Land Trust Letter

"Sheltering the Creative Spirit"

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Taos, New Mexico USA




                                                                          To Possess the Land                                                           


The magic that first drew me to this spot forty-five years ago still exists.  It holds my wife Barbara and me on our heart’s home -- fifteen acres on the slope of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains a mile above the Spanish village of Arroyo Seco and adjoining the Indian reservation of Taos Pueblo.  



                                            Waters' North Pasture  (Click on Image to Enlarge)

Its persistent power blends to its purpose the influence of the Indians’ Sacred Mountain behind us, the shamrock-green meadows and pastures around us, the blue-green forests of pine and spruce above, the far buttes and mesas to the west, the clear air and blessed silence. We wake up every morning with prayerful thanks for participating in this peace and beauty.                  

But Progress is bringing changes. Cabins, cottages, and large imposing homes are dotting the mountain slope.  Spanish villagers are depending less upon their fields than upon Taos’ supermarkets. Only a few miles away, Taos is undergoing a boom like Santa Fe. Property values are soaring. There are few houses for sale or rent. Summer tourists and winter skiers fill motels and bed-and-breakfast places. And nearby Taos Ski Valley, handling 4,500 skiers a day, needs some of Arroyo Seco’s open spaces.        

To help preserve our home site from economic development, and to give those who may follow us at least some of the magic that has enriched our own lives, we are establishing a conservation easement with the Taos Land Trust. This is a legal arrangement whereby we will still own the land to use, sell or give away, but the Land Trust will forever retain its peace and beauty by prohibiting development.                       

Land trusts exist in almost every state, protecting the nation’s dwindling open lands.  Farm lands, grasslands, forests, scenic and historic sites are being saved from the ravages of commercial development. Much more open land must be preserved to avert cataclysmic disaster to the global earth.  This depends on us who possess title to an acre or a section, although we don’t own the land itself, as we are learning. 


                                                     Mother Earth Symbol from Book of the Hopi

How truly is Our Mother Earth the great mother of all her children: the first-born minerals, merging with the plants, who merge with the animals, the animals blending with human beings, each higher organism making use of the lower, to form a harmonic whole.        

Our living Mother Earth is not only humanity’s past, but its hope for the future. We are not the owners of the land we occupy, nor its tenants, nor simply its caretakers. We are part of the living earth itself. Let us preserve it.                                                                                           

Frank Waters, 1991   


Excerpts from Mountain Dialogues, 

by Frank Waters


Despite a common fecundity, every place on earth bespeaks its own rhythm of life.  Each continent has its own spirit of place which it imparts to its distinctive species of plants and animals, its human races.  So does every country, every locality.  Even great cities impart their own special essence, apart from their architectural and cultural backgrounds.  And within them, one runs into a barrio, a neighborhood, that seems to exude a sense of peace or evil without apparent cause.  There is no accounting for the mysterious magnetism that draws and holds us to that one locality we know as our heart’s home, whose karmic propensities or simple vibratory quality may coincide with our own.


Thus have I often wondered how I happened to choose this slope of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains for my own home.  There was little to recommend it thirty years ago.  Eight thousand feet high, the spot lay nine miles from the small, backward town of Taos and one mile above the tiny, old Spanish village of Arroyo Seco.  The rutted dirt road was almost impassable several months of the year, deep in snow during the winter, and in sticky adobe all spring.  My house was a deserted adobe whose roof was falling in and whose foundations needed bolstering.  But the first time I saw it on a walk up into the mountains, something about it claimed me.


The ruined adobe and the land behind it I finally bought from a lifelong resident of the valley, Josephine M. Cordova, a dear friend and a great lady.  Making my small house liveable was a task.  I put on a new roof and bolstered the foundation of the walls with the help of Indian and Spanish-American neighbors.  There was no heating save the fireplaces in each of the three rooms, which required hours of cutting wood for them and the iron cookstove.  Nor was there running water in the house.  We dipped water from the stream in front, the Arroyo Seco, and used an outdoor backhouse.  Under these conditions my wife Janey and I could live in the house only during the summer.

                                                       Janey is second from the left (1959)

The land in back was overgrown with chokecherry and wild plum thickets, and wild rose bushes.  It had to be cleared and seeded for pasturage and hay for our few horses.  The fences had to be repaired.  Eventually an electric cooperative ran a line up this way, enabling us to drill a well and install running water and plumbing fixtures.


When I first bought this crumbling adobe and the land behind it, Ralph Meyers, the noted old Indian trader in Taos, was vociferous in his denouncement of it.  “The damned location is no good.  It lies too close to El Salto.  The place has an Indian jinx on it and it’s full of Spanish brujas.  You won’t last a month.  And how the hell are you going to get up there, eight thousand feet high, in winter anyway?”


I reminded him that I already had bought it.  Whereupon he offered his sage advice.  “You’ve got to take the jinx off it.  Propitiate the evil spirits.  A charm will do it.  Piss and a prayer.  Just the thing!”


A few days later he came up to execute the powers of the charm.  A copious urination was followed by the sprinkling of sacred cornmeal from a small buckskin sack hung around his neck.  Apparently that did it.  I have never been troubled by evil spirits.


It is my habit, weather permitting, to observe a moment of meditative stillness each morning when the sun first tips the rimrock of the mountain range behind my adobe.  The place for it is always the same.  An unprepossessing spot on a slight rise in the waist-high sagebrush, flanked by a clump of huge gnarled junipers -- cedars, as we call them.  There are many more beautiful, if not more striking “scenic” spots within the half-moon curve of mountains, and I did not choose this one.  It simply drew me years ago by some curious magnetism, until I have now worn a barely discernible trail to it through sage and chamisa, around clumps of pinon and cedar, and across dry arroyos.

                                                           Photo by Marcia Keegan, 1982

Here I stand, sniffing the early morning breeze and spying out the vast landscape like an old coyote, as if to assure myself I am in the center flow of its invisible, magnetic currents.  To the sun, and to the two oppositely polarized peaks, El Cuchillo and the Sacred Mountain, I offer my morning prayers.  Then, letting the bright warming rays of the sun engulf me, I give myself up to a thoughtless silence.


One, I suppose, could call it meditation.  I don’t, for I’m not sure how one is supposed to meditate.  Once, I attended an hour’s talk on meditation given by a noted esotericist from England.  He carefully explained the best hours of the day to observe it; how to choose a corner of the room; what kind of a religious painting or photograph to hang on the wall with a burning candle beneath it; the choice of the proper incense to burn; the posture to assume.  By then his hour was up.  I left the hall, thinking of a question that Dr. Evans-Wentz once had asked Sri Ramana Maharshi, the famous sage of India.


“Is it helpful to sit on a tiger’s skin?” he asked.  “Should one sit in the lotus position, or may the legs be kept straight?  What posture is best?”


“All of this is unnecessary,” the Maharshi answered.  “Let the mind assume the right posture.  That is all.”


It is enough for me, as a prelude to a busy day, to attain for a moment at sunrise a measure of unbroken silence, of profound stillness within.


It doesn’t come immediately, the crisp morning is so invigorating.  There isn’t a cloud in the sky.  The earth emerges pristinely pure, virginly naked in its beauty.  The snow-tipped peaks of Jicarita and the Truchas to the south, down toward Santa Fe, rise sharply into the blue.  Beyond the slit of the Rio Grande to the west, the upland desert rises to the southern thrust of the Colorado Rockies.  And to the east and north, directly behind me, the Sangre de Cristos curve in their great semi-circle.  From down in Arroyo Seco, a mile below, sounds the clear pealing of the church bell.  Reluctant wisps of smoke rise from the adobe village.  Around me, the magpies are stirring awake.  How cleanly beautiful these Rocky Mountain peacocks are, with their snowy wing patches and long, blue-black tails.  A chipmunk scurries out from a rock.  So much to see and hear and smell, as if one had never noticed it all before!    


         Horses and the Living Land -> CLICK HERE



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