Ravenrock is named Ravenrock because it has ravens and rocks. That’s my elevator speech—or I guess now my tweet. But of course there is more to the story. What’s in a name? Hope. Intention. A way to disguise or heighten the truth of the named entity. The Sufis chant the ‘names’ of the Divine. The chanting is called remembrance. Saying the names—which are generally attribute, like ‘contentment’, or ‘compassion’—means remembering the Source by aligning with and embodying the attribute.
After purchasing the property, I spent six solitary weeks in a tiny camping cabin built by the previous owner. I explored the forest and rim and flattop on foot, getting acquainted, often feeling overwhelmed. I had bought a huge piece of land! Me, a renter who for 30 years had called a tiny apartment in the heart of NYC home now occupied 160 acres of wilderness. I had no problem living in the tiny cabin, but the mesa’s intense quiet and spaciousness, and the subtle, elegant way wildlife moved at the edges of where I moved took getting used to.
Every morning around 9:30, three ravens flew over, cawing to one another. After a couple of weeks, they began to stop for ten minutes or so, resting in the tops of Ponderosa pines just below the cabin. They chortled and clicked and burred together. The companionable sounds ameliorated my worry and loneliness. They were keeping an eye on me. Then off they went until another morning.
One hot afternoon I perched on the massive rim rocks, luxuriating in the cooling southeast wind. A hundred empty miles that had once been an ocean stretched out naked in blazing sun. Six stories down, the canyon floor unfurled. Looking up, way way up, I spotted three ravens. I imagined they were my three ravens though I hadn’t ever had an afternoon visit. They glided and laced and meandered overhead, then suddenly, spectacularly, one formed into a spearhead and dove straight down into the well of canyon in front of me. It careened up again and proceeded to perform an aerial ballet of spirals and dives and sheer cuts across the air. After a bit, the other two joined in briefly before all departed, leaving me transported. Ravenrock. The name popped into me. I basked on extraordinary rocks—enormous, craggy, magnificent rocks—and saw ravens the way I’d never imagined any bird could be. A perfect name to honor this. A perfect way to bring this world back to me every time I said the name. This remembering has since brought great solace in times of hardship, just to say the name and have the afternoon swim alive in me again.
The longer I stayed at Ravenrock, gradually moving past my fear of being alone and of the vast surrounding wildness, the less I wanted to build anything, but I had purchased the land to bring others up for retreat, to share a remote experience for deepening meditation. I didn’t need to put up housing because Seekers could camp, but I needed a meditation hall for us to gather. A barn would be economical and blend into the rural aesthetic. (And I love barns.)
Next, choose a site. My walks crossed the grassy meadows edged with juniper groves that dotted the flat mesa top. It was simple to rule out difficult or less auspicious spots, but with so much land there were many lovely possibilities. I walked and walked. I began to feel the ground humming under my feet. I noticed that the juniper groves had particular personalities, atmospheres, and moods. Some were cheerful or peaceful, others tricky, misanthropic. At last, two meadows called to me over and over. One late afternoon I stood filled with a curious urgency. Then I heard the ravens and looked up. Three of them—always three—circled overhead, at first high but then closer and closer to the treetops along the meadow perimeter. They conversed in an easy-going way. What a good spot! What a good spot! And I felt it gel—the hum of the ground, the embrace of peaceful, magical junipers, an alley of view to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the western horizon and, above me, protection and blessing the ravens had woven in the sky. Contentment enveloped me.
The next day I called Wilson Pole Barn Company and went ahead with construction plans. In my heart I continue to feel the ravens agency in recognizing the perfect spot for the Meditation Barn. Ravens have been guides to the gods, keepers of secrets and wisdom, messengers, and counselors. For me, they were the right friends to make a right choice.
This December we are doing a fund drive to complete the Meditation Hall. (We are almost there!)
Our current goal of $20,000 makes possible:
– plaster interior Meditation Barn walls
– install glass South Barn Door
– additional camping cabins
– East side slab porch & door
– additional composting toilets
I am delighted that you are with me and appreciate your sharing these writings friends. Thank you!
My work and writing are sponsored by Dervish Society of America (DSA), a nonprofit 501-C3 organization dedicated to the Path of embodied mysticism. DSA provides opportunities for personal development, exploratory inquiry into embodied spirituality, and community connection through practice, service, and performance. DONATIONS are tax-deductible.