Monday, October 1, 2012

ALL Land is Sacred

 ALL Land is Sacred.

The Chama
These words on a bumper sticker in the parking lot of the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I am here this fall to do research on a writing project about a Yupik boy coming of age in Alaska, who, upon graduating high school, attends IAIA to study art.  Hopefully, it is in my future to return here for an expanded period of time to write, and study hand-built pottery at Santa Fe Clay. But there are other reasons I can't pull myself away from this enchanting landscape.

I am called, time and time again, to walk in the beauty of this very special place. It has become my yearly pilgrimage, come fall-time, to visit Santa Fe and Ghost Ranch and Taos, New Mexico. I've lived in Alaska for 32 years, bending into the long cold winters with eagerness (call it fortitude, now that I am older), and still relish hiking in the mountains, and skiing the frozen river in my hometown. 

But here, the sun (oh the sun!) casts shadows on humble adobes and rock faces and everything standing upright; shadows that carry my breath away. There is something about the land that strikes a chord of familiarity with Alaska, and that might be part of my fascination. The ground is raw and wild, not sculpted, with stunning panoramic views of mountains (and mesas), and you can feel an edginess in the atmosphere that anything and everything is possible. And like Alaska, there are  indigenous people (the Navajo Nation, ancestral Pueblos and Apache tribes) who practice their arts and culture through dance, jewelery making, basketry and pottery.       

Fall along the Chamo River
 I feel refreshed and renewed here, by the cool snaking Rio Grande and Chamo River, by the way the sun spills through an open window, by the smell of sage and pinon pine. 

Fall Bloom

 Storms rise up quick and fierce, changing the light, bewitching the land.

Storm over Bandelier

What looks like fire, isn't; instead, a cauldrom of storm clouds

Clouds race above and mountains curve. Here the sacred sites of native peoples uncovered by excavations, show us a place where the human and spirit world coalesce. Tribal stories of creation are seen in the land.

Ceremonial kiva of the ancestral Pueblo Indians

Quiet times of prayer and contemplation can be had at a monastery deep into the forested desert...

The Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert

...or the treasures hidden in the heart can be mined

from the land, all of it sacred.


  1. Ah, great places, been there.. in my yute, er, youth... IAIA sounds like the lyrics of a rain dance I witnessed, ha.. I did a sweat lodge /peyote dream walk... my guide kept me from walking off a cliff, as I was two animals, a wolf and a hawk... witnessed myself coming and going...great experience... ah. Keep enjoying... and caring for all the land.. love, Mike

    1. Sometimes I wish I'd been alive when people lived closer to the earth. Your story is fascinating, good thing u had a guide watching over u.

  2. these are absolutely lush photos. i need to get to new mexico someday.

    1. The land changes moment to moment; so beautiful, and enchanting. And I miss the violent thunderstorms of my youth; we don't get them in south central Alaska.

  3. What a gorgeous story and landscape you paint here with your pictures and your words!

  4. Thank you for taking the time to visit, Marcie...