Archive for the ‘Anima’s History’ Category

Precious Place & Unfailing Commitment: My 35th Anniversary

Friday, January 9th, 2015

My 35th Anniversary: Precious Place & Unfailing Commitment

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

The start of a New Year is always as good a time as any to look back at what we’ve been doing, to get a feel of the direction our road ahead leads us.  January, 2015, provides additional motivation, marking as it does the anniversary of my marriage to this wild land.  

Anima Sanctuary, New Mexico - 35 Years Together, & Counting

Anima Sanctuary, New Mexico – 35 Years Together, & Counting

It was 35 years ago that I closed the odd Taos art gallery that I was a youthful partner in, and gave up the work of awing (whether inspiring or unsettling) the mostly wealthy Texan buyers in exchange for an artful life in a true New Mexico wilderness.  Situated in the far north of the state, eclectic Taos community and culture provided a special milieu for the development of this artist/author/activist, yet I was unable to resist the call from the spectral mountain ranges of the Gila, far to the south and near to Old Mexico. 

A healing pool, San Francisco River, Anima Sanctuary, NM

A healing pool, San Francisco River, Anima Sanctuary, NM

So great was the beckoning, the intoxication, that I would crazily move away from the source of my artist’s income, away from an aesthetic and alternative community, to a place with far more elk than people, and with those people mostly being ranchers and renegades with little use for an artist’s talent. 

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At first I imagined it was all about me, my needs, and the path I was on.  I had certainly come for my own salvation and empowerment, for the ways of the ancients and the new sources of inspiration that my spirit and work craved, and it in these ways this move served me well.  It was not long, however, before I began to realize the degree to which I, instead, had been called to serve the land.

My wife left after we moved to the canyon, but I got to have 3 of my kids every Summer for awhile - here in 1983

My wife left after we moved to the canyon, but I got to have 3 of my kids every Summer for awhile – here in 1983

The price I paid to come here, and stay here, was certainly high enough, including:  The sale of my vehicles, and even the engine out of the school bus home I lived in, in order to cover the down payment, and then years with no way to get to the nearest town and store except to walk.  Fifteen years of burdensome land payments that I had a hell of a time making enough money to cover, having to be away from home months at a time working not as an artist or teacher but as an adobe brick maker, a bodyguard, a hunting guide, and a traveling rock n’ roll drummer.  The loss of the family I arrived with, and being tucked so far away from the children I made.  I doubt I could have persevered in this canyon if it had only been for the sake of my personal refuge, adventure, enjoyment, or inspiration.  But for the chance to fulfill a calling, for the opportunity to protect and nourish and restore such a special wild place, no price is too high, no terrible cost too great for me to bear.

Even before the return of its cottonwood forest, the San Francisco River was a place of wildness and wonder (the Anima Sanctuary is at top)

Even before the return of its cottonwood forest, the San Francisco River was a place of wildness and wonder (the Anima Sanctuary is at top)

So often, the sale of property marks the moment its natural landscape is flattened for building sites, its native fauna and flora replaced with manicured pets and manicured lawns, but in this case it proved to be private ownership that made possible a halting of the harm it was suffering, made possible the reintroduction of a native plant species and return of its diverse wildlife.  

Hooker's Evening Primrose, blooming alongside a rewilded San Francisco River, SW New Mexico.

Hooker’s Evening Primrose, blooming alongside a rewilded San Francisco River, SW New Mexico.

For over a decade, I regularly left this sanctuary as part of a mission to promote nature awareness and environmental ethos and activism, combining informational and motivational talks with live music and dance, supporting local campaigns to protect forest or fauna, participating in essential protest and sometimes civil disobedience. 

Jesse Wolf Hardin on tour, 1989

Jesse Wolf Hardin on tour, 1989

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Wolf leading a protest against chemical giant Dupont (he wants it known that the goofy hazmat suits were Dana Lyon's idea, not his)

Wolf leading a protest against chemical giant Dupont (he wants it known that the goofy hazmat suits were Dana Lyon’s idea, not his)

Get the folks dancing, and they'll follow you through the gates of hell...

Get the folks dancing, and they’ll follow you through the gates of hell…

Thousands of hours of campaign work and outreach, public demonstrations and blockades, times of getting abused by corporate thugs, handcuffed and maced, and yet few of our activist successes proved as long lasting as – or any more significant than – the preservation and rewilding of Anima Sanctuary and the river canyon it guards the gates of.  Ancient redwood trees I risked my freedom to save were subsequently cut, but the sanctuary still stands, more whole than ever, more vital, enlivened, thriving.  One of the most valuable thing I have done with my life, and it required staying put, learning to be native to the land, protecting it against trespass and damage, giving as much or more as one is given, and refusing to give up.  My final tour was close to 70 shows and 35 protests in 1991,  choosing to affect the world through the then “new” internet technology while closely tending the sanctuary.

The willows were the first to grow back, once grazing was restricted, and soon the once bare and eroding river banks were covered with this beautiful medicine plant.

The willows were the first to grow back, once grazing was restricted, and soon the once bare and eroding river banks were covered with this beautiful medicine plant.

For ten years, I tried bring folks here to the canyon to experience what it and I could offer, spurring transitions, and inspiring transitions.  Elka (then called Loba) arrived and hosted annual Wild Women’s Gatherings.  Then another transition of my own, joining with partner Kiva in supporting the folk herbal movement with the help of our Plant Healer Magazine.  This blog evolved from a record of student responses and anima lessons, to a place us to post the articles that fit nowhere else, and recount the tales of our dedicated lives and this canyon we are dedicated to.  As a result, hundreds of people can attest to the significance of the sanctuary and its lessons about finding and pledging to home, including:all those who came for counsel, quests or retreats, to contemplate their purposes and inspire them to change their lives.  The participants of the Wild Foods Weekends and Women’s events.  The volunteers, interns, and homestead helpers who helped to plant the native seeds, deal with invasive species, and tend the cattle proof fencing.  Our nearest rancher neighbors, who went from feeling threatened by my presence to appreciating my role in helping save this part of the Old West from the often inglorious and unlovely mechanisms of the modern age.  And my dear family that eventually came and stayed, each promising themselves to the land just as I had myself.  All can speak to the crucial value of unbridled nature, of inspirited place, of passionate caring and pledges to be kept… not just the importance of healthy change, but the value of what lasts.

An ancient Mogollon mano and metate grinding set found at Anima Sanctuary, evidence of a long lineage and tradition of land caretakership.

An ancient Mogollon mano and metate grinding set found at Anima Sanctuary, evidence of a long lineage and tradition of land caretakership.

It is not just the actual supporters of and visitors to the Anima Sanctuary who can speak to its significance and impact, of course, and it is especially satisfying to think of all of you for whom the mythos, trials and joys of the “Canyon” has felt somehow personal.  You have both recoiled and rallied to help when it was threatened by onrushing wildfire, and been inspired by our encounters with floods to mine the blessings and lessons that come with extremes. 

Trial by fire... close enough we could see the flames from the Sanctuary

Trial by fire… close enough we could see the flames from the Sanctuary

Tested by floods... with no way to get from Anima Sanctuary to the road except to swim

Tested by floods… with no way to get from Anima Sanctuary to the road except to swim

You have joined us in celebrating the growth of trees where there once were none remaining, the medicine plants that have reappeared and helped to keep us healthy, and the coming of each Spring’s green sprouting. 

A Morning Glory bloom, filled with the light of the rising sun... Anima Sanctuary, NM

A Morning Glory bloom, filled with the light of the rising sun… Anima Sanctuary, NM

Our tales of becoming familiar with and learning to care for this land, have encouraged many of you to pay closer attention to where you live, to tend it and delight in it.  Others of you have felt inspired to seek out a new place to live that does more to feed your spirit and purpose.  You’ve told me that my stories about tilting my head to spit the berries on the wild mulberry tree here, has encouraged you to adjust your perspective on the world around you.  Some of you have said that the emphasis on growing roots here, has you looking to your feet and to the ground beneath them.  

There is something special about rooting into place, like this Alder riverside at the Anima Sanctuary

There is something special about rooting into place, like this Alder riverside at the Anima Sanctuary

And that’s just perfect, whether you are living in the city or the countryside, for we all need to plant our roots if we are to grown and strengthen.  If we are not yet ready to root and settle, it is still to the ground at our feet that we must look – not to distant ethers – in order to find and define our path.

Our humble Anima Sanctuary cabins, as seen from the river below

Our humble Anima Sanctuary cabins, as seen from the river below

Jesse Wolf Hardin, Anima Sanctuary, NM,  2015

Jesse Wolf Hardin, Anima Sanctuary, NM, 2015

It is to all of you, then, that I invite to join me in celebration of this 35th Anniversary.  Do something for and with the place you live.  Feel free to imbibe the intoxicant of your choice.  And raise a toast, if you please, to all things worth an unfailing commitment.


My gratitude to Rhiannon, Elka, Kiva, every supporter and sponsor we have ever had, to our students, apprentices and allies past and present, to everyone who has stuck with me through the years, the challenges, the discoveries and joys.  We and the Sanctuary are with you too, in all you face and do.  A wondrous New Year to you, Compañeros y Compañeras de la Tierra.

(RePost and Share Freely)

Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle: Wild West Sentiment & Outlaw Wisdom

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Announcing a New Book by  Jesse Wolf Hardin:

Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle:  Wild West Sentiment, Backwoods Humor, & Outlaw Wisdom For a World Gone Astray

$14.99+6.50 Priority Shipping

Order from the new website:

Pancho Villa's Motorcycle Front Cover-72dpi

You readers of this Anima blog are a diverse lot!  Some of you have recently taken an interest in Anima Wilderness Sanctuary and projects like river restoration or  Plant Healer Magazine, a few hundred others of you have been around since the beginning.  Somewhere around half of you tend to be liberal, alternative types, pantheists, anarchists or pacifists, activists and conservationists whom Jesse Wolf has written most of his books for in the last few years, including 3 titles for those into herbalism, natural healing, and nature’s enchantments.  The other half of you readers, however, are a more of a mix of rural libertarians, politically incorrect homesteaders and back-to-the-landers, primitivists, traditionalists, survivalists, old-timey folk, kitchen sink medicine makers, cowboys, mountain men, and wild women.

It is for you latter folks that Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle was written.

Warning: You shouldn’t even think about reading this book if you are 1. PC or easily offended, 2. uncomfortable with strong or unconventional opinions, 3. disinterested in history, 3. turned off by sentimentality, or 4. can’t take a joke.

Mogollon gas pump-72dpi

When Wolf first came to remote and conservative Catron County, New Mexico 35 years ago, he was a biker/philosopher/artist seeking the “real world”, wildness and roots.  He arrived in a hippie looking school bus with a mean Harley Davidson, promptly selling both the bike and the engine out of the bus for the down payment on what became the Anima Sanctuary.  To introduce himself and his ideas to the community, he wrote 107 articles/essays for a number of regional newspapers, a number of which have also appeared on this blog, and all of which have been compiled for you now in this unique new book.

Nearly 300 pages long, Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle provides a healthy balance of unusual insight & Old West history, natural history & controversy, sassy commentary & sweet sentimentality, good humor & bad attitude, packed with ideas meant to awaken you to the depths & the dance of life.  Wolf’s tales not only tell us about the way things used to be, but how they can be… a clarion call for us to live more awakened and meaningful, responsible and purposeful, adventurous and satisfying lives.

You can read a review by our friend Becca below, and order your own copy now at:

(thank you for re-posting and sharing)

–Kiva Rose

Technology Race b&w-72dpi

 Review of Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle
by Becca McTrauchle


Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle is a unique collection of 107 thoughtful, humorous, colorful, inspiring, and attitude-filled essays describing the more fascinating experiences and perspectives of the rural West, leading to insights for even the most urban reader about our difficult modern times and the “fullest living of life.”  Author Hardin draws from over 35 years of astute observation and reflection, rooted as he is in the backcountry of the incomparable American Southwest.

From the Introduction: “Deep in the mountains of southern New Mexico lies the self proclaimed “sovereign county” of Catron, one of the largest and least developed counties in the entire country, and a place with far more elk than people. It seems to exist in its own time zone, at the frontier edge between a moseying past and rushing future, present reality and infinite imagination – a community in open resistance to both the dictates of the federal government and the boring normalcy and conformity of our times.”

Hardin moved back to his home state of New Mexico as a young man in the 70s, searching for the Wild West of his childhood movies and books, a place that would be as authentic and interesting as the suburbs seemed artificial and generic.  And he needed look no further than the opinionated, strong willed, old-time community of Catron nestled in the Gila wildlands, and his riverside homesite seven river crossings from the nearest pavement.

HuntersRazor(tif -72dpi

In Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle he brings to life for you “the fast disappearing world of small towns and uncluttered vistas, of knowing humor and countryfied wisdom, and a more authentic and enjoyable way of living. Herein you’ll find a world of wild animals in the kitchen and wild-foods gathering, unbroken spirits and unbroken horses, lives vigorously lived and promises kept, cowboy hats and ‘thank you ma’ms,’ a backwoods view of politics and a non-typical, backwards glance at authentic Western history.”  Chapters cover “the problem with authority and the absurdity of airline safety manuals, the ramifications of Pancho Villa’s Indian brand motorcycle, and the importance of really paying attention whenever tasting your biscuit and jam. The value of authenticity and resistance, country dialects and the honoring of tradition, the real meaning of the word“wild”… and taking time to look at the world through the eyes of a child. Curious true stories about eating packrats, pondering the significance of bear poo, how to alienate vegan pacifist guests, and many other eruptions and realizations of a backwoods life.”

first dance-72dpi

For the residents of the rural West, reading Pancho Villa’s Motorcycle must feel like  a homecoming, or pulling up a chair in the general store to hear a well told tale.  But for city folk like me, it feels like being transported to a strange and wonderful place, timeless, stunningly primal, filled with curious sights and a chance for real adventures for anyone with the spunk and follow-through.  In the course of learning about the history and ways of this unique place and its residents, I learned a lot about myself and what I really want out of my life, developing some of that strong will that that seems to sustain those people insistent on living a free, exciting, genuinely Wild West existence in these trying futuristic times.


No Going Back – Viking Ships & Half Hearted Swings – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

No Going Back: Viking Ships & Half-Hearted Swings

by Jesse Wolf Hardin (


Wildness is ultra-expressive kids, unbowed women and unpaved nature, the irrepressible dandelion and the pet-scaring coyotes skulking within the city walls.  It is also a state where our needs take precedence over custom and schedule, where we are self defined rather than defined by other’s expectations… where we respond to our instincts and hearts, act to realize our hopes, live our wildest dreams.

While I didn’t think of it as such at the time, traipsing to New Mexico with hardly even the price of gas was surely a wild thing for me to do, a rejection of not only the normal, safe way of doing things but of the mindset that there is anything in the world an impassioned body cannot accomplish with the right balance of impassioned effort or inexplicable miracle or magic.  It was this that I drove my school bus camper home onto the land that became the Animá Sanctuary, across the fabled seven river crossings from a road and into what had once been a Mogollon Indian ceremonial center.  It was wildly unreasonable but true to heart for me to cover the earnest money required for my very earnest offer, by selling both my motorcycle and the engine out of our bus — the absolutely only other transportation that we had.


Years later I read about how ancient Viking warriors had disembarked on a raid of and English or other enclave, only to find themselves confronted by a much larger contingent of defenders.  The chiefs would on occasion set fire to their own ships’ sails rather than order a retreat, thereby ensuring that their men would give their all, guaranteeing there would be no “half-hearted swings.”  By then I had covered the bus with wooden cabin sides and trimmed it with a river-gazing porch, dressing if not totally concealing the metal form that had been both vehicle and home.  On the front I attached, for the general benefit of sentiment, history, my own gratification, and the curiosity of any guest to actually notice – a metal plaque embossed with an image of the Viking’s iconic shield-strapped vessel.  It is a reminder of the importance of taking risks in order to fully live the adventure of our life and purpose, whether that means selling everything to buy land, or renting a studio to teach dance, or writing blogs publicly telling the truth and struggle of your growth for the first time.  Daring to wildly stretch, grow, love and manifest, savor and celebrate

By the way, originally the word “viking” was a verb not a noun, and certainly not yet the generic term for a group of diverse and far flung Nordic tribes.  It was a verb, a word denoting action… meaning not to raid or plunder, but simply (and boldly) to venture.

To read a full detailed history of the founding and development of the Animá Center & Sanctuary, please go to the Archives list on the left side of this page and click on the Animá History heading under Teachings & Practice.  Thank you.

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Get Along Little Cowboy! – Wolf Rides High at Age 5

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

little-wolf-on-pony-sm.jpgPeople get very different impressions of Wolf, depending on their preconceptions and the circumstances under which they meet or read his work.  To back to the land types and conservative outdoorsman he is a Libertarian iconoclast, a throwback to another age and time who just happens to be a crazy tree hugger who consider the mountains his school and church.  Our more alternative friends and students tend to think of him as the rather psychic Intuitive and Counsel that he is, but manage to overlook his primitivist streak, or support for very non-liberal ideas like limited government and personal self defense.  Those living with him can attest that he is more of a warrior than his compassionate counsel would seem to indicate, and sweeter, gentler and funnier than his muscles or adament opinions might lead you to believe.  This picture of him was taken at age 5, at a time when it was trendy for photographers all over the U.S. to pose urban kids on groomed Shetland ponies (note that his legs were short and only extend halfway down the one-size-fits-all chaps).  Here you get a glimpse into the real Wolf, always ready to pay any price for adventure, and ready to break out of all restrictive conventions just like he broke out of the suburbs… mischievious and unreasonably happy, as he rides off into the sunset on his hero’s quest!

-Love, Kiva

Mud Slips & River Whims – Post Flood Ecology

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

cliffpatterns2sm.jpgMud Slips & River Whims – Post Flood Ecology

By Jesse Wolf Hardin


The canyon and most of the Southwest was hit by a short but particularly violent storm last weekend (October 11th and 12th, 2008).   The ground was lashed by a tumult of rain and sleet, moisture spun off by a tropical storm that had hit the gulf coast of the United States earlier.  Usually the ground soaks up a substantial amount of rainfall, before it becomes so soaked that it can take more and the water races down well worn gullies to the so far insatiable river.  It is rare in my experience for the ground to be essentially dry at the onset of a storm, yet have so many inches of rain fall that it immediately begins running off across the whole of every surface.  One result in what we call sheet erosion, stripping away an inordinate amount of soil.  Not only the sandy composite, which is always the first to go, but also banks of clay that are pulled down the hill and deposited in thick layers at the canyon bottom.  The river both swelled and then shrunk again quickly, darkening not to the more typical reddish brown but to the slick gray sheen of a potter’s clay slip.

Whenever the river overflows its banks, things change.  Some are partly predictable, like the way fallen trees or rock outcroppings result in curving meanders, or that a flash event carves steep vertical cuts in the banks in the places where we depend on our jeep to cross.  Just as often there are surprises, such as one flood scooping out a 15′ deep hole that we do high dives into from 20′ up the cliffs, then another flood 3 months later turning the same bend into a sandy beach ready for a family picnic.  The flood last Spring deposited so much sand that we were surprised the plantlife could grow back so vigorously this Summer, but this most recent surge left us with large amounts of the ultra slick clay instead – the same material that the ancient Mogollon peoples used to make the bowl whose pieces we still find scattered on the ground.  And not even the mud has been consistent.  The area by the first crossing where we park our road car is usually impassable without four wheel drive after a good storm, but within two days was uncharacteristically dry.  The 7th crossing coming in still features a 2′ deep mud bog on one side after a full week of sunshine.  Oddly enough though, the crossing itself changed from loose sand that was hard to drive through, to being rocky and firm, and the far bank that was a steep wall of fine loose sand is now a gentle and easy slope.

Van, who own ands manages half of our 80 acre inholding, has made a study of stream and river morphology and dynamics, and a business of their restoration and repair.  Two or more times a year he arrganges for groups of volunteers from the Sky Island Alliance to gather here and do work on the Sanctuary.  He will be pleased to know that the berms they built this Summer on the trail in did a great job of diverting runnoff into forested areas that could capture the soil, and their rock berms also held more water long enough for it to penetrate into the ground where it is needed by the new growth’s thirsty roots.  A thank you goes out to everyone who has ever helped with the restoration work here, from us and every life form better able to thrive because of these efforts.

These periodic high water events point to the value of our understanding and actions down here.  They also remind us of the folly of imagining we can ever fully comprehend and predict a river’s course… remind us of the ultimately fortunate impossibility of ever controlling the wild nature that determines its roar and trickle, ebb and flow.

(To volunteer here, write us.  Please consider offering your time to Sky Island as well, by going to:    ….and feel free to send this article to others)

The History Of Anima Center – Part 7 – by J. Wolf Hardin

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

cliffroots1sm.jpgHealth issues are just one thing that brings to mind the value of prevention and the preciousness of life, as well as the fact of our mortal spans… and the vital importance of preparing for the Center’s land, its ecological well being and archaeological integrity, the legacy of the ancient ones and the lessons that have come to be known as Animá – insights and tools that will be ever more important in the coming decades of overpopulation, personal desensitizing and dumbing down, political repression, and a culture that is in dire danger of devolving into tasteless diversion and superficial pabulum. Never will the tools – of self knowledge and awareness, compassion and passionate response, self confidence and sense of interconnection, natural being and the natural world – be more essential or timely for our kind… and never will what human kind does have more definitively impacted the rest of creation. And those who follow will be able to say, that never was it so vital that there still be wild healthful places like the Canyon for the plants and animals that remain, or that there be places of power such as the Animá Center where they can go to rediscover, restore and redirect their selves.

To this end, it is our intention to find a pro-bono lawyer to assist us with setting up a nonprofit land trust, to preserve the teaching center as well as the biota. Any and all suggestions are welcomed in this regard, as we need a defense against what will surely be future pressures from developers, road builders, litigation, and intrusive legislation. Secondly, there is need for successive generations of folks as inspired by this place and purpose as we, including an expanding circle of allies, supporters and teachers who carry the effort forward in their own states, countries, and time. Our Animá Guide apprenticeships are for just that, preparing students to effectively teach in their own voice and own ways, from their own experience and moral center. And we will also have to make room in the Canyon for additional lifetime Canyon residents of all ages including the very young. This work was not meant to done alone, though we have to do it as though and even if were were to do it by ourselves always. It is meant that each caring resident or guardian help monitor the intentions, methods and results, each person doing their best to ensure that the crucial founding principals are honored through any of the Center’s inevitable changes in form. Each would ensure that the others can see beyond their own fears and needs, and do not neglect or dilute the integrity of this mission and land. Each would have varying personal gifts, that would make their contribution unique, and work in concert with others to advance and deepen. And one or more could abandon or betray this, or unexpectedly sicken or die, with their still being others “holding place,” and keeping things going. It would be a terrible mistake for anyone here to ever imagine we don’t need help, or to fail to not only tend the present but prepare for the future.

cliffsfromsouth-sm.jpgAny future residents of the Canyon will likely be drawn from our student and apprenticeship programs, with one of the most important qualifications being that no place else can satisfy or fulfill them, that they feel most their selves when here, and carry the Canyon in their hearts when away… that when they do go for however long and for whatever reasons, they ache to return. The second most important qualification will be their ability to devote. The myriad other requirements can mostly be learned, including awareness, discernment, teaching techniques and homesteading skills. The deep ways they feel, their insistence on bettering themselves and their world, the things they have suffered as well as learned, even their sense of loneliness or frustrations with aspects of society will prove to have been significant preparation for the huge role they assume here.

So it was with me, I can see as I look back. What had once seemed like wrong-headed choices or unnecessary diversions, appear essential in hindsight. I thought my childhood years in military school were wasted, though the teachers allowed me to advance as fast as I wanted and basically showed me that I didn’t need school (only desire, intuition and books) in order to learn; the conformism showed me the absurdity and artlessness of uniformity; the inequality inherent in militarism convinced me that all real authority derives from our selves and the permission we give ourselves to determine and act on what’s right; the tears of the children shamed by their parents for losing to me in spelling bees and shooting matches, helped turn me off to glory at the expense of others. Running away from home and school at 14 long seemed like a mistake, but being on the streets showed me the underside of our economy and the social unfairness, prejudice and police brutality that I would never have known in my suburban cocoon. I could not communicate with so many kinds of people, if not for the time spent traveling, nor could I have kept my commitment to stay here even without friends or a lover, if I had not already won and lost many loves, and realized that others can and should never be the sole source of our satisfaction or our sole reason for being. Even being beat on by druggie biker thugs resulted in my developing an attitude and skills that I needed twenty years later when defending the canyon from threats of violence. The disturbing dreams and arresting visions that once made me feel a little crazy, were indeed the signs and omens that led me home.

clouds1bsm.jpgSome guests talk about complex challenges and situations in their life that they are ready to change, others can express only a general desire to reconnect with the canyon that nonetheless speaks of something primary, sincere and deep, and it is partly for them that both I, my associates and this place itself exist. And in truth, there is nothing else I want to be doing, besides what I already am – only more so – reaching, stirring, awakening, informing, helping heal and empower ever more people… while necessarily establishing a lasting lineage of Canyon caretakership, continued learning, deep feeling, radical envisioning and insistent doing equal to the greatest individual efforts and shared missions in all of history. Animá was never just an idea, nor only a piece of land. All the magic around it would seem to indicate that what I knew in my heart upon first putting my name on the contract to buy it… that it is meant to be an evolving tradition that lasts so long as there is even a fractional minority seeking out a more real and realized existence, and a place honored and protected not just for a lifetime, but forever. Such is the future we plant our seeds for, grown in the rich ground of our histories, fed in the now by our ceaseless helpful efforts, watered with tears and laughter, rivers of love.


Your involvement is appreciated, your comments always welcomed.

The Animá Center Website:

The History Of Anima Center – Part 6 – by J. Wolf Hardin

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Even before Kiva and Loba, the Center depended on more than myself for its survival – as a wild place, and a place of teaching. Names pop to mind like John, Gena, Redtail and Ron, who each in their own way and time contributed to paying for the land. And then there were those others who gave in order to help further our message and programs, once I got over my pride and started accepting financial help towards this work. The director of the Kingsley School for troubled youth near Washington D.C., Jim O’Connor, brought some of his charges out to the Center for counsel after watching my presentations, performances and workshops for several years. It was he who made the first donation, after insisting it was hard-headed of me to refuse help when my life was dedicated to helping others. And it was Jim who introduced us to our second ever – and now longest lasting – supporters, our dear friends the Nick Morgan family. There have been numerous people since, some of whom gave regularly for a matter of months or years, others who gifted us only once but at a special time when we really needed it to cover some unexpected expense. There was a long period where we would likely have had to do without internet, the composting latrine, even a running vehicle, without Glenn Henderson. Now Shay’s fervent support is proving invaluable, moving us forward with self publishing as well as trying to assist with every other of the Center’s needs. It’s is only because others give, that we have been able to restore this land and offer these services without ever insisting on payment for anything that we do. rockborders2sm.jpg(This photo shows some of the rock borders I first put up near the cabins, which immediately began to collect new soil and seed… a first step in the greening of the Canyon.)

The intuitive explorations, clarifications, perceptual tools and counsel for action that arose during hundreds of teaching and counsel sessions, were organized in the late 1990’s into the book we now call The Way Of Animá. For any of you who don’t know, these short sections and aphorisms were arranged by topic, so that one could turn to a particular subject relating to their personal quandary or inquiry, such as Trust & Discernment, Love & Self Love, Honor & Integrity, Illness & Death, and Finding Purpose. By 2000, a lifetime of understandings had begun to coalesce into a cohesive holistic way of thinking, being and living. Then in the Winter of 2005, with the excited encouragement and awesome assistance of Kiva Rose, Animá was launched as an effective organized system, school and tradition. The accent over the “A,” by the way, was meant to help with pronunciation, but also to distinguish the teaching from the general term, the archaic or even Freudian lower-case anima. For any who might be unfamiliar with it, you can read detailed definitions in the materials and essays on the Animá site.

With the change in name, came an increase and shift in events, with each more focused and filling a different need, as well as a new expanded website with far more resources, and eventually our blogs. Most important of all may be the developing of comprehensive Animá Correspondence Courses, for the first time making it possible for people anywhere to work closely with us without having to necessarily ever come here. The Path Of Heart is built around self exploration, self-nourishment/self-love and finding one’s purpose in life, for both men or women. The Shaman Path is also for anyone, regardless of gender, who wants to intensely develop their awareness and other abilities, vision and wisdom, purpose and power. The Medicine Woman Core Path is similar to the Shaman Path, only with healing intent and practice as its foundation, and the Medicine Woman Herbal Path puts additional emphasis on healing with plants. We expect it to take at least another two years before all the curricula, readings, questions and assignments/practices are complete, with the most advanced students now driving the pace of their development.

The Medicine Woman Tradition has become an integral element of and vehicle for sharing the broader implications and benefits of Animá, and is mostly thanks to Kiva Rose’s passionate studies, experience and effort. As of 2006 we have included the Tradition in our name, and feature it on the opening page of our website, reflecting its increasing relevance and importance. No other healing system or modality so clearly bridges personal physical healing with taking responsibility for helping heal and even co-create our world. The first complete Medicine Woman book is hoped to be finished by 2009, and its early chapters have already been praised by the healers and visionaries we respect the most.

In 2007 Kiva prepared a grant with Denise Smith of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Partners In Wildlife program, the same program that had funded the building of a cattle-exclusion fence all around the property several years before. The grant reimburses us for any plants, seeds, tools and so forth needed for the further improvement of Animá Center property as wildlife habitat. Plant species have been selected that provide fodder for the local wild animals, but also for their ability to stabilize the river banks, or because simply because they are native types that were once here and should be here again to restore the overall balance. She has also taken it upon herself to reintroduce native plant medicines, species that besides serving the ecosystem, also have known medicinal uses. We’ve since joined the important United Plant Savers organization ( in support of their efforts to halt the plant extinctions and promote ecologically sustainable harvesting.

Two things have made it harder, rather than easier for us to outreach. One is that a large number of nature/ecology, self help and spirituality print publications have shut their doors in the past few years, reducing the number of venues for our articles and event promo. The other, is that the increase in spam resulted in many people installing spam filters that filtered out any announcements from “mail@” addresses. It was this fact that drove us to stop sending out group emails, and to establish our two blogs for notices instead. The result is a greater dependence on you forwarding our announcements and posting our flyers, and encouraging your friends to check out our opportunities. It seems entirely appropriate, however, that our effectiveness hinge on the active participation of what is a growing and diversifying Animá community.

Fascinating to us, are the ways in which Animá students and alumni are also staying directly in touch with each other, forming alliances, working groups and discussion circles, and thus re-creating a tribal (intimate, devoted, with shared values, purpose and work) community of folks living as far away as New Zealand. More and more they are finding others to do activism and healing with, to go on nature walks and enjoy the many simple, fine things in life.

One thing that donations don’t cover – and perhaps never will – is medical and dental expenses for the Center’s residents. We each committed to this place and mission with full knowledge that we would be without health insurance, and that we would be relying on natural forms of healing to survive to a natural old age. My liver condition has appeared as one of the most serious challenges so far, affecting my sleep, with anything that is stressful (from urban shopping center crowds to worry over not doing all we can to alleviate some personal or global ailment) making the symptoms worse. I, who have defined myself my doing the seemingly impossible for so long, have learned from the condition how to calm and pace myself, to expect a little less and rest a little more… things I could well have benefited by when I first came here nearly three decades ago.

(To be continued)

The History Of Anima Center – Part 5 – by J. Wolf Hardin

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

Starting in 1985, my time away from the Canyon involved not only raising land payment money, but also passing on to others what it so generously and adamantly taught. From California to Vermont, I put on over 250 shows, combining spoken word presentation with live music. Most often we would begin with a blessing by a local indigenous elder, then move through pieces that evoked moods as well as presented ideas, and into heavy rhythm numbers where my hand drums set the crowds to dancing. Bands that backed me up ranged from high dollar professionals to busking street musicians, and I adapted my message and tone to work with diverse styles. One night I might perform with a country western band, followed by several shows with a blues-rock band, and then a weekend of cool reggae. At certain conferences or campuses I would give a non-musical presentation, alongside firebrands like Terry Tempest Williams, Gary Snyder, David Brower and Winona LaDuke , other times with the musical accompaniment of the likes of African drummer Baba Olatungi, all male rockers Little Women, the women’s band Joyful Noise, California’s Joanne Rand, folky heart-throb Dana Lyons and the baritone mountain man Walkin’ Jim Stoltz. Always we donated much of the proceeds to whatever local cause we supported, from habitat preservation groups to those organizing for local community autonomy… and my remaining share went to paying Emil, the seller of our Sanctuary. The greatest reward, nonetheless, came not in dollars but smiles and tears, hugs and applause, the gratitude of people who felt moved to re-embrace the vitality of their lives, to join in common cause with others of shared values, to honor instead of conceal their love for natural places and more natural ways of being. The Canyon was speaking, inspiring and healing, far from its river’s shores.

The problem was that the more I was in demand, the more I found myself away from the place that informed, nourished and sustained me, from the place where every insight and tool I taught seemed to arise. Given how much I talked on stage about relationship with the land, I began to feel hypocritical – almost like a speaker on the topic of marital bliss, who is seldom home to tend to his marriage. Realistically, I was not being disingenuous by traveling to teach, but life was certainly getting out of balance, with there being more days where I was out giving than days in the Canyon taking it in.

As a result, in 1993 I pulled in the reins, refocusing on restoring and “growing” myself, with the restoration project here, and reaching out to the world not through guest appearances but through still more articles and books. Whereas I had previously written only for the so called alternative audience, I now began to weave the same values and insights into works written for widely divergent audiences: into sensory-awakening essays on cooking, idea-challenging history pieces, sense of place and the importance of purpose into articles on Old West firearms, pieces on stewardship in the back-to-the-landers’ Mother Earth News as well as the cowboy’s Range Magazine. The first of the books written here were released, and I began to respond to the influx of seekers and students by developing a form for that.

That form was The Earthen Spirituality Project, so named to recognize the inspiritedness of everything in creation, as well to honor the deep and revelatory connection between certain individuals of seemingly every persuasion – from Atheist to Christian, Pagan to Buddhist, and from urban to rural – and the rest of the natural world of which even the most civilized of us is still a part. It was with some naivety that I underplayed the ways in which the word “spiritual” could be hot button and a liability, making it easy for the uninformed to confuse our utterly nonreligious teachings with everything from “Nature Worship” to the often escapist “New Age.” No doubt there were people who never contacted us because of that, who could otherwise have benefitted. The Project nevertheless afforded an increasing number of folks specific opportunities they took advantage of. At first these were counsel sessions with me (personalized insights and provocations), retreats (unstructured time here, to replenish the self), and primitive vision quests (periods of ritual exposure and privation, such as Native Americans and even Anglo-Saxons underwent). All such opportunities, then as now, were offered free, on a donations basis, ensuring our intention as well as making it possible to exclude no one for lack of funds.

anima-homestead-3-small.jpgBecause of this policy, and my not touring anymore, finances became more difficult again. At one low point I had sold 10 acres to a gal whose well intended but often reckless activism dearly cost the work here and jeopardized the Canyon. A subsequent buyer built the cabin that has since been called the “Gifting Lodge,” then “flaked out” as we say, and if Canyon acolyte Ron Sutcliffe had not come forward and paid the fellow off, the portion where the Lodge sits could have ended up on the open market instead of being given back to the Sanctuary. With no money for building materials, I didn’t get our Anima den – a humble 12’ X 20’ one-room office, internet, counsel area and art studio – built until 1990. In the accompanying photo, you can see the den as well as the now-covered school-bus kitchen to its left, taken from the other side of the river (about 230 yards away), at approximately the same height.

Loba had arrived in 1993, the first person besides myself to ever come to stay. Before that, no girlfriend, friend and student had demonstrated a need to remain, or the necessary level of devotion to both place and cause. It wasn’t me but vision of New Mexico that had spurred her to leave trendy San Francisco and search out a fated lifetime home. From the start her effect on people was significant, and even when she couldn’t put a lesson into words she was somehow able to impart much of what a visitor needed. While I looked into the secret chambers of their hearts, imparted sometimes hard truths, asked them to take responsibility and watched if they lived their truths or neglected their hopes and dreams, Loba emanated acceptance and caring, and modeled engagement, compassion and delight. Some who tried to block out the counsel they most needed to hear, still found in her meals and the way she serves them, inspiration that would slowly reshape and revitalize their lives.

Loba made it easier for me to be home writing and teaching, but she also made possible and timely the creation here of a women’s center. Long before she got here, there was a higher percentage of female questers and students than male, and those who came often spoke of how important safe woman-space proved in their emotional healing. From 1996 on, we have scheduled specific times for Summer coed events, while reserving for women the time and space between. It was in 2000 that Loba facilitated the first ever group event in the Canyon, The Wild Women’s Gathering, and since then we have hosted up to 6 events per season (May through September), with from 6 to 16 participants average from all over the world. It would be four more years until the coming of Kiva Rose, and an increase in Supporter involvement that would mean our being able to do more for the land – and help more people – than ever.

(To be continued– 7 parts total)

Anima Center Website:

The History Of Anima Center – Part 4 – by J. Wolf Hardin

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

anima-bus-sm.jpgShown in the photo is the original Anima school bus, sporting a Viking ship medallion to commemorate the act of selling the engine and wheels to raise the earnest money. You see it covered by a sheath of well weathered wood insulating it as well as helping it blend into the landscape, but for over a decade it served as the only structure on the property without cover or siding. It was there at the table I sat, looking over the freshly signed sales contract, thinking hard on what I would do next. Coming up with the down payment for what became the Anima Sanctuary put me through unbelievable stress, as did every single semi-annual payment over the course of the fifteen year obligation. A child of the 60’s (60 B.C.!), I had always chosen free time over dependable income and illusory security, and even my art and music were geared towards awakening personal and global change rather than taking those forms that could actually make me some money. My role models were not the shallow cultural icons of the day, but those who did much with nothing, from cantankerous mountain men to visionary holy men, and I had always quit every job as soon as assured income began to take the edge off my risk taking, or slow my learning, experiencing and growth. I focused on music and art not only because of my natural talents, and their potential beauty or ability to touch hearts and open minds, but because I knew neither would ever make me so secure as to become less motivated and alert. Now I took dangerous and unpleasant jobs that paid well, as well as menial work like pouring adobe bricks that paid almost nothing. Instead of insisting on meaning and enjoyment from my employment as before, I now accepted every opportunity that could help nudge me a little closer to sealing the deal. What I might otherwise have thought of as an unpalatable compromise, I now looked at as simply the necessary trials on the way to what I was meant to do, and where I was meant to be.

It was less than one week from the deadline spelled out in the offer, before the final dollars were raised, in a celebration that included counting several years worth of change and stuffing it into paper rolls. Still another hurdle seemed to arise, when I heard in town that the conservative owner had previously refused to sell a different parcel after hearing that the would-be buyer had long hair. Needless to say, I was as attached to my flowing locks as Samson, and hadn’t been to a barber since I was a teenager. It was a flag, a symbol of my attraction to previous centuries and backwoods lifestyles, and one that I had more than once defended from scissors-wielding drunks. I loved the feel of a fast horse or sleek motorcycle with my hair in the wind, and took comfort in fingering a braid when there were reasons to be sad. But with the first hint that it could jeopardize the signing of the contract, I took a quick swipe with my custom Ruana knife, and the braid hit the floor.

Emil and I put our respective signatures on the contract in the Winter of ‘80/’81, by which time I had already bonded to the property to the point that it would have felt like death to give it up. When not working, I spent every minute exploring the canyon and its surrounding mountains, acquainting myself with the flora and fauna, quieting my busy mind enough to start hearing the subtle chords of river canyon life and the beckoning of the spirits of place. Already I felt as if I were leaving a part of myself when I left its caress, and like I was coming home as soon as I was pointed back. The Native American saying about “you can’t own the land, it owns us” was always something I accepted, but never had it felt so real and personal. No matter how much money I paid year after year, the canyon could never really belong to me. I, however, increasingly belonged to it. The twist was that the closer I got to the land, the harder it was for me to go out year after year to earn the latest payment. Allowing other people to buy a portion from me helped, but also ended up endangering the property in one way or other, and ownership would have reverted to Emil on two separate occasions if not for old friend John Drake interceding and committing.

With nearly everything going towards the cost of the land, it was over five years before I could afford another vehicle. For the first twelve months of that I walked not only the two mile trail to the road but also the eight additional miles of pavement to town, carrying a backpack for groceries, and sometimes packing a car battery out for a fast charge just so I could hear a little recorded music. There were other prices for being here as well, beginning with loss of my artist identity and the conscious community I’d known in Taos. The loss of my wife, who never could understand what was so special about the canyon, followed by the loss of the daughter that begged her mom to let her stay. A decade of girlfriends saying they wanted to live in the wilderness, but always going away. Knowing I’d never be able to afford health insurance, and that I’d be lucky to cover gas and food.

There was never a seconds doubt however, in all that time, that it was worth it… and never a morning at home that I did not wake up filled with a depth of gratitude for being here greater than I had ever known. It’s possible for someone arriving here to act as if they had hustled it, and claim the land as a prize of their cleverness. Even given all the hoops I had to jump through and all the struggles and dramas I suffered in order to pay for it, I still sensed that I was not the facilitator so much as an agent of some larger plan or process… that I was the recipient of a great and wondrous gift. And with every blessing seemed to come an assignment, a clear and impelling means for giving back.

Initially it seemed no more complex than a special opportunity to get grounded, nourished, stretched and strengthened, a chance for true wholeness and home. This stretching deserved at least my openness in return. In gratitude for wholeness, I gave my pledge to utilize every part and facility. And for the gift of home, I gave attentive devotion and unshakable loyalty. Secondly, I recognized the rarity and power of the canyon’s wildness, the way the river crossings helped prevent development as well as casual intrusions, how special it was to have multiple ecosystems in a single property involving from desert communities to high elevation pines, and what a dream come true it was for a young man who had spent too much hard time on the streets. In exchange, I would give care and protection, helping by planting native shoots and seeds, removing the cattle that graze the surrounding National Forest, encouraging the repatriation of the countless creatures meant like me to be here. It was not long before the full significance of the third gift sunk in, the legacy of the ancient Sweet Medicine (Mogollon) people who first settled this watershed. Not only was the entire property an archaeological site, but first my intuition and then the explorations of visiting archaeologists pointed to it being the hallowed ceremonial center for an entire region. That element, too, would receive my protection in turn, as well as my promise to honor that legacy by living out my purpose as full and honorably as the most committed of those who came before.

It was several years before I acknowledged the fourth level or gift, the life changing experiences and enriching insights that this section of the canyon in particular seems to excite. Stories and lessons started pouring through faster than I could write them down, interconnected truths needing a voice, an avenue, an outlet. Among my infrequent guests, even the most resistant or disenchanted found that submerged feelings and issues would come up, prompting self evaluation and sometimes important change. What’s more, an eclectic assortment of characters started stumbling onto this long-held place of power, while on a search for something they usually couldn’t name. Folks who had once purchased artwork, somehow rooted me out, asking not for more paintings but for advice and counsel. The gift of the land, I saw, included a deep knowing vital not just to myself but to human kind and all that we as humans affect. And the appropriate if problematic way to give back, would be to pass on what I learned here. At times that would mean staying home and spending impossible amounts of hours on a laptop computer, while other times it would require that I hit the road to give presentations, perform and inspire.

(to be continued)

The History Of Anima Center – Part 3 – by J. Wolf Hardin

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

The History Of Anima Center – Part 3
deer1-sm.jpgI had begun the search for land with two cohorts from my Taos art gallery days, the mountain man aesthetic John Drake and adventurous Corbett Wilson. But when Corbett “flaked-out” on John, John figured the search was over and headed back to his Wyoming horse ranch. Now I was the only one left, bereft of resources, yet still wildly intent on the quest for a home. From the moment Emile the rancher had driven up, I had felt a tingle, as though the place he talked about selling was somehow magically the fated one. My heart started racing and it was all I could do not to shout with joy and expectation. As soon as he had he said his goodbyes to my real estate agent employer, I climbed out of the hole where I had been working. I was already trying to figure out how to pay for it, before the dust roused by the departing truck had settled back down again.

Within hours I had arrived at the spot Swallows had marked on the map, a section of dirt road that led to the mouth of a canyon where the San Francisco River coiled from one side of the canyon cliffs to the other, dissolving into wilderness beyond. That maiden walk in was indescribable, both what I saw and what I so deeply felt, awakening a deeper connection to myself through connection to a place. If ever I experienced what they call “déjà vu,” it was then, as each bend in the canyon appeared as I had imagined, and the water lapped at my feet with the familiarity of eons. The landscape was of course stunning, as impacted as the two miles of national forest property leading into it was from a century of cattle grazing… hosting the very rock formations, pines and giant cottonwoods of daylight visions and long held dreams. There were no fences or landmarks to indicate the boundaries of the private inholding I hungered for, and yet when I finally stopped to camp it was well within the parcel, and only yards from where I would park my school bus camper following its final earthen voyage. “Whatever it takes,” I heard myself promising, when I was finally able to relax enough to sleep.

The price seemed insurmountable even if, as Swallows thought, I could get the owner to carry the title and give me a full 15 years in which to pay, given that I had neither savings, credit nor cash, and had moved to an area where it was impossible to make any income on such “foolishness” as artwork. I nevertheless went ahead, fueled not by the recklessness of my youth, but by the power of an already irrevocable commitment. Unwilling to wait until matters were decided, I jumped in the bus and drove it – pedal to the metal – through the 7 formidable river crossings and straight up a twisty trail to the mesa where to this day it sits. From its windows I watch the river wind below on its way to Arizona, and contemplate my course of action in the glow of the sun-lit crimson cliffs.

As it turned out, the initial step in purchasing land is often an official signed Offer To Buy. But before submitting one, I was required to deposit with the agent a set and sizable amount of money. They call this “Earnest Money,” since it tends to guarantee the earnestness of the buyer. Such funds are counted towards the down payment if an offer is accepted, but are forfeit if the seller were to accept and then buyer failed to raise the rest of the proffered payment. Just getting the thousand dollar Earnest was a stretch. My sympathetic parents had no money to loan, and the only established credit I had was with the friends and associates who knew and believed in me, thus within a few weeks time I had already borrowed as much as possible from everyone I knew. Next were the forced sales of everything salable, beginning with the paintings I had done, sold to distant friends and clients at a fraction of their onetime gallery price. Then my motorcycle, a treasured bit of hardware that I equated more with freedom than with transportation, and still there was not enough. To make up the difference I decided to take a huge chance and sell the engine out of the school bus I lived in, to a new buddy I’d met named Jes.

Years later I was surprised while reading about ancient Viking history. Apparently there were times when the Norse raiders disembarked from their ships only to find themselves unexpectedly surrounded my numerically superior forces. There were time when, rather than withdraw, the chieftains would set fire to their sails. Then, with their backs to the sea, the sword wielding raiders would inevitably fight all the harder. With no exit possible, there would be no half-hearted swings. In my own way, I also had ensured my utmost efforts. Not only would I have no money to leave on, but I would also have no way to get my bus back out, and no vehicle in which to leave. From the moment Emil agreed, I knew I would only have a scant few months in which to raise many thousands of dollars, or else I would lose it all. And I already knew that this land was meant for more than just me.

-Jesse Wolf Hardin (to be continued)