill-inducing potion and pill?

 

War-cratered skeletons

 

Of cities loom at the edge of the shattered rim,

 

Lies and lies and weary doom

 

And here comes death – grim and dreary –

 

Tripping after.

 

A clanking alleyway

 

Where the faltering march

 

Of the bedraggled lout,

 

The troll,

 

Plunges on and on

 

Into the dank and danker

 

Cellars of caustic confusion

 

(Where now the shack

 

On the hill

 

That slipped

 

Into the mist

 

Where strangers from a far star

 

Sought shelter?)

 

Did you ever watch that oft-trod stairway

 

From the first magic light of stars, fall

 

Down, down into the iron pits of delusion,

 

Of nowhere at all,

 

Where darkness dwells and nothing more?

 

And did you ever wonder

 

When will the thunderclouds gather again

 

And the wind fiercely roar,

 

Dragon-winged in snow

 

And sleet,

 

Spilling rain

 

Across the open plain

 

Like the glad-running,

 

Unshod

 

Feet

 

Of the wild horse

 

That once gleamed

 

In the sun,

 

Rain clouds like the enduring face

 

Of an early people

 

Brave, eagle-hearted,

 

Who will walk again

 

To the quickening drum of wisdom?

 

Now will the improbable one

 

Who speaks with unforked tongue

 

Return,

 

Followed by those who shake the sleep from their eyes

 

In the wan,

 

Uncharted

 

Light of a new

 

Day?

 

When

 

Will the wind blow

 

A wind to make way

 

For the gods of yesteryear

 

To unclasp

 

The hold

 

On the windowed arch,

 

On those most ancient rocks

 

That climb like towers

 

To the sky,

 

Who bring back the innocent ones,

 

The cottontail, the whimsical sage grouse, the fox,

 

The juniper stand,

 

The pinions,

 

The cry

 

Of the killdeer,

 

The wild flowers,

 

And the coyote who dances in the gentle moonlight,

 

Her song

 

Unheard

 

So long

 

Yet ever remembered,

 

Bright

 

In the mystic night,

 

So old, and gone

 

And yet to rise again

 

When the winds call

 

Alone on the stone

 

And grass-blown land?

 

 

Written in October, 2015

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2017

 

Photo: © Dan Ross / Dreamstime.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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By Sharon St Joan

 

To read part one first, click here.

 

All of the above is not in any way to downplay the dedication, heroism, and lifelong work of the many who have fought to protect our wild lands. Though this is a struggle against an overwhelming force, there is no doubt that this brave work has held back and delayed the deluge of destruction.

 

It is not simply greed that is at fault here, though clearly that plays a large role. But even more basic is the notion, pervasive throughout our culture, that all of nature is subservient to human beings, and ultimately that nature is an “it” not a “who.”

 

Some level of sentience is accorded to animals, but in the common view and the commonly accepted norms of science, no level of sentience or consciousness is accorded to plants, let alone to rocks, cliffs, mountains, the oceans, or the earth. This perspective is so fully embraced by science, and science has now taken such a lofty place of authority, that suggesting that the beings of nature have their own lives, as well as their own awareness and intrinsic value, is considered so farfetched as to not be worth a passing glance.

 

(I do understand, and I agree, that science can play a vital, much-needed role in combating climate change and the destruction of species. It remains true, however, that science is a double-edged sword. Science also ushered in the industrial revolution and many of the ills that are now destroying our planet. Science, like any tool, can be used for harm or for good.)

 

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There is a counterforce to the drive to destroy nature – a simple one – many people the world over are distressed and protest vociferously when great old trees are cut down to widen a city street. They see a tree as a living being; in a way, as a person. People feel the same reaction when they see the ocean clogged with garbage or watch any aspect of nature being treated with disrespect or disregard. There is an underlying sense among most of us, not always articulated, that Mother Nature is being harmed, and this deep love for the earth lingers on in the human psyche despite all the centuries of propaganda promoting dominance and destruction.

 

There are two forces within human nature. At the moment, and cumulatively over the centuries, the powers of hatred and the drive to kill the wild, are winning. We need to become aware of these two forces within us and around us.

 

If we are ever to have any hope of re-connecting with the earth and with the natural world of which we are a part, we will need to go out into nature, in respectful silence, to once again come to know and to acknowledge the sentience of all of nature, the spirits, and the beings that our most distant ancestors knew so well. We are not separate, as we believe. We are they, and they are us.

 

vitornet-eagle

 

One way to re-affirm this bond with nature is through art and music, which tend to value the spiritual and the spirit. There are mystical realities far beyond the prosaic, assumed certainties of the linear mind. We must get to know nature once again – revere and worship the trees, the cliffs, the moon, the stars, the great bears, the cottontails, the eagles and the red-winged blackbirds. Without this deeper perspective and reality, we are doomed to destroy the planet, all living things, and ourselves as well. In the interests of our own survival, physical and spiritual, and in the interests of the sacred lands and sacred beings all around us, it is time for us to do this.

 

It may, or may not be, too late to save this world, but nature is not just physical, it is spirit. It is eternal and transcendent, recurring and recurring, again and again, always present in the greater cosmos that lies beyond. So this effort spent to re-connect with the beings of nature will bring a clearer, mystical reality; it will bring inner peace. It will help the beings of nature and ourselves, and, whatever the outcome, it will not be in vain.

 

© Sharon St. Joan, 2016.

 

Top photo: Sharon St Joan / Pine trees in the Kaibab Forest, Arizona.

 

Second photo: Sharon St Joan / Juniper tree in Kane County, Utah.

 

Third photo: Vitornet / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported / Bald eagle. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sharon-st-joan

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

To read part one first, click here.

 

Industrialization, like oil, coal, fracking, uranium, and copper mining are prioritized by legislation passed in the U.S. Congress, going back to the General Mining Act of 1872. One might be under the mistaken view that the job of the BLM is to protect the land and the wildlife that live there, but this could not be farther from the truth. Coal heaps line some of the roads through BLM lands. Coal trucks spew giant dust clouds visible a mile away. Because of coal, waterways are contaminated with mercury. They are also clogged by the feet of grazing cows, who, by the way, drink the polluted water, and then are sold for slaughter, later to become someone’s dinner. This is tragic for the cows, and for the lands and wildlife on 155 million acres of government land, where their feet trample delicate native plants, young saplings, streams, creeks, and wild bird habitat – destroying the natural world. The cattle industry is, as well, one of the leading factors tipping the earth towards death by climate change.

 

In among these lands are still to be found thousands of sites sacred to Native Americans – these, despite efforts to protect them, are being vandalized. Burial grounds are ridden over by ATV’s and petroglyphs defaced.

 

State and federal wildlife agencies which one might hope would be caretakers for the wilderness, instead seem to manage wildlife with a view towards eradicating wild carnivores: coyotes, cougars, bears, and bobcats, meanwhile focusing on growing to record numbers deer and elk herds, so there will be more for hunters to kill.

 

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How did all this come about? It is not only the ancient peoples of the Americas, Asia, and Africa that felt a kinship and a reverence for the wild animals around them.

 

If one goes back far enough in European history, to pagan times, one finds that there was a widespread reverence for the land, the earth, and the animals. There was worship of the World Tree. Serpent goddesses were revered in Crete. In Finland, for example, Ukko was the ruler of the sky and thunder. In this far northern country, there was a goddess of the forest, a goddess of the moon, a goddess of the wilderness, and countless nature spirits. The most sacred water bird was the swan. Throughout Europe, in pagan times, the gods and goddesses of nature were worshipped.

 

ilmatar

 

In the Eleventh Century, Christian missionaries entered Finland, and, as they did throughout the world, embarked on a crusade to purge the country of the original faith. Remnants of the old ways carried on, however, here and there, and even today, the ancient religion has been brought back and is still practiced by some. (This perversion of Christianity, by the way, had nothing to do with the original Jesus Christ, who loved nature, and, to commune with God, was known for going up into wild areas of the mountains to pray.)

 

By the time of the advance of European civilization across the globe in the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries, the worldview of regarding nature as something to be subdued and conquered had become fully entrenched. Slavery, genocide, and colonialism – brutality to human beings – went hand-in-hand with brutality towards nature and the philosophy that nature was created solely for the benefit of humans and had no worth of its own. The influence of this worldview is still widely prevalent today and is ensconced in American law and practice with regard to wild lands. Exploitative and utilitarian forces remain in control, and regardless of the known impacts of climate change and the destruction of wild species and their habitat, nothing changes. Despite a vast array of conservation laws that have been passed and measures that have been put in place by good people who do care, American wild lands and wild species are still, perhaps more than ever before, being exterminated and systematically destroyed. It seems that our basic intentions, as a society, to dominate and harm nature, do unerringly find a way to override or bypass any conservation legislation. We may feel that this is not true, but it is happening.

 

Continued in part three…

To read part three, click here.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2016

 

Top photo: Sharon St Joan / A stream near the Alton Coal Mine, Utah

 

Second photo: MONGO/ Public Domain / An elk in Nebraska.

 

Third photo: Painting by Robert Wilhelm Ekman / Public Domain / Ilmatar, a Finnish spirit of the air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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By Sharon St Joan

 

Sacred lands. Where has the concept of the sacred gone? Indeed this may be the key question to understanding our alienation from nature.

 

All over the world, tribal people and people who have not lost touch with the natural world have an enduring concept of animals, plants, the mountains, and the stars being sacred – respected, revered, and worshipped. It is only “modern” man – often “western” man — that objectifies nature, treating the earth with condescension and disrespect.

 

The consequences of this alienation from the earth are a profound malaise at the center of our being – as we rampantly destroy the forests, the wild species, polluting rivers and oceans, and hurtling pell-mell towards climate change run amok.

 

Meanwhile, we wonder why our western society is ill – crime waves, opioid epidemics, suicide, divorce, fragmentation of families, mental illness, racial injustice, warfare, and a profound fear and deep-seated unrest that afflicts a large part of the population.

 

To see a difference in cultural perspectives, we’ve only to look to North Dakota, at the Standing Rock Sioux – thousands of brave people over several months protesting the plan to run an oil pipeline under a river which would risk contaminating the water. Hundreds of tribal people are standing their ground; some have traveled there from all over the world. They talk about their sacred land, that water is life. Law enforcement chases them with dogs, sprays pepper spray into their eyes, and runs trucks across their burial sites. They talk about their treaty signed by the U.S. Government, which everyone ignores. Only the oil companies’ view of the law prevails, and Native American sacred lands and the water that is sacred to them, and has been for thousands of years, carry no weight within the law – no standing or recognition. The only law recognized is that of their conquerors, who took their land away generations ago.

 

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To Native Americans, water is life, and the mountains, rivers, and the earth are sacred too. The lay of the land on which they live is also sacred. In the southwestern U.S., to the Hopi and Navajo people, four sacred mountains encircle their lands, framing the sacred center in the middle. This is the area where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet, known as the Four Corners region. These mountains are Mount Blanca in Colorado, Mount Taylor in New Mexico, the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona, and Mount Hesperus Dibe Nitsaa in Colorado. From a great distance driving through the desert, one can glimpse the San Francisco peaks, covered in snow, mist-encircled, looking just like a high place where spirits surely live.

 

Animals are sacred to Native Americans as well. The word coyote comes from the Aztec word “coyotl.” The coyote is generally a trickster God – intelligent, resourceful, a magical creature who is sometimes helpful to human beings.

 

Another trickster God is the raven, worshipped as the maker of light, the being who existed before the beginning of time and created the world. The raven is also credited with creating the stars, the moon, rivers, and the sun.

 

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On the other side of the earth, in India, the oldest book in the world, the Rig Veda, depicts the forces of nature as powerful living entities, as Gods. (Even today, we can see faint shadows of this belief, as when hurricanes are given human names.) To the ancient rishis who wrote the hymns of the Rig Veda, Agni is fire, Vayu is the wind. Indra, leader of the Gods, is the Lord of storms and lightning. Varuna is Lord of the oceans and the universe. Aditi is the original Mother, the boundless one of the heavens. Throughout the long history of Hinduism (at least 5,000 years, maybe 10,000), there are millions of Gods, yet they are all One. Every being has a soul, and the soul of every being is the same soul, the underlying ground of reality, the spirit of the universe.

 

The sun is Surya, the moon is Chandra. The universe is filled with life, and nature is sacred. Life is based on reverence and worship, on fulfilling one’s duty.

 

This worldview is in many ways the opposite of the western way of seeing things, where individuality is exalted, and the individual reigns supreme. In our culture nature is objectified – it is to be used and consumed. Its existence is deemed inferior to our own. Signs at the entrance to public lands run by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management proclaim that these are “lands of many uses.” This phrase, which sounds benign, in fact means that the land is a resource to be used by human beings.

 

To be continued in part two…

To read part two, click here.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2016.

 

Top photo: Sharon St Joan / Zion National Park.

 

Second photo: Tyler finvoid / Wikipedia / Public Domain / The San Francisco Peaks.

 

Third photo: Bharat Mudgal / Wikipedia /Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic / A Hindu fire ritual.

 

 

Coyote

 

© Dhprophotog | Dreamstime.comdreamstime_s_40757480

 

Coyote, with mystical toes,

 

Silent as the footsteps of time,

 

Weaving through the mist-encircled forest,

 

Elusive she goes,

 

Shaman, angel, fey,

 

Spirit from the lands afar,

 

Outcaste, magic-bent,

 

Otherworldly guide,

 

You step from stone to stone,

 

Through the stream, moon-bright,

 

Where blue-singing

 

Fish glide

 

Through petals whispering in the night.

 

From milky way,

 

From star to star,

 

Among the clouds,

 

The shrouds,

 

Of worlds, broken.

 

You walk on,

 

Nose-intent,

 

From the darkness to the light.

 

You climb

 

The hillside

 

Where rocks ponder and raven-spoken

 

Rains ride

 

On moon-painted winds among the echoing

 

Songs of spring.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2016

 

Photo: © Dhprophotog | Dreamstime.com

 

 

© Weblogiq | Dreamstime.com

 

Where do the wind beings live?

 

Beyond the noon-

 

Bright country,

 

Beyond the stars, glimmering,

 

Beyond the tired, trafficked city,

 

Unencumbered, they live in the mountains that give

 

Peace, among the lilies of eternity,

 

By the wandering white petals of the moon

 

In the forest of flowers where

 

Only the wild ones talk

 

And where the wind beings walk

 

By the shell-encrusted shore,

 

There the red-tailed hawk

 

And the northern harrier,

 

Gray as the sea,

 

Fly through the air,

 

To reclaim their destiny,

 

In lands swept clean of the paltry ploy

 

Of thought,

 

And the detritus of crumpled litter

 

Of the corrupted that crawl

 

In the grime

 

Of the sound-dinned

 

Corners of the mind, strangely-wrought.

 

Arise, Hanuman,

 

Son of the wind,

 

To toss

 

Aside all the devils of time,

 

To unseat the wicked, wailing,

 

To thunder

 

Across

 

The waves, ever-crashing

 

Of the sparkling, emerald sea

 

Of nevermore,

 

To lead all soon

 

Back to where the wind beings live

 

In joy,

 

Among the rain-blackened rocks where

 

Only ever call

 

The dark ravens of light, sea-echoing.

 

 

Written June 12, 2016, © Sharon St Joan

 

Photo: © Weblogiq | Dreamstime.com

 

 

 

 

Restoring Mexican Wolves to

Life Interrupted

Suzanne Cordrey

Suzanne Cordrey

 

Reflections on relating to the major flood the past spring in Wimberley, Texas – Editor

 

By Suzanne Cordrey

 

I spun around and blinked the rain out of my eyes. It was pitch black and 1:30 in the morning. The rain was warm and soaked my jacket but my mind was far away from my physical discomfort. The roar of the Blanco River was deafening and it felt so near to my house but I couldn’t see it. Neighbors were heading out in their cars, passing me by, leaving me there alone in the lane. I knew something dreadful was happening.

 

It rained for over two weeks here in the hill country of Texas, off and on, with massive, drenching bouts of rain. The rivers were all running full. But on Saturday, May 30, it poured all day. I woke up feeling so sad, and I paced around the house looking at things, wondering what would break my heart to live without. Funny how small things grow into desperately large emotional attachments at times like this. I pulled out a duffel and stuffed my favorite clothes and jewelry inside, half absentmindedly, but spurred on by a nagging voice in the back of my head. Then came out the cat carriers and my bag with passport and money, etc. Each trek out to the car left me soaked. And each time, I looked up and down the street to see what my neighbors were doing. No signs of movement. OK. Hunker down. But that river got louder and louder. Like a freight train roaring past. It is about 100 yards from my house, between trees and another home. I did get so restless that around midnight I walked around the corner with my flashlight. The water was up to the street which meant that the houses against the river were under water. omg. That’s when cars started up and drove off. Now many of these people have lived here for years, it is an old neighborhood and they were pretty river savvy. But what happened next was totally unexpected.

 

Blue, Suzanne's nine year old cat, originally a rescue from the 2006 Israeli-Lebanon conflict.

Blue, Suzanne’s nine year old cat, originally a rescue from the 2006 Israeli-Lebanon conflict.

 

Upriver about 30 miles is the town of Blanco. They received eleven inches of rain in one hour and with the already saturated ground, the water slid rapidly into the river channel and charged full speed ahead toward Wimberley. But we didn’t know that. No one did in the moment. Which is what makes a FLASH FLOOD so terrifying. In an instant, a wall of water hit the banks of the winding river with such force that houses high on the cliffs were lifted right up. The ancient cypress trees uprooted like twigs and slammed into bridges and other debris. Cars and trucks floated away. People found themselves unable to get to their cars and out to the roads. Low water crossings filled and blocked passage out of the hill country. All in the pouring rain on a pitch black night. I did manage to get the cats and rabbits into the car and drive around downed trees onto a higher street. Electricity was out all over Wimberley and the police were directing us to the community center which was dark as well. There were people sitting in their cars there in the dark. But at the door was Mayor Thurber, and his voice in the dark advised me to go to the high school.

 

With over 100 cars in the parking lot, there were lights, a dry spot on the basketball court floor, and the Red Cross was handing out sleeping pads, blankets, dry socks (oh, dry socks! it was impossible to describe how nice they felt on my feet). I left the animals in the car and joined the masses and their dogs (so good to see they were included) and we sat our sleep deprived bodies down and waited for daylight. I checked on the animals when the rain took a rare break. They were quiet, but working up a permanent stink eye for me when I opened the car door. In the morning, I joined a couple of my neighbors as we discovered each other, and we came back to the neighborhood only to find the police had blocked off the road leading to our houses. Major flooding down past us, starting at our neighborhood. We were allowed in, and the three of us were overjoyed to find our houses just out of range of the tsunami-like wall of water that hit the rest of the street. All the homes directly on the river were ruined and news coverage shows that was the tip of the iceberg. But standing in my little cabin, looking around at everything just like I left it, I stopped and felt a palpable surge of gratitude rush through me. I knew that I was feeling Grace. I had been allowed to experience the trauma without the devastation. And in that moment, I realized I was experiencing Grace.

 

The sadness of the whole town is unbearable. Family members missing and dead, pets missing and dead. Hundred year old trees and their inhabitants gone. It is spring and numerous birds and their young were drowned. Does who had recently given birth were abandoning their fawns.

 

The numbness of mind and heart are palpable.

 

"The National Guard came to our street and unloaded men with long poles.  They were searching the riverbanks for the bodies of the missing."

“The National Guard came to our street and unloaded men with long poles. They were searching the riverbanks for the bodies of the missing.”

 

In my world, without electricity, phone and internet, the perspective was so personal, so right here. Watching it now as the rest of the country got to see it is shockingly personal. I have often sat in my recliner and watched tragedies unfold with the voice of the commentator filling my mind with the facts and events as they progress. But inside of a tragedy, there is no such Big Picture. There is only the moment filled with fear and unknowns. Clarity of mind was not without difficulty. So the witness aspect of me had everything in control, car packed, essentials, knew how to find shelter. But the emotional part of me was terrified. I’d never lived through a natural disaster like this before.

 

Lying on the wooden floor of the basket ball court at the high school, I found it impossible to sleep. I listened to the voices of the people who came in, numb with shock, with tales much worse than mine. Cars floating away, family members missing, swimming through the foul, violent water full of toxic debris to get to higher ground. Some were visitors whose vacations were abruptly ended in tragedy. Others have lived with the moody river currents and had never seen anything like this before. Not re-assuring. I was cold and wet and the night was agonizingly long.

 

"A fawn I rescued the day after the flood when the new moms panicked and abandoned their newborns. Texas A&M brought a huge mobile clinic to us and they gave her fluids and called a rehabilitator."

“A fawn I rescued the day after the flood when the new moms panicked and abandoned their newborns. Texas A&M brought a huge mobile clinic to us and they gave her fluids and called a rehabilitator.”

 

The week after the flood has been almost as violently chaotic as the flood itself. Bulldozers and bobcats drone on all day long clearing the larger pieces of homes, cars, 200 year old cypress trees, roots and all, and mud. Awful, stinky, toxic mud that piled up into the homes that were left standing. Yet, my little corner of the neighborhood dodged a bullet, and we are unscathed by the hand of darkness that ruined the houses beyond us. There has been plenty to do and for me it looked like collecting a newborn fawn whose mother abandoned her amidst the chaos. Texas A&M had an emergency vet clinic at the high school. Very helpful. They were able to rehydrate her and send her off to a wildlife rehabber to join countless other orphans. Wildlife had joined in our life interrupted. Even now I hear a heron calling to a mate whose nest was most likely in a tall cypress that was destroyed. A kitten appeared on the road, barely able to avoid the cars, starving and displaced. She has found a good home and a loving person to care for her.

 

Since I see each experience as an opportunity to awaken, I am spending my quiet time reflecting on what this experience means to me personally. Why was I here at this time and place? How was it my good fortune to have been spared the brutal impact of the river’s violence. How do I respond to the layers of fears and emotions that I find flowing through my body flooding into my consciousness. The anxiety that kept me vigilant that night has stayed inside me. It fights to stay alive as the exhaustion sets in. I work to release the anxiety, all the while thinking about how the disaster will change the lives of so many people here and wondering just how it will change mine.

 

July 21. It has been seven weeks after the now named Memorial Day flood. My cats have resumed their routines as have many townspeople. After all, how else can one heal from the traumas of life. Yet, early this morning I felt the low rumble of two massively huge trucks work their way around our narrow lane to the mountains of crumpled cement and rebar that remain after the foundations of the ruined houses were jack-hammered loose from their peaceful perches above the riverbanks. The trucks have their own cranes and can carry the weight of the heavy debris. I wonder how much of it all can be reused as fill or whatever. How careful we are to recycle and in one horrendous moment, everything becomes trash. Like the tsunami in Japan washing up on the Pacific coast of the US months later. How do I hold the futility of it all in balance with throwing the next plastic bottle into the recycle bin. I remember Ram Dass giving a lecture many years ago on “how to keep your heart open in hell.” I thought that I understood that concept but here it was again. I feel the shock wearing off and yet I have a deep vulnerability that lives in my cells and calls out for understanding and a rebirth of my perspective of being in the world. My life has been about awakening to new perspectives as change spins me like the planet spiraling through the cosmos. Always perceiving moments with new awareness, revisiting memories and feelings to alter them into the Present. The flood has whisked me into it’s powerful jet of water and sent me out of control down the stream into uncharted channels of my consciousness.

 

What an amazing process.

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The Rochester panel.

 

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The Sego Canyon panel.

 

Detail of the Sego Canyon panel.

Detail of the Sego Canyon panel.

 

These beautiful photos were taken by Kirk Robinson, who writes this about them –

 

The pecked images, such as the Rochester panel, are called petroglyphs; and the painted ones, such as the Sego Canyon panel, are called pictographs.  Originally, many of the petroglyphs were also painted.  They may have also been decorated with feathers and other natural materials.

 

There is obviously a lot of meaning in these interesting figures, but it is hard to know what they mean.  Sometimes you can tell what individual images represent – desert bighorn sheep being the most common of the petroglyph figures in most of the West, but also deer, bears and birds, etc. – but other times they are mythical creatures or spirits that combine body parts from more than one animal.  Some look like images of prehistoric animals.  Others are what we call anthropomorphs, because they have a generally human shape with a torso and head, and sometimes hands and legs.  They might represent spirits or shaman.  Some images appear to be shields. However, most of the panels are more than just a set of images. They tell a story, or multiple stories, and are not simply representational. Some Indians might have more insight into their meaning than we foreigners. We tend to be too literal, whereas their traditions involve a lot of symbolism.

 

Unfortunately, vandalism is a big problem for Native American rock art. The easier it is for people to get to rock art panels, and the more well-known they are, the more likely they are to be vandalized.  A lot of folks think they are just graffiti, which is not true.  That belief is a reflection of ignorance.  Many of them required great skill and a lot of time to make, and were used for important religious ceremonies.  They are like murals and the sites were carefully chosen.  Often times a panel features multiple stories from different periods and different cultures, one overlaid on another or right next to each other.  It is nearly impossible to date rock art accurately, but many panels are several thousand years old, while some are only a few hundred years old.  Some of the more recent ones show cowboys on horseback and locomotives.

 

It is important that we respect these treasures and protect them.  Never touch them with your fingers or any other object. Time alone will erase them soon enough without our help.

 

 

 

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By Suzanne Cordrey

 

I was invited to travel with a friend who is one of the “guardians” of the most ancient rock art paintings in the United States. I had no idea what I was going to see nor that it even existed when I just felt that old familiar pull from within that said “Go with her.”

 

Truth be told, I have not been to many places in Texas since I moved here. The only thing I knew was that we were headed for the Mexican border. Lots of emotion around that, since Texas has had such a big influx of illegals, including lots of children on trains from all over central America.  Such heartbreak, trauma, families torn apart, and such divisive opinions amongst the people here. We had been told that the cabin we were to stay in had been broken into by illegals just a couple of weeks ago. Feeling’ real safe about hearing that!

 

So Melinda and I packed up and headed down to a place called Seminole Canyon where all this awesome rock art lives. To Melinda, it is like her spiritual home. She was born and raised mostly by a single mom in eastern Texas. It amazes me to see how all of us can have such humble beginnings and still end up shining our spiritual light into the world. Now she is an RN, an acupuncturist, and I met her at a tai chi class that she reaches. She lives just up the road from me.

 

All I know is that we are heading south, through the wildflower covered fields of the hill country, and I watched as the scenery changed into thick bushy mesquite trees and cactus, albeit blooming cacti.  Ocotillo, prickly pear, acacia bushes, lechuguilla, all enriching the high desert plateau of western Texas.  Towns like Boerne, Uvalde, Del Rio flashed by on green road signs as I enjoyed the feeling of the changing ecology. Soon we came upon a large body of water.. What? Here? It is a man made reservoir called Lake Amistad. Bridges arching gracefully over fingers of clear blue water, leading off into what looks like nowhere. One road just ended right into the water; got flooded out after the dam closed. And there was an incident a couple of years ago where an American was shot while riding his Ski-doo in the Lake by someone on the Mexican side. His wife saw him fall and went to his rescue but couldn’t l save him and he drowned. I’m surprised she wasn’t shot. The International border is in the center of the lake but who knows where. Prickles of Weirdness creep up my spine.

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But Melinda is full of excitement and begins to weave a web of magic about how the rock art we are about to see was found in the 1930s and about the long process of acquiring the land and regulating the caves where the murals are painted. We drive past the reservoir and unlock a gate, bounce over a couple miles of dirt track and the cabin comes into view. It sits on the edge of a cliff overlooking the lower Pecos River, which looks huge there because it is running into Lake Amistad and backs up there. Gorgeous!. The cabin is empty, we bring everything including our own water. Primitive but screened in and has a stove. I’m cool with that.

 

Desert birds fill the evening skies with song, a pair of blue herons fly in harmony in the late day breeze and greet us with a flyby over the cabin. I had a hidden agenda in that I wanted to see the night skies, clear and unobstructed from the sweet oak trees that drape over my little cabin in Wimberley. Big night sky and Jupiter, Venus and Mercury were all present for the big reveal which made my heart beat with joy.

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Early morning and we hike down into the canyon to see the White Shaman. The ancients here made this area their home around 3500 years ago. Long before the Anasazis inhabited the Four Corners area. No one knows who these people were, but skeletal remains have been used to replicate faces and they have been honored in bronze statues here. The theory about the White Shaman mural that I can relate to is that they used peyote and datura plants, which are represented in the paintings, fell into an altered state and saw beyond their third dimensional lives. They left recordings of traveling into the “otherworld” and instructions on how to do it. It reminds me of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and their meaningful journeys. And both cultures would be overlapping in time. I always thought that streams of consciousness wove through civilizations, just waiting for people to become aware of them. In the White Shaman mural, there is much symbology of the number 5, and there are 5 shamans standing in line, with a white shaman emerging from the body of the center shaman.

 

We spent a couple of hours musing over the figures, then turned our attention to the canyon behind us that we had just climbed down into. A peaceful, private, lush green canyon with a crazy canyon wren singing his laughing song to us, and a beautiful painted bunting, one of the most brilliantly colored songbirds in the US, sat in full view for us to admire him.  I could have died right then and there. Then, I almost did. As we left the cave and climbed up the steep narrow pathway that was littered with crumbled limestone, out of nowhere, I slipped and fell. Reaching out to grab something, I impailed my arm on a dead twig. I had to lift it off the branch and one look told me that it was deep. Melinda went into nurse mode, wrapping it up and as soon as I fought off the shock of it all, we hiked up to the rope and I had to use that arm to pull myself up the slick rock hand over hand to get up to the edge of the canyon. All the way to the car we went back and forth abut whether to seek urgent care or wait three days to get help. The winning course of action was to drive into Del Rio and get it stitched up and get antibiotics for infection. It was just too damn deep. Well, that took care of a whole afternoon. But I wasn’t willing to return home. It was just my forearm, after all.

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Melinda had to guide a tour on Saturday, so I stayed at the cabin and let the pain pills float me into a lovely time warp that lasted all day. I had no idea what time it was, and let my spirit soar free as I looked out over the Pecos river and read the books Melinda brought about the history of the rock art in the area. Birds sang, herons circled together below, the wind blew, keeping it cool and the sky played the most magic picture show of soft, soaring clouds and then a brilliant orange sunset . That evening another guide from the rock art foundation showed up, lit a fire in the pit, and told his tales of life as it is for him since he moved there. He, too, is smitten with the rock art, like it has beckoned to its spiritual family to come and protect it and these people have felt so drawn to be there. I recognize that calling, as I too, was called to go to Macchu Picchu years ago. Maybe these people were the ones who painted the pictures on the walls of the caves. Who knows? I smile at the Bigger Picture that we are all drawn into. Nothing is as it seems. Nothing.

 

Our last day there lured us over the Seminole Canyon State Park, where another mural called Fate Bell is accessible. Larger tours go there and it is much easier to get to. Meaning that over the years, it has been plundered a bit. But a particular guide that is very knowledgeable was giving his last tour and Melinda was eager to hear him. He is young and his wife is not as enamored with the vast western desert and it’s lack of amenities as he is. So they are moving. The tour was very powerful with many cosmic signs that I recognized as spirit on the move through us all.  The young man spoke of the connection of the ancients with the modern day Huichols of northern Mexico and how so many of the ceremonial rituals are alike. He thinks the Huichols are the decendants of this culture and that the peyote ceremonies are practices in many of the same ways.  And it is all written on the walls of these caves. There are 123 known cave murals in Texas and no one knows how many are on the Mexican side.  It is too dangerous to travel over there at this time, but someday in future, when peace spreads over the land and borders are a thing of the past, we can work together to uncover the rest of the rock art. I know it seems unlikely, but then nothing is what it seems……………………..

 

Photos: © 2015, Suzanne Cordrey