Earthships, Mud Baths and The Taos Pueblo

We have been to New Mexico every year for the past six years. We normally stop in to see some of our favorite kinfolk in ABQ. We love New Mexico and as residents, they obviously love New Mexico too. Inevitably our conversation drifts towards other great places in New Mexico to visit and Taos always rises to the top of their list. So, this time around, we decided to stop in Taos to see what all of the hoopla was all about. We are glad we did! What a fantastic place!

We only had two days up our sleeve so we decided to book an RV spot at the Taos Monte Bello RV Park, which sits about fifteen minutes northwest of the city center. The park was clean, gated and provided a beautiful backdrop for our big ol’ rig, “Celu.” We paid with cash and used our Good Sam discount, paying a total of $76 for the two nights.

We pulled in to our site around 2 pm and spent a few hours settling in, putting together a picnic. At 5 pm we drove 40 minutes west, popping in for a quick view of the Rio Grande Gorge, then on to Ojo Caliente’ Spa and Resort to enjoy a sunset soak.  We arrived at Ojo Caliente’ at 6 pm. The sunset soak runs from 6-10pm and is $17.50 per person. It includes 7 different mineral soaking pools, a mud bath that stays open for the first half hour, as well as, a sauna and eucalyptus steam room. The price also includes a towel, the use of a locker, fancy essential oil soaps, and other amenities in the locker rooms.

The facility was clean, beautiful, quiet, and the calm incense of sage wafted through the grounds. We soaked, laid in hammocks, read books and soaked some more. Then about 8 pm we dried off and went out to the picnic area to refresh with veggies, hummus, cheese and crackers and a fruit bowl, then we went back in for a final soak, sauna, and steam. We made it back to the bus about 11 pm and slept hard through the night.

The next morning we enjoyed a lazy start, eating breakfast on the bus before heading into town to do a little thrifting.  We found a few great thrift stores but our favorite was Pieces. The items were higher end and the prices reflected that. So, we went straight for the sale tags and found a few reasonably priced treasures, including a beautiful tunic from India and an NM Turquoise ring.

After our treasure hunting thrill, we drove through the touristy downtown and snapped a few pictures, then made our way to The Coffee Spot to refuel. I ordered their house made Chai with Almond Milk and was pleased with the blend of spice and flavor.

Craig had looked up things to do in Taos and discovered the Earthship Village. An Earthship is a type of passive solar house that is made of both natural and upcycled materials such as earth-packed tires, pioneered by the architect Michael Reynolds in the 1970’s. Taos, NM has a large village and a building school where you can go to learn the craft. Craig, being the learner and builder that he is, was very interested in hearing the inside story of this place.  We inquired about a tour but found that the cost was prohibitive for us wanderers. We decided to trek over anyways, just to have a look and despite the signs that read “no trespassing,” we ended up doing a drive through the neighborhood. Our roadside view allowed us to see just the tops of the homes but we were fascinated and declared that next time around we’d seek out a local to show us the ropes.

Another finding of Craigs was the Taos Pueblo, which is an ancient pueblo belonging to a Tiwa-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people. This special place is the only UNESCO Site in the United States and the Taos Pueblo has been one of the only continuously inhabited neighborhoods since time immemorial. We found it a remarkable example of preserved traditional architecture from the pre-Hispanic period of the Americas and learned it is unique to this region. We also learned that because of the living culture of its community, it has successfully retained most of its traditional forms up to the present day. And so, we trod lightly through their neighborhood, respecting their desire for tourist to withhold from taking photos. In fact, the only photo I took was a view from the parking lot. However, there are several really good shots on the UNESCO Site.

After a quick bite to eat we made our way a few miles down the road to the Taos Mesa Brewery to see our friend, Nahko, and Medicine for the People, perform at the breweries amphitheater. The facility and grounds were artsy, industrial and funky with mountains off in the distance and the staff was laid back, which made for a very relaxed evening. While at the concert, we met a few locals around the bonfire and had an opportunity to hear stories about what life was like in Taos. We also met folks from the Earthship school and were able to pick their brains about what they were learning, which rounded out our curiosity and made some of the things we had seen in our driving tour make more sense.

The next morning, we sat and had a coffee, enjoying our view one last time and then drove off into the distance towards Colorado Springs.

Surfers, Roots and Fire

Traveling through Australia with just back packs and instruments often left us vulnerable to not knowing where exactly we’d lay our heads every night. However, the generosity of our hosts continued to give us a peace of mind. It’s funny how connection happens. We had a few conversations with Jayne before our visit and during one of them we mentioned that we would be so grateful for a host, a hub, a place to call home while we were in town. Jayne put us on to Sparky and she welcomed us with open arms.

When we arrived, Sparky was just leaving for work. Jayne had mentioned that Sparky was a fire performer but were tickled with she opened the door and she welcomed us in her fire-red costume. She was a sheer delight! She gave us the low down on her place, showed us to our rooms and wished us a great visit.

Between our outings with Jayne we enjoyed learning more about Sparky and her love for her dog, traveling, community, faith and her art form. Sharing her space with us was natural and informal and just what we needed on our last leg down under. Thanks Sparky!

Photo credit F13 Media

Bordertown Sheep Farm

With a head count of 75 million sheep, the second largest sheep population in the world, and traditional sheep shearing bush songs like Click Go the Sheers, Australia is definitely known for its sheep farms!

I’m a sucker for those timid but wild beasts and am always telling my husband to pull off the road so I can get a photo! I’ve even written about them in one of our songs, where I dream about one day owning a sheep farm. So, a few years ago, when we meet a sheep farmer named Trevor Thomas and his family at the Bendigo Blues and Roots festival, we made sure to stay in contact in hopes of one day visiting their sheep farm in Bordertown, South Australia. Their oldest daughter, Sarah and I exchanged Instagrams and eventually we wound our way through Bordertown for a lovely afternoon meal and tour of the farm.

Bordertown, SA sits about 18 klm from the South Australian/Victorian border and is the halfway point when you drive from Adelaide to Melbourne. It’s a small town of about 2500 population and the hub for many of South Australia’s farmers. This part of the country is ripe for agriculture, specifically cereal crops such as wheat, barley and oats, as well as, livestock such as sheep, cattle and pigs. The terrain is flat, with thinly lined trees here and there, similar to the landscape of Nebraska in the USA. At night, you can see the stars all the way down to the earth’s horizon and on clear day you can see a good three miles out.

The Thomas farm was established many generations ago and is home to hundreds of sheep and a few large wheat fields. When we arrived, Trevor invited us into the shearing shack where we got a little homeschool lesson on the in’s and out’s of this very manual process of shearing.

Sheep shearing 101: Cutting or shaving the wool off of a sheep is called shearing. Shearing is similar to getting a hair cut. However, shearing requires skill so that the sheep is shorn efficiently and quickly without causing cuts or injury to the sheep or shearer. Most sheep are sheared with electric shears and the fleece is removed in one piece. A professional shearer can shear a sheep in less than 2 minutes and the world record is 37.9 seconds, set in 2016 by Ivan Scott from Ireland.

Sheep are usually sheared once per year, before lambing or in the spring before the onset of warm weather. Sheep with long fleeces are sometimes sheared twice a year. Shearing prior to lambing results in a cleaner environment for the baby lambs. It also keeps the fleeces cleaner.

We were in the shack for approximately thirty minutes and during that time we saw about 20 sheep get their annual hair cut. It was intense but the shearing team, (a father and son) were so calculated and precise that the sheep barely had time to really understand what was happening before it was all over and they were ushered out of the shack in to the greater holding pen. They would then be washed in a special liquid that would help clean and heal any nicks or cuts and finally set out into pasture.

As the sheep were sheared, Trevor explained the process of taking the wool to market and which would eventually bring the wool into the hands of spinners and finally to the yarn shelves across the country.

It was intriguing to be in able to learn about this fantastic tradition of sheep shearing! However, the highlight of our visit was sharing a meal around the farmhouse table prepared by three generations of Thomas ladies! The aromas were delightful as they had been cooking all morning and the spread they made was that of a Christmas feast!

I asked if it was a special occasion and they answered, “no, that this is what they make every day for lunch during shearing season.” The three coarse meal, of roast chicken, lamb and veggies, potatoes, and a salad also including a delicious homemade dessert. It was part of their offering to the sheep shearers for their hard work, which by the way, the shearers only had thirty minutes to eat and get back to the shack. That thirty minutes was so fascinating however, as we were able to ask all sort of questions about daily life on the farm, how they handle the uncertainty of weather patterns, global warming, farming technics, the costs and factors that make up good farming practices.

It’s one thing to learn about these sorts of things from a text-book or a TED Talk and a wholly other thing to actually sit across the table from those you are curious about and unpack ideologies, preconceived notions and ultimately talk about dreams for the future. Thankful for kinfolk like the Thomas family, willing to take in us weary travelers and allow us to engage, even if just for a moment, catching a little glimpse into their every day, extraordinary lives.

The Making of One

From the Archives… Celebrating TEN YEARS!

Jana Holland"Jana Holland was given a rich heritage of song and spirit. Every Saturday afternoon for the first 15 years of her life, she would join her Grandmother at the local nursing home in Muskegon, Michigan, to sing hymns of old. As a teen, she was introduced to the world of performance, and recording by touring with Judy Price, her mother, mentor and gifted vocalist. 

Through these experiences Jana developed a deep desire to connect with others through song and began to write after having her daughter in 1996. In her writings she shares her life journey, offering an emotional, intellectual and spiritual response to deeply moving issues." ~CD Baby

1929856_14065906397_1539_nIn 2007 Mama Holland sat down with her guitar and recorded five heart songs. Run, Empathy, Keeper of Your Dreams, Sweet Little Baby and Windows. 

All of the songs were deeply personal and chronicle her journey out of the pit, foot set upon a new rock and a new song put in her mouth.

The name *One* came after an encounter she had at the zoo in Madison, WI. While there as a chaperon on a school trip, Jana had an interaction with a stranger. A woman and her son had been trailing behind the group all day and finally approached Jana at the end of the afternoon. The woman said that she had a divine message and wanted to know if Jana was keen to hear. She answered, “sure.” The woman told her that she was going to have a baby. Bursting into laughter, Jana responded, that the physical possibility for this prophecy was quite impossible. However, the woman continued on, stating that it wasn’t a physical baby but the birth of something that Jana had longed for, something creative. This resonated with Jana as she had a deep desire to record her heart songs but no idea how to do it. She left the encounter encouraged and excited for what might come regarding her dream. She though the name *One* was appropriate because it would hopefully be the first of many new creative babies.

1929856_14065921397_2544_nA few months later, while sharing her dream to record, a fellow musician and sound engineer named Danny Lueck made a generous offer to help. He had access to all the necessary recording equipment and the expertise to guide her through. And so, the recording began.

Thinking back to the lady who had encouraged Jana, she smiled and from that moment on everything about the process was related to that of having a baby, from the CD art work, to making jokes about Danny being her doctor and the ladies in the office, her nurses. Even the process to produce a final product was laborious. Everything was done by hand from the burning of the disks to creating the hand-made packaging. Her mother and cousin were there by her side and even threw her a little shower to celebrate.

All up they hand crafted one hundred of the EP *One* and the songs were archived on CD Baby and put on to Youtube, Spotify, Apple Music, Etc…

 *One* is now TEN Yrs Old!

CLICK HERE to celebrate with us! Have a listen to Jana’s Experimental Folk / Lyrical / Healing & Easy Listening tunes. Let them wash over you and encourage you!

one

 

The Dusty Feet Mob

You know how it goes for us nomads, we meet kinfolk who find out were heading towards their friends. Then we meet those people who find out our next stop is in the same town as their friends and on and on. And so it was, that we made our way from Melbourne, to Adelaide to the Dusty Feet Mob in Port Augusta.

We were in Melbourne, VIC, Australia with our friends Nick and Anita Wight. We met Nick and Anita in March of 2014 at Surrender Conference, a gathering of all sorts of kinfolk doing amazing things around the globe in their communities, from offering hospitality to refugees, to creating sustainable/recycled goods, advocating for those who are oppressed to living side by side with folks in some of the poorest parts of the world. We were excited to hear about these like-minded kinfolk and wrote Anita (who was one of the directors at the time) and asked if we could share our music or help in any other way and she said yes! And, that was that, we became fast friends and continued to stay in touch, stopping in to see the Wight family at their Footscray home on our way from here to there.

It’s an encouragement to find friends like the Wights because their friendship not only allowing us to anchor when we need a rest or re-supply but their friendship fuels our hearts with love.

img_2531One night we were sharing a meal and talking about our upcoming trek across South Australia and up to Alice Springs, when their friend Ian Dempster called. Ian was from Adelaide and happened to in Melbourne, driving by their home on his way to a meeting. He didn’t have time to stop over but thought of them as he passed and decided to give them a quick call for a chat. While on the phone the Wights told Ian about us and our desire to come alongside and encourage others and he said, “send them my way.”

We were blessed to meet up with Ian at the Central Market for a coffee and hear about his work with the UAICC (Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress). He shared about his passion to collaborate with and encourage his Aboriginal counterparts. Although our time with Ian was brief we shared our desire to meet and hear more of the Aboriginal story as we made our way north and he connected us with his dear friends 3 1/2 hours north in Port Augusta.

img_2596As we neared into the industrial town of  Port Augusta we experienced the vast rose-colored salt lakes, broken mesas and massive rock formations that lifted out of the ground commanding our attention and we were reminded of one of our favorite states in the US, New Mexico. Our hosts, The Wallace family, lived on a pink salt lake around the corner from the railroad and welcomed us to their Port Augusta home. They invited us to settle in, share a meal and do a load of laundry. We found them easy to connect with, specially after they whipped out the Settlers of Catan board. Then it was game on. As a bonus, Anna shared her gift of sewing with us and mended up some of our broken backpacks.

The next day, we joined the Congress Port Augusta – Uniting Church, where we met Jesse Size, Auntie* Maria and the rest of the mob*. The service was informal yet reverent. We all sat in the round, taught each other songs of praise and shared in story. They asked us questions about our travels and we shared the practical stories of how Abba cares for us along the way, making sure our needs are met, just as he cares for the birds of the air. A question was asked about how we deal with conflict and betrayal, an issue close to the Aboriginal heart. We shared the story of the betrayal and reconciliation in our own marriage.  As a legitimate victim, I shared how difficult it was to wait without bitterness or blemish, in faith, for my husband to “own his stuff” and finally how Abba liberated him from his twisted thinking; thinking that kept him bound to a false sense of justice.  As we laid down our pride and trusted, Abba did it all. Faithfully the Great Physician put our marriage back together again. We shared another song or two and said a prayer of blessing over them. It was an honor to be with these saints, to tell our hard story and the story of God’s trustworthy-ness.

Afterwards, there was a lightness in the room as folks were getting ready to move to the next part of the day, a Sunday afternoon picnic. Auntie Maria invited us to join in and explained that it was a picnic for the Dusty Feet Mob, a dance troop that her daughter, Wanita choreographed. She was excited to have us join them and for us to see the children dance.

When we arrived, Maria shared the story of the Dusty Feet Mob and explained that Port Augusta is made up of 36 different Aboriginal groups and the Dusty Feet Mob is inclusive towards them all. She stated their dance troop was created in 2014 to provide a medium for elders to pass on their knowledge to younger generations and as a way to communicate about Aboriginal issues, specifically regarding reconciliation.  The group’s debut performance was at the Peterborough Art Cultural Festival in Port Pirie and since then they have been invited to perform at the NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week and many other state and national events. One of their most riveting performances was alongside famed Aboriginal folk singer, Archie Roach, at the Reconciliation South Australia Event in February 2016

Film Maker Dave Laslett. 

img_2628-1What we learned, and what we shared in Port Augusta was life-giving and inspiring. And, even more was the quiet evening that we spent in Jesse and Chelsea Size’s home, sharing a traditional Aboriginal meal of Kangaroo Tails that Auntie Maria made for us. It was during this meal, as the sun setting in the sky and heat lighting was bolting here and there that Auntie Maria shared her personal story. A story of resilience, perseverance, and faith.

Auntie Maria must have been about my age, maybe a bit older, (meaning she was probably in her early 50’s). So she would have been born during a difficult time in Australian/Aboriginal history. Her people were originally from Maralinga but had to flee thousands of Kilometer into Oak Valley, Cundalee Mission in 1955 after the British Government, along with the Australian Government, dropped an Nuclear bomb on their lands. Some went north, east and west after the bomb to find comfort. Unfortunately, some never recovered and many who have lived through the travesty still feel the effects today with sore eyes or blindness.

Many of Maria’s family were taken to Mt Margaret Mission, Kurrawang Mission or Norseman Mission and placed there under the guardianship board when they were taken from their families. This is now known as the stolen generation. Maria’s mum fled all the way to Perth where she had Maria. However, from what Maria was told her mother died when she was 3 months old. A native welfare worker contacted Maria’s extended family and her oldest sister took her under her wing with other family supporting. Maria was born a half-caste and expressed her deep desire to know her connection to country, to family especially around native titles, etc. Unfortunately, for Maria there is not a lot written about her mum so all she has to go on is what family tells her about who is family and where she fit in.

She spoke fondly of her childhood, growing up in and around Laverton, Mt Margaret and Leonora. She said she was a bit of a cheeky child, later returning to her hometown to see her name still etched into sidewalks and buildings. She said she respects and values her culture and has a deep longing to connect with country but explained that her Brother-in-law, who raised her like his own, had a strong Christian faith and for that she was thankful, for no matter what may come her way, she knows that Jesus is her rock. When all else fails, and she’s seen her share of failings, she falls back on her faith as her firm foundation. Auntie Maria’s story was so inspiring and it was an honor to even have heard a small portion of it.

*Mob is a word used to describe a tribe or family group of Aboriginal people. *Auntie or Uncle are the respectful terms to address an elder woman or man

Gleebox Dinners

img_2135In January of this year we were in Pai Thailand and met a young backpacker named George, who was from  Sydney. We exchanged contact info and when we arrived in his hometown we reached out and he invited us to a gathering in an inner city suburb called Glebe. He said it was a potluck and sometimes they would jam, so bring a dish to share and our instruments.

We were welcomed by a house full of darling young ladies whom lived in the home and all of their many friends. We were taken aback by their kindness and  generosity and by the eclectic mix of kinfolk from around the globe. Naomi, Georgina, Madison and Kirsten shared their story of friendship and commitment to host a potluck meal every Monday night for their neighbors, friends and family. Their story resonated with our heart for hospitality and of course we love a story that includes a little serendipity.  You see our friend George had met some of the ladies while on a trip to Alice Springs. Once the ladies found out that George lived in Sydney they immediately invited him into the fold, and because of that invitation, we now found ourselves in their company and what joy to be included!

img_2098We stayed in Glebe for six weeks and every Monday we made a point of going to the Gleebox Dinners, finding that each week there was a different mix, enjoying the festive vibe of a house breathing with creativity and kindness as well as the quieter evenings chock full of intimate conversation. There was a comfort and familiarity to the evenings that made us feel like we were more than just guests, we felt like family.

Sometimes when we think of hospitality we think of fancy dinner parties and Martha Stewart but when we think of hospitality as a gift rather than a talent, we find a wholly other experience. We find a sense of home. Actually when you break it down, the word derives from the Latin hospes, meaning “host”, or “guest.” Hospes is formed from hostis, which means “stranger.”

Every culture has their understanding of hospitality, but we especially are drawn to Ancient traditions found in the Hebrew and Celtic customs. For instance, in Hebrew, the practice is called hachnasat orchim, or “welcoming guests”. Besides other expectations, hosts are expected to provide nourishment, comfort, and entertainment to their guests, and at the end of the visit, hosts customarily escort their guests out of their home, wishing them a safe journey. Celtic societies also valued the concept of hospitality, especially in terms of protection. A host who granted a person’s request for refuge was expected not only to provide food and shelter to his/her guest, but to make sure they did not come to harm while under their care.

What a gift for us weary travelers to call Glebe home for a time. And, what a gift to find such a lovely and safe welcome by our new friends at the Gleebox house. Here’s to all you kinfolk out there that offer up your time, talents and homes to foster community and friendship!

Mum Jones

12249731_10153326378984053_6258699912709864565_nDebra Jones was known to many as “Mum Jones,” a mentor and Mom in the tribe where no one is left out. She was a voice in the wilderness, brave, kind, soft yet fierce, and she stayed the course, diving deeper and deeper into her faith, giving up more and more of herself. In June of this year, Debbie passed on through to the other side and although she may never be canonized by a religious institution, I dare say that the tribe she’s impacted along the way would deem her a Saint through and through.

I met Debbie’s husband, Andrew Jones, in 1998 at Cornerstone Music Festival. He was speaking to a group of raver kids called FoundKids that my cousin and I happened upon. We were taken in by the whole scene but I was specifically inspired to hear about Andrew and his families nomadic lifestyle. His stories of wandering around the globe with the intent of just showing up, to be available, encouraging the marginalized. His stories stirred something deep inside of me and a seed was planted that I believe has had a significant influence in our journey.

417872_10151463524703121_2043070706_nAt the time, I was a single mom and longed to hear from a mother’s heart. So, I asked if I could visit with his family.  My hope was to sit with his wife Debbie and ask her questions about her journey into this radical surrender to Abba, trusting Him with her five children and with all of her needs. Back then, they were living out of an old RV and were temporally parked in a suburb of Chicago. They invited me over for an afternoon and as we sat outside of the RV talking, the kids all running in and out, I felt a sense of peace come over me and knew that whatever may come, I had found an example of a life well lived. I had found one of my mentors.

We would only have that one meeting face to face but I followed the family over the years and as my life intersected with Craig’s and we married, I told him all about these kindred spirits. We kept tabs on them and when the time came for us to take our leap of faith, they were the first family we looked to for encouragement.

Over the years, we kept up with them at www.tallskinnykiwi.com and via Facebook. In 2014, we had a few lovely interactions with Andrew and a few of the children, now adults while we were parked in Austin, TX. Each visit bringing with it a deeper sense of camaraderie. Then, in our most recent inter web exchange Debbie reached out to coordinate a meet up but in the end we found ourselves on different continents and hoped to look toward 2016 to unite. However, she did mention that if we made our way to Bulgaria, they’d be happy for us to borrow “Maggie,” their current rig, which was quite tempting. 🙂

Recently, we watched on as Debbie and Andrew split, like a cell, to cover more ground. It would be the first extended period of time that they would move on different continents. Debbie had a missional impulse towards developmental aid in Africa and Andrew felt a pull towards refugee relief in Europe. We were absolutely amazed as we witnessed their courage and discipline and were blown away by their supernatural trust!

11390519_1619216628316768_3253796670653706618_nThen, just two months ago, as they were making their way back towards one another, an urgent prayer request came in. Both Debbie and Andrew were in hospital, one in Ghana and one in Ethiopia, both in critical condition. The prayers poured in, but not even twenty-four hours later we learned that Debbie had passed, her final words, “I am here.” Andrew, who is slowly recovering, writes about it in his memorial blog called ‘Debbie’s Final Words, Angels and More. Andrew states that the words are actually quite moving, as the “phrase points to the strategic impact of actually turning up and being fully present with people in their context.” It was a phrase that she learned while loving alongside the Ethiopian tribe called “Ashanti.” He says that Debbie “felt that nomads, like herself, offered a special gift in turning up to the hidden places and evaluating the real needs and formulating a holistic and sustainable result.” As a fellow nomad this resonates wholly!

12234975_10207502130131979_4625256212437588854_nDebbie surrendered her own body, with its particular itinerary, desires, and even needs, to become one with the breath and message of God. And, this is why she will forever be a Saint in my mind.

Our hearts are heavy and yet, rejoicing, longing for that day that we will meet again.

Blessing to the Jones family and all of the many kinfolk around the world who have their own beautiful stories to tell about this precious woman. May the stories continue flow, to inspire and bear much lush fruit.

To read the full article by Andrew visit ‘Debbie’s Final Words, Angels and More.

Read it, you’ll be inspired too.