« Red Mesa »

All the talk about digital this and computer that does wear on me after a while. Last year was the beginning of a time when I got a chance to learn again to appreciate doing the digital stuff, but for a different reason than before. But it was also a year when I learned again to appreciate decidedly undigital life, and most notably, the natural world as I got to see it in my three trips to desert destinations.

For about the last year I have been feeling a call to go to New Mexico. With the notorious exception of parental custody battles and gameplaying as an infant, I have never been there to actually appreciate it. I find it intriguing from this vantage point. It is known as a spiritually rich place, with the confluence of the Native peoples and their thousands of years of history, intermingled with the early colonial influences. But to add to the complexity, set against the backdrop of all that spiritual-religious history and atmosphere, it is also the place where the most dubiously unholy deed was done: the testing of the first nuclear explosion. It makes for an interesting juxtaposition at the least.

The other calls to New Mexico have been in the form of spiritual tales or opportunities. In about a years' time, I heard about and then completed the Mens' Rites of Passage which is a program offered by the Center for Action and Contemplation, based in Albuquerque. My own rites were in Arizona, but that just whet my appetite. While there, the master teacher, Belden Lane, told his story about his CAC/MROP initiation at Ghost Ranch in NM, and also about his time at Christ in the Desert monastery where he set about finishing his book on The Solace of Fierce Landscapes. In this same year, Scott Landis preached about his three week experience at Christ in the Desert, in part to decompress from being ousted from the church he pastored (on account of his recent coming out). New Mexico, as a place of spiritual development opportunity, has been on my mind for a while.

This January I applied (a bit late, I found) to be an intern at the CAC for a ten week spell. That might have been a bit disruptive to home life, but would be a great time to work and learn, reflect on a day's experience, or a lifetime's. CAC always seems to have something interesting going on, and the next thing that came across my desk was something that one of my small group members at the rites had taken to doing on two occasions in the last season or two. That he is a Canadian and decided to haul off to New Mexico said something.

I read his essay in the midst of the website about CAC and their Red Mesa property. David always has a way with language, so his account of tending sheep was profoundly moving, particularly since we had the same initiating experience last spring. Tending sheep? Yes, it is out of character for me. I have barely ever seen sheep. The charm of this is to enter into a different life and a different space and see what it has to teach. It is hard to sum up what the Rites of Passage experience was, but it continues to unfold in meaning, as a touchstone for reference. I find CAC's programs to be attractive in their ability to teach at a real level. It isn't just retreats they offer. So at the end of the month, I will go to Red Mesa and spend a week doing whatever on the property with others who are interested in the CAC-offered Alternative Spring Break. Hey, being out of work has led to some neat developments.

Red Mesa is in the backwoods of New Mexico. I think I will drive the mountains on the norhteast side of Phoenix. I rather like the idea of maximizing the wilderness time on such a trip, so staying off the freeway might be nice, at least going one way. As close as I am coming to the Trinity testing site and the Very Large Array radio telescope site (the dishes that I once planned to use for my Receiving cover), I will be a week early for the ONE day that the site is open during the springtime. I have just put out feelers to see what can be done to tarry in New Mexico for a week to help bridge the decidedly low tech sheep week and the sites that indicate our highest technological aspirations. That should be interesting. In some ways, that would be a thing to ponder to help clarify my own relationship to technology and my longing to more completely live an uncomplicated, organic life.

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