“What does being off the grid have to do with a village ‘rooted in ancestral shamanic tradition as brought forth through the sacred and universal spirit of fire?’ ‘Nothing, for that matter,’ some would say. Shamans live in modern homes these days fully connected to the grid, everywhere in the world. Even in the Sierras of Mexico where my tradition springs from, modern and ancient meet at the crossroads of civilization.” ~ Deanna Jenné
The eighty-acre cherry of the ranch one-section large, laid fallow for decades on the northern foot of the Grand Mesa. Seeing the land for the first time gave us a long-range view of the world. The creeks ran above and below ground with cottonwoods and oaks lining their banks. Animal prints and scat was everywhere. This land simultaneously spoke of abundance and scarcity. Artifacts said the ancient people lived and hunted here long ago. We honor those ancient ones who have given us permission to build our lives here and teach us their ways. Honoring this place is imperative. Its harsh landscape will kick you out sooner than later, as evidenced by the “for sale” signs dotting the roadways.
Over the years we’ve given thanks to the sacred water catching lake and lightening peak on top of the Mesa, on behalf of the people and farming below, and to the weather that makes this all possible. We dance as the animals did in the sacred story of the land’s emergence with the great and mighty river running through the valley, moving to praise a land home to the wild. In late winter the old stories of these landforms are told around the fire, to whomever will listen, reminding the everyone of whom it is in relationship to.
After fourteen years of cultivating these sacred relationships, we are becoming rooted in ancestral shamanic tradition and have started to build homes for the land stewards. Digging deep into the earth we make a solid foundation, unearthing boulders and giving them a place in the sun to be seen and enjoyed. This is a holy experience. Once, I wept for the destruction—now, I’m at peace because I know the land has welcomed us here.
This is no place for sissies. It’s hot and prickly, cold and snowy, yet beautiful beyond belief. It’s a masterpiece of paradise inclusive of the vast sky, stars, clouds, sun, mesas, water and desert plants and animals. It takes my breath away. I stand in the center of the universe; I’m in a vacuum, inside a snow globe. It’s perfect.
We’re not fooled by the consumption and consumerism it takes to build a village off-the-grid. Solar panels and batteries manufactured from materials mined from the earth and transported hundreds of miles. Gravel from old river beds, highly industrialized cement, trees providing structure, glass from the sands of Grandmother Ocean, plastics from fossil fuel. Diesel alone to excavate and haul materials makes my head spin with guilt. Professionals untangling us from the modern-day power grid is enough to make a purist shudder. How can we say this is ecological, sustainable let alone regenerative? We cannot.
The land and its spirits dreamed through me one day, “Solar energy is not good”. I was told that we must make relationship with them and ask permission for the sun to be reconfigured through the photovoltaic. The universal and sacred spirit of fire guided us to make right relationship with sun and spirits of the land. “Take offerings to ‘Where the Sun Sits’”. Now, on the summer solstice men take cooked offerings prepared by women to this sacred mountain of the sun. Later, a friend and solar guru told us that Hopi Elder Grandfather David Monongye had spoken to a solar energy group in the 70’s and said, “Solar energy no good, you no ask permission”. That validated the message we received from Sacred Fire. By asking permission and maintaining the relationship with the land and spirits we’ve slowly been entrusted to construct the village. The door opened. The time is now and we must act.
To live an unencumbered “grid-free” life does not make us escapists either, that’s an experiment. We are, however, a demonstration project: demonstrating a way to live in relationship with the natural world, honoring the cycles, from birth to death, season after season, childhood to elder hood, the ancestors and the sacredness of place. Coming here will thwart nature deficit disorder, an illness rising among our people.
Mesa Life is a giveaway, a sacrifice—for the benefit of future generations. Small as it may be, we move forward to learn and teach what it means to be connected, protecting what we love, and to open our hearts to one another, sharing the wild place within us and around us. We aren’t demonstrating “living-off-the-grid” as a solution to the energy crisis our world is facing. That is not sustainable at least not yet.
We do demonstrate community—the connecting field of everything to the mysterious force that creates life which is behind the veil of this reality. Here, everything has purpose; all beings are legitimate others and part of the solution to the disconnect we face in modern society. We are reacquainted with what that mysterious force, sometimes called “creator”, had in mind. It’s truly a miracle. Community reminds us of what is sustainable.
Each doorway that opens is a demonstration to be in right relationship to the land and all beings. Being patient and learning to listen demonstrates how to maintain balance in a world that’s reaching the brink of disaster.
The upfront monetary and social cost of untangling from “the grid” is shocking. Disentanglement is exhilarating though, and our learning is heightened with life-lessons. Money has come from pure hard work and stalwart people giving loans and gifts. We do not depend on the “grid” of the banking system. To build this village is a creative and spiritual process, needing grit and tenacity and deep listening to guidance. An impossible task by modern-day standards. Only through cooperation can this be done. More people believing the old way of doing everything with the Next Seven Generations in mind will bring success to the project.
Contemplating the state of the world helps me to be grateful for all of life. Those who choose to live this way, in relationship to the natural flow and cycles, have a pathway that is sustainable and regenerative. Some say it’s too late. I say, “Never give up and stay tenacious”; a big order realizing what trouble our planet is in. Our role as humans is to be vigilant to protect what we love.
For the New Year, we begin the sacred cycle again. It is becoming more and more obvious that we need each other. The days of isolated problems, isolated grief, isolated identity on an isolated planet are over. It’s time to come together. Go to www.mesalifeproject.org and find out more and join the fun.
Deanna, native and lover of the west, is a traditional healer offering a perspective rooted in the wisdom of the natural world and shamanic traditions. Her work specifically addresses trauma, loss, women’s health and emotion. With over thirty years of apprenticeship, learning and practice, she’s acquired a pathway of deep listening to Divine and to her people. She embraces the Sacred Fire and a life-way honoring all of God’s creation. You can reach Deanna by calling 970-210-9520 or firstname.lastname@example.org