Yesterday I was walking at Hamaatsa. I went way down the hill to the west where it leads into an area that holds a stand of old trees. There among the junipers and pinons was a very old pine tree. These are some of the oldest trees here on this land. At one time pine trees grew here which is evident from all the exotic petrified wood scattered about.
I remembered a past winter day when I was out with my son and a friend to gather wood for our winter hearth. We came upon this old tree stand that day. Although we set out with the task to get a truck load of wood that morning, we didn’t just go barreling down that road into this amazing stand of old trees and start cutting away with our chainsaws. We aren’t machines. Those trees are People. Those are Juniper and Pinon. And they are seasoned. They could possibly be 300-400 years old, those big trees down that way. Seasons of time. And us humans are wandering around in these seasons. And what are we doing? Methodically getting wood to make carbon go up in the air? If we could only recognize our own seasons, maybe then we could share our own seasons of living with each other. We could listen to the seasons of the older people among us. My gosh, what we would gain if we took the time to share like that!
Looking out the southern windows in the Shepherd's House, we see the sunrise every morning as a glorious reminder of our seasons here at Hamaatsa. This morning in that white dawn time I saw the juniper and pinon silhouetted on the ridge edge. What I saw was not just trees but something distinct in their character.
I recalled that time when we came out here on this land in the early days before the land purchase was finalized. We'd walked in from the main road and walked over the hill, coming along that ridge edge. We hadn't had the boundary survey done yet and we were checking a topo map to identify the boundaries. When we got there to the top of that hill which is now known as the Southern Boundary, I saw two trees. Pinon and Juniper. I knew those two trees were generously inside the southern line. I said to Deborah and our two sons, “Okay, we'll stop here. This is where we will make our very first prayer before we enter this land.”
We did this to remember how thankful we were that we were even standing there on this beautiful land that we had begun to call "Hamaatsa" - a Pueblo Keresan word referring to "a time to start over once again". We marked the place with a small stone cairn, so we would enter this way again and continue to enter in that prayerful way with thanksgiving.
This was a place where Pinon and Juniper were side by side, growing together. These two trees. This is what they know: They know how to get along in the same land. They help each other grow stronger in each other's shadow. One is always slightly larger than the other offering nurturing shelter to the younger.
I can sure remember that day, now sitting here side by side with my wife Deborah, both of us looking out the window as the sun rises over the land. We can see when the sun touches that same ridge-line and starts to come up over the Ortiz Mountain peaks. A reminder that we are in our seasons. Unending season after season of a People learning to live on this land. That's what we were asking for that day. Teach us. How can we live here? All those who have lived here before. Help us. That we can learn and find the way to do this together. And it doesn't just mean us two, or us four, or those of us who are here right now. Look at Pinon and Juniper, there are two of them right there. But they are among their kin, their brethren. Everywhere you look, there they are. Season after season.
Learning to help each other grow in what many would describe as an inhospitable place, actually has all the ingredients and nourishment for learning to live together. That's all we are trying to do. How do we feel toward anyone else from some other nearby place, or another part of the world? How are we going to get along with them? How are we going to show them we are like Pinon and Juniper? What are they going to see when they look at us? When we come walking across that ridge looking for home.
Photos by Deborah Littlebird
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