Rainbow Journeys to Red Earth

Angel Woman by Graciella Iturbide


I wrote this at the end of 2006 when I had relocated to the southwest. This is the story of how the I was drawn to the place where the Painted Body series would emerge for The Oracle of Initiation deck…

When did this journey to the southwest really begin? As with most great journeys, it began years before actually setting out.

I come from both German & Scandinavian lineages, sailors and farmers, people of the earth and sea. I grew up in the lush northwest, never considering I might one day live in an arid climate. I loved hydrangeas and coastal beaches, complaining if it got over 80 degrees.

Looking back for early signs of this quest, I am struck by the power of one image. That one photograph captured my imagination like few other images ever had. In the 1990’s I was on a passionate spiritual quest. I read everything I could get my hands on about people’s sacred paths. Through this process I was searching for my authentic self. The one who loves ritual and reverence, magic and mysticism, creativity and contemplation. The part of me who knew she must dance with The Mystery.

The photograph was on the cover of an anthology of women’s spiritual writings called “Storming Heaven’s Gate.” In the image a woman dressed in flowing garments climbs a ridge overlooking a vast desert. She looks ancient, but is carrying a 1970’s boom box in her hand. It’s called Mujer angel, “Angel Woman,” taken by Mexican photographer Graciella Iturbide in the Sonora desert {see above}. I fell in love with that photo, its power and paradox. Who was this magic woman, and what was she doing on this mountain top? Even the plants in the foreground are infused with a supernatural glow. I wished I could have a larger copy of it in my life, but thought it was probably a stock photo and unavailable for purchase.

Some time after that, my photography collecting parents suggested I look through their newest book acquisition. As I leafed through the book Angel Woman popped out at me.

I was blown away, and decided someday I would have that photo in my life. This was when I was still married and living in Seattle.

As you all know, the Universe had other plans for me, and sent me on a seven year Vision Quest. After my husband Chris’ death I did buy the photo, but its larger implications were still years away.

Horses swept into my life, as well as a rededication to my artistic roots. I became a seeker, searching for my blissful power. I went on Medicine Walks and pilgrimages to sacred lands. I visited intuitive horse people and their beloved horse companions. I painted and drew and dreamed and became alive again. I resurrected myself.

Through my travels I found myself returning to the southwest. I spent a lot of time in Arizona, going from one end of the state to the other. The highlight was a group pilgrimage visiting traditional sacred sites, culminating in a visit with a Hopi Elder on the Second Mesa.

The Hopi Pilgrimage came out of meeting Maria and Lynda Yraceburu at two of their Horse Dance ceremonies. In 2006 I had an ominous dream of a vibrating blue Kachina head. I made a five foot tall collaged figure from the dream named “Rainbow Guide”

Rainbow Guide collage by Melissa Weiss Steele

When I asked Maria about the dream she told me the ancient Hopi prophesy of the Blue Star Kachina dancing in the square. When this happens it will signal the shift from the 4th world of separation to the 5th world of peace. She said she was organizing a group to visit some sacred sites of Arizona that her Grandfather, Juan Ten Bears, had been deeply connected to, culminating with Hopi Elder Grandfather Martin Gashweseoma sharing  some of his cultures ancient prophesies. The trip also came from an Apache prophesy of a group of 24 gathering to shift energies and reawaken our universal connection to each other.

Hopi Grandfather Martin at Prophesy Rock

Before the Hopi trip I began having dreams of being very happy living on red earth-deep red earth. This surprised me, because I did not think I could handle the heat. I had not realized that if I lived at a higher altitude it would be cooler than the lowlands. I also had an epiphany about Iturbide’s photo. She was a beacon, calling me to a land I could not yet imagine. I moved her next to my bed and let her dream me into being.

Another highlight in Arizona was a transformative workshop at the Epona Equestrian Center. They are doing very important work intuitively partnering with horses.  At the workshop I met a wonderful woman Kate Vigneron. She owns Madera Hills Ranch in West Texas. We hit it off so well she invited me down to visit. The first night I was there I sat in my car and cried. I was under a huge star-studded sky, with no street lights and noise, amidst vast rolling hills. It blew me away. It still does. It is a sacred, sacred place.

Kate and I started doing women’s retreats together, and when my beloved cat of 18 years died, I took Kate up on her offer to make it my first stop on my journey. So this is how I drove 3000 miles to an incredible piece of land in rural, rural west Texas.  And by the way, her land looks like Angel Woman’s terrain.

The trip down was extraordinary. I am so happy soaring down the open highways on my own. The entire trip was guided by an amazing amount of rainbows. In Eastern Washington alone I saw five.  One was a double, with one section so bright it looked like Technicolor Plexiglas. Another flowed perfectly along the geographic striations of the hillside. New Mexico had some great ones. Southern Utah was one giant earth rainbow.

The colors and formations of Utah truly stunned me. I drove through Zion, Escalante, and Capitol Reef National Parks in true awe. I strongly recommend visiting there.

I have always had a thing for Santa Fe. It intrigues me, even though it took me 39 years to get there. On the way down I stayed a week to see if I liked it. I met some wonderful people, and enjoyed its combination of urban resources mixed with the astoundingly beautiful natural areas.

I found a wonderful casita to rent today in a beautiful neighborhood of rolling hills and panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. I anticipate being very happy there. There are even two surrogate dogs I can love!  I am off to Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch for a week long retreat tomorrow and then New Zealand for a month. I should be back in Santa Fe by the end of January.

Blessings to all for a joyous New Year,

MelissaBee Horse Dancer

P.S. #1 I saw Graciela Iturbide speak about her work. Someone asked her what her favorite image was. She said Angel Woman, explaining that she entered her darkroom after a day of shooting, and that image was on the negatives. She does not remember being there or taking it.

P.S. #2 Terry Tempest Williams is always good in the Southwest:

I want to make my life a ceremony around slowness.

Time and space.

Open space.

In the desert there is space.

Space is the twin sister of time.

If we have open space, then we have open time to breath, to dream, to dare, to play,

to move freely, so freely, in a world our minds have forgotten but our bodies remember.

Time and space.

This partnership is holy.

In these redrock canyons, time creates space;

An arch, an eye, this blue eye of sky.

We remember why we love the desert;

It is our tactile response to light, silence, and stillness.

Hand on stone patience.

Hand on water music,

Hand raised to the wind is this the birthplace of inspiration?



3 Replies to “Rainbow Journeys to Red Earth”

  1. Your writing is a lush web of comfort, and all the while through I kept being reminded of my own Sophia Principle centered around Pallas-Athena. . .strong enough in life to fully feel my shadow, and smart enough to dance with it. The skies and horses and rockin’ people. . .the places and winds and red-earth, red lifeful earth felt to play a chorus of Uranus and Pluto and Jupiter nestled in around Pallas-Athena in an 8th house of an interesting chart I have experienced.
    Thank You for you writing and your vision, your natural lioness strength of courage as you lifefully live on your path. Your story feels to come from the perspective of a whole person who encourages wholesness in others . . .

    “Hand raised to the wind is this the birthplace of inspiration?
    I feel to extend a gift, a gift of poetry to you as a gesture of thanks for your posts which I am just now encountering:

    A Prayer

    There comes one
    Whom I know like wind
    Like rain upon the water. . .

    And, as winter comes
    and our memories freeze together
    together may we sleep and dream. . .

    So that come the Springtime
    As we embrace with open eyes
    May we melt
    Back together
    In each others’ arms.


    Thank You. Wholeheartedly, Thank You.


  2. love love love you, and thank you for commenting at the blog, i think it gets your rating up for search engines. xoxx


  3. Oh my Darling! This is beautiful. I remember so much of this, and yet to have it all gracefully narrated, albeit unfinished,in one piece is amazing! You have come so far, done so much, touched so many. You are immeasurably strong and inspiring, a real being of light and love. I am blessed to be a witness to your petals unfolding. All my love ~ Ab
    p.s. Love the foot photo too!


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