So many days much like today flood my memory. Here is beautiful and dangerous Taos at its best. The trees this time of year (October) are deep green to gold and the shadows are cool and deep. The great mountain changes shape as the sun moves west but it faithfully stands behind us like a kind but slightly distant grandfather. Medicine takes many forms. Although I had visited Taos for several years prior to meeting Joe J. and Frances Suazo they opened the door to the heart and magnetic idiosyncrasies of this place, and to places in my soul that had never been explored.
|Joe J. and Frances Suazo|
by Diane Osburnsen
It so happened that it was also the quincentennial of Columbus' discovery of the American continent but the obvious significance of this timing didn't emerge to my awareness until later. Nevertheless, from this time on I began visiting Taos with a different consciousness.
Back in Denver I read all I could find on Indigenous peoples, and was amazed at their sudden presence all around me, waiting at the bus stop, walking past the coffee shop or stumbling drunk down a street in my old neighborhood. I grew up in a lower class neighborhood of primarily Irish, Eastern European and Mexican peoples. My own background was mostly Irish with some English and a spot of German. However, it never before occurred to me to ask why my Irish grandfather was so opposed to my love of Mexican design or why he became upset when my mother as a child tanned so dark while thinning sugar beets; "Alice, get out of the sun, you look like a damn Mexican!" With this emerging awareness I looked at his picture as a young man and noticed for the first time that he could easily have been passed as a half breed. I don't know if he was but this possibility verified my intuition about his racial sensitivity. What was behind this fear of being identified with people different than the ruling race?
It was always my nature to root for the underdog because I knew that I was one from my first moment of consciousness. Besides I always found the most powerful and interesting revelations whenever I opened a forbidden door. Even as a toddler I ran away from home to find treasures. I was a misfit who was partially lonely and ashamed and partially proud of not fitting into a world that seemed lifeless, colorless, loaded with heavy chains of repression and without vitality. A perfect formula for creating a fence jumper.
THE FIRST MEETING
On the day before my next visit to Taos, Diane called. She said that she didn't have a record of us (my ex husband and I) having made a reservation at the Adobe Inn and wondered if we had actually intended to call the Adobe Wall. They were only a line apart in the phone book. I assured her that indeed it was the case, as we generally stayed at the Adobe Wall. She said that we would probably like the Adobe Inn even better and I asked what her rates were. The rates were beyond our means at that time but she suggested that we stop by in the afternoon because her dear friends the Medicine Man and his wife visited her almost every afternoon and she thought we would enjoy meeting them.
My creative imagination soared. I had been wanting to meet traditional Native elders rather than the urban Indians I knew in Denver. There were several other fantasies that I didn't share because they seemed a bit, well, fantastic. I wanted to meet the soul of Taos. But I also fantasized that I might find a place to stay in trade for some beaded jewelry that I was making at the time. There were other details to this fantasy as well. These fantasies were quite detailed and specific but I was too shy to share them. On this particular trip to Taos we stopped at the Adobe Inn to meet Diane before checking in at the Adobe Wall. As the saying goes, "the rest is history."
To shorten this story before I lose the main point, I will say that all of my fantasies came true in precise detail including a few that had been placed on a mental shelf as alternative fantasies. During this same visit I participated in my first Powwow with Diane and Frances. Later after I finally moved to Taos we would all "Powwow" at Diane's house several times a week. Joe J. would drum and sing and Frances, Diane and I would dance. I learned about Native dancing and music from Joe J. and Frances and heard stories of the past and of Joe J.'s experiences growing up with Grandpa Tony Lujan and Mabel Dodge Luhan.
MABEL AND TONY LUHAN
Before this trip I was still working at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. I noticed a book on Mabel Dodge Luhan while shelving books. When I read of her connection to Taos it went on my mental list of books to be explored . But somehow I didn't get back to it soon enough and it left the store. In hind site I remember that I didn't pick it up immediately because I was suspicious that it might be another book about a rich wannabe. Now I was befriending people who knew her personally and began to recognize that the same Medicine that brought her to Taos was still active.
Actually it took several years before I really understood that there is a spiritual matrix that lingers in certain places. Many people will tell similar stories of how they came to this place and how it affected them. Of course we are each different in our ability to receive and express such guidance. During a time of upheaval in my life when I was going through a divorce, I finally began to read Mabel Dodge Luhan's story. I was stunned to discover that her vision was very similar to the vision that brought me to Taos. This was both affirming and disappointing. What chance did I have in the shadow of such a wealthy, connected and powerful woman. Besides most of Mabel's visions and hopes disintegrated when confronted by the egocentric orientation of the many talented people she brought to Taos. I wondered why this vision had been lost in Taos and it seemed that only the gossip and scandals of this time period were remembered.
For years I had two secret rituals. At the beginning of every season I would walk up Morada lane to the back of the Mabel Dodge Luhan house and do a prayer and ceremony while facing the mountain. I would tell Mabel and Tony that I hadn't forgotten what they represented and to guide me in any way that would help reinvigorate their spirit . I also asked if they would hold the place for Joe J.'s rebellious and narcissistic son who held powerful Medicine without knowing it. I was convinced my role was to mediate for him. The other ritual was a walk up El Salto road in the spring and fall. There I would bask in the power of the two mountains one male and one female and tell them how healing their presence was and ask them for the strength to keep going on my path.
Then for a time I almost lost my bearings. There were strange visitors in the night or at any time that I was alone and quiet. Sometimes they would try to strangle me with my blankets, and at other times would fly around the room like huge dragon flies. I would be unable to move my eyes to follow them. As I looked toward the mountain I would see a cold hostile energy broiling at the base. My paintings helped get me through this. They came out as they wanted to be. I felt no ego involvement and it didn't matter if anyone else liked them. Although my ego was not attached, I found painting to be protective and revealing. The images that manifested were a powerful antidote to the negative spirits.
A Medicine path is not easy and it is not ego food. Quite the opposite! The man that I recognized as the recipient of a legacy I was most connected to kept his distance in person while being very involved on the psychic plane. Somehow I was catching his spiritual flak. I would hear of other women he was with who tried to connect spiritually with Tony and Mabel (usually Mabel) and sometimes they followed the vision literally. This was very disconcerting and confusing. I didn't share these details with anyone. They were my secret. I began to think that I was merely connecting psychically with something that didn't belong to me. But I was also disappointed because there was something missing in these wannabe Mabels. They were uninspired, with form but not spirit, full of romantic fantasies that seemed egocentric and silly. Nevertheless they often appeared to mimic what I thought was my vision literally. My relationship with Joe J's recalcitrant son continued to develop but I began to think that spirit was laughing at me. I was suffering for nothing. There was no purpose in all of this. Then one night just as I turned the lights off I saw what I came to call the Black Smoke Beings.
|Joe J. Suazo Sings, Acrylic on Canvas|
by Marti White Deer Song
THE BLACK SMOKE BEINGS
I think I surprised them. They were used to doing their business without anyone's knowledge. But for a flash I saw just how they had distorted human connections for eons. They foster fear and envy by altering the meaning of words as they move from one person to the next. The meaning that was intended arrives subtly distorted. It was an interference that was easy to conceal but resulted in misunderstanding and chaos. I saw how they worked in my life in one flashback that covered pre-birth to the present moment. They fed on people's fear and on the emotions that arose from frustration in failer to communicate or be heard. During that brief window I saw their presence physically. They looked like a human silhouette in black smoke and yet like smoke you could put your fist through them.
For a long time after this experience I was able to see the Black Smoke Beings lingering around individuals, isolating them and distorting their interactions. Some people had totally given themselves up to these beings and had little energy of their own. They looked grey and heavy with a remote, untouchable countenance and sour face. Many other people seemed to have the Black Smoke Beings trailing just behind them and although they were influenced they had not yet been overtaken.
For a long time I was confused. These beings had no life of their own. I recognized that without human misunderstandings to feed on they could not exist. They were not intentionally evil just predatory. Where did they come from and why did creator allow them to exist at all? Later I began to recognize that negative influences have their own purpose. Joe J. used to say that "good and evil" are both necessary and you will always find them together. They provide the stage on which our power and character is formed. Inevitably, individuals will be lead away from their truth and the power given them as co creators of this world and this will be the impetus of their soul development. Some will not succeed, at least not in this lifetime, and others will find their power and will to overcome deception, and having overcome it they will be much wiser and more powerful.
This process winds through the labyrinth of earth existence as a force of creation. Eventually I understood that the vision that brought me to Taos, introduced me to Joe. J. and his family and drew me into the aura of Mabel Dodge and Tony Luhan was never mine. It lives in the air and soil of Taos, it flows down from the Medicine Mountain and it continues from age to age. Long ago it drew the people of Taos Pueblo to it and they became its spiritual guardians. And as time alters the human picture it moves with the needs of each change. We humans can be as the potters clay or we can fall apart like sand. Either way creation continues and the inner form will linger like an unfinished song catching any soul that is tuned to its vibration.
BLUE SPRUCE STANDING DEER
After many years of running from his Medicine, Pba-Quen-Nee-e (Standing Deer) finally faced the Black Smoke Beings of his own distractions. Although his medicine is not the same as his father's it is in many ways a continuation of the same underlying process. And I began to realize that I must have the courage to acknowledge publicly the value of the guidance that I followed secretly. For so long I assumed that my secrecy was modesty when actually it was self doubt and fear of ridicule. Joe J. and Frances Suazo are no longer here in the flesh to witness these manifestations of their love and power but I believe that they are present in a Medicine way, and that is why I am putting these words to the winds of the Universe.
VISITING WITH MEDICINE
The Spirit that guided Mabel Dodge and Tony Luhan into a process that went far beyond them as individuals is still at work and whenever someone recognizes the necessity to keep it alive they are honored with special guidance. As Joe J. and Frances park in front of the Adobe Inn to visit their friend Diane they know almost anyone might be there. For all the years she lived there, Diane's Inn was magic. One never knew who might show up. People from all over the world came (often accidentally) to this old Inn sequestered off the main road and easy to drive by without noticing. There were artists, musicians, writers, spiritual seekers, scientists, various eccentrics and people who just needed a sympathetic place to lick their wounds. Often these people seemed magically convened for inspiration or guidance on the path. Again and again Medicine Mountain and his soul family brought to the greater world an opportunity to touch the healing power of their mountain.