Belonging to the Land

“The first thing to do is to choose a sacred place and live in it.”
— Tahirussawichi, Pawnee tribe elder

As we transition into our august years, my wife and I have sought a place where we can retire, to be stewards of the land,  and learn from and commune with nature.  We are fortunate to have found such a place, in northeastern Arizona, which we call “O-where”.

Inspired by our neighbors, the A:shiwi people of the Zuni pueblo, we have sought the middle place, between the harsh and the beautiful, equally mundane and mysterious.

There is a rocky knob in the center of O-where that is both ordinary and extraordinary. Ordinary in that it is a simple hill of sand, rocks, scraggly Juniper trees, and sparse desert grass.  Extraodinary in that it provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape in all directions, and is covered with an amazing variety of rocks (including petrified wood) deposited perhaps by an ancient glacier or river.  Most distinctly, there always seems to be a clear crisp uplifting energy on the knob that welcomes and pervades the space.

O-where and the Knob

O-where and the Knob

I built a simple stone ring on top of the knob, using the unique and varied rocks found on the knob, with larger marker stones for the 4 directions and the center.  We continue to add to the stone ring with interesting rocks that we discover on the knob.

Stone Ring, viewing South

Stone Ring, viewing South

On one late afternoon visit to the knob, we were greeted by a large short-horned lizard (phrynosoma hernandesi) sunning itself serenely on the rocks of the south node of the stone ring.

Can you spot the lizard on the rocks to the right?

Lizard on the Stone Ring

Lizard on the Stone Ring

Speaking of spots, the short-horned lizard has beautiful spots and markings on its back, for camouflage.

Short-horned lizard, back view
Short-horned lizard, back view

The lizard basks in the setting sun, merging with the rocks…

Guardian Lizard of the Knob

Guardian Lizard of the Knob

There is a huge ant mound on the side of the knob, which no doubt is a favorite dining place for the lizard.

Ant mound

Ant mound

The more we visit O-where, the more we long for this special place of simple and stark wonders.  It is a joy to grow in the understanding that the land does not belong to us, rather we belong to the land.  We become as much a part of it as it becomes part of us.


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