The Community of Mesa Life
All beings are our community.
The people, the animals, the plants, the mountains, the waters, the clouds and wind, rocks and trees, insects and rain,
are all our relations.
The Grand Mesa
On the northwest shoulder of the Grand Mesa, the Great Table, is our home. Located between the deserts and canyons of the Colorado Plateau to the west and the Elk Mountains of the Colorado Rockies to the east, being 500 square miles around, it is the biggest mesa in the world. Just four miles east of the town of Mesa sits a small valley ringed by hills, each with their own ancient sacred stories and surrounded by an Elk conservation easement, BLM land and an ancient migratory route.
The Great Table holds a smorgasbord of beauty, forests, animals, creeks and tranquility. This is where Mesa Life resides.
This land was the home to the Ute people as evidenced by the signs of their life here. The ancient name of the Grand Mesa, Tumbeappah Sooparter Kahn Kaib, means the Great Being that Holds the Sky Meeting-House Mountain. A creation story is re-enacted each spring by the Mesa Life folks and friends to honor the life of all the land and sky and the creation of this mighty being. We steward this land for the ancestors, to keep the sacred stories alive and to hold a space for the Ute people to come here again.
This Great Table is where the Gods stand to hold up the sky.
The Bear goes to the top of this table to deliver our prayers.
Geologically, this grand table is known to stand above the surrounding lands because a hard volcanic basalt layer spreads across the top and resists erosion. The volcanic layer was laid down from an eruption of a basalt dike near Mt. Darline. The three sister mountains, Mt. Hatten, Mt. Darline and Crater Peak, stand together on the southeast end of Grand Mesa. Leon Peak, the lightening mountain, lies west of the Grand Mesa at the end of Craig Crest.
At 11,000 feet above sea level the top of the Mesa draws the clouds, the gifts from Grandmother Ocean, and collects and holds the rain and snow. Like a giant sponge, the porous basalt holds the water and feeds the creeks and springs throughout the hot summer. With 300 lakes and reservoirs scattered throughout the forests of Aspen, spruce and fir, this is a haven for animals and summer-time chin-height flowers.
At 6,000 feet elevation where Mesa Life resides, Juniper and Pinyon forests rise up the flanks of the Grand Mesa, sage and rabbit bush filter down to irrigated hay fields and domestic animal grazing. The streams are lined with scrub oak, cottonwood, service berry and willow. Here a hardy few live their lives as ranchers. They share the quiet beauty of the land and sky with elk, deer, wild turkey, mountain lion, black bear, eagles, turkey vultures, hawks and coyotes and many migratory birds.
In the fall and spring at precise times of the day hundreds of Sand Hill Cranes pepper and chortle the air above as they migrate south and north, respectively. The many lakes and wet lands provide an overnight respite for their weary wings. Deer make their home here and give us great delight to see how they exemplify the cycles of life with new borns bouncing through the grasses in early July and the courting dance goes on through October. By the time the snow flies we are surrounded by elk herds that come to graze the grasses under a thin layer of snow. Golden and Bald Eagles return to make their winter homes in the cotton wood trees and Turkeys prance in their rafters like clock-work to and from their favorite eating joints.
We approach living here with deep respect and gratitude for our neighbors.
The Bear has an Important Role for Mesa Life
The Black Bear holds a leadership role in the Mesa Life Council and as a spiritual guide. Springtime, when the thunder roars and the bear awakens, the community gathers to perform the Dance of Creation, where the bear is honored for carrying our prayers to the top of Tumbeappah Sooparter Kahn Kaib sending them to the gods. This is a place where people can receive guidance and spiritual help for their lives.
In ancient times, known as far back as 20,000 years ago, human traditions wove rituals in which men and women imitate bears, and some are believed to change into bears. It is about the magic and myth and dance and things sacred.”
˜Giving Voice to Bear by David Rockwell˜