Category Archives: 2023 Grand Finale Tour

What are we waiting for?


Spending 3 months (this year nearly 4 months), living in the USA I get a lot of news and commentary from that country while there. Climate change is of course a hot topic (opun intended) there as it is in Canada.

We can avoid catastrophic climate change if we have the will to do it. Yet many people don’t think this affects them. Many people think this is someone else’s problem. Many think the economy is more important. Many of us don’t realize that most of the solutions to this big problem are “already in our hands.”

Added to that, these unfortunate changes are already affecting us in our homes, food, drinking water, in nature, and even in the economy which we think is so important. We are already paying a hefty price because we have delayed action for so long.  In part that is because some corporations have been spending a lot of money to confuse us and persuade us that the problem is not that bad. We have allowed corporations to do that to us.

For decades, scientists like Katherine Hayhoe, one of the leading scientists on Climate change in the US, have been warning us but we have been ignoring their sage advice and instead listening to business leaders who have been exaggerating the cost of change and minimizing the costs of doing nothing.  That advice from our business leaders has come at an enormous cost. And we are paying it already. And we will have to pay even more.

We already have solutions at hand here today as the impacts of climate change have started to affect us.  As Hayhoe, asked, “what are we waiting for?

 The UN has been warning that we are headed for temperature rises much more than 1.5ºC and to some people that doesn’t sound like it would be so bad.  Hayhoe asks us to think of it like the human body. The temperature of the climate has been as stable as the temperature of the human body throughout the life of civilization. As Hayhoe concluded,

 “If our body is running a fever of one or two degrees Celsius or three or four or five or six degrees Celsius, that is life-threatening. So we have already, thanks to the Paris Agreement, changed — reduced the amount of change that we expect in the policies that have already been adapted by at least a degree. But we still need more, because every bit of warming carries a cost with it.”


It used to be that we could not see the changes in front of us so perhaps that is why we did not act. Now we can see the changes. As Hayhoe said,

“Over the last year, at least one in three Americans were personally affected by the way that climate change is making our extreme weather more severe. We might live somewhere where sea level is rising, where hurricanes are getting stronger, where wildfires burn in greater area, where the summers are now dominated by record-breaking heat waves. Climate change is no longer a future issue. It is right here where we live. It is right now. And the time to fix it is also here now.”

Hayhoe always makes it plain, but we just don’t listen. And our failure to listen and act, in my view, is a symptom of decline.  It is hard to deny the decline of the west.


Humanity is on Thin Ice that is Melting Fast


Our future keeps getting more dire, but we keep doing nothing about it.

In March 2023 while we were relaxing in Arizona complaining about the cool wet winter we were having, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, issued one more report, in a very long series of similar reports, warning us, again, that the climate is getting worse and we are not doing anything about it.

The latest report shows that the world is very likely to miss its publicly declared goal to hold global warming to 1.5ºC or 2.7ºF. Remember that is the upper limit most of the countries of the world agreed we should not allow global temperatures to rise beyond, because the consequences would be catastrophic. If that level is exceeded world scientists have agreed our planet will pass a tipping point we will not be able to reverse. The damage will be that serious. Passing that limit will mean dangerous sea levels will be inevitable, many species will go extinct, and millions of people will suffer serious harm and die, including, of course, the poorest who will by and large suffer the most. But it won’t be just the poorest.

Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General is always bluntly eloquent on the subject. He said, we should think of it this way: “Humanity is on thin ice that is melting fast. In fact, he said,  the rise of temperatures in the last half century, roughly the time in which Christiane and I have been married, has been “the highest experienced by our world in the last 2,000 years!” Added to that, he said, “concentrations of carbon are already at their highest in the last 2,000 years… The climate time bomb is ticking.” The ice we are standing on is melting and the climate bomb is ticking.   These are 2 mixed metaphors but it would be pedantic to worry about that.  And what do we do about it? Do we treat this like the emergency it is?  Not really?  Are we stupid? Yes. Really.

Amna Nawaz the PBS co-host of Newshour invited one of my favorite climate scientists to comment. This was Katherine Hayhoe from Texas Tech University. Besides being a staunch Christian she is one of the most respected scientists on the subject in the US. She began, by saying those dramatic words by the UN Secretary-General were “completely justified.” She did not mince words either.


She reminded us that the window of opportunity the world had in which to change its activities to ensure a better future is rapidly closing, yet our emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise steadily. We are not making progress. We are still falling farther behind. She also reminded us that 1.5 degrees was not a magic turning point or threshold. It is a goal that we have set for ourselves, because we know beyond that limit things will get very bad for the human race.  But as she said, “Every little bit that the planet warms carries additional costs with it. So, how much do we need to do? As much as possible. When? As soon as possible. Why? Because we will all benefit from that action.”

That is actually pretty simple:  Every bit makes a difference and we will all benefit from doing the right thing and the sooner we do it the better off we all will be!

 Hayhoe also pointed out that which we can all see already:

We are already seeing the impacts here today in the way that climate change is loading the weather dice against us.

We know we have always had droughts and floods and hurricanes and heat waves. But, in a warming world, they’re getting stronger and more dangerous. And they’re impacting all of us. But they are particularly affecting those who are vulnerable and marginalized the most.

The warmer the world gets, the more it endangers our food supply, our water supply, the safety of our homes, our own health, our economy and supply chains, the natural environment. Every aspect of life on Earth, including our life on Earth, is at risk the warmer this planet gets.


The UN has also made it clear that we should cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, which is now less than 7 years away, and we must stop adding any more carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere entirely by 2050.

Who does not think the west is declining? Declining really is too mild a word when you  are heading toward catastrophe.

Why so much rage?


While we were in Arizona this year, before the end of January, there had been 39 mass shootings in the US.  People keep talking about better gun laws (as they should) but really there is a much bigger issue. The bigger issue is why is there so much rage in the country, particularly among young men? The mass shootings are overwhelmingly committed by angry young men. That is a very big question. And there is no simple answer but there are many plausible answers.

The gunman killed 11 people and injured another 9. After the shooting there was a lot of hand wringing and  surprise in the California community.  Their local State Senator said Monterey was “a close-knit community” and “a great place to raise children.”  Really? This is what they call a close-knit community in the US? California has the lowest gunfire mortality in the US probably because it has the strictest gun laws. Yet even in California there is a mass shooting every 8 days! Compared to communities around the world those “strict” gun laws are among the weakest! That’s how Americans like it. They want weak gun laws.

But I am actually more interested in a deeper question: why is there so much rage in America?  We have rage in Canada too but nothing like the US. What is driving young men to such violent fury? It seems to me that this question gets less attention than it should.

Adam Winkler, a professor of law at UCLA said “we can’t stop people from getting angry, but we can make it a little bit harder to get guns when they are in a passionate state.” That is a good idea, but why give up on trying to reduce the rage?  What makes him think that is hopeless? Has anyone actually tried it?

This is the issue the country should be dealing with.  The gun law debate in the US is frankly sterile. Nothing of substance happens. No one, it seems to me, is looking at the issue of that desperate anger. That is the problem Americans need to resolve. Until they do, no one can intelligibly deny that America, the self-proclaimed leader of the free world, is a country in serious decline. In Canada one of our major political parties is determined to follow America. Would that be wise? That rage seems to be coming our way. We should not amplify it.



Ancestral Spirituality

Great House

Like many other Indigenous people of North America in a number of other places, the Great House of the Ancestral People of the Sonoran Desert was carefully aligned with the sun. In fact, 17 different astronomical observations could be made from the Great House.  First of all, the house was carefully aligned between North and South.


There was also a round hole “window” that once each year lined up perfectly with the sun on the day of the summer solstice. Another rectangular hole carefully marked the spring and fall equinoxes.


As well one square window lined up with the Lunar Standstill that occurred every 18.6 years. What is the Lunar Standstill? For the first half of each year, the moon rises during the day in phases from near-full to a mere thin crescent, rising earlier each month from early afternoon to early morning. In July, the moon rises between the rocks as a nearly invisible new moon around dawn. From August through November, the waxing moon rising between the rocks, ranges from crescent to nearly full. Moonrise continues to come earlier each month, from just before dawn to just before sunset. Finally, the full moon rises between the rocks at sunset near the Winter Solstice in December. The duration of the moon’s passing between the spires was different for each rising but generally lasted from five to fifteen minutes.


The moon’s orbit of Earth oscillates or wobbles, gradually causing the moon to rise at different points on the horizon over the years.  Actually, I never learned that the orbit of the moon around the earth is not as perfect as I thought. The entire cycle of the wobbling moon takes 18.6 years, and apparently the Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert understood these imperfections, because they had observed. Even though I have never observed them. Have you?


At the termination of each of the swings of the moon, the moon seems to pause for about 3 years! There was such an apparent pause in 2021 and one in 2004.


At each end of its swing, the moon appears to pause for about three years, rising at the same point on the horizon before beginning to move. The cycle is complicated. That apparent pause is called the Lunar Standstill. There are places in North and South America where the indigenous people noticed these movements and sometimes built structures to take these movements into account. They paid a lot of attention to how these movements aligned with local landmarks such as rocks rising above the horizon.


No one is sure exactly why these alignments were produced, but they do show the sophisticated knowledge of astronomy that the Ancestral People had. I have my own theory.  Religion at its foundation is about connecting people to each other, other creatures, and the world. These alignments help establish these connections.



When we get the glorious opportunity to visit a place like Casa Grande or one of the other sacred sites of North America we can’t help but wonder who were these amazing people who built these astounding canals and structures and then watched the sky so intently. What were they looking for in the sky? Those first Spanish missionaries asked the locals here why that was the case, but the indigenous people had a difficult time explaining it to the newcomers. Perhaps they thought the new arrivals were too ignorant to understand.


To indigenous people of the American Southwest, as in so many other places around the world, the fundamental notion of spirituality and religion came from the notion of connection. That was always, at least until recently, the basis of religion around the world. In India the original meaning of the word “religion” comes from the Indo-European word “religio, which means connection or linkage. Religion is what connects us. It connects us to other people, and it connects us to the world.


In many North American languages, the name for the tribe means “the people”.  In other words, we are the people. Many North and South American people saw the connection between them and the world in how the stars or other celestial bodies aligned with the lives of people. It connected them to each other. It was the same with the ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert.


Unfortunately, adherents to some of the monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam forget the importance of connection and instead concentrate on what divides us from other people or the world. They see religion as something that makes them superior to others. In my opinion when this happens religion has gone off the rails, and in fact, in some cases is not actually religion at all, but its opposite.  Religion can become sacrilegious!


These odd alignments are all part of the mystery about the purpose behind the Great House.  It took an astonishing amount of human labor to create the house, but it was abandoned within about 75 years, even though the Ancestral People inhabited the area for more than 1,000 years. According to Rose Houk,


Modern archeologists have observed such an alignment of the sun through a “window” in an upper room of Casa Grande, marking the summer solstice. They have suggested that the “great house” may have been used as an astronomical observatory, one of several ideas about this enigmatic, imposing structure that stands out in the desert of central Arizona. Others have seen the four-story building as a fort, a granary, or a silo.  Whatever the truth, the Casa Grande’s significance was recognized early on when it became the nation’s first archaeological preserve in 1892.

The indigenous people here who consider themselves the descendants of the Ancient Ancestral Sonoran Desert people call this sacred place Siwan Wa’a Ki. To them it is a place to come and sing songs to the Huhugam Spirts. The non-O’odham call this sacred place Casa Grande Ruin. It was well known to their people and was mentioned in the O’odham legends.

What is clear is that this is a place Great Spirit.

Tohono O’odham/ Hohokam



Remnant of Great House

According to their own website the Ancestral People of the Sonoran Desert (Hohokam)  origins are linked to their homeland in the Sonoran Desert. Thousands of years ago, the ancestors of the current Tohono O’odham, settled along the Salt, Gila, and Santa Cruz Rivers in southern Arizona.


In the 1990s, archaeologists identified a culture and people that were ancestors of the Hohokam (later called Ancestral People of the Sonoran Desert). They grew corn and lived sedentary lives in villages all year round. It is now believed that they might have occupied the territory now known as Arizona as early 2000 B.C.E. They originated as archaic hunters and gatherers who lived on wild plants and animals, and eventually settled in permanent communities and became farmers producing their own food instead of living a more mobile life and gathering what nature provided.

The Hohokam culture included an astonishing skill to build very sophisticated water storage systems and irrigation systems to water their crops.

The Hohokam were master dwellers of the desert, creating sophisticated canal systems to irrigate their crops of cotton, tobacco, corn, beans, and squash. They built vast ball courts and huge ceremonial mounds and left behind fine red-on-buff pottery and exquisite jewellery of stone, shell, and clay.

Following their ancestral heritage, they became what they call “scientists of our environment.”  Like other nations in the Americas they used and continue to use meteorological principles to establish planting, harvesting, ceremonial cycles and they developed complex water storage and delivery systems. Those principles also continue to have spiritual resonance.

They learned to make the best of their environment, migrating with the seasons from their homes in the valleys to cooler mountain dwellings. Over time they learned to raise a wide variety of crops including tepary beans, squash, melon, and sugar cane. They also gathered wild plants such as saguaro fruit, cholla buds, and mesquite bean pods, and we hunted for only the meat that they needed from the plentiful wildlife, including deer, rabbit, and javelina. They continue to live this proud heritage today as 21st century Tohono O’odham.

These Ancestral people were the only culture in North America to rely on irrigation canals to supply water to their crops. In the arid desert environment of the Salt and Gila River Valleys, the homeland of the Hohokam, there was not enough rainfall to grow crops. To meet their needs, the Hohokam engineered the largest and most sophisticated irrigation system in the Americas.

The canals were perfectly laid out on the landscape to achieve a downhill drop (or gradient) of 1 to 2 feet per mile. Many of the canals were massive in size. The Arizona Museum of Natural History discovered a prehistoric canal in the Phoenix Valley that measured 15 feet deep and 45 feet wide. As a result of irrigating up to 110,000 acres by AD 1300, the irrigation systems of the Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert supported the largest population in the prehistoric Southwest, and until I came to visit Arizona I had never heard of them before. My ignorance was profound.

They traded goods widely across the American Southwest and even into Mesoamerica (what is now called Mexico).  They produced cotton and woven goods that were highly desired by other Indigenous nations and were woven goods from which they made things like blankets that could be traded for very good prices

There continues to be a significant and thriving O’odham population living in the region. The members of the Salt and Gila River communities celebrate their heritage as descendants of the ancient desert people.

When we are in the San Tan Valley we often go to San Tan Mountain Regional Park for hikes and outings.  It is beautiful country and it is on the edge of territory of the O’odham nation or inside the territory of the Ancestral People of the Sonoran Desert (Hohokam).

The more I learn about these people the more impressed I am by their achievements.



Decline of Ancient Ancestral People of the Sonoran Desert


At Casa Grande Arizona, a steel and concrete canopy was built in 1932 to protect what remained of the Great House from the elements.

As I mentioned earlier  the great puzzle is why were these magnificent structures and elaborate towns abandoned in favor of smaller communities after about 1450 C.E.

Some have speculated that some catastrophe caused the people to leave. There is evidence that the area experienced significant floods between 1300 and 1450.  Those were followed by intense periods of drought. Severe climate change in other words.

Archeologists use multiple kinds of evidence to answer such questions, or at least shed some light on the questions posed. As a result, they have been studying salt discharge on the Salt and Gila rivers, as well as the increasing soil salinity, diseases, and evidence of malnutrition. It is likely that environmental conditions changed and the Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert (formerly Hohokam people) did what all smart people do, they adapted to changed conditions. That is how people survive. That is a lesson we moderns are beginning to experience. How will we adapt is not so certain.

The evidence does show that the extreme flooding deepened the Gila River Channel making it more difficult for canals to carry water to fields where water levels were low. Part of the canal system was abandoned while other parts were extended miles upstream to maintain proper water flows. Around 1350 C.E., the time of the Great House, a combination of factors may have triggered a breakdown of Hohokam society and undermined their leadership.

It is probable that as a result of all of these factors, the survivors of the floods and droughts abandoned large sites like Casa Grande in favor of smaller settlements along the Gila River. Today’s O’odham people believe that they are the descendants of the Hohokam people. As a result, Hohokam society never disappeared it just adapted and changed to a lifestyle that was better suited to the changed conditions. This change was likely to one more similar to their ancestors. They changed to a simpler life. Perhaps that is what we will be compelled to do.

There is a lot to be said for a simpler life.

Collapse of Society


For reasons that are subject to debate, during the period of 1400 to 1500 A.D. large community centers were abandoned in the American southwest, as were many canals. The people did not die out, they moved instead to smaller villages in small groups. They spread throughout much of the Southwest, including northern Arizona. They adapted to some changed conditions in other words.


What really interests me is why this occurred. It is one of the genuine mysteries of North American archaeology. I believe it has continuing important significance for our modern societies. There are lessons for us to learn here. Will we learn them?

They may have left because of environmental collapse. For example, because the ancestral people of the Sonoran desert were so successful at farming they may have produced too many people for the land to sustain.  People around the world need to learn modesty and humility. That certainly applies to us moderns as well.

When Spanish missionaries arrived at the end of the 17th century, they found only an empty shell of the once flourishing village of Casa Grande (as the Spanish called it). Over the next two centuries, many visitors visited the site and damaged it over and over again. Some were like vandals ruining what they saw. We could see graffiti from this time on the walls.  In the late 1800s scientists pressed for its formal protection and in 1892 Casa Grande Ruins National Monument became America’s first archaeological reserve. To this day, the Great House keeps the secrets of the Ancestral People of the Sonoran Desert within its protected walls.

We all must learn that societies collapse. Everyone has done that and so will ours.

Trade and Expansion



                                                 Casa Grande ruins


From 775 to 975 C.E. the Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert (formerly Hohokam) expanded their territory and their canal system. During this time they established an elaborate trading network. Villages were established along natural trade routes between the people of what we now call California, the Great Plains, the Colorado Plateau, and even northern Mexico.


Successful farming led to successful trade. In the American Southwest, the people produced enough cotton, beans, and corn for the entire area of what we now call the United States. They traded these products across North America.


As well they developed high artistic achievement. Because of the success of their agricultural system, they had time to devote to artistic achievement and they used that time for that purpose. They loved beautiful things and created them and traded for them. Platform mounds and ball courts were developed as well during this time.

The Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert  traded mainly pottery and jewelry for a wide variety of items that others collected or produced. Shells from the Gulf of California were common. With people from Mexico they traded for macaws, mirrors, copper bells, and other items.

Oval pits have been unearthed on Hohokam sites that suggest they were used for ball courts for games such as those played by Aztecs. Smaller ball courts have been found near Flagstaff and Wupatki and this suggests that the area of influence of the Ancestral Peoples was quite large.


From 975 to 1150 A.D. the ancestral people in the region abandoned many of their smaller ancestral sites in favor of larger sites like Casa Grande. As well the ball court system ended, but new above ground structures were built instead to replace them. This is when the era of the Ancestral people of the Sonoran desert culture began.


The period of greatest achievement by the Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert (Hohokam) was from 1150 to 1300 C.E. Their canal system reached its greatest extent during this time. As well, during this time platform mounds and compounds dominated their architectural style. This was a period of outstanding achievement.


As a result of their sophisticated farming techniques, during this time this part of the country supported a high density of people. Estimates vary from 100,000 people to 1,000,000 people. I was shocked at these numbers. The people were served by about 3,000 miles of canals in the Southwest.


From 1300 to 1400 C.E. the Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert continued to develop large irrigation based communities, with great houses like we saw before us, and other structures on top of platform mounds like we also saw before us today. The Great House in Casa Grande, the ruins of which we saw, was built about 1350. This Great House as well as other Great Houses in other villages that were sited along large canals played a major role in the irrigation community.  They were likely not used as residences, since there is little evidence of things like hearths. They were likely administrative and ceremonial centers instead.


The Canal System: the marvel of the desert


That canal system in time became the most elaborate and well-engineered in all of North America if not the world.  The Ancestral People cooperated to build and manage a vast canal system that diverted waters from the rivers to irrigate their croplands.  Because these croplands were located in land that was lower than the surrounding rivers the canals were started about 17 miles away to divert water by gravity flow. Where there were croplands without nearby rivers, they diverted storm run-off or tapped groundwater.

The canals were amazing. First of all, they were constructed entirely by human labor without any draft animals. The only tools they had were made of wood or stone. They had no shovels. The ground was true hard pan that made digging very difficult. The slope of canals was 2 ft. for 1 mile.  That is a very gentle slope, but it is more than enough to lead the water to where they wanted it. The canals were also surprisingly large. They were about as tall as a man.

This was very sophisticated agriculture. They farmed the area for about a thousand years. At its height the canals irrigated 1,900 acres of land. The canals stretched for 220 miles in this area alone. What amazed me was that these Ancestral People were extremely successful farmers. They produced higher yields than modern farmers with modern equipment and techniques. Modern Hohokam farmers see people as their main resource.

Following their ancestral heritage, they became what they call “scientists of our environment.”  Like other nations in the Americas, they used and continue to use meteorological principles to establish planting, harvesting, ceremonial cycles and they developed complex water storage and delivery systems.

I was also astonished to learn that there is evidence that the ancestral people were about 2-3 inches taller than the Europeans who arrived in the 17th century. Like the indigenous people of the Great Plains who relied principally on bison, that meant they were better fed than the Europeans who came here to civilize them! Perhaps the ancestral people ought to have civilized the Europeans! After all, the period of 300 to 1450 A.D. was the period of the Dark and Middle Ages in Europe.

When Father Keno was the first European to see this land in 1694, about 200 years after the Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert left, he was struck by the beauty and ingenuity of the building. That is why he called the main structure that was left. Casa Grande (Great House) because he said he had never seen anything comparable in Europe.

Pueblo Traditions


Pueblo peoples have lived in the American Southwest for millennia and descend from the ancestral Puebloans.  The ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert are included in this group.  The term Anasazi is sometimes used to refer to ancestral Pueblo people, but it is now largely avoided. Anasazi is a Navajo word that means Ancient Ones or Ancient Enemy. That of course is why they don’t like the word anymore. Just like Inuit people no longer like the name Eskimo.  Many first nations don’t like the names that European settlers imposed on them so we should avoid using them. But it is tricky for us to do that. I know someone who got in trouble for using the name “Eskimo” which is the name she was brought up with. We should all do our best to learn the preferred names. But others should recognize that we are not perfect.


Pueblo traditions are different from some Christian traditions. Their traditions tell the Pueblo people that they must honor Mother Earth by taking care of her as their ultimate reference. Would you not take care of your ultimate reference as Paul Tillich suggested? That was how he chose to define “God.”


I recognize that in recent times some Christians have emphasized that the instructions in the Bible should not be interpreted to mean that humans have dominion over the earth. Rather they now interpret the prescription in the Bible to mean that they ought to be custodians who nurture the earth. Yet historically Christians interpreted their Holy Book to mean that they had Biblical obligations to subdue the earth, which in the view of many people, like me, was not just a license but instructions to plunder the world.


A few years ago I saw an film on PBS called  Native America: From Caves to Cosmosin which a Hopi woman recounted in Hopi the following myth (and I use this word carefully not to reference something that is not true, but rather something that is important, very important):

Massaw told us this world is a gift to us

And we must care for this place

He said, ‘To find your home you must find the center place,’

So we made a covenant to walk to the world’s farthest corners

To learn the earth with our feet

And to become one with this new world

And to find our center place


In the origin story of the Pueblo people they are given a sacred quest after they emerged from the earth. They are told to find the center place. Some went clockwise and some counter-clockwise. They built an image in the rock to show where they were. It was a spiral around a center spot. “Finding the right place–the center place–lies at the heart of Pueblo belief. It is more than a physical location. It is about living in balance with the natural world.”


I have seen a number of kivas in my travels through the American southwest. A kiva is a space used by Puebloans for sacred ceremonies and sometimes political meetings. Among the modern Hopi and other Pueblo peoples, “kiva” means a large room that is circular and underground, and used for spiritual ceremonies. They are sacred places. According to the film I watched, “The search for the center place is built right in to the kivas.  Every kiva is aligned to the 4 compass directions.” Of course there are 2 more sacred directions, including up and down. When the people climb out of a ladder in a kiva it is symbolic of their journey where they emerged from the earth. The Hopi believe the 6 directions give the Kivas great power.


To me, the most important part is the fact that it centers the occupants so that they can become part of the earth, not separate and apart from it. It connects us to the sacred earth. I see that as an essential religious act.

This is ancient ceremony but I think it ought to be a part of a new attitude to nature which we should be willing to learn about from our indigenous peoples.