After a year confined, while Shiva created and destroyed, the open road beckoned. The horizon open, the land infinite, and my mind seemed lotus-like, unbound. And Earth shared: sky, mountains, trees, deserts, meadows, and rivers. My soul replenished: hope glimmers.
Clockwise: Thunderstorm over Wheeler Peak, Taos, NM; waterfall at Whitney Portal, Lone Pine, CA; sentinel trees at Whitney Portal, Lone Pine, CA; monsoon over Mt. Langley, Lone Pine, CA; and the San Francisco Peaks from Bonita Meadow, Flagstaff, AZ. Watercolors by Robin L. Chandler, 2021.
Taos, New Mexico is a beautiful place. Imagine a warm summer evening sitting by a creek that rolls quietly to the river Rio Grande; you feel the magic of water in the desert. Water grants life; renews life. So precious is a life. My mind’s eye travels miles in seconds. Looking down from the bridge that crosses the narrow Rio Grande gorge, I toss a pinyon branch and I watch it travel through the canyon by the pueblos on it’s journey to Santa Fe; and then at Albuquerque where the river flattens and widens and water birds play along the shore; and on past El Paso where the river becomes the border between Texas and Mexico – a shallow river – a place of crossings for wild things – those beings naturally wild, we call free and others made wild by violence and fear, tired, poor and hungry seeking relief and asylum. Precious lives. There is no need for brick and mortar; we have built a wall of fear. An informative article in the April 23, 2018 New Yorker “A Voyage Along Trump’s Wall” sought to inspire discussion; discussion and compromise all seem so romantic now as we enter this the latest chapter of shock and awe.
Blessed am I able to freely sit and breathe and feel the special magic of a place. On this solstice day may the light shine and illuminate our way.
Happened upon the new Ry Cooder recording The Prodigal Son. It’s a good one. Keep thinking of the lyrics of his song Jesus and Woody inspired by Woody Guthrie’s song Jesus Christwhere Woody (writing in 1940) speculates modern capitalist society would kill Jesus too. Listen to Woody sing here on YouTube. Ry’s lyrics – singing from Jesus’ perspective – stick with me:
“so sing me a song ‘bout this land is your land’
and fascists bound to lose
you were a dreamer, Mr. Guthrie, and I was a dreamer too…..”
In the late Spring, when we vacationed on the Colorado Plateau, I discovered a book by Patricia Limerick called Desert Passages. Dr. Limerick describes the American encounter with deserts in terms of three attitudes towards nature “as a biological reality in human life…hunger, thirst, injury, disease and death….as an economic resource…a container of treasures awaiting extraction…or as an aesthetic spectacle. “ We affectionately called our trip the archaeology tour as we visited the ruins of the Ancient Pueblo Peoples at Wupatki, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde, and Canyon de Chelly. Wave and I spent many hours at the ruins in quiet meditation while I attempted to capture the essence of these amazing cultural resources on watercolor paper.
One of the great mysteries is what happened to the ancient peoples? Archaeological evidence reveals that sometime in the late 13th century these peoples abandoned their homes amongst the mesas and canyon walls and it is theorized that environmental changes — possibly extreme drought — caused these peoples to abandon their homes. One feels a certain twinge given the current state of drought in San Diego, Los Angeles and the rest of California, and of course the fire still burning in the San Gabriel mountains. It is believed that they left the Colorado Plateau and migrated to join other pueblos along the Rio Grande river in New Mexico. How would we best characterize the Ancient Pueblo peoples encounters with the desert? As a biological reality? Probably yes. As an economic resource? Probably yes. As an aesthetic spectacle? Probably yes. We preserve the artifacts they left us and look for answers in the patterns as we piece the pot shards together. Ann Weiler Walka’s poem “Other Dreams: Grand Gulch” in Waterlines: Journeys on a Desert Rivergives us something to ponder. “My thumb polishes the fragment of a bowl, its shallow curve delicately cross hatched with black…some woman dug this clay from a slip of mud…she kneaded the clay with sand and spun a ball into coils….she painted the bowl with a yucca leaf…and dreamed the design from her fingers…she blessed the bowl…that night in her sleep she saw clouds piling over a mesa, spirits coming home. She dreamed of the clay along the creek cool and slippery as a freshly opened heart.”