Ride the Rising Wind

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“Your heart is the correspondent of your soul. It knows the grooves of joy.”  ~ Karen Ruimy

High haze subdues the stars, and they say it will rain today. A flash flood warning has been cast forth from the professional weather folks. Flash floods can be both serious and awesome. A river where there was none can be disconcerting to our perceptions. At least it can for me. But as I look at it from this side of the workday I am as calm and clear in the moment as I am capable of being. Which says a lot. After what is now years of learning, of training, to reign back the awesome power of anxiety to go all automatic on me, I have achieved a calmness of the mind and a semi-calmness of the heart. It’s the body beyond the heart that hasn’t gotten the message yet, which is to chill, so the heart gets stretched between body and mind. Is that what they mean by “mind-body problem“? It isn’t but it is, but I’ll not get into that here this morning. Not today. I overdid myself yesterday and things just ain’t the same today as a result. I didn’t mean to do it. Really. I can blame it on the tree. That’s it you see in the opening photo. I wanted to see it. When I got near to the tree, along a trail of high desert beauty and solitude, a  Scotsman on a bicycle gave me the news: “You’ve walked 4.5 miles, laddie”. He didn’t really say “laddie”, I just added that for impact. It’s a gonzo journalism thing. But the man really was a Scotsman on a bicycle, a trail bike, sweet and shiny, obviously expensive. His data was precise. He had a computer on his handlebars. As he rode away I eyed the rise between me and the tree. I was only about a half mile from my goal by then so I walked on. Why not? I’d come this far. Onward. Damn the data. After all, it merely made me anxious about the walk back. I’d had nothing to eat yet, not since waking. The tree was a juniper, the only one on the meadow outcropping along the edge of the gorge. Not nearly as big as I had imagined. Maybe 12 foot high, but enough to provide shade. The shade was the first thing I pursued upon arrival. The day was blazing hot.

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Having refreshed myself with water and rest I rustled up my intention and started back. There was a bit of wooziness but the walk went well. Circumstances slowed me down but my legs held tight. I found out I was in better shape than I thought. Working with shelter cats was enough to keep me fit: cats with benefits. Nice. I noticed that the whole of the trail was filled with yellow flowers, which reminded me of the famous Yellow Brick Road, and so it became just that, on a metaphorical level. I used the loosening of my mind from the daily routine to enter archetypal territory. What was usually restrained in great measure had become as open as the blinding blue sky above me. But I knew it was not a triumph of my own. The hawks had given me the key. About one mile from the one tree I had been sitting in the shade of another tree, steeling myself to go on to my goal. That tree was quite near to the vertigo-inducing gorge. As I sat a bird came by, riding the updraft of heated air, along the edges of the gorge. A dark bird. I reckoned it was a raven, but in looking at it I changed my mind and called it a buzzard. The bird flew out over the gorge then wheeled about to head back at me. I’d become an item of notice, but as the bird wheeled about I saw that it was a hawk – a zone-tailed hawk. It was watching me like a hawk. And it had a fiend. The two of them did a couple of fly-bys and then headed along their way. The two of them had handed me a Totem gesture of power and grace. I accepted it, knowing what a precious gift it was. That acceptance was the point where I crossed over, from the mundane into the world of magic.

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When the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge came into sight I felt relieved. I could see it from the far out place I’d been, but then it was tiny, and it had told me then how far I had to go to get back. Upon this closer view I knew that a little park bench was not far from where I stood, and the parking lot at the trail head was only a half mile beyond that. I sat on that bench for quite a while, contemplating my journey. It was good. The scene before me was better. Beauty surrounded me. It always does. After the rest stop I headed back. When I was close to the end of my trek I noticed a man in black shorts and black shirt. He was headed along the trail toward me. As he came close he said, “Breaking as sweat are we?”. He had a foreign accent. Our conversation was sweet relief from the existential silence I had been within. It turned out we knew each other, from when I was a cashier at the natural foods supermarket that eventually became a bane to my existence. He said to give him a call and we would hike together some time. He then noted that he was all goofy with joy from taking a day off from his business to break it’s ponderous spell. He told me where his place of business was and then he started to walk on, but I called back to him, “What’s your accent?”. And so I came to see that there was a South African at one end of the trail and a Scotsman at the other.

The moral of the story: you never know who you will meet out there. As I sit here this morning I can feel it. I crossed over an obstacle yesterday, and did so because my curiosity got the better of me. My intent had been to sit on that little park bench then head back home. But from the bench, before the journey, I could see the juniper, from over four miles away, and something told me to go there. So I did. Maybe it wasn’t a smart thing to do, empty stomach and all. That matters not. Not now. Before, my life had reached a sticky place where I felt trapped. Upon seeing the two hawks a shift occurred, and that shift swept me up and out of a hard place, not actually changing the circumstances of my life. It simply changed me instead. That’s it. That’s what happened. Shift happens.

Peace out, y’all. Goof gloriously.

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