Most years I am able to spend some time with friends and family in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the homelands of the Northern Pueblos and one of the few parts of North America routinely deemed to be “enchanted”. One such hallowed place is Black Mesa, especially sacred to the San Ildefonso people to the south and the Santa Clara people to the North. This photograph taken from White Rock Overlook, about 10 miles away, was blessed by the majestic appearance of a Turkey Vulture who soared past as we looked out to the Rio Grande (or Posongeh), just discernible as it meanders through the green foreground.
Noone has written more beautifully than Rina Swentzell of the landscape, the environment, the world, encompassed in this photograph. She remembers the delights of a childhood spent in a typical Tewa Pueblo with stories that connect it to the nearby ancient habitations, “weaving the human place into a union with the land from whence the people emerged. The people dwell at the center, around the nansipu, the ‘emergence place’ hidden near the “large flowing water of the Posongeh which snaked along the base of the Black Mesa”
“The cave that went down into the center of the earth was the home of the Tsavejo or the masked whippers. There were dark areas, such as the cave, and light areas, such as the top of the low hills, from which we could see the far mountains of the four directions and a large part of the north-south valley within which lay the Posongeh and the pueblo. . . . Those mountains not only defined the far boundaries of our world but also were where the primary drama of our lives — the growing of clouds and the bringing of that movement and water — was initiated.
“This world, for me as a child, was very comfortable and secure because it gave a sense of containment. We roamed the nearby hills. At an early age we learned an intimacy with the natural environment and other living creatures. We learned of their connectedness to rocks, plants and other animals through physical interaction and verbal communication. We gained tremendous confidence and an unquestioning sense of belonging within the natural ordering of the cosmos. . . .
“Within the Pueblo, outdoor and indoor spaces flowed freely and were hardly distinguishable. One moved in bare feet from interior dirt floors enclosed by mud walls to the well-packed dirt smoothness of the Pueblo plaza. In this movement, all senses were utilized. Each of the various dirt surfaces (interior walls, outdoor walls, plaza floor) were touched, smelled, and tasted. Special rocks were carried in the mouth so that their energy would flow into us. Everything was touchable, knowable, and accessible.
“There was consistency in that world because the colors, textures, and movements of the natural landscape were reflected everywhere in the human-made landscape. Reflection on the cosmos was encouraged. Separation of natural and human-made spaces was minimal, so conscious beautification of either outdoor or indoor spaces was not necessary. Landscaping—replanting, bringing in trees, shrubs, and grass for aesthetic reasons—was thought to be totally unnecessary. The mobility of humans and animals was accepted but the mobility of plants rooted in their earth places was inconceivable.”
2) The Multicultural Southwest: A Reader, edited by Anthony Gabriel Meléndez