Being back in Taos was like a long awaited ceremony. The cool, dry mountain air was a refreshing relief after two weeks in the south, and we had the privilege of connecting with inspiring people and an energetic landscape. For me, our visit was all the more meaningful because it was the first time in two years I’ve been back to my hometown during summer months. It is greener than I remembered, and the thunderheads are even more impressive.
In the morning we visited the Red Willow Center at Taos Pueblo, which runs a variety of community educational and agricultural programs, including the Summer Sustainability Institute and an After-School Greenhouse Program. We met with Shirley Trujillo and her high school-aged Red Willow Growers to talk about sustainability, food issues, and alternative fuel. Through her youth programs at the Red Willow Center, Shirley is revitalizing agricultural knowledge and practices at Taos Pueblo. She is showing young people the importance of growing food, while passing on growing and foraging knowledge that began to be lost several generations ago. One of her high school students has returned for the third summer in a row, and his knowledge and passion for local and sustainable food production was palpable. Food is the core of what sustains us, and Shirley’s dedication to rekindling food culture and knowledge in Taos gives me hope.
The rest of our day was fast-paced, and I was responsible for mobilizing the group to and from locations. We were visited by twenty elementary schoolers doing a summer outdoors program with the Field Institute of Taos, who were energetic and couldn’t get enough of our worms. We headed out to Earthship Biotecture and learned about the radically sustainable building practices developed by architect Michael Reynolds, which are now being disseminated globally. Earthships are homes built off the grid that use smart building techniques like passive solar to retain stable temperatures year round, and incorporate materials like recycled tires, cans, and bottles. In the afternoon we gave a tour to a group of students from Sacred Heart, who were staying at SpringWild, where we had planned a sweat lodge with a good friend of my family’s, Chris Pieper. After so many back-to-back appointments, I was absolutely exhausted and losing positivity.
The sweat lodge brought me back. After a three-hour ceremony – making prayer flags, entering the lodge, and going through four rounds of focused prayer with increasing numbers of hot rocks and steam – I felt revitalized. I remembered why rushing around during the day was important, why the discussions we were having were meaningful. I regained a clarity of intention that we lose under stress and exhaustion. We prayed for the Earth, for ourselves, for our relationships with others, and to express gratitude. For me it was a process of synthesis, of grounding myself in the present time and place.
Thank you to Chris and Dan for making this possible, and to our friends from Sacred Heart and my mother Amy who joined us for the sweat. I feel confident speaking for the Bus and saying that this was a transformational bonding experience that we will not forget.