The story begins like this…Five hundred years ago, the large petroglyph rock that marks the border of the courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos was placed there by the Tiwa Indians to help anchor the energy of the Pueblo Mountain, from whose Blue Lake they trace their origins as a tribe.
The petroglyph rock has had an additional function over these years. It has been used as a navigational guide for extraterrestrial visitors because the site also marks the entranceway to other dimensions.
— Lois Palken Rudnick, Utopian Vistas: The Mabel Dodge Luhan House and the American Counterculture
Petroglyph Rock, courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Taos, New Mexico, February 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
This rock that sits in the courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos was the inspiration for the formation of a writing group by four participants of Natalie Goldberg’s writing workshop, Living Color, held at Mabel Dodge Luhan House in July of 2007.
The four women — Jeanie from North Carolina, Melissa and Katherine from Houston, and Sally from Rome, Italy — now come together by email the first and third Monday of each month to share their writing.
They follow the rules of writing practice as Natalie Goldberg teaches it. They write for ten minutes without interruption, their hands move across the page without stopping. They don’t comment on each other’s work; they provide a short recall of what they remember after they read each piece.
They call themselves the Petroglyph Practitioners in recognition of what writing practice, and the rock in the courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House are meant to offer — flight into other dimensions of the self, of the mind, and just possibly, the Divine.
But it’s best if the writers speak for themselves. Below are quotes from their writing practices on how they formed the Petroglyph Practitioners.
On my first night in Taos at Natalie Goldberg’s writing workshop, I walked out to the quiet courtyard for a view of the night sky and was hit with the aloneness of being with the crowd of ancestors who have written and painted in the Mabel Dodge Luhan home. As I opened the screen door I expected to see many people with writing notebooks, books, paper, and paints expressing their dreams yet there was a silence that haunts the breeze. I find the evocative colors of lanky hollyhocks, the dust of these faded red walls, and an empty wooden bench that calls me to sit a while and meet these ghosts that stay here because it is the place they call home.
When I went to Taos I thought I needed a break, but what I really needed was to meet the mountain — and to meet the immutable within myself. I needed awareness of my interconnectivity with ants, sun, dust, hollyhock, and, yes, even other humans. I was already traveling with Katherine, but I learned her on a whole new level — what was before an intellectual friendship became also a spiritual friendship. I met Jeanie and Sally, and Sally helped me make sense of a meditation experience I’d had years before.
We wanted the practice to do what the stone was meant to do — open a portal into our minds, into our hearts, into places we needed to go. We finally hit upon a name. The Petroglyph Practitioners. We set rules. We would each submit a piece on any topic we wanted the first and third Monday of every month. We would each provide recall of each piece and share that response with the entire group. We would not edit our writing practices beyond punctuation and spelling errors. We would stay true to the practice as Natalie had taught it. If we wrote shit, that’s what we sent that day.
That was an amazing night as Sally took us by flashlight and led us to the rock that had been there all this time. I had no idea it was there. I do know that Natalie always had us do walking meditation near that rock every year I had been there. Now I understood why. I felt a deep connection with Sally and Melissa that night. At the end of the week we decided to join together as a virtual writing group along with Jeanie, Sally’s friend, and we formed the Petroglyph writing practice group.
We sit that last day anchored to the idea that we need each other to ground our practice and navigate beyond. For us, this solid rock shores us up for more writing. We talk of ways to sustain our desires, to witness our words and to prop us up. We make our plans: we write, we read, we recall and we dream…alone and together.
She said petroglyphs were believed to be portals to other dimensions and that the Natives believed this and this is why the petroglyphs were considered sacred. I remember her telling me that that is why I always felt like I was home at Mabel’s. She told me that I didn’t need to move to Taos, but that it was always good to visit these places around the world because all petroglyphs feel like home. They connect us to the Source, The Over Soul, or as I choose to call it: God.
I find that the rhythm we have set for ourselves is good; it’s neither so frequent that we feel stressed about it, nor too distant to lose interest. We all submit on time. We share emails in which we say how much we enjoy the sharing. We aren’t supposed to comment, but we do, just a little bit. We share support for one another, share a thought, give a pat on the back. Did the name live up to our expectations? For my part, I’d say so and I think the others would agree. Something new and unexpected always comes through for me. I discover myself, and I also discover the others by reading their work.
Since then, we have all kept our obligation to the practice — we have shared humor, shame, defeat, happiness, spirituality, intellectual obsessions, family secrets, dreams, beliefs, insecurities, friendship, and respect. I have learned from these women how to listen, how to share, and how to grow my heart.
I’ve learned to honor the writing that comes out in each of us because it connects us. Katherine, Melissa, Jeanie, and I — we are the Petroglyph Practitioners, united in being there for each other, united in wanting to explore every other week together what it means to be human.
Petroglyph Practitioners in Taos, NM, in front of the
petroglyph rock for which their group is named, July 2007,
photo © 2007 QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
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