While living in Colorado we had coyotes, bear, deer, and mountain lions in our yard. The deer would sometimes sleep right next to the lodge and the coyotes would often surround the perimeter of the property while we were doing lodge, communing in their own way. Living in the southwest desert comes with bigger challenges. These include scorpions, snakes, tarantulas, black widows, chameleons, and pack rats. These little critters get into the blankets and can either pose a threat to participants or wind up dead by suffocation. The pack rats actually ate through the blankets and made a nest! What to do, how to solve this problem we wondered.
There are a lot of Indian ruins in our area that were built by the Sinagua. These are constructed with adobe – dirt, straw, clay, and water – also known as cob. So we got to thinking and realized how amazing it would be to replace our willow branch lodge with a lodge made out of cob (slideshow below). We sat with this until we no longer had a choice, it began to emerge of its own accord.
It begins in beauty. The first thing we did was create a foundation so we used cinderblocks that we already had. Then we looked on Craigslist and found two bales of straw and the lady who was selling it wound up giving to us for free because she liked the idea so much, having built her own house with earth-rammed floors. What are the chances!
We harvested red clay from our local area to go with the red dirt that surrounds us. It wasn’t long before we were mixing the materials to make the cob and realized that the only way to do it was by feel. Up to our elbows and sometimes shoulders in this beautiful red mud we went to work and began mixing our first wheelbarrow full of cob. Since some people are sensitive to smoke, I had the idea to include the sage, cedar, bear root, sweet grass, tobacco, and some copal directly into each wheelbarrow of cob that we made. Perfection – the sacred herbs are in the walls, with us all the time eliminating our need to burn it when it needs to be avoided.
I have been wearing a hand-carved pendant nearly daily that is made from Mexican jade that I purchased from an artisan in the Yucatan in 2009. It has 5 “T” shapes carved into it. I didn’t know what it meant at the time and did some research. A T-shape has been used in cultures throughout the world to represent doorways into the spirit world and other dimensions. I found that many of the Mayan temples and Anasazi kivas have doorways and windows in the shape of a T as portals into other dimensions and a connection to spirit through the breath. So we decided to build a T-shaped doorway. Not only can we pass through these into other dimensions but spirits can easily gain access to this lodge.
The next amazing thing emerged as we began building the walls with the cob. Since each bit of mud is added by hand we were actually molding the form of the lodge and through our hands we put intention and prayer and healing energy. We formed each of the six rows of cob that gave us the height that we needed with love, respect, honor, and gratitude. We infused the mud with intentions of cosmic consciousness, expansive energy, abstract awareness, and evolution.We couldn’t wait to try it out so we fashioned a top out of wood poles and covered them with blankets and had a great sweat. And days later the rains came and we realized that we had to seal the walls with mortar to prevent the cob from washing away. Fortunately, we got some great exterior paint to match the natural red cob that we had made.
There were two ravens that came to sit in the trees and circle the yard every time we were building throughout the fall, winter, and spring. They spoke to us in one of the thirty-five different vocalizations that they have within their complex communications. And we spoke back. Friends and family came and helped and put their energy and love and gratitude for the earth into this beautiful hub of awareness. When it had been nearly completed we did a sunrise lodge and a raven came and landed on the fence right next to the lodge as though giving us its blessing. This was unusual because the ravens had always preferred to stay in the trees or on the roof of the house.
The only thing left to do is tile the benches that are on either side of the door. When summer is over and the high heat is gone we will begin that creative process with beautiful colored mosaics. The roof is constructed in the Hogan style giving it strength and structural integrity. When we go into the lodge we put one big blanket over the top and we use three blankets for the door. We bring in the hot rocks, pour the water, and give gratitude for our lives. We release what no longer serves us and become empty vessels before Spirit so that we may be filled with Spirit. We sit in silence and we listen to what the stones and the great sea of awareness has to teach us. Sometimes we sing, sometimes we chant, and sometimes we drum. What we always do is receive. We receive from the silence, from the Spirit, from the mystery and then we walk it into the world, creating and co-creating our realities as we go. It is finished in beauty.