"Sheltering the Creative Spirit"
Taos, New Mexico USA
The Newsletter of the Frank Waters Foundation
Post Office Box 1127 - Taos, New Mexico 87571
Board of Directors
Barbara Waters, Executive Director
Mark Rossi, President, Treasurer
Arleeta Viddaurri-Rossi, Secretary
William Farr, Webmaster
Arleene Arnell, Consultant
Creativity is the keystone of the Frank Waters Foundation. Its purpose is to promote the arts by providing creative persons with inspirational living space in which to work for limited periods. It is a continuation of Franks Waters’ life work, so closely tied to the land.
As funds provide, retreat studios will be built on the front and back portions of the Waters’ wooded 15 acres near Taos, New Mexico. The pristine beauty of the remaining eight acres is protected in perpetuity by the Taos Land Trust. Above are the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, including Taos Sacred Mountain, source of inspiration and faith to many. The Frank Waters foundation is footed in this faith.
With this issue we introduce a new format for our printed newsletter now called the “Aspen Sun” named for Frank’s love of the Aspen tree and the Sun. Included are comments about the Foundation’s recent Healing Workshop and Bioblitz. Of special interest are a poem and an excerpt from the work of new writers which we print, in part as one of our ways of “sheltering the creative spirit”, while recognizing the insights they have to offer.
As editor, I welcome all comments and writing that we may consider for future newsletters. – Mark Rossi firstname.lastname@example.org
Lizard Woman Commentary
From Frank Waters’ foreward to a reprinting of his first novel.
The Lizard Woman, under the title Fever Pitch, was published in 1930 by Horace Liveright, New York. It was an immediate flop and soon went out of print. A cheap paperback edition selling for 25 cents, issued in 1955, did nothing to redeem it. Not until now have I permitted another reprint. The book was my immature first novel, betraying faults I was hesitant to see exposed. This is false pride, of course; one is reluctant to admit early ignorance and ineptitude, as if a writer miraculously falls heir to competence in his craft without any preparation at all.
The novel was begun in 1926, when I was twenty-four years old and working as a telephone engineer in Imperial Valley on the California-Baja California border. During my stay there I made a horseback trip down into the little-known desert interior of Lower California. After having lived all of my early years in the high Rockies of Colorado, I was unprepared for the vast sweep of sunstruck desert with its flat wastes, clumps of cacti, and barren parched-rock ranges. Its emotional impact was so profound, I was impelled to give voice to it with pencil and paper.
Every night after work I settled down to write in the two-room shack I was renting in El Centro. Its plank walls were waist high, to the top of which canvas flaps could be let down from the roof in daytime to shut out the blazing sun and pulled up at night for air. During the summer when the thermometer climbed to 110 degrees or more, the place was hot as an oven. In the winter, with no heat save the kitchen stove, it was cold as a refrigerator.
I began with a description of a remote desert valley enclosed by barren rocky mountains, around whose circular rim lay the semblance of a gigantic lizard with a woman’s face meeting the end of her scaly tail.
Not until years later did I discover that I had unconsciously projected in my description of that imaginary desert valley of the Lizard Woman one of the oldest symbols know to mankind - the uroboros, the circle formed by a serpent biting its own tail. Its hieroglyph in ancient Egypt designated the universe embracing all heaven and earth. The modern psychologists C.G. Jung and Erich Neumann interpreted the uroboros as the symbol of primordial unity, enclosing the infinitude of all space and time; the Greek pleroma, the fullness of divine Creation. The serpent itself, linking the beginning and end, symbolized timeless time.
Is the primordial perfection of Creation also symbolized by the Christian myth of the Garden of Eden, from which Adam and Eve were banished because they ate the apple of the tree of knowledge? In doing so, man gained the faculty of rational thinking which is the basis for our present Western civilization. But he lost the immediate, intuitive apperception of the universal completeness, unity, and harmony of which he had been a part. Yet this primordial wholeness is still retained in what Jung calls our “collective unconscious,” its symbol of the urobors emerging into consciouness through dreams, visions, and imaginary fantasies.
Excessively rationalistic and materialistic, we have stifled the intuitive truth of how closely we are linked to all nature, the earth, waters and the stars above. The uroboros, to whomever it occurs as it did to me, offers the promise of universal unity that still lies within us waiting to be regained.
On Saturday September 28, 2007 in cooperation with the Taos Land Trust and the Native Plant Society, the Frank Waters Foundation held the first known “bioblitz” in the state of New Mexico. Our project leader was Ty Minton.
“Bioblitz” is a term used by acclaimed ecologist Edward O. Wilson to describe an event where numbers of people organize to identify living species within the boundaries of a given piece of land. The land of the Waters’ home in Salto Canyon near Arroyo Seco, New Mexico includes a stream, a small apple orchard where black bear have often been seen, pasture, and a grove of aspen rising to form a cathedral above an acequia. The majority of this land is under the protection of the Taos Land Trust. Indeed it was the first piece of land to enter the Land Trust’s books.
Nearly 30 people gathered early in the morning to begin work. We divided into teams of 4 or 5 with guidance from scientists in fields of botany, medicinal plants, aquatic environment, ornithology and mammology. Groups identifying birds moved into the field first and were the last to complete their observations.
201 species were identified. Of the total, 122 plants identified included 54 known medicinal species. While a large group of insects were found, actual identification of genus was made of 37. Sign of 4 mammal species is not included in the total count. With this newsletter we will begin by listing the 42 bird species seen. In future newsletters, we will resume lists.
This was an exciting event that included a catered lunch and some readings from Frank Waters’ writing. All agreed that it was an enjoyable time that promoted much sharing of thought and observation. Plans will develop to consider suggestions for refinement of our “bioblitz” process with the intention of holding an annual event which will eventually list species during each month of the year.
Perhaps most profound within all the experience was the particular sense of “intimacy” with land that came from the day’s work. Joined with the thrill of seeing and learning, the day planted layers of memory that will undoubtedly germinate and blossom. – by Mark Rossi
Ty Minton, Team Leader
Gael Minton, Plants
Betsy and Steve Robertson
Dr. Pat Webber, Botanist and Biologist
Mark, Rossi, Frank Waters Foundation
Ann Ellen and Him Tuomey
Dr. Chick and Yvonne Keller, Grass Specialists
John Hall, Birds
Bob Webber, Birds
Rob Hawley, Medicinal Plants (Taos Herb Co.)
Greg Gustina, Bugs and Butterflies
Robert Templeton, Bird Leader
Ernie, Dylan, Sandra and Paul (Taos Land Trust)
Pam Jeffrys and friend Mary Ann
Christina Wilson and Pat Habricht
Bioblitz Birdlist: 42 Species
Finding the Map to Mora
Within the Walls of the City of Faith
I drove away
from the womb
of Taos in wonder,
a golden umbilical
birthing a waterfall
I didn’t want to leave New Mexico
so I stopped along the way to California
and wandered through the Palace
of the Governors,
found voluptuous pleasure:
the old printing press loving paper
made by hand, stroking his beloved
with images and words.
A particular broadside impatiently nagged:
What took you so long? Take me home.
Who wrote this poem?
I asked the man behind the counter.
I am the artist. I pressed
Frank Waters’ words into paper
made from rags.
Who is Frank Waters?
When he answered, he was kind
and didn’t laugh:
He was a Southwest writing master,
and this cuento of a great white stone
honors la gente of a valle
He didn’t know that I craved Mora,
a place I only knew from a map
Great-Grandma Genoveva’s father,
Teodoro Espinosa, left
his Mora Valley birthplace as a boy
to farm Colorado fields with his family.
I’d just left Taos grieving for their child.
I rolled the printed story of the stone
(now my true map to Mora),
and tied it with a string that pulled my tongue
to say that I would meet the Mora Valley soon.
Three months later Mora welcomed me,
the prodigal daughter,
and I recalled the sparkle
of the mind behind the artist’s eyes
blessing my return.
© Karen Cordova
August 4, 2006 recalling late February/early March 2
Karen Cordova is a business woman who lives in Southern California. She is a graduate (B.A. and M.B.A.) of the University of California at Irvine.
Karen was born in Southern Colorado and has deep roots both in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Much of her writing reflects love of her heritage. She is working on a chapterbook, poems, historical fiction, and creative nonfiction essays about individuals, villages, and customs of her people: the Spanish who settled the Southwest and those with whom they intermarried.
Frank Waters’ writing has inspired the work of many. It is especially poignant with the manuscript “Coffee” recently completed by James Harper in Tennessee.
James and his wife Debbi cared for James’ mother for the last year of her life. When faced with the need to write about this time, James notes that Frank’s words about tapping the energy of an abundant well kept him true to his work of expressing with clarity and honesty. Mr. Harper offers here a view of his writing. We take the opportunity to print it as the Foundation has sponsored workshops concerned with healing.
Heartwarming and Heartbreaking
Lewy Body Disease, a rare form of dementia with two challenging twists
by James Harper
“Come get me right now. I know that I can trust you. I have come as close to losing my mind as I ever want to.” - Mom, calling from her assisted living, June 5th, 2000, at 4:30 in the afternoon
Mom moved in with my wife and me that day. Her intellectual self began to be replaced with benign hallucinations; her life-long interests in poetry, birds, foreign languages, and all books in print began to slip away. Mom began to fixate on exactly where I was, how long I would be out of her presence, and one day gently asked never to be left alone. No more normal days would exist in our house. My wife and I just put our hearts on our sleeves, and Mom’s then undiagnosed disease was the Captain on the bridge. You have to change with the blunt callings of new facts. This was not a thought-out strategy. It was just all the space my wife and I could find given the new world where the three of us found ourselves living. Before Mom’s death on May 11, 2001, we had become three strands of the same rope. The weaver would not have a name for the first six months that Mom lived with us and would be confirmed by autopsy. “Mom’s still in there.” - Author’s stock statement to all Doctors and family members.
L.B.D. is primarily a visual dementia. Mother’s initial hallucinations were sightings of birds in floor tiles and on window sills, progressing to single stick men and then herds of them sitting in her lap and racing in front of her to bed each night. Serape fringe became turnip greens, fish for supper covered the living room floor, fixations on her purse and winter coat lasted for days. As her disease progressed she entered a long day of terror. The year Tiger Woods would win his first Masters, Mom entered the TV and began to fly around the golf course with each illustrated virtual hole. She became physically exhausted. I reassured Mom and found a program about a pride of lions of the Serengeti. She would have normally called this type of programming enthralling. Mom was terrorized. The lions began to hunt her. She shivered and tried to hide in her chair. It took several hours for the terror to subside. This first-of-a-kind day of terror burned out just before her bed time.
Terror came back for a second visit later that Spring. The episode started when I suggested we walk out on the front porch and look at the roses that two of her grandsons had planted for her. Her terror became uncontrollable and accusatory. Carnivorous roses began to stalk her. Patience, love, gentleness. That’s all I could do that day.
Lewy’s is a strange disease and hard to understand. Out of this hallucinatory world, Mom would suddenly come back for a visit. She would be the intellectual and articulate Mom known to me for 52 years. She would say things that were so warm and loving we would forget our mental and physical exhaustion and relax into wholeness for a brief time.
She would comment on her disease:
“I know you are as tired of this as I am.”
She would prepare us for her death:
“Come sit beside me. Let me see your face.
I want to thank you for all you have done for me and tell you how much I love you.”
She spoke of her faith
“I am ready to cross the River Jordan.”
She spoke of her first adventure in Heaven:
“I will show my firstborn to my father.”
(He had died with a few days left in WWI when Mom was 18 months old.)
And she cited a poem she loved her whole life:
“Not only around our infancy
Doth Heaven in all its splendor lie;
Daily, with souls that cringe and plot,
We Sinais climb and know it not.”
- The Vision of Sir Launfal by James Russell Lowell
That night the three of us slept peacefully.
After Mom’s dementia divorced her from all things bi-pedals are known to do and ushered my wife and me into physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, her visits out of the maze gave us contentment that only Mother Love can give. These visits remain to this day a life long blessing.
“And the beasts from the wild
Shall be lead by a child
And I’ll be changed,
Changed from this creature I am, Oh Yes.”
- Peace in the Valley, as sung by Red Foley
(my father’s favorite artist and song)
This world of almost complete exile with Mother was not comprehended by any of my immediate family members or friends, and only one doctor out of many.
As for how Mom was treated by several family members and how my wife and I were treated by more than several family members after her death;
“Cannon to right of them
Cannon to the left of them
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd & thunder'd;”
- The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson
A family friend said to me, “Your Mother was so fortunate to have one son with the emotional and mental courage to see her through.”
My wife and I are better married than ever before. Thanks Mom.
Healing: Harmonizing the Personal and the Global
Taos, N.M., August 2007
by Ann Kane
The dining room of the San Geronimo Lodge, bathed in soft light, was transformed into a meeting room by rows of chairs, in front of which was a small speaker’s table graced by a microphone and a candle. There was a feeling of anticipation as we gathered for the Friday evening opening. Writer and Foundation board member, Ann Jauregui, welcomed us warmly and introduced keynote speaker, Simon Ortiz.
Ortiz is a poet, fiction writer, essayist, and a native of the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. For the next two hours he told stories, read from his book of poetry, Out there Somewhere, and graciously answered questions. His story was nonlinear and there were many layers of meaning. “Reconciliation, i.e., to attempt healing, without truth-telling has little chance of success.” He gave several examples of where truth could be told about the cruelty visited on his People by the Spanish and later the US government, among them, land theft, broken treaties and forced marches. To illustrate the current situation, he told us about a controversy surrounding the installation at the El Paso airport of a larger-than-life statue of Conquistador Don Juan de Onate. De Onate, among other brutal acts, is said to have hacked off the feet of resisting Acoma warriors. Clearly this sculpture represents only a small part of the truth, and to make matters worse, is apparently being financed by public funds.
Healing, he said, will only take place when all humans recognize that our similarities are our strengths. If we are to be helpful to one another we must focus on having good relationships. We must really understand that we’re a part of the earth community; the commons, the land, the rivers, all animals, all cultures. The current government is too much about fear, and not enough about understanding how greatly we rely upon the land and our responsibility for it.
In answer to a question about himself as a poet, he said, “We are all poets. Poetry is that breath of our own creation, a precursor to consciousness, a love of words.” He pointed out that his People have a rich tradition of spoken word that includes as well as history, gossip, some of which, he quipped, is rather salacious.
In conclusion, when someone asked him about celebration, he circled back to where he had begun. Celebration, he said, is a very “present” concept, but it does not happen without acknowledgment of responsibility for the past. “Indigenous People insist that the past is part of the present, beyond the reach of time and change.” Celebration, reconciliation, healing will only occur when we own up to our responsibility for the past.
On Saturday morning Gael Ohlgren introduced us to a form of body movement called Continuum, the invention of Emilie Conrad. Gael is a lithe and delightful spokesperson for this work. She told us that “studies show human healing takes place best at a vibrational frequency around eight times slower than the way we currently move in our daily lives. We exist in a culture that requires us to mimic our machines, resulting in isolation and overwhelm. We must slip the coil of cultural insanity, and our bodies are the leading edge, the way through. Movement is always available, the nutrient that will assist in our healing.” We spent the morning being led in breathing and stretching from our centers. She had us make fierce faces and sounds. When we finished, my body felt open and alive. It was a fine state in which to receive the excellent lunch provided by our hosts.
That afternoon, writer and photographer John Nichols spoke. His talk was entitled, “Healer, Heal Thyself...and Coincidentally, Everything Else.” He warned us that what he had to say was “...a mean-spirited, cynical, simplistic, caustic, wise-apple, quasi-moronic and overbearing jeremiad in which it might be hard to see any optimism, unless you feel that the message given if actually taken to heart, could spur us to perform a miracle of real action and change.” Briefly and essentially he said that we in the US are leading the world in destroying the earth with our greedy consumption, and we’re running out of time to “get it right”. Although there was at least one person who after hearing him, considered not returning to the conference on Sunday (big credits given for courage, to indeed, come back!). I myself felt unexpected relief upon hearing his words. The following day during closing remarks he pointed out that he believes suffering comes from fighting reality. If one accepts the reality of the world, you’re not as likely to get bogged down in grief. It’s much easier to be joyful, if you don’t engage in denial.
Throughout the entire conference, Concha Garcia Allen who is a Zapoteca/Tarascan medicine helper, wove healing ceremony and ritual, enhanced by songs of her Native People, movingly sung by her husband Randy Allen.
I see her now, standing in the center of our circle Saturday afternoon outside under a cloudy sunny sky. A small intense figure in white, with dancing bells on her ankles, quietly radiating strength and wisdom. Blessing us first with sage and then bright flower petals, telling us, “The blessings of the four directions are always there, we just have to ask.” She had us dancing a circle dance, and galloping like a horse. Sunday, in closing she remarked, “We’re so afraid of death that we’re afraid to live life.” And she advised, “We need to feed and heal our selves and the earth. You ask me how do I know the earth is alive. Because I feed her daily and she eats.”
From conversations I had afterward, I believe people in general felt grateful for, and energized by the weekend. I heard talk of experiencing more thoughtfulness and flexibility in both body and mind. It seemed a framework had been provided for ways to heal on a personal level, as well as a means to think about how we might support our earth in her healing.
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