Posts Tagged With: new mexico

Lipgloss on the Sacred Peace Pipe

One of the only pictures I have of me in Taos.

When I was in Taos I so badly wanted to deep dive into its cultural DNA.  It’s a magical place with much insider seduction.  I’m told it takes about a year, or more, to become part of the the fabric there.  Sadly, I didn’t have that kind of time so I looked for an accelerated immersion program.

The Taos Pueblo, the area’s Native American nation, has been operating for more than 1000 years.  Tourists are welcome to visit the adobe village. Parking is free. You register at the front desk, pay a $10 camera fee, roam the designated areas, then leave.   Their ceremonies are not for outsiders.

When I saw a listing on the community events calendar for “Sacred Peace Pipe Ceremony and Spirit Balancing”  though, I bit hook, line, and sinker.  Native Americans believe the peace pipe connects the physical and spiritual worlds and it’s one of, if not the most, sacred of all ceremonies.

Cathy, my dear friend and hostess who’s quite dialed into the community, wasn’t endorsing it but didn’t want to deflate my enthusiasm.   I was going to be part of this sacred ceremony come hell or high water.

After driving in circles for a while, I finally found the “spiritual center”— home of this peace pipe.  It was a townhouse  in the middle of an ordinary neighborhood.  No cars were parked out front. Seemed like I was the only one there.  This wasn’t matching my mind’s eye.

Rev. Running Cub* met me at the door to the spiritual center/townhouse.  Very friendly but curious about me.  Curious about me?  I was curious about her!  First of all, she revealed right off the bat that she moved to Taos from Long Island ten years ago.  Second, it was clear that Running Cub wasn’t her given name.  Third, she was living in a townhouse with a floral couch in the living room, a tv in the corner, and a dining room set off to the side.

Where were we going to have the sacred ceremony?  And, where were all of the Native Americans?

Road not far from the Spiritual Center.

Turns out they weren’t coming.  Because, they have an actual sacred ceremony.  Within the Pueblo.  This one was…adapted.  It was a sacred ceremony in a way.  It was sacred to Rev. Running Cub and to Lisa* who showed up just as I started to feign a stomach flu. The ceremony was real and important to them.  To me, it didn’t seem very authentic. I wanted this to be what I wanted so badly that I refused see any of the signs that my peace pipe fantasy doesn’t exist.  Outsiders aren’t invited to sacred ceremonies.  The people of Taos don’t congregate once a week to smoke a sacred peace pipe.  If they did, Cathy would’ve known and told me about it.

The ceremony started.  Rev. Running Cub played the drum. Lisa sang.  I “participated” silently/reluctantly.

Rev. Running Cub did her best to make me feel comfortable and keep me abreast of the ceremony’s flow.   Lisa knew all the words to the songs and even made a request— a tune asking Grandfather  to keep watching us…all of the time.  I cringe at the thought of my grandfather knowing, much less watching, what I’m doing all the time.

After a while, it was time to offer up prayers for ourselves and others.  I wasn’t prepared for this to be an out-loud offering so I shot from the hip.  Lisa came with pages of prayer offerings beautifully and specifically written.

Taken at the Taos Pueblo Pow Wow.

After the prayers, out came the peace pipe. FINALLY.  Rev. RC explained the whole thing step by step— this is the bowl, the stem, this is the tobacco, this is the tamper, this is the lighter.  The pipe is the link between earth and sky.  The fire is the source of life.  The tobacco’s roots are deep into the earth.  The smoke rises to the heavens. Don’t inhale.  Pass clockwise.  Rev. RC lit up.

Holy crap, all I could think about was opening a window.  The smoke.  So thick.  So fast.  Damn, I could barely breathe.  My mind turned to  Mayor Bloomberg, his smoking laws, and how I’m 100,000% behind him.

Lisa finished her turn on the pipe, peeled the back of her thighs off the linoleum, and brought it over.  My turn.  Rev. RC asked Lisa to keep the pipe lit for me.

I pulled the smoke into my mouth and blew it out first to the north, then to the northeast, and on around the compass.  I had to, or Lisa actually had to, relight the pipe a few times before I could get all the way around.

The only time Rev. RC wasn’t on board with me was this moment.  I finished smoking  and was handing the pipe back to her when I noticed my cherry red lip gloss ring around the pipe’s stem.  I had nothing to wipe it off with and when I noticed it was too late.  She was already taking it from me.

Rev. RC zeroed in on my lip print, cocked her head, and shot me a look that could’ve slayed the spirits in our midst.  She took a moment then mentioned, pointedly, how sacred the pipe is.

We sang a few more songs and then Rev. RC offered a spiritual balancing for just one of us.  Not having a clue what this entailed,  I deferred to Lisa.  I thought if she busied Rev. RC with a balancing I could jet.

No such luck. I was asked to softly play the drum while Lisa laid down on a table and Rev. RC appeared to adjust her chakras.  Do you know how hard it is to play a drum softly?

When it was finally all said and done Lisa seemed happy and balanced.  Rev. RC mentioned an upcoming potluck and sweat lodge event.  We made small talk about the problem of people who don’t spay and neuter their pets— I don’t know why that came up.  I put five dollars in the donation jar.  Then I got to leave.

Here’s what I learned from this…

1. Sacred ceremonies are sacred.  If you’re not invited by the inside circle don’t force it.  If you force it you’ll

The Grand Entry Parade at The Taos Pueblo Pow Wow

find yourself sitting on a linoleum floor with a woman from Long Island who legally changed her name to Running Cub.

2. People make themselves vulnerable when they participate in spiritual ceremonies—especially when they offer up prayers for themselves and the people they love.  Don’t fake a stomach flu in the face of this.

3. Be polite.  Maybe this was sacred ceremony, maybe it wasn’t.  If there are no safety concerns, an hour or two anywhere won’t kill you.

4. The best way to get a taste of Native American culture in Taos is to time your visit to mid July for the Taos Pueblo Pow Wow.  It’s AMAZING.  The photos sprinkled throughout this post were taken there on the night of The Grand Entry.

*Name changed but only slightly.

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Categories: People on The Stretch, Stays on The Strech | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So Far….

From the North Rim of The Grand Canyon

Hello, one and all!  It’s been weeks!  Weeks since I’ve written.  Weeks since I’ve had a steady connection.  Weeks since I’ve organized my thoughts on what’s happened on the road.  I’m staying put for a few days in Napa, California and will once again be filling your inbox with posts from The Stretch 2012.  In the meantime, here are some things I’ve learned since I started this trip almost two months ago.

1. As soon as I start feeling really sad to leave a place, I know it’s time to go.  I’ve learned that part of that sadness is actually fear that the next stop won’t be as special.  But, every single stop is spectacular in its own way and you just never know what’s around the corner.

2. Grocery stores that sell ‘coons for cooking leave one full paw on the skinned animal so the buyer knows it’s indeed a ‘coon and not a cat.  Promise.

3. Dining alone is not so bad. I actually like it.  I don’t even bring a book with me anymore.  Most of the time someone will invite me to join them.  If I end up alone for the whole meal the bartender usually sends a round on the house.

4. Earthquakes scare the crap out of me.  People who live in California sleep through 3.8 earthquakes.  I contemplated packing my bags and leaving the state as soon as it happened.

5.  Hospitality is the true sport of kings.  I now fully understand what it means to make someone feel at home and welcome.

Las Cruces, New Mexico sunset.

6. Saying “yes” leads to way more interesting happenings than saying “no, thank you”.

Almost as good as new.

7. Broken bones heal.  It just takes a while.

8. Above about 3,000 feet one cocktail feels like two… or more.

9. Sex cult members would like for you to join them but if you don’t want to they don’t seem to mind and still want to be your friend.

Highway 1

View from Highway 1 vista.

10. Esalen in Big Sur, California houses the mac-daddy of all hot springs experiences.  I wish I could show you pictures but photography would likely be discouraged at this clothing optional enclave.  I now judge those who take the option.

11.  California Highway 1 is the coolest, spookiest, most harrowing drive I’ve ever taken and I’ll do it again and again.

12. Seeing two national parks in one day is seeing one national park too many.

13. Sacred Peace Pipe ceremonies are usually not open to the public and are not advertised on the community bulletin board.

14. Checking your car’s tire pressure is super easy and when all the tires are right it’s a huge relief.

Standard uniform.

15. I like wearing the same four outfits over and over.  I wish I could ditch half the stupid stuff I brought with me— like the sequined tank top that’s shedding shiny discs all over the bottom of my suitcase.

16. Everyone has a story and everyone has the propensity to be a teacher.

Open road. Totally alone.

17. Gas station attendants across America agree that beef jerky is the most popular snack sold.

18. Lying down on the double yellow line of a quiet freeway gave me a sense of freedom I’ve never felt before in my life.  I hadn’t seen another car for more than two hours so I stopped my car in the middle of the road, blasted a random CD I bought in Austin, and laid down on my back right on the double line.  Like a star fish.  Stared at the sky.  Laughed and cried at the same time.

19. At one certain pueblo, no one wants to discipline the War Chief’s unruly and aggressive dog.  He’ll goose you and then back you into a corner nipping at your ankles.  The dog, not the War Chief.

20. I’ve fallen head over heels for the car I’m driving.  When I spot it in the parking lot I all but skip toward it and give it a hug.  It holds the contents of my entire life, provides shelter, and takes me to every single new adventure.

My one true love.

Categories: People on The Stretch, Stays on The Strech | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

My Naked Truth

A beautiful natural spring but not the one of this story.

If you want to feel normal…

get thee to a clothing optional communal hot spring bath.

There’s a spa outside of Santa Fe so widely recommended you can barely mention the town without someone panting about how great it is.  I’m not too far from it here in Taos, so I took the first chance to visit.

Being unemployed and on a taut budget the cheapest service on the menu was the way to go.  Twenty something bucks gets you the communal hot spring bath and the free reign of amenities.  The tub is clothing optional.

Clothing optional?  Which option do people go with, usually?  Without.  Without?  Yes, without.

I don’t mean to sound naive or like someone who hasn’t swanned around in her birthday suit in public, but naked isn’t exactly my comfort zone.  I haven’t CHOSEN to hang out with a group of nude women.  Ever, really.  So, my view of what the regular woman’s body looks like in the buff was a little skewed– like, mine versus what I perceive is the perfection of others.  And, I am willing to bet that unless you’re spending a ton of time in the Loehmann’s dressing room, your mind’s eye is a little out of whack too.

Draped in my spa-issued kimono, I approached the tub pretending to be cool with the whole thing, undid my kimono, hung it on its hook, and immediately wrapped a towel around myself.  Peaked around the corner and saw an open spot in the tub.  There’s just one big tub where everyone soaks. If the woman sitting on the steps scooched over a little I could glide in quickly and submerge.  Game plan hatched.

I pigeon-toed my way over to the steps and dropped my towel.  Instinctively, I dropped with it hugging my knees.  Slowly, I straightened up- my right hand over my top and left over my crotch.  Following my plan, I stepped in with my first foot and asked the woman on the steps to excuse me.  She didn’t hear, or something.  I asked again, cringing at the thought of bringing attention to me and my nakedness.  Again, no response.

In order to get in I would’ve had to take a huge step over her— one foot on the step the other kicking high and wide over her head.  The game plan had to be re-hatched.  Unfortunately, I was too nervous to properly rethink and getting cold, understandably.  I decided to go for the empty seat from the side of the bath rather than the steps.

I shimmied to my spot, crouched down on the side, and put my hands down by my feet in egg position.   Swung both feet forward at the same time with the hope my bottom swing through and I could lower in my entire body using the strength of my triceps.  Like a young gymnast.

Instead, I face planted.  Directly into the tub.  My whole face. With the entire force of my body weight.  I came up gasping for air but my hair was tacked to my face.  I caught my breath, dipped in again, slicked back my hair, and found my spot.  It wasn’t  graceful, but I was in.

The Playboy Mansion this was not.   Nobody was pulled or stretched or pumped or enhanced.  Just a bunch of normal women– some thin, some not, some super fit, some not, some perky, some young, some not, some freckled, some fair, some golden.  These women were beautiful and way more comfortable in their own skin than I. Clearly.

After a while, I forgot about being nervous, embarrassed, or ashamed.  I was just hanging out.  Even surfacing to just waist deep periodically.  My face was pink, glowing as if I had a 50 minute facial- must be the combo of river rock walls and pristine spring water.  The vibe is  minimalist not crunchy– teak wood deck and clean lines.  No dream-catchers or crystals.

We found easy comfortable conversation, the tubbers and me.  And pretty soon they were recommending other hot springs, some clothing optional some not, all up and down the west coast.

One can stay in the hot spring only so long before it gets too hot, even at  105 degrees. I was feeling good but not enough so to just perch on the side like some of my liberated tub sisters.

After my hour and a half of this naked utopia it was time to get out.  Long gone was the timid Kari from a few hours ago. I exited proudly, using the steps this time,  and took long comfortable strides to fetch my kimono.

Ten Thousand Waves: WORK THIS INTO YOUR VISIT TO SANTA FE OR TAOS, NEW MEXICO.  All of the services come with complimentary use of the communal tubs.  The nightingale facial is the big thing but you have to ask for it when you book– it’s off menu, so to speak.  Services, for men and women, range from $100-$200.  There’s a mixed company communal bath along with private tubs, if you prefer.

Categories: Stays on The Strech | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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