Monday, June 27, 2011

Taos Day 17 — Drought, Fires and Drums

Yesterday I broke out of my isolation here in Taos and drove the beautiful, mountainous road to Santa Fe and church services at Santa Fe Unity. There I caught up with my old friend, Jude Byrne. Jude moved to Santa Fe a few years ago after a career in advertising, the latter part of it in Miami.

Jude Byrne
She is now exploring television and hosting a show on spirituality on, a fledgling Internet start-up. But Sunday was more than  traditional church services.

After the formal services, Jude led a drumming ceremony inside a large medicine wheel built a year ago behind the church -- to drum for rain. New Mexico, and especially the Santa Fe-Taos area, is in the grip of one of the worst droughts ever. No rain for three months.

Cisterns are running dry and wildlife is threatened. The semi-desert pine forests are tinder.

Fire seen above Los Alamos
A fire, the Las Conchas fire, threatens Los Alamos 35 miles away and is forcing evacuation of the National Laboratory there, northern New Mexico's largest employer.

A medicine wheel, sometimes called hoop, is a native American tradition dating back thousands of years. It consists of a circle of stones with the four cardinal points marked by larger stones or openings. There is usually a fire pit in the center. Ceremonies take place within the circle.

Prayers for rain
Yesterday, 18 drummers including Jude and I joined in the circle. We spread corn meal on the soil and then began drumming.  Cacophony at first but then the drummers settled into rhythms with each other. A few of the drummers danced.

It lasted about 10 minutes. Prayers and blessings were said for rain. Then the drummers filed out, stacked their drums and left.

Stacked drums at the circle
Jude and I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up.  We ate lunch at an outdoor restaurant. Jude spends her time between Santa Fe and New York, where the TV studio is located. She has been studying native America traditions here and working with the Ehama Instititute in nearby Abiquiu.

As we talked the wind picked up. It became so strong that it lifted large umbrellas from the tables. Large, dusty plumes of smoke rose in the sky from the Los Alamos fire, making my eyes sting. By evening the western skies were dark with smoke -- but still no trace of wished for rain clouds.

It was good to get out. To see people. To do things. Here is what the smoke in the distance looked like late yesterday afternoon just outside Santa Fe.



  1. The fires out west this year are just horrible. I would love to send you some of our rain. We have had way more than our fair share this year. Stay cool.

  2. Hope your rain dance works and you get a read downpour soon!

  3. We got 3 rain drops in TorC yesterday. Maybe it was because of your drumming!

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