There were always stirrings in that place. Warm and vibrant even when the wind whipped cold. But it’s the deep summer nights that we must to talk of … when the night told it’s stories. It was really a mystical place brought to life by the animals that walked, the four legged and the two legged. To see it all by day, it was just a rural village where ranchers and farmers struggled to meet the demands of life. But at night … yes, at night, it came alive as the dusk settled and the sky burned pink … and orange … and blood red. When the people were out in the warmth anticipating and the long shadows came and darkened their faces until they and you were just a shape in the blackness moving in the dark. Then the stories were told about the magic.
Stories about the old witches and curanderas that roamed … the dark ones, brujas, who caused ill when they looked into your babies eyes without signing the cross on the child's forehead and the ones who brought forth new life by knowing the magic of the canyons and paths back into the forests. Both existed side by side, they said, and sometimes they were said to be one and the same. Shape shifting they said, and you had to learn to guard yourself and your family, to do the rituals that made you safe, rituals that were deeply mixed with the religious belief brought by the priests in the old days.
In the dark someone would light a small fire inside a circle of river stones.
The fire would dance on the faces and make oddly shaped forms, and in the quiet between stories the howl of coyote could be heard, and the breeze through the trees trilled and the owls watched. With no light streaming from poles or cities, the dark was penetrating and to look up found you mesmerized by the stars never seen from other places. The high desert cool would take hold, and someone would leave and come back with a sweater and a gift, something special for you that you must keep to make sure no bad would come to you. “Make sure to take the two needles and place them over the door to your house in the shape of a cross to make sure the hurtful ones do not come.” You see, it was said they, the brujas, could not cross a doorway that was protected … and that is how you would know. “Cleanse the doorway good. Talk to Auntie, she will give you what you need.” Then they said, “Don’t take too much from the forest without leaving a little for the curanderas. When you go for wood, take care because they will be watching how you spend your time.” But you can go to the curandera when you need their wisdom … all the woman knew something that was learned and passed on but the curandera had a way to see. “Go to her, she will tell you what she sees.”
In the dark your mind would fill with the images and the knowledge would swirl around and you would feel powerful in knowing what the old ones knew. As the night got longer and you sat hugging your knees, you felt it all through your soul as each leaf moved, each coyote howled, each owl hooted.