ROOTS & WINGS: The Connectedness of Everything


See comment on this post for Evaluation Meeting summary!

Celebrating the NMMW 25th Fall Conference

October 22-25, 2009

Ghost Ranch, New Mexico


My heart is full; the conference flowed oh so well!  Thanks to all who made it so!

The Roots & Wings banner was hung.

Conference T-Shirts and NMMW caps adorned our bodies.

We, 75(+/-) men, gathered together Thursday evening and weaved a web of intentions by throwing balls of string across our circle.  We then chose which clan we would each be in based upon ideas related to Earth, Relationships, Service, Self-worth, Spirit and Creative Expression.  We met in these groups throughout the weekend to share thoughts, reactions & stories to increase our connections with ourselves & others. Thanks to each of the Clan Leaders and their co-leaders. The selection process was highlighted by lining up by the number of conferences each man had attended, initiating the process of celebrating the roots of New Mexico Men€™s Wellness.

Throughout the weekend we sang, (thank you, Charles, et al) drummed (thank you, Cliff for the use of your big drum) and connected via various Dances of Universal Peace, led by Maboud and Spirit.  We also had opportunities to €œjust be€ in the enchanted area that is Ghost Ranch.

Friday morning€™s directed activity around Forgiveness was an extremely powerful experience for me.  We paired up and connected via issues of forgiveness needed for ourselves and/or others.  The exercise was initially done without words.  Barry Cooney skillfully led us into deep feelings that we were able to convey in silence to the other man, taking turns being the €œspeaker€ and the €œlistener.€  The man I was paired with expressed a deep sense of €œbeing blown away€ by the energy I conveyed.  I came away with a sense that we each have tremendous abilities we don€™t allow to be manifested as often as we could.

Friday afternoon€™s opportunity to make, decorate and fly kites was €œout of this world€ for me.  (Thanks be to Joseph Woods and his committee!) I have no memory of ever having successfully flown a kite before.  (My father and uncle made and flew box kites when I was too young actually to participate in the activity.)  I took my kite out into the field to fly it; then promptly crashed it.  I took it back in for repairs; the man who helped me fix it €œbecame Dad€ for me.  I tearfully accepted and expressed appreciation for the assistance.  The rest of the afternoon was a blissful time; an ideal wind flew our kites within sight of the sandstone cliffs.  The wings were soaring.

Friday evening was highlighted by playing €œThe Wild Wind Blows€ in our clans, an opportunity to connect via sharing life experiences by stating, €œThe wild wind blows for anyone who . . . .€  Done in a style of musical chairs, anyone who also had that experience gets up and goes to find another seat, with another ending up in the center of the circle.  The types of pronouncements range from the ridiculous to the mundane to the serious and profound.  Everyone is given opportunities to find connections with others.

Saturday began before breakfast with the annual Grief Ceremony that provides opportunities for men to share senses of loss over loved ones who have died.  This is also a time to honor all veterans with a ceremonial hand washing experience and to share any sense of grief that can benefit from healing.

The Saturday morning session, wonderfully led by David Coffey, focused on dealing with the range of emotions that come up for each of us in our lives.  Each clan produced and presented a tableau of feelings in the form of a human sculpture.  A member of my men€™s group recently spent an hour & a half with Michael Angelo€™s David, connecting in a significant manner that was brought to mind for me during this activity.  Once again, I experienced the realization of the powerful opportunities we could have if we activated senses that we often allow to lie dormant.

Saturday afternoon included ceremonies to honor Elders and to form a Circle of Sages, the latter to honor twelve men seventy or older.  My dear friend Manuel Tafoya conceived of the idea of recognizing the wisdom of the eldest members of our community.  Thanks be to him, John Gervers and their committee. This activity for €œa few€ benefited the sense of connectedness of us all.  A special honoring occurred for Man, Alive!€™s first editor Chuck Cocklereas, who died just nine days prior to the start of the Conference, and his dear friend, octogenarian Harvey Frauenglass. In the evening we brought together the various decades, honoring all ages of our lives.

€œClans Alive€ highlighted Saturday night€™s activities as each clan made presentations celebrating the connections made in our groups, most, but not all, bordering on the outright hilarious and ridiculous. The Relationships Clan reprised €œThe Wild Wind Blows€ in a performance that demonstrated the powerful energies that connect us when we allow ourselves to share our heartfelt needs and desires.

The traditional Sunday morning activities of a €œTalking Circle,€ the clan farewell & intention setting gatherings and the Closing Ceremony completed the flow of the weekend.  I pronounced that the man who opened the conference on Thursday evening was not the same man who was closing it.

My NMMW journey actually began eighteen years ago at my first Fall Conference where I started the process of learning how to be myself as a man with other men.  Never having wanted to be the Conference Leader, I was led into and through a process that indeed celebrated Roots & Wings: The Connectedness of All for me and all who were present.  Thank you, brother Joseph for your connection with Spirit and creative energies that fanned & nurtured the theme.

A marvelous history, New Mexico Men€™s Wellness Fall Conference 25th Anniversary 1985-2009, compiled by Pat Sauer and edited by David Johnson, was made available.  I feel especially honored to be the man that completes the circle of leaders of the first quarter century of fall conferences.  Having relatively easily hosted the annual NMMW Cross-Country Ski Weekend since 1992, I was brought to a further level of leadership that was so buoyed by all who were on the planning committee that began the process with a retreat at Cooks€™ Cabin in May.  Special thanks to Michael Wilkinson, my co-leader; I couldn€™t have done it without you.  I know the 2010 Conference will continue the legacy of gatherings connecting men€™s hearts and souls.

Also, I now realize, at a deeper level, how instrumental so many men are to making each Conference the special event that occurs each Fall. Gaylon Duke is the linchpen.  Thanks be to €œAll-Ya€™-All!€

I am writing this summary while on a solo retreat at the Cabin, working to balance the energies of recuperation and dealing with the tasks of sustenance to continue the process of hosting gatherings that continue our life long celebrations of Roots & Wings.

Lawrence Cook, aka Flows w/ Fish Creek 11/2/09

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One Response to “ROOTS & WINGS: The Connectedness of Everything”
  1. Michael Wilkinson says:

    A Summary of the Evaluation Meeting Held on February 11, 2010

    Posted by Michael Wilkinson (

    Greetings, Brothers All!

    Here is a summary of the evaluations of Roots and Wings for your perusal:

    The feedback was generally positive, with some great suggestions about how to make the next conference even better.

    The best thing is that Roots and Wings spawned two separate groups that are still meeting on a regular basis, the Purple People Eaters, a continuation of the self-worth clan, and the Circle of Sages. That a conference dedicated to connection birthed ongoing groups is a testimonial in itself.

    People also really enjoyed the kite building block. Many reported how great it was to see everyone€™s kites flying in the blue New Mexico sky at the same time.

    There was much positive feedback about the Saturday night process; people really seemed to like the creativity that was expressed.

    The NMMW History book was highly praised, as were the clans, and the balance between open time and structured time. People very much appreciated the Circle of Sages.

    The constructive criticism was varied, and very helpful. Several people wished there was more time to process info in small groups or dyads, especially after the forgiveness ceremony. It seemed that there was a disconnect with the clan leaders; at times they didn€™t know what to do next. Many missed the sweats, some wanted more “head” activities, while others wanted less. Some wanted more dancing and singing, and others wanted less. Some felt there was not enough open time, while others wished the grief ceremony had been deeper.

    This process was fascinating for me. As the leader for 2010, it is clear to me that no matter what I do, I will not please everyone; I shall not even try. When asking advice about how I should proceed from our wise friend Gaylon, he told me to conduct a Conference that I would like to attend. A weight was lifted off my back! That€™s easy, I told myself.

    So, kind and wise men, the theme for 2010 Fall Conference is: “Walking the Path, Fording the Stream.” We shall investigate with curiosity and a sense of wonder the path we have created for ourselves, and explore how we deal with the conflicts/obstacles/challenges we encounter upon it. Bring your walking shoes, your thinking caps, and your sense of humor, and let€™s see how we can create more fun, fulfillment, and freedom in this new, exciting decade!

    Wishing you wellness,