Sisters in Scripture
Daydreams of Acoma
8/26/2020 Kathleen MacInnis Kichline

Have you traveled anywhere.....?
Have you been in contact with anyone...?
In a word, NOPE

But, these stay at home days are good for pulling out the travel photo albums and recalling some stellar trips. For me and perhaps for you, it's not the places we went as much as the memories made and people we met, even the lessons learned. Some stay with you for a very long time.

Some years back, on a trip through the Southwest, my husband and I made a stop outside Albuquerque at a pueblo that has been continuously inhabited for over 1000 years, the longest period of human habitation in North America.  It is Sky City, a pueblo sitting atop a mesa in the Acoma Nation. The Acoma people were farmers as well as hunters and gatherers but nearby tribes, like the Apache and Navajo, were raiders who took their crops as well as women and children. So they moved to the top of the steep, cliff-faced mesa, farmed and hunted in the valley below, but stored their bounty and built their village hundreds of feet above the raiders.  

At the foot of the mesa, a modern museum and tourist center tells the Acoma story and prepares visitors for the world they are about to enter. A small tour bus winds up the backside of the mesa on a road constructed just a few decades ago. It delivers you to a world remarkably unchanged in 1000 years, a world without electricity or running water, a silent world suspended in brilliant color and endless vistas. Those whom the tribe has chosen as spiritual elders live there and never leave the mesa for the duration of their office. Artisans and others, usually grandparents, also choose to live there and families return for feast days and celebrations to their ancestral homes throughout the year. 

Stand beneath the bowl of blue sky, circle 360 degrees, take in the cliffs, the valley, and hills spread below. Shade your eyes against the piercing pure color that shimmers all around. Breathe in exhilarating freshness and the numinous becomes possible-even quite likely. You can feel it at your elbow, in the earth beneath your feet, something real and other worldly. In the moment, this is the only real that matters.

Our farewell was a reluctant one as we boarded the tour bus and headed back into the world we'd left. Later, on our return drive, we stopped our car at a stunning overlook for more pictures. There was a young Acoma man there, in his early 20’s, helping some women set up their souvenir tent. We struck up a conversation and I told him how impressed I'd been by the pueblo and the stories of the elders who lived there. "Not all elders are old," he said. "I hope to be living there one day too." 

He started telling me about his way of life and how every morning he rises as close to dawn as he can and as he watches the sun, he prays, he prays for all people. He looked at me and said, "I pray for you, I pray for everyone this day will greet. I pray for their well-being, that they will have their needs met, that they will grow in love and awareness." He went on to say that of course he prays for his own people and himself. He said, "We dry farm. That is to say, we do not irrigate. We rely on the rain and the springs and that means we pray. And that is good. So every day I pray for rain--not expecting that it will necessarily come that day but that it will come as we need it to come and God will provide for us." 
Six summers later, I find that I still think of that young man many mornings. In the verdant, cool morning here, I close my eyes and recall an oh-so-different world of brilliant, bold color, toasted scent, and rising warmth and I mindfully enter a quiet space, a shared space, a place where I can pray as that young man taught me to pray. The sun begins its course through the sky, and I try to be generous in my prayer for all people, for their well being, for their safety. I try to be grateful and confident that God will provide and meet their needs when they most need them met. I try to grow in love and awareness within myself and grow in the hope that others may do the same.

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