I went out to Sebastian cañon one fine morning. My wife and I wanted to go skinny-dipping at a small pool of water which is a wide spot between two 35 foot rock walls. The ghost who lives there pushed the rocks apart many years ago and has been holding them apart so that the water flows into a 5 foot deep depression in the earth between them. Natives here pay respect by first skinny-dipping, then lounging on the grass above the pool while she gently massages sore muscles, bruised egos, and damaged personalities. Offerings are voluntarily left in the sense that necklaces, money, rings, etc. have a way of disappearing there. We just accept the fact. Small price to pay (usually) for the sense of well-being we leave with.
The trip this particular morning started out like the rest. The sound of chirping water in the tiny rivulet which eventually leaves the cañon accompanied us all the way upstream to the point where it comes out of the dry ground. Up ahead, just past the dry bed of the river which only runs above ground when it rains hard, we could see the hill rising up to the rock leaning over the north side of the pool; the southern rock was still behind the piñon in front of us. But some foreshadowing. A piece of surveyor's orange tape was tied to the top line of the barbed wire which doubles as the sacred gate to this holy place. Uh-oh, looks like some body bought up this land.
Worse than that. We crossed over the back side of the northern rock and looked down into the ghost's valley and saw a thin redhead angrily pushing sticks and pieces of plastic around. Mimi (not the ghost) was standing by a 3' wide x 6' long x 2' deep hole on the little plateau south of the stream right above the pool. Now, Mimi and I don't see eye-to-eye on very much of anything (she's a little too eclectic for my old stodgy kind, she's of the mix-and-match school of thought), but it didn't take Albert Einstein to figure out the next stage in the game. Dismantle.
We sweat, tugged, pushed rocks, scraped dirt with our hands, picked up two garbage sacks of beer cans, broken glass, bottles, dirty undershorts, planted small plants back into little holes dug with sticks, untied jerry-rigged contraptions made out of sticks and string (throwing away the string), and made flat ground out of the 3' wide x 6' long x 2' deep hole in the ghost's valley. And lastly, after four hours of work in the hot sun, Mimi, my wife and I bundled up the tarp used as a make-shift roof for the rainbow-tribe sweatlodge for the long haul out the cañon.
The rainbow idiots came back once and asked "Do you happen to know where they have the Indian sweat lodge?" "Sorry," I said, "there aren't any around here. This is private land." (It was a lie to protect the cañon. I have no qualms about that.)
The cañon is beautiful
(as of this writing). The scars are minimal. A couple weeks
ago, my wife and I watched two 14 year old boys paying homage to the ghost
by jumping off the rocks above the pool. The ghost has but one rule
"Keep your voices down" which even these two, in spite of their age, understood.
As of this writing, we have water rationing in my town. We still have water in the rivers, but some smart young resource manager for the state sold the water rights (a New Yorker stretch limo for the governor, I suppose). Our city managers are so concerned about making money that they have convinced small-town people here to sell land that has been in the family name for 300 years, granted by the King of Spain, for a handful of dollars. Now, rich out-of-staters live on what used to be family land–where the bones of generations of grandparents, fathers, mothers, and small children who were sacrificed to the ravages of disease over the years are buried; where the very top soil, thin and dry as it is is very literally formed out the sweat, bones and blood of those who came before; where La Llorona joins hands with the spirits who dwell here to look for her lost children. The luck of our land has always come through these ancestors, but now the lines are broken; the bones are forgotten, misplaced or sitting in private collector's living room museum.
I am not sympathetic to the New Ager who says our shamanic duty is to work for the betterment of humankind because while he is making people better, I must clean up the messes that those healthy jerks leave behind. Replant the herbs that have been torn out by the roots. Last week I noticed that the small one hundred foot long area where St. John's Wort grew wild, the only one for a 100 mile radius, was bulldozed over so the new out-of-state owners could put a new parking area onto their dude ranch; fortunately, I had taken some of the St. John's Wort and planted it in my backyard. In a few years, I should have enough to replant the area. Litter, bill-boards, grazing land turned into subdivisions (in spite of the fact that their is not enough water for all these folks since our drain basin is only 90 square miles) is the mentality of the new folks and their ideas. "Making a living" is a silly philosophy held by the viejitos; on the other hand, raping mountains has been taken to a fine art.
Living and dying are part of life here. Recently, we've gotten a lot of Californians who have tried to convince us that meat is a bad thing. "Be a Vegetarian," they say. "It's bad to kill innocent animals!" Our viejitos know that people live off the souls of living things. We eat plants and animals; we drink the water from the rivers and raise our children in the mountains; and when we die here, we commit our souls to the to this place which gives us life. Don't kill animals? That's what we eat, that's how we live. I think a better philosophy for these transplants might be "Don't kill the land; pay love and respect wherever you walk because it's through the ghosts of this place that you live at all!" Don't kill the innocent animals? How about "Don't shit where you sleep and eat." Somehow, these foreigners have figured out that it is a far better thing to kill a mountain than to kill a cow, to dry the rivers to take the gold, and to empty the graveyards to subdivide. One day, the luck won't come up through the ground any more. Bad thing to kill the innocent animals? I don't think so, O Nobly Born Foreigner: bad thing to drive away the source of luck for a handful of coins and a Cadillac!
I seethe for people who are sick, sometimes. I seethe for the mentally ill. I seethe to carry our dead across to where their parents and families are waiting. I seethe for those with pneumonia or whose luck has gone bad, but I seethe more for the ghosts who live here, who feed us, who act as conduits for our luck. I seethe for the ghosts who live in the mountains and who water our cañones and our cattle. I seethe to quiet the ghosts who are angry or upset about their land being mishandled. I do not work for the betterment of humankind; I work for my community which the lands and the people at the center of the world. Only by taking care of our own are we able to treat you visitors to my community with any sense of hospitality. When we are healthy, we can feed you with smiles on our faces, and when our luck is good, we can give you warm bedding for the night. I seethe mostly to protect our people and our land, not for the betterment of humankind.
If you are chosen by the following ghosts or by the Gods to become a seiðman, I suggest not getting caught up in the save humanity B.S. of the New Age. Learn to act and participate in your Center of the World. Learn to love and take care of your own rather than how to turn a dollar on your grandparents' blood and bones. The only modern saying that is worth repeating (I don't even believe it's a New Age thing, but rather from the eco-movement) is THINK GLOBALLY–ACT LOCALLY. When we do this, we are doing our part for the human race.