By Gerald Hausman
Santa Fe, NM, USA

You can drive a few miles out of town and be in the wilderness on a dirt road. It could be at night and a lone horseback rider warns you to turn off your headlights and when you ask why, he shouts, “I don’t like ‘em.”

The farther you go outside of Santa Fe, the more the wilderness speaks to you. I was with my old friend Fred, and we found a sacred metaté – this was over by the Navajo reservation in a wilderness area called Recapture Pocket.

By Navajo artist Joogii

I kept the metaté for a while, then Fred kept it, and finally he returned it to a Jemez native who said it was a sacred tool once used for grinding herbs, seeds and natural medicines. The smooth dark stone was good to hold in the hand.  

When Fred gave it to the Jemez man, he returned it to a kiva.

Sometime later, Fred and I journeyed to a cave not too far from where we found the metaté.

In the semi-darkness of the cave, we saw a roof beam with a stripped cedar bough used as a lintel tie-down. There had once been a loom there where a weaver had made a square knot of yucca thread to make fast the cedar support.

I looked at the knot and saw that it had held up well considering its age. Which was, for a guess, about 1200 AD.

Such events are not uncommon in New Mexico.

Gerald Hausman

I can recall another time when I was running in the hills of Tesuque and I chanced to see a black volcanic Madonna in a packrat’s burrow of all places. That packrat must have been some collector of treasure. 

I imagined the Madonna healed many who touched it. It certainly healed me when I found it. Who knows what it did for the packrat.

In any case, like Fred, I kept it for a while. Then I returned it to the Santuario de Chimayo where thousands of people have divested themselves of crutches, articles of clothing, scrawled messages, letters, children’s toys from other centuries, and all kinds of sacred and utilitarian objects of human life.

There it rests to this day. Once it belonged to a volcano. Then an artisan found it and carved it. Then it was the dark sister of our Lady of Guadalupe and it was a blessing, a healing thing like the metaté. You could rub it against your face and feel the passage of time melt like dew from a cornflower.

In such a moment, you feel reborn.

(Header photo credit: Matt Suhre)

Gerald Hausman    


Gerald Hausman is the author of Not Since Mark Twain - Stories and a regular contributor to Stay Thirsty Magazine.

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.