Reyes Garcia is an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. He is co-owner of the Garcia Ranches situated between the Conejos and San Antonio rivers in the San Luis Valley of Colorado.
“In all of [Rudolfo] Anaya’s work (which has influenced me so profoundly), their are many layers of references to the spiritual dimension of nature that derive, in part, from our common Pueblo and other indigenous ancestries. I taught a course at Fort Lewis College called “Indigenous Worldviews” and my research pointed toward the loss of contact with the spiritual world — and with the spirits of ancestors, especially — as the most serious disease of our times. Among the Pueblos of New Mexico, however, constant contact with the spiritual worlds and with the ancestors is maintained through prayer and ceremony that often focuses on clouds pouring down their blessings from the sky, which itself seems to symbolize and literally embody a kind of fathomless spiritual reservoir. (See the works of Alfonso Ortiz.)
Clouds ARE ancestors. Clouds are the “material” manifestation of their “spiritual” reality. This identity seems to involve the paradox at the heart of religious, mystical experiences: the material and the spiritual form two dimensions of an experience of reality that unifies the two dimensions. Perhaps a parallel conceptualization occurred to Einstein, leading him to postulate the special theory of the reciprocal relativity of space and time, which he understood to form space-time as a unity co-determined by each dimension. “An Old Man’s Love Story” continually refers to clouds and rain and snow. In the end, Anaya’s “dead” wife comes to take him up into the “sky” to unite with her at last, and fittingly descends to him on a bed of clouds, which they then ride around the world enjoying the splendor of this planet, which spins and floats through the “heavens.”
For many peoples worldwide, water in the form of clouds but also in its liquid form as “water” embodies and carries “within” itself the spiritual energy of the ancestors. Obviously, water is only one of the basic “elements” which include “earth,” “fire,” “air,” and in most worldviews “space,” which if often identified with “consciousness” as the fifth element. (“Wood” is the fifth element in Taoism.) Yet water is unique in its relationship to the other elements insofar as virtually nothing can live or perhaps even exist without water. Water can get inside of every thing, thereby enlivening whatever it enters into, although it is fire or heat or the lack of it that transforms water — always only temporarily — into ice or vapor (clouds). Water seems to uniquely enjoy the capability of forming transformative unions with all the other elements.
Air as breath is often identified with spirit in the world’s sacred traditions.
Containing moisture, each breath is also cloud-spirit. Thus spoken words are regarded as the most powerful and meaningful, as in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words: ‘I have a dream!'”