“The winds end when the snow caps of Mount Blanca melt.” This is a common saying in the San Luis Valley, especially in the spring when the thirty plus gusts blow grit across one’s teeth.
It was a windy day. Our small group set out with our friend, Thomas, and his son to meet an archeologist in Del Norte. Thomas, a paranormal anomaly investigator in the San Luis Valley, has spent several years searching sacred sites. He has been building a network of medicine wheels, and maintaining them through ceremony, keeping them spiritually activity as a means to keep the negative energy in check, and to restore balance to these ancient sacred sites.
As of late, there’s been a ghost problem. Thomas has gotten several requests in the past month to clear paranormal energy from people’s homes in a neighboring town. There have also been 21 sightings of a flying humanoid. For this reason, when asked to help me complete a Southwestern College project that teaches earth-based medicine, he suggested we build a wheel in the vicinity of these sightings.
We met up with the archeologist, a native of the area. Like Thomas, he knows the area’s history well. Our caravan headed towards BLM (Bureau of Land Management), which is as close to a John Ford immortalization of an untamed no-man’s-land that exists in this post strip mall age. Except for the long cuts of dirt in-roads, this territory is off-grid. Not a wire, nor a tower to be seen. No cell phone service here.
We followed the dust of our guides’ 4-wheel drives along a dirt road as faded as a wagon trail. After thirty minutes or so, we parked at the base of a rocky outcropping. In Southern Louisiana, from where I come, this would be a bona fide mountain. Immediately, we pulled on layered gear to protect us from the winds, and began our slow trek to the top. This is a high desert landscape of volcanic rock, chunks of chert, and sand. Very little grows here, but what does is tenacious: sage, pinion, juniper trees, barrel cactus, claret cup, and prickly pear. Springtime, the cacti are in full bloom, and there are bursts of color along the trek.
It was colder at the top, windier, too. With all my layers, I was in a moon suit, except gravity pulled on me. I trailed behind, labored breath. The others carefully made their way down from the crest onto a rocky ledge.
I was extra vigilant for rattlesnakes as I picked my way down the craggy corridor. Everyone had found a rock to sit on and look out over the amazing view. I found my spot and gazed at the butte formations, and the town dotted in the distance. It was spectacular. It was still cold, but we were somewhat protected from the wind. The archeologist pointed out the three Cairns he believed were Native American markers for an astronomical site. Two miles east, directly across from where we were literally “perched”, is a rock called Indian Head Rock. On that rock there is an auspicious V. He suspects that there’s a shadow cast during the winter solstice where we sit, and plans to return to further investigate his theory.
I was thinking, Indiana Jones, wondering what a real shadow cast would reveal when Thomas offered a feather blessing to the four directions. This was my cue to be mindful of all our relations, from all the people who came before me and all those who will come after. All spirits, and beings that make up the earth: Father-Mother God, earth and sky, and all the creatures in the soil. By offering this prayer, Thomas opened the space between the transpersonal and the mundane. Our intention was anchored to revere the land and bring in the light and honor the dark. The archeologist brought out his hand-painted drum and began a heartbeat. Thomas joined in. They rest of us sat quietly in prayer and/or chanted a Tibetan chant: Om Mani Podme Hum.
These sacred repetitions allowed my mind to let go of distractions and enter a trance. The inward journey is the sacred contract. Here, there are no daydreams of Indiana Jones. Here, I become more present to spirit by removing myself from the illusion of waking experience. We were in this altered state for a while. As was our intention, I imagined the troubled town filled with peace and light, asking that the karma that created the shadow be resolved. At some point, the drumming stopped. We sat in the silence. Somehow, it felt warmer. The world from this ledge looked brighter. I was in alignment with a powerful truth that there was a far greater source beyond self. It was from this alignment, I was ready to create the wheel.
Thomas had picked a spot on the crest just above where we’d prayed. He’d found orange moss, indicating a place of higher energy—the perfect place to put our wheel. We climbed back into the ripping wind. Thomas, unable to sage-smudge us, passed the gifts we would place in the wheel—medicine bundle, incense, red apples, and candy. We prayed, making these gifts a personal offering to the spirits. A rock and a bush not much hardier than a twig already marked the creator stone. From this center point, Thomas’ son found true north with a compass. This was marked with a stone, as were the other three directions, east, south, and west. From there, we gathered rocks setting them in a clockwise pattern.
Each of these directions carries symbolism. For example, north is the element of wind. Its color is white and its season is winter. It represents that seat of childhood and action. South is the element of water. Its color is red, and represents adolescence and passion. East is the element of fire. Its color is yellow, and represents elderhood. Finally, the west, its element is earth. Its color is black, sometimes dark blue. It represents death, healing and profound introspection.
According to Thomas the wheel is an honoring of the spirits. He told me:
We honor them to the east where the dawn of a new day is created. They will be painting the sunrise there.
We honor them to the south where the warm winds of summer blow. They will be the flowers there.
We honor them to the west the direction where dreams, prayer and meditation begin. They will be dancing there.
We honor them to the north where winter and wisdom sing the northern lights into being, they will be singing there.
We honor them in the sky where the divinity of the universe swirls down upon us. They will be loving us there.
We honor them in mother earth who bares witness to all life from beginning to end. They will be smiling there.
We honor them in our hearts, they will be drumming there.
The wheel we constructed was about community. We focused on the whole rather than the parts. Despite our efforts to bundle up, the chill quickened our task. There was both levity and a solemn expression as each of us formed a personal relationship with this wheel. We activated it by leaving gifts for the spirits, and drumming. Before long, our wheel was complete. It will become part of a larger network of wheels that will be maintained throughout the year. We packed up, made it down the hill, back to our cars. Then it was on to our camping site near the La Ventana Arch, one of the most scared Apache sites in the San Luis Valley. Camping on such land was a timely transition. It made me aware of the sacred relationship with the earth because no matter how eclectic and personal a ceremony may be, it has always changed me just a little bit, made me a more open to different realities, a little more connected to the being(ness) of the land itself. For the Apache, they believed that celestial beings entered through open spaces in rock, called windows, like the one at La Ventana Arch. As I looked through the rock into piercing blue sky, tired from the day, I thought—flying humanoids. All things are possible.
~ Patricia L Meek
Thomas has a radio show on KRZA (88.7 Alamosa/Taos). Supernatural is on the third Saturday of each month from 8pm to 11pm. He plays great music and tells stories of strangeness form the valley. His next show is June 16th. You can stream it at krza.org