Outside, it’s cold and the plants have turned all colors of the sunset. The Epazote is a beautiful red streaked with orange, yellow and green. The Salvia coccinea that was in full bloom when it got a light freeze still has brilliant red buds even as the leaves fade to olive, then gray, before finally falling. Penstemons turn a rich dark purple brown and will remain that color until new Spring growth. The Cottonwoods by the river are bare except for a final golden crown that will surely disappear by tomorrow.
Turkey stew with Watercress and Acorn tortillas is the order of the day. A steaming bowl of something yummy at dusk while sitting on the floor in front of the old wood cookstove is a Wintertime ritual for us here in the Canyon. The smell of Pine and Juniper snapping away in the fire lingers even in my dreams, a deep warm comfort during chilling nights.
While Southern California burns, the edges of the river freeze and thaw with the turning of day and night. As my fingers caress the shreddy, dry bark of the Junipers I thank the powers that be for the extra rain we received this Summer and last Winter. The Southwestern Woodlands are so very fragile, an ecosystem that could turn to cinders with a single lightning strike. And I pray for lands, plants and peoples burned out. And even in my grief for dying, changing bioregions I recognize the land’s ability to adapt under stress, to evolve in ways we don’t yet understand as way of increasing diversity and life as a whole.
This morning, I sat in a clump of long, brown Sacaton grass near the edge of the mesa. I closed my eyes and listened to the wind sing through the grasses, and the brittle rattling Evergreen Oak leaves. I sat so still that lizards ran over my hands and when I opened my eyes a chipmunk was standing four feet from me in a rare moment of stillness, staring at me. Then she chittered laughingly and ran up the nearest Pine tree. All around and through me, I felt the song of this Canyon, a great soaring sound full of complex intertwining melodies and harmonies, I felt it move in and out of me. On a practical level, I know that every moment of intense intimacy allows me to better communicate with the land, to be a better Medicine Woman and teacher. On a whole other level, I know this is the real underlying purpose and magic of life — this sensual interconnection and engagement with the world pulling me always deeper into the land, and I love it.