|Standing Deer and his Father Joe J. Suazo|
Joe J. passed from this world to another dimension six years ago but for those of us who knew him his presence is still very strong. Joe J. was an intriguing blend of ancient and modern. He grew up at a time when the Taos Pueblo people still lived in the old way inside the walls of their ancient Pueblo that is now recognized as one of the oldest continuously inhabited villages on the continent and is listed as a World Heritage site.
Joe J.'s mother was the adopted daughter of Tony Lujan the first of his tribe to marry an Anglo American woman. But she was not just any white woman but the wealthy, culturally influential and famous heiress Mabel Dodge Luhan (this is how she chose to spell it). She was a socially connected woman who helped put the high desert village of Taos on the map as an artistic and spiritual power spot and was responsible for bringing many artists and writers including D.H. Lawrence and Georgia O'Keeffe to New Mexico. She was also a visionary and mystic. Joe J. grew up in the presence of she and Tony and their famous and sometimes notorious guests. He often traveled with them and sometimes drove them on their journeys back east and to Mexico.
But Joe J. was also familiar with the kiva rituals and ceremonies of his tribe. He spoke Apache, Navajo, Spanish and English in addition to his native Tiwa. English was the weakest on this list. He knew the dances and songs of these other tribes, plus many Kiowa and Comanche songs as well. He loved to sing and dance and won prizes at powwows even in his 70's. When he did ceremony he became another person. It was as if he suddenly entered a world from long ago, and a sacred place from another dimension.
When Joe J. was a child he often listened to two powerful medicine men of his tribe discuss their work. The stories fascinated him but he was quiet in their presence. One of these men asked him if he would like to receive Medicine from him since he was obviously drawn to this path. Joe J. was ambivalent. He wanted it and feared it at the same time. It was a big decision that would inevitably change his life forever. He decided to turn his back on the Medicine and live the life that young men enjoy. But it was too late. He was chosen and nothing he did to escape worked. At one time he tried to avoid the medicine by sleeping in a different place every night. He told me (Marti) what happened next.
While sleeping by the river one night to avoid the spirits that had been following him with ever increasing intensity an old man rousted him and said that he had something important to show him. The old man led him on a rapid walk up the sacred mountain behind the pueblo and near the top he was shown a kiva. This surprised him because he'd never heard of a kiva up there. The old man told him they had some important people to meet in this kiva. He was curious and followed the old man into the kiva. When he got inside he was amazed. The men in this kiva were radiant and beautifully dressed in their ceremonial clothing. But the clothing was of a time past. One seldom saw such beautiful ceremonial garb anymore. Then Joe J. became confused. Some of these men he knew and some he didn't but most disconcerting was the presence of men that he thought had passed on. Then the old man told him that he was chosen to become a member of this kiva. After this he agreed to take his Medicine. He had his demons to contend with and the Medicine continued to make its demands but he continued on the path to the very end. It was his worry that neither of his sons would accept the Medicine and it would be lost. He knew all along that Standing Deer was the one chosen by the Medicine.
Standing Deer and I haven't been quite as stubborn as his father, but maybe we are and just don't recognize our escape methods. For some time Standing Deer has accepted that he is a Medicine carrier and recently began to accept that he was supposed to do something about it. He learned much from his father about native massage techniques, herbs and cleansing ceremonies. He has his unique methods as well that he practices with his songs and paintings. I (Marti) have learned much through the years while working myself out of much social and personal dysfunction and dissonance with the world around me. Personal therapy, meditation, encounter and sensitivity groups (remember those days?) and more techniques than I now remember have been lying dormant for years. We recently decided we should begin to put the fruit of our years of personal work into our Medicine bags and go to work.
We live here in the shadow of the Medicine Mountain that overlooks all of Taos. When possible we also live near Sedona, Arizona. Within the radiance of two such powerful sites we hope to give something back of what we have acquired and been gifted.