Paddling the River Back to Ask Why

If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors.  All of them are alive in this moment.  Each is present in your body.  You are the continuation of each of these people.  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

river house ~d nelson

river house ~d nelson

So mighty stand stone dwellings within sandstone cliffs of what we now call Cedar Mesa.
What did you call it, dear ancestors?
We might call you Anasazi, ancient peoples what did you call yourselves?
Perhaps answers are present among the thousands of petroglyphs that adorn the mesa.
Stories of your community living in harsh desert heat and wind
protected by solid rock comforted by San Juan River’s life-giving waters,
expressed in simple imagery surviving ravages of time.

proud desert big horn ram

proud desert big horn ram

We paddled downstream into strong head-winds
making our way to your snake house to ask advice.
Help us re-weave our broken connections to all our relations,
our blood ancestors, animal ancestors, plant and mineral ancestors.
Help us remember from where we came so that we may stop living in forgetfulness.
How can we re-connect with what matters -the source of our being?
To have most gratitude for the air, soil, water and earth
that sustains us and all life.

Our curiosity is heartfelt and humble.
All that visibly remains of your ancient village are these piled rocks,
drawings and small artifacts of small dried corn and pottery.
Some say you disappeared when the environment no longer supported your existence.
Hopi’s and other pueblo tribes say you are their ancestors.
Petroglyphs and artwork on their Reservations support their being your descendants.

Butler Wash petroglyph

Butler Wash petroglyph

What can you advice to us, we who have paved over the world,
consuming it with great appetite
and suffer greatly from having severed our roots?
I will continue to listen in the wind and silence
for your dear blessings as I’m certain your compassion is rock solid
for the continuation and survival of your descendants and all living things.


37 thoughts on “Paddling the River Back to Ask Why

    1. smilecalm Post author

      thank you for your kind words, Laura!
      it was quite fortunate to see the sheep.
      my camera was packed away when I was paddling
      the bigger waves, those images are in my head 🙂

  1. brucethomasw

    Beautiful reflection, David. I actually looked at some of these photos already on your flicker feed, after looking at your last post. This river retreat looks and sounds so wonderful. And I love the little portable bucket compost toilet – appropriate technology at it’s best.

    1. smilecalm Post author

      thank you Bruce for noticing!
      Quite common to carry the human waste
      out of the river and shorelines.
      otherwise these river trips
      would become less pleasant over time
      for those who visit next 🙂

  2. robert87004

    Lovely, I imagine it was an excellent trip! How could you not be impressed? In New Mexico, many of the Pueblan people call them Pre-Pueblan, not Anasazi, as that is a Navajo word. Supposedly that is where they went, they moved to form the pueblos, where water was always available. There is some oral history to back that up, apparently.

  3. francisguenette

    Some days it seems the earth must have to have so much compassion to put up with us. Then again, if all my ancestors are to be seen in the palm of my hand, I must think very carefully about what this hand is responsible for. The sign says that all that belongs to the earth (including compassion) belongs to me, so I might just make it. Lovely photos – the one of the paddle flying out of the water is especially exquisite.

  4. Mike McDonald

    My mind is now peaceful after reading your thought-full remerations flowing like water through the canyons of my mind. It was so nice to have you along to lend your gentle perspectives of life…(despite of all the challenge and effort that trip entailed)

  5. ♡eM


    You are a loving genius after my own heart! Thank you for sharing your experience and your intentions to re-weave our broken connection will all our relations, remember from where we come, and reconnect with what matters, for your intentions are mine. Together we are one, just as we already know, and as your loving blog regularly whispers.

    Many thanks and such appreciation for you, Smile.

  6. gregjoder

    Beautiful photos – That must have been a dream of a float trip! Petroglyphs and bighorns … so cool! =0)

    1. smilecalm Post author

      thanks for your kind observations!
      along with intense headwinds and dirt
      there was much good fortune, including
      visiting ancient dwellings and seeing the herd of wild bighorns!

  7. TamrahJo

    Beautiful! A native Coloradoan, I still have not made it to the Great Sand Dunes or neighboring Chaco Canyon – every year, something blocks the trip – keeping my fingers crossed for this year! 🙂


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