The Sacred Lands

New Mexico’s Native peoples have sacred places on their land. The idea that the earth itself is a holy thing may resonate with people of all cultures—especially once they’ve experienced the spaciousness and silence of the desert. I often blog about the joys and beauties of the Land of Enchantment, but of course there are conflicts and challenges here as well. The hardest choices are not those between good and evil but between two goods. Between short-term benefits and long-term preservation. Between much-needed money today and clean water and untainted land in the future.

The following article from the Santa Fe Reporter describes the effect of fracking for oil and gas in Navajo communities—places that some of you may know personally and that others may know through Tony and Anne Hillerman’s books. I usually write about things that that move toward the positive—whether through the enjoyment of an experience or a good book or through the practice of mindfulness—so this topic may seem like a detour, but I don’t see it that way. Sometimes, moving through conflict constructively is the only way forward. I felt admiration for Daniel Tso when I read this story and wanted to share it. It takes courage to speak up and bear witness.

http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/article-10976-fractured-communites.html

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Karma and Creativity

I woke up with an attitude today. Tuesday I had to start the day with a divisional meeting and today I had to start the day with a faculty assembly. It wasn’t the event that was the problem, but my reaction to it: a negative thought.

Goswami Kriyananda’s book, The Laws of Karma, says that karma isn’t punishment or retribution, but cause and effect. The subtle aspects of the causes often get overlooked. I keep contemplating this line from the book: “If a negative thought enters your head, know the first law of freedom: Don’t feed it.” On the next page, he says, “Knowledge is greatest eradicator of negative karma.”

To me, this means that when I have a negative thought, I need to notice and transform it, not smother it. If I suppress and ignore it I could still feed it—dig a hole for it and plant it and water it with my other unsolved problems and cranky attitudes. Talking about it can go two ways: I can vent to a friend and transform the negative, or I can vent to friend and magnify the negative. Writing about it can go in various directions, too, from pointless rumination to logical, problem-solving analysis to creative transformation.

In one of his talks, Kriyananda said something along these lines: “If I’m meditating in a cave, I have no problems. But as soon as I have a student, I have a problem.” This made me laugh—it’s so true.

Humor is one way of transforming the negative. Some professors have little pottery jars in their offices labeled, “Ashes of Problem Students.” The meeting this morning suddenly became amusing when I saw it through the filter of my critique partner’s work in progress, a comic paranormal mystery in which life after death has not fire and brimstone but meetings—bureaucracy and rules and meetings. I listened to the speech about new committees for assessment being formed and could see it as a scene in that book. With that shift in perspective, I stopped feeding the negative thought and started to smile.

I know writers who transform annoying people into murder victims in their stories. That’s not a choice for me, since I write murder-less mysteries. However, I have used people who troubled me as the inspiration for oppositional characters—and a funny thing happened when I did it. I developed compassion for them. Though the characters’ roles are antagonistic in the stories, I have to understand these difficult people and feel my shared humanity with them or they’ll be cardboard villains. The process gives my protagonist some complicated and interesting enemies, while it changes my resentment into insight. One of my students told me he transforms his stress into poetry, and that it’s the best therapy he’s ever experienced. It’s working. I’ve known him for a year and seen him change to become gentler and more open-minded. He used to rant on and on about things that bothered him. Now he makes poetry with them, understands himself more, and complains less.

I suspect we’re so attentive to our negative thoughts because they are alarms going off, telling us that something needs to change. That’s also what makes them so uncomfortable, and such fertile material for art and humor.

*****

The give-away posted last week is still open for entries.

https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/win-four-books-a-gift-to-thank-you-for-reading-my-blog

 

Win Four Books: A gift to thank you for reading my blog

I’m honored that so many people read my reviews and reflections. Obviously, I love to write, and it’s good to know that my words reach people who share my enthusiasm for books, my love for New Mexico, and my interests in alternative healing, mindfulness, and mysterious phenomena. To thank you for following my blog, I can’t give you all a gift, but I’m having a drawing. Two of my blog readers will win the current four books in the Mae Martin Series in paperback. Here’s how:

Send an e-mail to ambfoxx@earthlink.net  or

ambfoxx@yahoo.com

with the heading Blog Follower. Let me know which blog or blogs you follow (I have four*), and I’ll enter you in the give-away. I will reply confirming your entry.

You can ask to subscribe to my new release mailing list at the same time if you want, but I will not automatically subscribe you. Fear no spam. It’s not coming.

On Monday Sept. 28th at noon I’ll close the entries and put all the names in a virtual hat and have a colleague pull two out. I will contact the winners and ask for their mailing addresses, and contact the other entrants with only the first name and last initial and general location of the winners, i.e. “Winners are Jane X in Saskatchewan and John Y in Florida.”

If you’re not yet familiar with my fiction, you can read the book descriptions on my home page https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com and also try a free sample:

https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com/free-downloads-retail-links

*The four blogs are:

https://amberfoxxmysteries.wordpress.com a blog about the mysteries of life and reviews of mysteries set in New Mexico.

https://everywhereindies.wordpress.com a blog dedicated to supporting and reviewing the work of indie authors who publish everywhere, not just Amazon. (It started as my Nook book shopping list and grew.)

http://ladiesofmystery.com a group blog with seven other women who write mysteries, dedicated to the topic of writing, from craft to inspiration, with freedom to digress as we see fit.

http://amberf.booklikes.com a book review blog covering everything I read, from yoga philosophy to cozy mysteries to literary fiction to thrillers and more.

 

Spider Old Woman, Part Two

A synchronicity isn’t just a coincidence. It’s one that means something to the person to whom it happens. My synchronicity story is about a Spider Old Woman story.

Quite a few years ago, I was in a relationship with a man who denied that he was keeping secrets from me, secrets that were unhealthy for our relationship, but the evidence added up and I broke off with him. A few months later he got in touch and persuaded me that I had misunderstood what was going on. I had planned to drop him from my life and move home to New Mexico, but I chose to disregard my intuition and judgment and trusted his words instead. I still moved, but we had an unexpected reunion the day before I left. After his visit, I sat on my back porch in rural Virginia gazing out into the woods, and the herd of deer I had come to know as my closest neighbors came into view. I was stunned to see an unfamiliar animal among them. At first I thought it was a horse, though it made no sense for one to be in the woods—but it was a white deer, gazing directly at me. It felt miraculous, a sign of some kind.

On my way out of town early the next day I stopped by my landlady’s antique shop to drop off the key to the house and she had a sculpture of a white deer on display in the window. The message seemed to be begging for my attention. I was sure it had to do with this man, and since the deer was so beautiful, I took it as a positive message that I’d done the right thing.

I stayed in touch with him while I lived in Santa Fe, but we didn’t see each other until another change of jobs brought me back East, this time to Northeastern North Carolina. Shortly after we had our reunion number two, I went to the Meherrin tribe’s powwow where I bought the book, Spider Woman’s Web. In it, I found the story, The Woman Who Kept Secrets. My short retelling below doesn’t do justice to it, but you can get the message—and then read the book.

A long time ago, on one of the ancient Pueblos, there was a woman who waited until all her friends had married before she would commit, and only when she was lonely did she finally agreed to marry a young man who loved her, though she didn’t love him. He was kind, and for a short whole they were happy enough, but then she became restless. Sometimes he woke at night and discovered that she was gone. One night—though she claimed he must have dreamed her absences—he decided to find out where she went. He pretended to be asleep, but once she’d gone far enough from their home, he followed her by moonlight and came to kiva outside the pueblo. (A kiva is a ceremonial underground chamber) He peered in and saw a strange ceremony going on.

Some versions of the story have a shape-shifting shaman in this scene, an act of possible witchcraft; other versions have people misusing the sacred chamber by coupling with partners other than their spouses. The man was discovered and thought he might be hurt or killed, but instead he was invited in. His wife sat beside him and assured him all was well, better than it seemed, and he fell asleep with his head in her lap. When he woke up, he was on a narrow ledge on a cliff, hungry and thirsty and alone. His wife and another man were on the far side of the canyon on another cliff. They threw roasted corn to him, but if he moved to catch it and eat it he would fall. He had to avoid snakes, too, so he held very still. He lost consciousness and woke again, this time in the home of Spider Old Woman. She gave him medicine, an ointment to rub on his wife’s shoulders, which she promised would solve the problems in their marriage.

That night as the man and his wife lay together he rubbed the ointment on her shoulders. To his surprise, she became agitated and got up and went outdoors. He followed her. She began to pace, looking wildly about, and then her body started changing. Her legs, her torso and then finally her face became those of a white deer. The deer gazed at him for a moment with tears in its eyes, and then joined a herd of other deer and ran off. He never saw her again, and he got on with his life.

In my new home in North Carolina, I encountered another white deer, this one grazing with its brown herd-mates in the field behind my house. I’m not the only person ever to see a white deer—Northeastern North Carolina has a few of them—but for me, they carried a message. I had been right the first time. I needed to send this man out of my life for good, and I did. He was the man who kept secrets. The white deer.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/528968.Spider_Woman_s_Web