Monsoons, Rainbows, & The Matter Of Entitlement & Respect
Today we had one of the most intense monsoon showers yet, though not for long enough to raise the level of the river much. As always, the river’s swell is determined not by what falls here, but by what falls near the Rio Frisco’s upper headwaters. We welcome the afternoon rains in the name of the thirsty land, willing to dig out the run-off ditches surrounding the cabins and mix concrete to repair the water cache area, happy to get wet while driving in and out weekly in vehicles without doors. If there is any reticence, it is only because of the way August’s precipitation could make the trail into here impassable for some hoped-for visitors like Dr. Blue.
The canyon continues to resonate with the vibrations of the Shaman Path weekend, the way the cottonwood leaves quake in acknowledgment seemingly long after the thunder has passed. Today I stood below our work-study lodge and above the swiveling solar panel array, drawn away from even the most urgent work by a triple rainbow. It is rare, for one end of a rainbow to clearly extend down in front of the close by hills, and this was the first time we had ever seen a ‘bow touch the canyon bottom at both ends, shimmering between us and the ponderosa pines only a hundred and fifty yards to the southeast. Never for a moment do I take any visage here for granted, any lesson or gift, mundane process or most common tree or rock. And never do I feel entitled, with me working each day to be yet again cognizant and in service to its shelter and blessings, its informing and imploring. To the extent that we are both called and worthy of our calling, it is through our faithful staying and tending, the dropping of projections and onset of true listening, utilizing the intense perceptivity it affords, sharing the insights that come forth, and fulfilling its assignments.
I have, however, seen young Anglos acting as if they were entitled to be allowed at sacred Hopi and Taos Pueblo rites, tourists act entitled to remove petrified wood from protected areas, accolytes act entitled to call themselves healers or shamans without first having the experience, doing the work or paying the price. Among all the thousands of people who have made their way to the Animá Sanctuary and had their lives irrevocably intensified or changed, have also been a handful of people who acted entitled to the services we give selectively but freely, and entitled to a personal relationship with this canyon that superseded our presence and role.
More typical is an attitude of humility, deference and respectfulness, with students and guests grateful to us and to every ally and supporter who has ever helped make this all possible, praising this place and its caretakers and organs of communication until we have to remind them of how much they, too, are a gift in turn to the the canyon and us. They do not expect or project, assume or presuppose, and often they have to be encouraged or provoked just to share their stories and express their needs. If they are teary eyed, it is often a reflection of the depth of their gratitude, perceiving all that is shown and shared as a gift not as something owed.
It is in that way that we try to step out of our cabins each and every day, barefoot not just for the sensual contact with the earth but also as a matter or respect the way the Japanese used to always take off their shoes before entering someone’s house or onto sacred grounds. While our heads are raised, it is not for wont of humility but rather, an honoring of life and land by noticing every detail and nuance of our surroundings with eager lifted faces. Most times we talk quietly, to better appreciate the songs of birds and river, and to be most alert for the approach of a threat, sweet possibility or oncoming change. After decades of struggling to pay for the Sanctuary, we now have title to the land, but that doesn’t mean we are entitled. Nothing we did or spent in the past pays for our future here. We earn our place, our home, our knowings, our abilities and visions through our continued honorable and focused efforts, through our devoted staying, listening, respecting and doing.
(photos copyright Kiva Rose and J. Wolf Hardin)
Categories: Jesse Wolf Hardin – Essays & Tales, Practicing Animá Lifeways