Healing in Galisteo

Judy Tuwaletstiwa

Excerpt from an interview in Santa Fe Magazine


What are you working on these days? Receiving the cancer diagnosis, l have turned my energy to the healing process. I’m working with different modalities, with a brilliant general practitioner, a remarkable surgeon and her team, a profound doctor of Tibetan medicine, and an amazing sound healer who lives here in Galisteo. When I had my surgery at UNM Hospital, I was stunned by the dedication and courage of the nurses, the courage of the surgeon and her team. My work is always about distilling to the essential. I wondered, thinking about the healers, including a friend who has spent years using his hands to heal, what do these healers have in common? Before going into surgery, I wanted to take the fear out of the word, so, I looked up the etymology of “surgery.” It comes from the Proto Indo-European root, ghes,hand. For one of my next books, I’ve been exploring, the concept of Where Does Art Come From? Now, I am imagining I’ll begin the book with hands: I want to ask each of these healers to find something to hold that informs the way they see the world. Then I’ll photograph them holding that object. What would you hold? That’s a very interesting question. I think I’d hold a phrase in my hands. Fifty years ago, when I lived in Scotland, learning how to weave, my first husband, Michael, was in a car accident with my three sons who were four, six and eight. In 1972, Roberta Flack’s The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face was a popular song. A phrase in it, “Like the trembling heart of a captive bird,” moved me deeply. Dr. Shaw was the pediatric neurosurgeon who saved my four-year old son’s life through two major brain surgeries. I wove this phrase into a tapestry to thank him. And that is what I would hold in my hands. It speaks of the creative process and the liminal space between life and death, sleep and wake. It holds the smoke-like, prayer quality of language, of breath. I lived on the Hopi reservation for twelve years, with my husband, Phillip, whose father was Hopi. Out there, smoke and prayer, breath and prayer are connected. Language, breath, becomes prayer and song and smoke. It’s almost 50 years since that accident, and my boys are all doing fine.