Soul of the Garden
Vallecitos Mountain Refuge
Vallecitos, New Mexico
A wide view of Vallecitos, New Mexico. Vallecitos means "little valley."
Vallecitos Mountain Refuge is a place apart and a place with a mission. Hidden away in the middle of the Carson National Forest of Northern New Mexico, Vallecitos is a pristine mountain valley bisected by the Vallecitos River, and graced with beautiful ponds, wildflower meadows, spectacular cliffs, and a historic 1928 lodge. The refuge was founded in 1993 as "a wilderness ranch and contemplative center that supports and empowers citizens to be strong and effective change makers and social entrepreneurs in our society." Guided by Buddhist mindfulness practices and meditation, the Refuge offers activists and non-profit workers the opportunity for personal restoration and professional growth. Austin Area Interreligious Ministries, the non-profit that I am serving as the CEO, had the opportunity of spending a week at Vallecitos courtesy of Austin based entrepreneur, Tim Costello of Builder Homesite, Inc. (BHI.) We found the experience to be tremendously rewarding on multiple levels. We were also fortunate to be sharing this experience with two other Austin-based non-profits, Leadership Austin and College Forward. The work of the non-profit teams was facilitated by Tim Costello and Melissa Morman of BHI. Grove Burnett, the founder of Vallecitos Mountain Refuge, led us in mindfulness practice. The combination of the beautiful setting, the reflective qualities engendered by the meditation and mindfulness practices, and the expert facilitation all added up to an incredibly rewarding, if not transformative life experience. I highly recommend Vallecitos to other non-profit organizations and individuals.
Vallecitos Moutain Refuge
The lodge framed by stone.
The view from the lodge. The picture showing the lodge "framed" by stone was taken from the rocky point to the left.
The Vallecitos River, wildflowers, and a pond at dawn.
A little closer.
Mist rising from one of the ponds.
The long meadow grasses
shimmer with dew -
rising from its hidden nest
a redwing blackbird
disappears into the mist
hovering over the pond.
I stop for a moment
and glance at my soggy boots
wondering, “Why can’t I stick
to the beaten path?”
- Tom Spencer
Dew lit grass.
Dawn light on a young aspen.
So pristine - a view along the river bank.
Tibetan prayer wheels.
And prayer flags.
A little wider.
Dramatic clouds as an afternoon thunder shower approaches.
A dead tree silhouetted against storm clouds in the evening light.
Back to the river - there are wonderful trails following its shores that lead through dramatic canyons to even higher mountain valleys.
Water smoothed boulders and wood.
Water rushing between boulders.
A boulder field in the middle of the river.
A little wider view.
Melissa Morman and Tim Costello from BHI and Jeff Olmeda from Leadership Austin. We were hiking along the river through a spectacular canyon and stopped on top of a giant boulder for this shot.
A tiny pool with its own eco-system atop the boulder.
Canyon walls - an unseen boulder tumbled down while we were about to re-enter the canyon. I am sure that it would have made a huge impression if we had seen it!
Simone Talma Flowers, Lu Zeidan, Derek Hansen, and myself from AAIM.
Retreat participants with most of my team with our hosts and the teams from Leadership Austin and College Forward.
Simone enjoying the view over the valley after a short hike.
Pascha - the young son of our host, Grove Burnett.
The Leadership Austin team.
The College Forward team.
Jeff Olmeda and Heather McKissick from Leadership Austin.
Grove telling us about the "Buddha Tree" the state champion ponderosa pine that is between 650 - 800 years old.
Grove's horse "Oakey Bear" enjoying the meadow gresses.
Much wider view - a gentle rain was falling.
I loved the different colors and textures of the meadow grasses.
One of he ponds in front of the lodge - this one is occupied by beavers.
Daisies were blooming in every meadow.
A female red-wing blackbird on a beaver chewed pole. She was trying to distract me from her fledgling who had accidentally landed in the water and was trying to dry off after swimming to shore.
The bell that was used to signal meditations and meals.
A wider view.
My home for a week - a comfy yurt in an aspen grove.
Elvis - one of our teachers for the week (whio is decidedly hard of hearing.)
The glow of a campfire.
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