By Deanna Jenné
“What does living 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 were 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 lakes 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 that is home to the wild. In late winter, the old stories of these landforms are told around the fire, to whomever will listen, reminding everyone of their relationship to it. 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.
The Mesa 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 riverbeds, highly industrialized cement, trees providing structure, glass from the sands of Grandmother Ocean, plastics from fossil fuel. The 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 a 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 the right relationship with the 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 ’70s 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 came and so we must act. Living 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 a relationship with the natural world, honoring the cycles, from birth to death, season after season, childhood to the elderhood, the ancestors and the sacredness of the 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 opening 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 are demonstrating community; the connecting field of everything to the mysterious force that creates life which is behind the veil of this reality.
Here, everything has a purpose; all beings are legitimate. This is part of the solution to the disconnect we face in modern society. We become 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 the 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 which is only accomplished through cooperation. 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 facing. Our role as humans is to be vigilant to protect what we love. For the new decade we began 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.
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 email@example.com