By Deb Matlock
Imagine a place that is home to falcons, coyotes, skunks, fox, deer, rattlesnakes, rabbits, numerous rodents and birds, mountain lions and the occasional black bear…not to mention several other nonpoisonous snake species, insects, and arachnids. Ponderosa pine are scattered in between the sandstone rocks and numerous wildflowers and other plants peek out of the crevices in spring and summer.
This place invites geology students from all over the world to come and study its marvels. At one time, this place was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This place was likely a sacred ceremonial site in years past for the Ute Indians. This place is a favorite among artists of all types including many musicians. This place has been a part of my life since I was an infant. This place is Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater…in Morrison, CO, 15 miles west of Denver and less than 5 miles from where I grew up In Golden, CO.
Red Rocks, as it is called by locals, is a place that holds so many memories from my life. I have seen amazing bands there over the years, hiked on the trails in suppressive summer heat, heard the rattle of a snake in the bushes, and marveled over geologic time while contemplating a challenging time in my own, short human life.
Words cannot even begin to express the sacredness I feel when visiting Red Rocks, or the depth to which my own sense of spirituality has developed while being immersed in its powerful landscape. Below is a poem I wrote after a visit to the rocks a few years ago…when I was contemplating the direction I wanted to take my life in the coming year.
She walked to the rock face
And knelt under its strength
As she placed her hands
Upon the roughness
She began to feel it
Soon her breaths were deep and wild and her heart beat on the wind
She lay upon the rock and rolled
She matched her curves with its crevices
She molded herself into its soul
As her eyes closed, she was wrapped in the pulsating energy
Emitting from the rock
Every part of her person vibrated as she was penetrated by the power
She rolled and clawed and tried to resist
But she had no chance
She simply had to get up and dance
We live our lives in places. Our homes, parks, communities, offices, schools, trails…these places create the framework for all our life experiences. The happiest memories, the tragedies, the in between events that simply comprise the hours of time we spend living each day all depend on our places.
The places I live in and know well give me comfort and grounding. I know which birds frequent my local parks at certain times of year. I know exactly where to find cat food in my local food store. I know which time of day is the least crowded at my bank. I also know which bush on our daily dog walk ALWAYS requires a pause while my three dogs spend considerable time smelling and marking for the next passersby. These places are integral parts of my life. Without them, I am lost.
In addition to providing the stage upon which the plays of our lives are enacted, places also allow us the chance to engage our spiritual selves and peer into the mystery of all that is. Places can help us ask such eternal questions as “Who am I?” and “What is my purpose?” and “How do I fit in?” Places can engage all of our senses and allow us to see ourselves as part of a much larger story than our own daily drama. Places provide the windows and doors for us to sense not only our spirits, but the spiritual aspects of life as well. Even religions and belief systems that focus on “transcending” earth are still focused on places…be in heaven, the cosmos, the infinite…these are all still places.
The human being, the human animal simply does not exist without place. Sometimes are places change…by choice or not, but living in place is not optional. And, as the quest for understanding of existence can be, for many of us, a foundational piece of our spirituality, it serves to see place and spirit as profoundly and eternally partnered. Connection to spirit and connection to place may well be one and the same.
Deb Matlock grew up in the mountains of Colorado and is deeply committed to nurturing the connection between people, animals, earth, and spirit. She has spent twenty-five years working as a professional environmental and humane educator and naturalist. Additionally, Deb offers shamanic-style spiritual guidance, animal communication, nature connection workshops, and retreats through her business, Wild Rhythms. She is passionate about helping people find connection and deep spiritual meaning in their lives and in the places where they live. Deb holds a Master of Arts in Environmental Education from Prescott College and is pursuing her doctoral degree in environmental studies at Antioch University New England.
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