I have explored other cultures with the knowledge that they will be quite different from my own upbringing. What is culture? I would maintain that we all grow up in a particular community and national culture which has its own styles, conditionings, and attitudes. Many people don’t ever transcend or die to their own particular culture and thus don’t ever see themselves reborn into an expanded cultural perspective of mystery, difference, and possibility. Yet, we live in a world of quite different, fascinating cultures. Staying at home in my own culture hasn’t been the path that I followed. As Robert Frost wrote once, “I took the road less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
The doorway to a greater perspective for me came during the crisis of the Detroit riots and the marches against the Vietnam War. At that time, I was co-managing a coffee house in a church basement, and my response was to move to Chicago to join the Ecumenical Institute and finish my college education. While with the Institute, I went to several places including Japan and Indonesia. Later, I landed in New Mexico on my own, and thus began a fascinating adventure into the culture of the Southwest.
The Native American culture there has encouraged closeness with nature or Mother Earth. One of the ways I found closeness with nature was through hiking when I had time.
The colors of evening, now color the sky
Signal of passage to night
and the hills in the distance, silhouette and fire,
sundown’s now radiance of light
Rhythms and rituals, now, life all around
Sharing our lives with the Earth
I often hiked on the Sandia Mountain trails East of Albuquerque. The Sandias are connected to the southern part of the Rocky Mountains, though I can’t tell you how high they are. Albuquerque is a mile-high city, and Santa Fe is about 7500 feet above sea level. The mountains, hiking trails, and ski lodge in Santa Fe are part of the Sangre de Cristo chain of mountains, the highest in New Mexico being near Taos. This area is also high desert, meaning the temperature can be hot and dry in summer, except during rainy season. The most efficient way to cool your house is having a swamp cooler, which cools the air by putting moisture in the air rather than taking it out like an air conditioner. One worldwide attraction for Albuquerque is the yearly Balloon Fiesta, which lasts about six days, weather and wind permitting. It is attended by hot air balloon enthusiasts and professionals from around the world.
Another way I experienced this cultural closeness to nature was through the different pueblo dance festivals, which we visited. The colorful festivals with dancers and local kachinas in colorful Native American dress lasted a few days and included native dancing and drumming, though cameras were forbidden. We visited several of the pueblos: Cochiti, San Felipe, Taos, and some others. All of the pueblos were on sovereign land, meaning they were not part of the United States, but had their own government. Many of them built casinos and hotels to attract tourists to their local economy. I know because I worked a short time at the Cities of Gold Casino. You can become familiar as I did with the culture by reading the many mystery novels of Tony Hillerman. I joined an Art Therapy Men’s group and we did some Native American sweat lodges. Also, in a drumming group, we had several sessions of drumming and exploring the Medicine Wheel and the four directions with our intuitive awareness.
Finally, along with its Native American culture and history, here’s just a taste of The Land of Enchantment, with its wonderful variety of restaurants, New Mexican style, art galleries, and alternative healers. There are many wonderful restaurants in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos, and other out of way places. The autumn air is usually full of the aroma of roasted chilies, and one can find some to buy from any of the local vendors along the road.
Unique to the Southwest, the adobe architectural style is found in many restaurants, houses, and churches. Santa Fe is a place with many artists, both Anglo and Native American. One ‘off the trail’ places you might want visit is Madrid (pronounced mad-rid), a small art community just south of Santa Fe with many local small shops, selling one thing or another. In the winter there is the Art Walk, which takes place if I remember sometime between Christmas and the New Year because we always stopped in some the art galleries that were open and providing snacks. Along the road we would stop and sing Christmas carols around small camp fires.
There are many alternative healers in the area, including massage therapy, energy-medicine, yoga, acupuncture, and art therapy. The Sikhs have a center just north of Santa Fe, and sponsor healing festivals. Along with the wonderful New Mexican varieties of cuisine, one can shop in many alternative grocers, including Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and several others.
The colors blending, touch my soul,
painting eve-ning’s feelings whole.
Enchantment of the night
harmony of soul.
Things that inspire me:
Learning in a variety of ways, literary, analytic, experimental, communicational and being compassionate.
Creative endeavors, such as art, music, poetry, and dance. Hiking in the woods or in nature. Feeling the energy of oneness in nature that is not felt in the city. Strumming on the guitar and composing poetic verses.
The spirit of oneness in my experience. The connection between different facets of my experience, such as visual colors, harmonies, nature and language. Spirituality is sensing my world as both.