Posts Tagged ‘Power of Place’

A Few Scenes from this Week


Early Morning Ridgetop Cloud

Lake Wakatipu with snows from the record-breaking storm

Yesterday's Sunrise in Kingston, NZ

Bob Bloom Leads MSI’s Drumming Jamaica


Mountain Spirit Institute teams up with Master Teaching Artist Bob Bloom
By Cindy Heath

Bob Bloom, of Storrs, CT will lead our Drumming Jamaica workshop February 7-11, 2011 at the Calabash House in Treasure Beach, Jamaica.

I first met Bob Bloom in the late 90’s, when I was searching for musicians to fill the program for a children’s entertainment series in Lebanon, NH.  Bob was on stage at a performing artists showcase, and I was immediately drawn to his energy and of course, his skillful drumming. I hired Bob on the spot, and he returned to our stage every summer thereafter, bringing drums for all to play.

Bob Bloom Leads Drumming Jamaica

Bob has been a busy guy, building a highly popular and successful interactive drumming and education program.  Here’s a snapshot of his accomplishments:

*Bob’s certification as a ‘Master Teaching Artist’ was awarded by the Connecticut Commission on the Arts in 1997.

*For over a decade, Bob served as a faculty assistant to Dr. Babatunde Olatunji for his “Language of the Drums” courses, and he performed as a member of Drums of Passion, Dr. Olatunji’s internationally acclaimed drumming and dance company.

*Bob served from 2007 to 2010 as chair of the Interactive Drumming Committee of The Percussive Arts Society, the largest percussion organization in the world.

I bought my first conga drum right around the time I met Bob, and started taking lessons at Dartmouth College – what a thrill!  There’s nothing like playing the rhythms with a group – I learned to play conga, bongo, clave and eventually steel drums – all without knowing how to read music. Turns out we feel rhythms at a cellular level, and drumming has all kinds of health benefits, including a positive effect on our immune system.

A highlight of my relationship with Bob was when he gave me one of his drums – a beautiful djembe. This is the one I’ll bring to Treasure Beach,

Calabash House, Treasure Beach, Jamaica

Jamaica for the Drumming Jamaica workshop Bob is teaching – perhaps I’ll learn some new rhythms, and come back from Jamaica a bit healthier and wiser.

As African music educator Olatunji said, “Rhythm is the soul of life. The whole universe revolves in rhythm. Everything and every human action revolves in rhythm.”

If you would like to join MSI in Jamaica, please check out the MSI website or call 603-763-2668

MSI Founder Purchases Land in Peru


Randy and Amanda Richards have purchased a small parcel of land near Hauraz Peru, which if their plans come to fruition, could mean a basecamp for Mountain Spirit Institute. The couple would eventually like to build a small retreat center/basecamp on the spot which overlooks the Cordillera Blanca range in northern Peru, including the highest peak in Peru, Mt. Huascaran.


Possible MSI Basecamp, Peru

Richards first saw the site 12 years ago when we was taken up there by his godchild’s family. Richards was guiding Huasacaran at the time. He always had it in the back of his mind that the site would be ideal for either a small cabin or retreat where participants could come and take Mountain Spirit programs.


Huascaran from MSI's Basecamp(?)

The site had only been accessible by foot – a 1.5 hour hike from the valley floor below, but two years ago a dirt road was put in to access the area, and Richards thought it was better to act now than wait any longer.

Although Richards purchased the land, depending upon funding from Mountain Spirit, the organization could become involved if the board thinks it would like to expand operations in Peru by offering a basecamp. Regardless, The Richards will enact conservation  and stewardship practices, maintaining the protecting the area from further development by possibly purchasing additional acreage or seeking others willing to put the land into protection. The location is particularly special and deserves protection from hotel interests that have been interested in the area. The area us currently used for farming, and the couple will encourage their “Peruvian family”, the Sanchez family to add the parcel to their nearby fields.


Tai Chi on Land near Hauraz, Peru

Says Richards, originally of Sunapee, NH, “I never thought I’d be purchasing land in Peru, but the time and situation seemed right.” He added, “It has a special spirit of the place,” which would be a appropriate for an organization called “Mountain Spirit”.

Machu Picchu’s Face


By Randall Richards

"The Face" peering over Machu Picchu

"The Face" peering over Machu Picchu

I’ve been to Machu Picchu for over ten years, and I’ve heard tell of “the face on Huayna Picchu Mountain” for years. I have been able to pick out the stylized puma face that everyone talks about,  with its ears and eyes, but the other day, human face  jumped out at me as I looked at these images I’d taken,  from the classic view on the sloping rock just above Machu Picchu. When I was looking through my images of the day, I clearly saw the face of an older man, wearing a “chulla” or Peruvian hat with ear flaps, as he looks over the Machu Picchu Citadel.

Details of Huayna Picchu's Face

Details of Huayna Picchu's Face

I’d recently run across an “optical illusion” website that features the profile of an Inka man looking skyward, shown by a profile of the ridge from the ruins to Huayna Picchu Mountain, but after close examination of the ridgeline in the website’s images, and comparing them to ridgeline in my images, there is clearly some Photoshop imagery going on.  A Peruvian author has used the profile on the cover of his book. I even walked by a hotel here in Cusco the other day which is using a drawing of “the profile” for its logo.  The profile, whether Photoshop enhanced or not, is still a stretch, any way you look at it,  and may not be the real face that has been hidden in plain sight all along.

Back to the face that I’ve observed. It clearly has eyes, a nose mouth, chin and whole face, at least in my mind’s eye. (Let me know if you see it too). The second image at right  is a blow up of the image with my text and pointer lines inserted. A word about Photoshop: these images are un-retouched. Take any other image from the same location, at late afternoon during the southern winter, and you’ll get the same results.

Every time I see an image of Machu Picchu from that angle, the face now jumps out at me. I am interested in hearing your comments or experiences when visiting Machu Picchu. Do you see the face?

KareKare and Piha: Powerful Places


The Power of Place – Two Black Sand Beaches near Auckland Exude Energy and Ayni*

The Big Easy

The Big Easy

I went for a gander at KareKare beach near our base here in Piha Beach the other day. One reads about deserted beaches that run for miles, and I know I’ve only just gotten a taste of New Zealand’s remote beaches, but I have to write about this place. I’m just settling in to what less population density feels like.

New Zealand  is a country of about 5 million, and Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city,  which is about 25km away, has a population of about 2 million.  By the looks of KareKare Beach, (or the beach village of Piha for that matter) you’d never know we’re near Auckland .   Both KareKare and Piha beach are little hideaways of spirit power spots. One feels the earth energy on the order of Sedona. The power of place exudes from both Piha and Kare Kare.

KareKare Powerspot

KareKare Powerspot

From studying geomancy ( the natural order and patterns of landscape and geography) and natural “Apus” or mountain spirits, my experience and feelings tell me this is one hot spot.  Both Piha and KareKare beaches exhibit rock peaks that protrude directly out of the beaches.

In Piha there exist dramatic caves at the beach’s north end. We got married in front of one last weekend which had two large caves ascending like hallways from the earth. The one on the right is 20-25 feet tall with floors of soft fine sand. The entrances of the two “hallways” are separated at the cliff’s face by a  high wall of about 5 meters wide by 8 meters high, which extends up to roof which forms an alcove.

Roughly in the center of this wall  is a block of lighter denser lava, which appears to have been formed by columnar jointing, but is a single large piece,  protruding out of the surrounding darker rock by 12 inches. It looks like a natural alter, at chest level, facing out to the Tasman Sea. The whole alcove sits about 6 meters above the beach below, and one ascends a huge pile of fine black sand, who’s top forms the uneven sandy floor of the alcove.

Piha Beach-Village

Piha Beach-Village

In Peruvian cosmology the Pacha Mama exhibits mountain or earth spirits in masculine or feminine. In the east, Yin signifies, female, yielding,  yang signifies  active, positive, male, strong. Piha is obviously a powerful place, not only because of its beauty, but  because of the balance in it’s natural layout, between the positive male peak and the female aspect, the caves, not more than a kilometer away.

KareKare Beach exudes power, and solitude.  The movie “The Piano” was made here. The wide black sand beach goes on for miles, with cliffs to the back, broad undulating dunes and a narrow little path from the hamlet of KareKare, which deposits you to the beach.

Mayor  Bob Harvey was asked on a NZ website about his relationship with this area. Says Harvey, “I’ve been the lifeguard here for 50 years. I think there’s a huge spiritual significance here that I reckon on this coastline from Karekare to Whatipu.”  He adds, “Something exists which I…. I can’t put my, my finger on it.”

Peace for two at KareKare

Peace for two at KareKare

The words “The Big Easy” keep coming to mind. I suppose, because it seems easy to be here, easy to reconnect with yourself and nature.  These words, in America have a different connotation –  of New Orleans and all the shenanagins that go with the annual Madigras celebration. But here in KareKare, they are the words  that seem to fit for me.  A place where you can unwind and connect. The place speaks to you. And you are rejuvenated.

*Ayni: A Quechua term meaning ‘reciprocity’ whereby one recieves power from the Apus, or mountain spirits, and one gives power back by offerings and meditation. Reciprocity is a concept that pervades the Quechua way of thinking, and of life  in the Andes.

Power of Place: Utah’s Canyonlands

Looking W on Island in the Sky, Utah

Looking W on Island in the Sky, Utah

Although I was graduated from the University of Utah, and spent as much time in Utah, as in any other state, I had never been to CanyonlandsNational Park. I recently had the opportunity to kill some time while in Salt Lake waiting for a car repair, and decided to spend a few days and nights in the desert near Moab. My first stop was the Island in Sky. I spent a day exploring the plateau, taking pics, and scrambling among the sandstone outcrops. I miss the Utah desert, although New Zealand is hard to beat.

Navajo Sandstone: Canyonlands, Utah

Navajo Sandstone: Canyonlands, Utah

As an aside, I was driving here in New Zealand from Christchurch to Wanaka, and passed through canyon that reminds me of American Fork Canyon in Utah.  Anyway, after a couple of days on the Island, I did some work in Moab on MSI’s portable office, (the laptop) then moved on to the Needles area in the southern portion of the park. Here one can day hike or spend the night in the backcountry, and even drive around the park, although the latter is not high on my list. Along those lines, read Edward Abbey’s The Monkeywrench Gang, or Desert Solitaire on brilliant views about America’s relationship to wilderness. Oddly, I’m not sure his books have made it here downunder. I’ll keep you posted. 

Island in the Sky, Image:Steve Mulligan/USPS

Island in the Sky, Image:Steve Mulligan/USPS

The Utah desert has a power all its own. So, if you’ve not been I suggest you get there before you die. Put it on your bucket list. For more information on the MSI’s Utah Solo and Wilderness programs, please contact us. The US Park Service has some great resources for Canyonlands

The Power of Place

Matukituki Valley, Mt. Aspiring Nat'l Park

Matukituki Valley, Mt. Aspiring Nat'l Park

The Power of Place
By Randy Richards, MSI Founder

I was debating how I was going to write my first entry from New Zealand. I have already written one article but don’t think it will make the grade. So I guess I’ll write about a magical valley. Oh, I can hear you say, “But all places are spiritual.”  Yes, but, I think there are places where the spirit of the place is so evident it comes over you like a wave.  I think this valley is one of those places. Places like these have a power that is unmistakable, people are drawn to them,  as Boyton Canyon, near Sedona Arizona, or Alta, Utah, and of course Machu Pichu.  All land has an energy, and some places are humming with energy, whether it’s the beauty of the place or the history or both.

NW Ridge, Mt. Aspiring

NW Ridge of Mt. Aspiring

The Matukituki Valley is west of Wanaka , New Zealand in the Mt. Aspiring National Park. The hour drive from Wanaka changes by the mile. The long flat valley with cascading waterfalls begs superlatives.  Mt. Aspiring is the tallest and proudest peak near the back of the long valley. Climbers come from all over the world to do their best on the mountain. But others come to enjoy the valley and glacier edges high above.

In the US, Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods is gaining traction with his important coinage of the term, Nature

A family group arrives at Aspiring Hut

A family group arrives at Aspiring Hut

Deficit Disorder. Here I have observed many families in the valley for their summer vacations.  One group at right, consisted of  two families with a total of 10 children who hung out at the hut and environs for three days. They did steep day-hikes up to the surrounding ridge lines. The four-year-old didn’t make it all the way up on her daddy’s shoulders though.

The hut ranger at Mt. Aspiring Hut in the valley, and greets both climbers and “trampers”  of all ages.  It’s clear that the valley has its hold on many. One volunteer hut warden makes the annual pilgrimage from London, while others I met from New Zealand come back year after year, and others, after some 30 years away.

Amanda and Lindy

Hut Warden and her sister at Shovel Flat

One who has a special feeling for the place is a hut ranger going on her third season. The coveted position is shared by another Department of Conservation employee as well.  The former, divides her time between Aspiring Hut, French Ridge, precariously perched on the valley’s edge just below the glaciers near Mt. Aspiring,  and other huts in the region.  She beckoned me, “You’ll love the place”.  And I did.

The large trees have a way of calling to you.  The winds that caress the grasses on the valley floor seem to create a rhythm that makes us forget the traffic in town.

Double Rainbow from the warden's quarters

Double Rainbow from the warden's quarters

It’ s a good reminder of why we need to get to these places, and of course preserve them. Whether it’s Mt. Washington,  Mt. Shasta,  Alta, or the Matukituki,  get out while you still can. I will still post that previous article with tons of revisions, but here’s a start on my impressions of New Zealand and the power of the place.