After saying goodbye to our friends in Fort Defiance, Arizona on the Navajo Reservation we spent a long rainy day in Gallup. It was good to have a day to catch up with ourselves. The next morning was still windy and storms threatened but we drove down to Zuni Pueblo for a short visit. It was muddy, there were no tours for the day and the tribe discourages people from wandering around the pueblo.
At the visitor center we learned that Zuni was the point of first contact with Spanish explorers, who thought they would find there the legendary seven cities of Cibola (streets paved with gold?). We had a long conversation with the expert at the center and realized that there are many, many stories in Zuni but our path led on that day. Our Navajo friends had suggested that sometime we go to Shalako, a Zuni ceremony that lasts all night so we bookmark that as a place to return some day.
On our way east we stopped at a famed oasis, a pool at the base of the majestic rock called El Morro, southwest of Grants. What is now a national monument was once a way station for Spanish Conquistadors and American emigrants, which provided the only reliable water through the arid plateau. Long used by Indians, too, as a place of rest and residence (the ruins of ancient dwellings remain on top), the walls around the pool are covered with petroglyphs.
Both the Spanish and Americans also carved their names on the rock as they passed through leaving a record of thousands of years of travelers, now called Inscription Rock. Some of the most famous Spanish explorers carved their names with a dagger in the soft stone under the phase, “Paso por aqui,” or “passed by here.”
Our last experience in Indian Country was to have been Acoma and Laguna Pueblos. In all the years we lived nearer to Acoma, we had never visited the village, so we booked a couple nights at the casino hotel just for this visit. As we were checking in we discovered that both Acoma and the village of Laguna were closed for ceremonies.
As Laguna reservation is made up of six villages we decided to go over and scout out the churches to see if we could attend worship the next day. We found the church in Casa Blanca on Saturday. They were holding a grocery bingo event to raise money for Erica Poncho who was about to leave for India with a Presbyterian Women’s group. They were delighted to see us and asked if we were part of the group from Taos and Ranchos that had visited a few weeks before. They were still talking about how pleased they were to get a visit from the Taos and Ranchos churches.
Presbyterian worship in Laguna rotates between churches in three of the villages, so after getting the time and place figured out we came back Sunday morning for worship at the Casa Blanca church. We got there in time for Bible Study led by our long time friend, June Lorenzo, a leader in the national church and attorney for the Laguna Tribe. Worship was small but sincere led by Wayne’s friend and colleague, Rev. David Preininger, a “retired” minister in our Presbytery who is providing pastoral care for all three churches. As the service ended Rev. Judy Wellington arrived to participate with them in their session meeting. She reported that the August retreat for our congregations back home, which she had co-led, had gone really well.
We are now at Ghost Ranch, near Abiquiu, pulling our thoughts together before re-entry. The leaves on the cottonwoods are turning and up on the flanks of the Pedernal Mountain the aspen are putting on fall colors, too. As we drove here through Jemez Springs, the Valles Caldera and Los Alamos, we could see all the snow on the Sangre de Cristos and were filled with a longing to be home. Fall is our favorite time of year in Taos Valley, all those crisp, sunny mornings and evenings filled with stars.
After all the friends and family we’ve visited on our journey, we welcome the return to our dear friends and community in northern New Mexico.
It will take a long time to pull the threads of meaning out of the fabric of this experience. We are humbled and grateful for the opportunity and hope that it will serve as inspiration for many years, not only for us but for our congregations. As for the blog, our travels are over for now though we found many places we’d like to return to and many people we hope to remain in relationship with. The Listening Path goes on and so will the blog as we continue to sift through the stories and pictures we didn’t include here.