Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Cave You Fear to Enter

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.  
~ Joseph Campbell

The second year I lived in New Mexico, I lived about twenty miles north of Santa Fe, in a little area called El Rancho. I know, it sounds like a no-star motel on the edge of the Mojave Desert, but it was a small settlement of folks who had probably lived there, or their families had, for a good many years. It is situated between two mountain ranges: the Sangre de Cristos to the east and the Jemez to the west. The views were outstanding and the sunsets to die for. Well, maybe not to die for, but they were awfully nice.

Perhaps it's the four fresh inches of snow outside my window, and more coming down (which I don't mind a bit; it's sort of nice and cozy), but I've found myself mentally wandering around in the area near the Jemez. It holds some wonderful hiking and exploring opportunities, which JB and I took full advantage of (JB and I were divorced by that time, but were working out our friendship). It was a playground of fine proportions.

Just up the road a few miles was an outlier of Bandelier National Monument called Tsankawi. It's one fine walk, culminating in some pretty spectacular views of those same two mountain ranges, plus the Pajarito Plateau. The real pay off is the Anasazi habitation site at the top of the climb, almost a thousand years old, complete with remaining evidence of their lives: pottery sherds, depressions where kivas had been, and some low rock walls. On the sunny side of the hill are several small caves and even a few petroglyphs.

Across the road from Tsankawi, caves that were once inhabited by other folks who had lived there line the face of a cliff made of volcanic tuff. They provided several other days worthy of exploration. These were not deep caves, just large rooms carved out of the soft rock, large enough to provide a living space, a place safe from the elements, where they could keep an eye out for uninvited visitors. Several of these were connected inside by narrow passageways. Black charred ceilings gave a sense of their very spartan lives.

We once set aside our fears of scorpions and other inhabitants, sat down inside one of them and had lunch. Looking out from inside gave me an acute sense of history and the Anasazi who had lived there.

This morning, looking out at the snow and thinking of these caves, the opening quote by Joseph Campbell came to mind. I posted it on my Face Book page, back when I had a Face Book page. I wanted to share it here, as well. It's a reminder to not be afraid to look inside, to explore the interior of my life, along with the exterior, and the ever-expanding possibilities that are there.

Note the small spiral petroglyph in the second photo of me, just to the upper left, a common symbol found among rock carvings. The circle of life? A symbol of time? Just one of the mysteries that makes exploring their history great fun.


  1. I love that part of the country, wondering about those disappeared people.

    I also love the slower pace of winter - though I envy you the snow, driven inside instead by rain, rain, rain.

  2. This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing with us. The view from inside is very moving..with the long ancient view. The spiral petroglyph is a marvel.. so celtic.. so Maori.. so common to all peoples. Joseph Campbell is one of my heroes - teachers.

  3. WOW....You must have really enjoyed NM. Those caves are fascinating. You were like Magellan, doing all that fun exploring. Your photos are the best, as usual. Do you put all your photos in albums or just in boxes (like mine)? That simple quote by JC sure says a lot. A good one!!! An inviting post.

  4. Very cool post. I love NM and thinkin that maybe next Spring...???? I've never been in that particular area. Sounds like a road trip. Your pics are awesome.

  5. Great quote and beautiful shot from inside the cave, what a place to explore. Gary and I have traveled there a lot and every so often we say we'll live there one day.

  6. Linda, The "disappeared people," have provided many good adventures for me, both in NM and Utah. Yes, the snow is cozy.

    Joan, The "long ancient view," is a lovely phrase and certainly describes the draw to exploring it. Yes, the symbols found common to all tribes intrigues me - symbolizing our interconnectedness to each other and all life.

    Manzi, Magellan is one of those names that filled my childhood with wonder, so thank you for that! Most of my photos are in albums, but for some reason nthese were not, so a bit of wear is showing. I am hesitant to share my older 35mm, scanned photos, but they illustrate the story, so...

    Lynn, I know how you love NM, so I hope your wish for spring results in a fun road trip for you. You must go, and then tell us all about it!

    Linda, NM is awash with creativity. You would love living there. Your inner mad scientist would be rubbing her hands together with glee :)

    Thank you, ladies, for your thoughtful remarks.

  7. Your voice was so pure I felt as though I walked in your steps. I am always amazed how the circle of life appears in so many places. We saw it in the Middle East. I can't help but think how those ancient people, so disconnected from each other, connected with the same wonderment about life.

    You make me want to visit NM again! (Have you thought about putting these NM posts into a book? The energy is there!)

  8. Hi Kittie! This is not the first time in the past week that I've been encouraged to write a book. We shall see.... Thank you.

  9. Those photos are terrific, Teresa. I love that part of the country...am drawn to it for some reason. I love the spirituality that permeates those mountains.

    I've read that the spiral petroglyphs symbolize our path on life's journey. I kind of like that idea.

  10. Cheryl, There is a spirituality that seems to permeate that area. I have been drawn, as you know, all my life. Still am. :) It's nice to share that "pull" with you.

  11. I know exactly the place. Have been there several times, alone and also on field trips. The cave. Not everyone goes there. Good quote by Campbell. Interesting you should think of the Jemez area with the snow you have in Minnesota. The photo of you I used last year on my blog was shot from there, wasn't it? There is nothing better than hiking around old sites. Stirs one. Combined with your love of literature, outdoors, archy sites and hiking, you are a naturalist par excellence. I know that Lonewolf has a steward like none other.

  12. Jack, How exciting, to know we've shared the same places. Isn't it wonderful to discover for ourselves these archeological mysteries? The photo you speak of was actually taken in SE Utah, in a canyon up on Cedar Mesa, just north of Bluff - a maze of canyons, all with outstanding archeological sites. I love being there, listening and soaking up all their intriguing history.

    Thank you, Jack.

  13. i also LOve this quote, teresa.
    i would like to travel to these caves--and go inside.

  14. You are an intrepid explorer, Michelle, of the caves we fear to enter. And it's inspiring to me.

  15. Wonderful recounting of your internal and external explorations. Love the photos looking out from inside the cave. To step out and move forward into the vastness of ourselves and beyond. No net. Thank you for these gifts that trigger thought. Gems all.

  16. "the vastness of ourselves and beyond..." I love that, Chris. Thanks so much for sharing your insights here.