History and Place
History and place, when you think of these two words together you inevitably come to the conclusion that a place is meaningful because of the history that it holds. In the case of Crestone Colorado, however, that situation is reversed. Crestone becomes significant not only because of the history that is there but because of the place itself which inspired that history.
“Crestone is represented more by what is NOT obviously here than by what is here,” said Julie Quinn, a member of the San Luis Valley Citizen’s Alliance.
While Crestone itself is breathtaking in its beauty, it holds so much more than what you can simply see with your eyes. It is described as having a certain energy and spirit that radiates from every natural thing in the valley, from the mountains to the rocks and waters, and everything in between. For the Native American people of the valley, Crestone was a unique and special place.
“The land was so beautiful and sacred that no one would fight here,” said Quinn of the many different Native American peoples who shared this valley for hunting and vision quests leading to the name of the valley giving it the name of the Bloodless Valley. Even today there is a strong Native American presence within the valley.
While Native Americans may have been the first to realize the importance of the Crestone area, that fact was not lost on any newcomer to the area. One person in particular has stood out in the history of Crestone and has helped to shape the direction of the place and that is Hanna Strong.
Hanna Strong arrived in Crestone with her husband Maurice Strong in 1978 after purchasing lands around the area. In this same year, Glen Anderson, a local mountain man and prophet told her that she would bring together the world religions in this place, here they would “gather and begin working for a better future for the world and mankind” (Kucin 2000. 1) Inspired, Mrs. Strong began to grant parcels of land to spiritual organizations from around the world.
Convincing spiritual groups, or anyone for that matter, to come to the harsh weather of the Southern Rockies is a daunting task, however, many groups and people undertake this hardship because they are looking for something that only this particular place of Crestone has to offer.
“We know we’re an hour from the nearest hospital or grocery store; we have to have volunteer fire fighters and EMT’s…people sacrifice a lot of things to live here, but we know that coming to Crestone,” said Bon Dellegar.
Lonnie Roth of the Crestone Creative Trade Co. has the same sentiments: “I think it’s a harsh environment but a beautiful environment. This is such a harsh place to live if you live through winters. It’s taken some people with real desire to get away from these warm and easy places to live in where here it’s somewhat inhospitable.”
What is this special attraction that Crestone holds? Why do people, despite the many difficulties flock to Crestone? They come because they are following the intangible draw of those seeking the serenity of this special place.
According to Darlene Yarborough, of the Crestone Spiritual Alliance Representative and a member of Humanity and Unity says, “we felt inclined to live here the first time we came just for the peacefulness of it. The feeling we had was just one of wonderment. That this was a place so unusual that we felt that maybe we could live here. I remember laying on rocks at the Crestone Mountain Zen Center (it was Linden Farm at the time) and it was just magnificent to lay on the rocks, look at the mountains and see the experience of this place. I had never been to a place like this before.”
“This valley and this area is used everyday by spiritual practitioners who come here to engage these mountains, and this has been going on since the 1950’s. So there’s a history of place here, there’s a history of recognition of the special power” (Yarborough).
These people like many others have started to create a history out of this place, they draw from it and it helps to shape who they are as people. The idea of home, of entire regions and local landscapes “where groups of men and women have invested themselves (their thoughts, their values, their collective sensibilities) and to which they feel they belong…places we realize are as much apart of us as we are part of them” (Basso 1996. xiii-xiv).
Bass, Keith: 1996 Wisdom Sits in Place: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache. University of New Mexico Press.
Kucin, Lynda: 2000 Crestone: An Illustrated Guide to the Significant Attractions of the Crestone/Baca Area. The Way Productions
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