Pachamama is my teacher and my compass


I go among trees and sit still.  All my stirring becomes quiet around me like circles on water.  My tasks lie in their places where I left them, asleep like cattle.”  Wendell Berry from a timbered chore take me to Bethlehem

Some people go for ecotourism, some people go for eco-shopping, but I’ve opted for one stop shopping: Eco-spirituality.

As a child I had the innate wisdom to head for the woods, the pond, and the stream to connect.   It wasn’t a weekend “activity” it was a way of life.  It took a diminutive woman with long blonde tresses, a wide smile, and twinkling eyes to remind me to retrace my childhood footsteps, back to the woods, the rivers, the canyons, the wild animals to renew my soul.

Carol Parker ushered me into two vision quests last year.  The first came in September of 2011.   I descended down several hundred feet down ancient stairs into the ever sacred Canyon de Chelly.   I slept under star filled skies, weathered thunder storms and intense winds with my bedfellows: the coyotes, horses, ancient shamanic petroglyphs, and a river running dry and full.   I watched the suns path across the sky and the canyon’s bright orange cliffs.


In the canyon my soul sought solace in healing from the deaths of many I had witnessed in the five years prior.   A dead horses’ body near my solo spot was nature’s way of offering me an opportunity to face this fear, this resistance to death,  head on.   I brought the big bay mare a bouquet of flowers and made peace with death.

As if the canyon hadn’t handed me instruction in dealing with loss and death, in the spring Carol invited me to yet another vision quest in  Death Valley.   There I connected with the western Shoshonne auspicious ancestral land, gathered countless heart rocks,  Nature speaks with symbols.   She spoke of Death, or love, of letting go.   I found an ancient horse jaw under by base camp tent, an echo of the canyon de chelly dark dead bay mare.

I connected into the power that links us all.   I gathered balance as I gazed far down from my high desert perch to the salt flats down below, the furnace mountains laying witness to this valley of death.


come July, Carol invited me to the high mountain streams and aspen glades above santa fe.  She had me gather rocks and flowers, blow prayers into leaves.  She had me exchange prayers and flowers with my classmates and invited me to travel out into forest held together by the Big Tesuque River and look for instruction from Pachamama (mother earth).   15 minutes out I stumbled upon a glade of felled aspen and grass.  Sun poured through this spot.  The air was clear the ski bright and blue.

A large brown quail stood above me.  Her feathers were lustrous.   She jutted her head out and stood.  I mimicked her movement.  Convinced she was settled I continued along the river and she burst into a run and flight.   I apologized and continued finding four adolescent quails who ran and flew off as she did.


I returned to our ceremonial circle this my first peruvian ceremony.  I shared my story of the quails running.   I drove down the circuitous mountain road to Santa Fe.   Later that afternoon, I found my mentor dead at a friend’s house opposite QUAIL RUN.



Throughout the year I have returned to the mountains.

As winter closed in, a shaman from Cusco came to the school.   We students and Carol, wrote furiously for four days in our notebooks, closed our eyes and connected with sprite, rubbed crystals, lit bear root and Palo Santo, sifted through countless cocoa leaves.   We stood outside in the cold winter air around an enormous bonfire tossing our gifts to Pachamama.  We turned away as she gathered our gift from the now towering flames warming our backs.


Two weeks later, I joined Carol for a Despacho ceremony with others.   Red and white flowers adorned a beautiful Depacho gift, our kintus outlining what seemed like an enormous wreath covered by cotton gauze echoing the high mountain clouds of the Andes.  I had prayed for two people.   A friend who lay ill in Arizona and a client at the counseling center.   I left the ceremony for my car.  I had two message on my cell phone that had come through during ceremony.   The messages were from the two I had prayed for.  Pachamama worked well.


My first day of 2013 I walked on the Bosque with a friend south of Albuquerque.   The Rio Grande River was flowing strong and full.  The leaves hung loosely against the burly bark of the Cottonwood trees.   I breathed in nature.   It was quiet, a time of introspection and spartan elegance.

We left the Bosque and drove to Albuquerque for a New Year’s day Despacho ceremony (a Peruvian gifting and intention setting ceremony), passing an alpaca farm on the way.  The alpacas, all fifty, stood large and proud in the cold sun of this first day of 2013.

When we reached the ceremonial grounds, we were welcomed by the  shaman. We set sacred space, prayed to the four directions and to Pacha mama.   We gathered sweets, and flowers, dates, shiny silver, bay leaves, lama fat, and a dozen other bits of nature into a beautiful package, a gift of nature to mother nature herself.  Our kintu’s (coca leaves) held our prayers as we blew into them three times.


I prayed for friends and family

I prayed for those who had died.

I prayed for connection to Pachamama to help me deepen into my role as a healer, to further develop my intuition, to make my path in the New year back to rhe River of my youth, the mighty Hudson, clear.

I prayed for the continuation of my path with Pachamama, thanking her for making my trip to her Cusco center in June.   I thanked her for her bestowing me with a discounted ticket!

In the end, I thought of how I had coped with the arduous academic schedule and the hours of therapy I had delivered in the last term.  I thought of the highs and the lows.  The challenges, the gains and the losses.

In the toughest of times, I had always reached to ceremony and to nature.   Carol had taught me well and the lessons continue……………… step at a time.   Right now my path seems to be on the Incan highway heading me right on back to Cusco, a place I had discovered twenty years ago, a place that never left my heart.   Pachamama has all the medicine, all the gifts for the body and soul. I look forward to dunking in her crystal cool glacial waters and gazing up at her glorious Andean mountain Ranges and connecting to the Apus up close and personal.   Life is a series of Mountains and Valleys.   Why not go directly to the mountains and valleys for the lessons?

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Take me to the River

20121229-215907.jpgTalking Heads Take Me To The River Lyrics

Songwriters: GREEN, AL L. / HODGES, MABON

Take me to the river, drop me in the water
Take me to the river, drop me in the water, water
I don’t know why I love her like I do
All the trouble that you put me through
Take my money, my cigarettes
I haven’t seen the worst of it yet
I wanna know, can you’ll tell me?
I love to stay
Take me to the river (Take me to the river), drop me in the water (Drop me in the water)
Dip me in the river (Take me to the river), drop me in the water (Drop me in the water, water) …

The talking heads song “Take me to the River” was being piped through the health clubs sound system. I was in the women’s locker room unfastening my padlock in an attempt to gain some warmth from the clothes that lay within, but I paused as the River was conjured up by the song’s lyrics.

My father and I had driven across the wide expanse of the Hudson to come to the town of Lloyd for some laps at his health club there. We had discussed the vast beauty of the Hudson River as our car, seemingly dwarfed, crossed over the now frigid waters of the Hudson. Daddy spoke of Joni Mitchell’s song “River”.

The lyrics crawled through my brain………….

It’s coming on Christmas, they are cutting down trees. They’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace, Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on….
I wish I had a river so long I would teach my feet to fly I wish I had a river I could skate away on….

The lyrics captured old interior images. Glimpses of old videos Dad had collected with his 1960 plus home movie camera came into my mental movie theatre. My sister Kimmy jumping high across our pond now frozen. Me digging my ice skate picks into the ice pretending to be a car using regular gasoline……..Not the advertised No Knocks gasoline offered to you courtesy of Exxon…….no no knocks gas for this gal. It was a kind of ridiculous 1970 or so type humor for the suburban clad kid. How many hours had we skated to the music of the Carpenters? How many spins? How many jumps, how many shooting ducks? How many hours had Daddy flooded the pond, finding just the perfect combination of water and air to concoct the best outdoor suburban pond skating surface? We had sat for hours watching the olympic skaters, borrowed from their expertise. Peggy Fleming, Janet Lynn, Dorothy Hammil………who we had even seen skate live in Lake Placid and mouthing off to her mom in the bleachers……

But I was further north now, crossing this icy expanse of the Hudson that the Mid Hudson River Bridge gazed down on. Had it really been forty years…click, click, click, the second hand purred, purred and bounded into the new calendar of now. now that the Mayans had thrust us into a new type of time.

The River has been calling me for over a year now. Her voice was muffled at first. Her eyes have gotten involved along with her mouth now. She reminds me that I was born on her shores in Northern Manhattan. My first mortal breathes were drawn upon her reflection. I grew for six more years along her shores in the hamlet of Dobbs Ferry.

Daddy and I had watched her waves lap along the shores of the railroad station there. We flew kites along her river plain soil. I gazed across her expanse and captured blinks of lights from the other shore. The river was a wondrous and mystical place where sound bent and bounded, a chasm where light played uniquely, a place where my soul gazed across a vast horizon capturing light, trees, hope, grace, and the magic that only unraveling waters can inspire.

I am on the proverbial diving board, poised to spring forth from the high mountains of the southwest, parched from the eons of seasons the sun has spread her rays across her barren landscape. I have spent well over a decade and a half lying exposed to the elements without the soothing sounds of water, nor tall trees to gather shade.

and yet, with this homecoming I feel unsteady. My home is now a stranger. A birth mother that has let her child run free far from her shores. I will walk carefully along her shores once again with faith that her draw, her pull should be heeded and listen to songs like Dar Williams’ The Hudson


Dar Williams
The hudson Lyrics
Album: My Better Self

If we’re lucky we feel our lives
know when the next scene arrives
so often we start in the middle and work our way out

we go to some grey sky diner for eggs and toast
New York Times or the New York Post
then we take a ride through the valley of the shadow of death
but even for us New Yorkers, there’s a time in every day
the river takes our breath away

And the Hudson, it holds the life
we thought we did it on our own

The river roads collect the tolls
for the passage of our souls
through silence, over woods, through flowers and snow
and past the George Washington Bridge,
down from the trails of Breakneck Ridge,
the river’s ancient path is sacred and slow

And as it swings through Harlem,
it’s every shade of blue
into the city of the new brand new

And the Hudson, it holds the life
we thought we did it on our own
I thought I had no sense of place or past
time was too slow, but then too fast
the river takes us home at last

Where and when does the memory take hold,
mountain range in the Autumn cold
and I thought West Point was Camelot in the spring.
If you’re lucky you’ll find something that reflects you,
helps you feel your life protects you,
cradles you and connects you to everything.
This whole life I remember as they begged them to itself
never turn me into someone else

And the Hudson, it holds the life
we thought we did it on our own

And the Hudson, holds the life
we thought we did it on our own




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