I just got back from a trip to New Mexico, that other land of enchantment, or so the license plates say. I liked it; I liked it a lot. I'm familiar with people who gravitate between Maui and there on some kind of invisible axis, and now I know why.
Like us, it's got big views. Here, the ocean is ever-present on the horizon. There, it's the vast high desert, encircled by the mountains ringing Albuquerque and Santa Fe, the tail end of the Rockies, always in the distance. We too have a blue, blue sky, but theirs is cloudless, unbroken and serene.
"The sky is our ocean," someone explained.
I like the Santa Fe style. The artist colonies of the early 20th century had great influence on the development of the city and like ours on Maui, their historic vision is preserved by design guidelines. Houses, tan versions of the adobe, are modest on the outside, vibrant with color and life within.
I like the fashion. It's as though the landscape is a canvas on which women paint their own aesthetic, with jewelry and textures and colorful patterns. I saw long '60s-style skirts and shawls, worn with lots of Indian jewelry.
On a full-moon night I was invited to a peace pipe ceremony in an old adobe near Old Town in Albuquerque, the dwelling small but wonderfully sculpted throughout. A Sufi leader named Mugit, a sprightly elderly man with dancing eyes and a white beard, led the proceedings, carefully laying out the precious pipe with its beaded and feathered adornments in the center of the circle.
"You are the center," he said. From that still point within, the intelligence of the universe is available, ever adjusting to our needs.
When it came time for me to speak, I spontaneously invited the spirits of Hawaii to attend, a gesture that attracted murmurs of approval from the Native Americans present.
I got a headache from the sage, sweet grass and other herbs that were burned in the ceremony and spent the rest of the evening on the front porch huddled under a blanket beneath the cold, brilliant moon, luminous in the clear desert air. The landscape was so spare, so clean, so magical.
(No, I hadn't ingested THC. I'm violently allergic to marijuana and hope they never, ever legalize it. I can barely walk down the street in Paia or go to a park or an outdoor concert any more without becoming sickened by someone else's secondhand smoke. How will lawmakers deal with that issue? But I digress.)
Native Hawaiians believed in the union of all things. Each deity had its complement on land and sea, and encountering one was evidence of the other. That same sense of life in the animate and the inanimate pervades the spirit of New Mexico, too.
I was at the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, and the presiding genius, Dr. Vasant Lad, a deeply spiritual man with a clinical knowledge of Western medicine as well as the 5,000-year-old ayurvedic system, made this point frequently.
One night he told of standing at a gas pump when a hawk swooped down into the parking lot and sat on a pigeon, ready to pierce its breast. "No!" The cry erupted from Dr. Lad's kind heart. The hawk stopped, looked over and then brought the pigeon to him, repairing to a telephone pole where she watched as he released it.
The system of ayurveda, based on the interplay of the elements earth, air, fire, water and space, was divinely revealed to the ancient rishis. I used to think it was quaint but not really relevant, until I listened to Dr. Lad teach the subject night after night, expounding its many refined details.
The idea, much simplified, is this: Disease stems from impairment of the inner fire, or "agni." Poor food choice and bad digestion leads to accumulation of toxic matter called "ama," which moves into the tissues and causes deterioration. The nature of these imbalances - and a person's innate constitution - is discerned through careful pulse reading. Then herbs, oil massage and diet are prescribed to pull the toxins out of the tissues and to call back the "ojas," or subtle energy fueling the life force.
I know, logic-based Western medicine scoffs at this, but as Dr. Lad said, "Logic has no wisdom. Logic will leave you at a certain level."
After two weeks I felt marvelous, cleaned out, stripped down, light as a feather floating down from a hawk on a high pole.
* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose "Keiki o ka 'Aina" column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.