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Our Grotto— for saints and sinners

WALSENBURG- Eighty years ago a local “older”used to travel with her family from a nearby mining camp to the wind-carved rock sculpture 5.5 miles west of Walsenburg (close to mile marker 299) to enjoy picnics.  As a little girl she cherished those Sundays of frolic and food among the rocks.  Walsenburg wind carved the indentations; I do not know the geological history of the rock outcropping.   The “older” sighed wistfully as she told the story—oh, for the natural graceful beauty, play, and peace of yesteryears.

    Many feel that the grotto is an especially spiritual place.  Since the time of those family picnics, thousands of devout people have visited the towering stones; a myriad of religious statues have come, gone and appeared again; a wire fence has been erected; rosaries, ribbons, votive candles and small mysterious objects have appeared; and a multitude of knees have touched the sandy soil peppered with gravel.  Crosses—mostly wooden—from tiny twigs to a 4×4 six-footer and a 4×6 8-footer have been carefully placed throughout the area.  A path strongly embedded into field grass adjacent to the highway leads guests up the grade to the modest, yet moving display.

    The Maldonado family, owners of the land, maintain the property with help from their Walsenburg and La Veta neighbors.  Recently a group of three older women met to spruce it up.  Mostly, they removed broken glass from votive candles set flying by the wind.  They left most everything else; each artifact would tell an intense story if it could.  As they labored, a car pulled up.  A Buddhist nun asked if she could sing.  The now four women bent to pick up glass, scrape wax from the rocks, and generally tidy the area as delicate chanting rode the breeze to their appreciative ears.

    It is said that vandals also visit here, hurling rocks at the Madonna and saint statues– or perhaps it is just the wind at it again.  Maybe the healing aura of the area reaches some vandals’ angry hearts and answers their unsaid questions and prayers to God.  There are many forms of “help me” prayers.

    As a story-telling evangelist, I wonder if the stories behind these many visits are told to family or recorded or have been the basis of articles over the years.  As a seeker of truth and peace, I wonder how many tears have been swallowed up here by the Mother Earth.  As a Walsenburg resident, I am proud of this unique grotto that unexpectedly appears a short distance west of the entry to Huerfano County Cement across from several freshly painted green-roofed houses— a grotto of the people, each guest sharing in the qualities of both saint and sinner.

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