Author Archives: JoAnne Dodgson
The drive to and from my home carries me along the Rio Grande. I love this river and the canyon, the dance of the flowing waters, towering trees, soaring eagles, and big blue skies. Recently, driving home from town, I heard news on the radio about military being sent to the border with Mexico. That is where the Rio Grande flows. The news felt disorienting, an odd juxtaposition, the tranquility in the river canyon while further south the escalating war.
Eventually, these river waters would flow by the people on both sides of the border. The river naturally connects the land and the people on all sides of the dispute, across the diversity of cultures, without any judgment of good or bad, better or less, right or wrong.
I started to wonder what I could do. Did I want to fight against the fight, adding more war to the war? Would I build a wall inside my own heart, adding more layers of separation between the “us” (good guys, of course) and the “them”?
What the river was showing me?
Instinctively, I decided to send Love downstream.
Love doesn’t discriminate. So I pictured what would happen when Love flows along the river, touching everybody on both sides of the border, seeping through the wall, and clearing away the dispute.
Imagine what a river of Love could wash away – the blocks, the imbalances, the unsteady foundations.
Imagine what could be seeded, take root, flourish and grow.
I’m holding the dream for a time when we stop making wars. When we forget what we’re fighting about. When the walls come tumbling down. When we look into one another’s eyes and really see. When we remember how to live centered in our hearts, flowing like a river, nourishing life.
So I keep sending Love downstream. I hope you’ll send some too. On the winds. Along the waters. Along the fibers of connection that naturally weave us together, all around our earth, now and for the generations to come.
I was tired from the long day on the road though exhilarated by the magic that brought me here again to the sacred lands of Chaco Canyon. The wide open sky stretched horizon to horizon. The sun setting in the west and full moon rising in the east wove a colorful tapestry connecting everyone and everything.
My car was going to be my nest for the night. Stretching out on the sleeping pad, feeling the warm weight of the pile of blankets, I looked forward to a restful night’s sleep. But a stream of fears started trickling through my mind. Here I was, alone, a woman camping in the middle of nowhere, a potential target for harm. It wasn’t the wildlife I feared. It’s people I was afraid of. Isn’t that an oddity of our human existence? That we end up fearing each other because we so readily hurt each other, physically and emotionally.
I peered out the windows in all directions, the compelling landscape a moonlit dance of shifting shadows and forms. I reassured myself the fears didn’t really make sense because there were only trees, rocks, sagebrush and meadow as far as my eyes could see. I really wasn’t in the middle of nowhere – that’s the fears’ point of view. I was immersed in a beautiful somewhere.
Watching the moonlight dance across the mesas, I pondered the changes I’d like to see in the world – the ending of the violence and destruction, the awakening of love and peace.
And what I know about making changes in the world is that change begins on the inside. Of me.
Wrapped up in the cocoon of blankets, with smudging smoke from sage and sweetgrass drifting through the air, I purposefully aimed my attention. Rather than recycling through the sorrows, the frightening pictures and words, the memories and stories, the might-could-happen-horrifying-future-events, I brought my awareness to the actual here and now moment. Breathing deeply. Embodying my body. Gathering up information with all of my senses. Finding a centered, aware, interconnected place rather than a constricted, fight-or-flight, stress-filled place.
There was a spaciousness that opened. Choices came to light. Remembering my dreams for a world filled with harmony. What this would look like. How this would feel. How I would feel. In the now. And the next moment. And the next. And then the next.
When I woke up a couple hours later, I was freezing. The cold of the night had saturated the car, the blankets, and the many layers of clothes, mittens, and socks I was wearing. Even so, something had shifted in my inner world and the fears had subsided. I stood outside, admiring the spectacular night sky. Moving around and trying to warm up, I considered my options. Building a roaring fire sounded great yet was improbable, so I turned on the heat in the car. Then I wrapped another scarf around my head and crawled back inside my blanket cocoon.
A couple hours later, I woke up out of a dream in which I was laughing hysterically. The spirit of the belly laugh stayed with me as I opened my eyes. It was 2 am and the temperature was in the teens. I’m not sure what was so hilarious in the dream, but I could feel the humor of my situation. It was doubtful I was going to get much sleep, so I might as well get back on the road.
As I drove away, I met a guardian horse who was silently standing vigil not far from where I camped. There were many other magical happenings as I retraced my path along the backroads of New Mexico. The sunrise over the red rocks in Abiquiu was beautiful.
Later in the day, after soaking in hot springs in Colorado and unexpectedly crossing paths with an old friend, I circled back again by Jasmine’s burial grounds. She was buried under a tree on wild lands on the mesas, near land where I’d camped years ago and fell in love with New Mexico. The land, the spirit of this place, got under my skin and seeped into my bones, calling me back again and again until I finally settled here, finding home.
As I walked about the mesa looking for Jasmine’s tree, I felt concerned and curious about what I might find. What could have happened these past four years? Would coyotes have dug up the bones? That didn’t feel troubling because Jasmine had a bit of wild dog in her. We had extraordinary encounters with packs of coyotes out on these mesas. The hope I was holding onto was that no one (human, that is) had disturbed her sacred burial grounds.
What I discovered was beautiful. Pristine. Untouched yet aged. A sense of deepening into the elements and the earth. Jasmine had joined me in spirit these last couple days, yet there was no question these wild lands are her home.
I sat there awhile, tears flowing. There was grief and remembering, yet more, so much more than can be held by words. It’s something about the breathtaking beauty of life, of love, of land, of four-leggeds, of being human, of belonging, of following dreams, of the ancient knowings we carry, of remembering we’re leaving legacies and weaving the web of life, together.
I pulled off the road and gazed out the window into the dark cloudy sky. Fluffy snowflakes were falling. The sagebrush and juniper trees were blanketed in white. My mind began to swim with questions and doubts about the timing of this camping trip. The wintery weather presented challenges. Plus I was only an hour away from home and already had gotten lost. Well, not exactly lost. The winding mountain road and red rock mesas were familiar, beloved places. But somehow I’d missed the turn that would take me farther west.
I stepped out of the car, breathed in the fresh morning air and felt the cool, light touch of snow on my face. My sense of adventure began to revive. I spread out the map (an old-school paper map) and could see I needed to backtrack a few miles. This would carry me past the wild lands where my four-legged friend, Jasmine, was buried. By driving too far north and missing the turn to head west, I would pass by her burial grounds twice this morning – which was twice more than in the last four years.
It was barely beyond sunrise and only a few miles into a journey to a place I was told about in my dreams. And here I was, unexpectedly circling around the land and through the stories of my life, weaving the threads of where I had been with where I was now and where I was heading, a not yet complete tapestry.
Tending to my usual responsibilities, striving to complete a long list of to-dos, structuring life according to the clock — there was no room for these things alongside the food, clothes, medicine bundles, and blankets I’d packed. Any judgments that snuck in (such as: missing the turn is a wrong-doing, I’m failing in my journey, backtracking is a waste of time) were getting tossed out the window. The stress-filled idea that I should be doing something more important, or be somewhere else by now, or turn back out of fear of the many maybe-could-happen-horrible-things I could think up — all this was getting left behind. And Jasmine, in spirit, had jumped in the car and decided to come along.
The impulse for this roadtrip came from a dream which came during the night of New Moon. I was among people in a pristine place with towering red rock walls that shimmered in the sunlight. There was a feeling of harmony among us, contentment and peace, love and belonging, appreciation for the beauty of life. The visceral sensation stayed with me for days. It felt nourishing, grounding, a reassurance that I can do this, that we (humanity) can live this, a remembering of who we are and how we can be.
So that’s where I was heading, to find this place. I’d been given the name in my dream. Through some research, I discovered that in the native language of the Diné people, this particular land is the Center of the World, sacred ceremonial ground.
There’s much that unfolded on the way there and while visiting. In a word, I’d call it Magic. Unsettling. Compelling. And leaving me with the awareness of my desire to learn more, to listen to the land and to the people, to share and interact, to cultivate connection and deepen understanding. I’ll be returning again soon.
The day seemed to last forever. I ventured through diverse lands and around the outskirts of rural villages. There were herds of wild horses, woolly sheep being guided across the meadow by dogs, grazing elk, and lots of rabbits. The sky was spectacular, an endless dance of cloud formations, sun, rain, snow, winds, and wide-open blue. The miles passed by not so much in a straight line nor with any linear sense of time. I was traveling the backroads, guided by curiosity, spiraling around, exploring the great expanses of land and life from different perspectives and points of view.
As the sun settled closer to the western horizon, I hadn’t found a place yet to camp. Traveling in the direction that would eventually get me home, I had some concern that I would end up driving long into the night.
Then I saw it. The sign for Chaco Canyon. Instinctively, I turned left toward the entrance but then paused, hesitating, in the middle of the road. Was the campground even open? Could I get there before dark? Would the gates already be closed? Was I really going to drive all the way down the twenty-mile rutted dirt road, which would take about an hour, only to have to turn back?
Although they valiantly tried, the doubts and worries couldn’t tone down the excitement, the sense of homecoming that already filled my heart. I was returning to Chaco Canyon. I’d been here several years ago on a roadtrip filled with magic from the moment I’d begun packing. There was a full moon eclipse last time I was here. The full moon was rising now in the east. Chaco Canyon was the birthing place for one of the ceremonial pipes I’d carved. That stone pipe was with me now, the only one that came along, wrapped in coyote fur, nestled in the baskets of medicine items in my car. The earlier visit to Chaco was the year Jasmine died. And she was with me now too.
I hadn’t planned this. I couldn’t have planned this. At least not logically. If there’s nothing else I’ve learned through my winding path in life: this is the beauty of how things unfold when following dreams, when listening to the callings of the spirit and heart.
I ended up parking off a side road outside the main gate. No visitors’ center. No other cars. Just the mesas, the full moon, the sunset, the land, the spirits, (some chocolate), and me. I placed four corn bundles around my car, creating a sacred altar space, asking the land spirits for protection. Wrapping up in more layers of clothes, adding scarves, hat and mittens, I happily started down the trail.
I walked into the setting sun and kept turning around to face the rising full moon. The stillness of the land was alive with great mystery. I felt the vast field of knowledge held here among the rocks and living in the soils and singing out from the birds and dancing around the ancient ruins. Exhilarated, I felt a part of it all. The pure passion of life itself. The beauty of our earth. The cycles of our sun and moon. The weaving of the web of life. The creativity and connection flowing through what is and has been, through all that is readying to be.
I took another breath, another step… (to be continued)
Here are a couple more videos from a Bone Throwing Ceremony to explore how we can live in heart-centered ways.
The potentials for the lives we can live, the relationships we can cultivate, the world we can build are beautiful.
Soak in the healing…
Power of Love, Part 3: Butterfly, Elk & Tumbleweed Medicine
Power of Love, Part 4: Bobcats & Bee
In our human-made world that has so much judgment, violence, and harm, how can we trust the power of love?
This question was asked in a Throwing of the Bones Ceremony, an ancient divination ceremony and healing art in the ways of Ka Ta See.
Listen to these videos (Part 1 & 2 below; Part 3 & 4 coming soon).
Soak in the guidance and doctoring…