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Magic on the Road to Chaco

She stepped out of the wild tangle of bushes along the edge of our rural road. The golden brown dog with velvety ears emerged as if out of a dream, a vision conjured up from my memories of Jasmine who died ten years ago. This living lookalike of my beloved pup stood steady and calm in the middle of the lane. I slowly passed by, leaning out my window, hungry to connect. Our eyes met. Her bright copper eyes beamed wisdom and love right past my boggled mind and into my heart.

I smiled and continued down the open road. The magic had begun less than a mile away from home on my roadtrip toward my sixty-first birthday.

Driving into Chaco involves a dusty, rutted, sometimes washed out, dirt road. The time it usually takes to travel fifteen miles is irrelevant. Slowing down is essential in order to enter the sacred grounds.

There is ample time to have a look around, to offer respect to the inhabitants, and give gratitude for passing through. There are endless opportunities to greet anyone met along the way ~ herds of sheep, grazing horses, blazing sun, drifting clouds, scent of sage, bone-rattling bumps, and people waving through smudged windshields.


Magic On The Road To Chaco &Raquo; Chacowelcome


In the great expanse of these lands, everything in me quiets. There’s a spaciousness in simply being, in communicating without words, in soaking up the wonder of it all – the vast horizons and boundless skies, the legacies of ancestral peoples, the gift of having a glimpse into a human way of life rooted in ceremonial relationship with our earth.

The ancient knowledge is still alive, still speaking, in the artistry of the structures the people left behind, in the traditions and living descendants. The stories are still held and passed along by coyotes, red rock mesas, and cottonwoods, by sagebrush, bobcats, and snakes, by lizards, rabbits, winds, and rains, in the arroyos and golden sandy soils.

When I walked to a shaded shelter to eat lunch, I was welcomed by a vulture feather resting on the ground. This was the only feather I saw throughout my wanderings. I crossed paths with only one vulture gliding by on windstreams high overhead.

My first visit to Chaco was ten years ago during a Full Moon Eclipse. I spent most of my days tucked away under a rocky outcropping carving a stone pipe. My Vulture Pipe was birthed in these lands and eventually shared in ceremonial circles.


Magic On The Road To Chaco &Raquo; Pipefeather


Vulture carries the medicine of unconditional love. In an Egyptian lineage, she is understood to be the firstborn. Vulture’s medicine, her gifts, what it is that she shares, is the beginning, the initiation, the inherent foundation in life itself. Love is the essential element, the original material, for creation. All-encompassing, unwavering, unconditional love flows through our veins and settles in the marrow in our bones. A generous wellspring, a boundless source, is living within us and all around.

Vulture coasts on the winds and love rains down from her wide-open wings, touching everyone and everything. She’s a keeper of balance, a guardian always watching over. In ceremony with the Vulture Pipe, in tobacco offerings to spirits of these lands, I ask for guidance and healing so I can walk in the way Grandmother Vulture soars.

I’ve been called back to Chaco several times in the past decade. I tend to camp in these sacred grounds during Full Moons, not necessarily due to well-made plans. More than once, I’ve landed in Chaco while on the way to somewhere else.

I sense in the great mystery there are glistening fibers of connection, rippling through space and time, weaving the ancient legacies, cycles of the moon, and seasons of the earth with the rhythms of my heart, quests of my spirit, dreams that I hold, and the passions and purposes in my life path.


Magic On The Road To Chaco &Raquo; Window


I’m coming to know Chaco as a birthing place, a site of initiations, a threshold. There are seen and unseen doorways opening into boundless realms of knowledge, relationship, and experience.

Gentle whispers in the winds, alluring mysteries, and ground-shaking calls bold as thunder bring medicine and magic for remembering what lives in the very center of my heart.


Magic On The Road To Chaco &Raquo; Sacredsite

sunrise hike on my birthday


Originally Published on

JoAnne Dodgson Ceremonial Healing

JoAnne Dodgson’s life is centered in the lineage of Ka Ta See and the path of the kala keh nah seh ~  medicine storyteller, weaver of webs of balance, healer, teacher, and ceremonial guide. She offers ceremonial healing, apprenticeships, and retreats to remember our belonging and weave harmony in our relationships with ourselves, each other, our earth, and web of life.

JoAnne has been learning, living, and sharing the ways of the kala keh nah seh for over twenty years. She has a doctorate in Counseling Psychology with a specialty in Holistic Health. As a therapist and community activist, she worked in trauma healing centers and college counseling centers. She has been on the faculty in Transpersonal Psychology, Women’s Studies, and Holistic Health programs. Earlier in her career, JoAnne was a teacher in public schools and residential programs for adolescents. She also served as the director of a women’s shelter.

To share her passion for the healing medicine of stories, JoAnne has written several books including Spirit of Chocolate: A Woman’s Journey to the Rainforest in Search of Her Dreams and UnLeashing Love. She lives in the enchanted desert mesas of New Mexico.

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