Being at “home” is not just being in a physical location, and arguably a physical location is not even required. It’s a mental state of well-being. Of being in a place where you’re not only physically comfortable, but where you’re loved and where you express your love freely. It is a combination of all our senses – sight, hearing, touch, and even taste and smell. Add intuition as well. It could be in the embrace of a lover. Or just lying in a grassy meadow by oneself. A place of total peace and contentment. And every adventure of ours will hopefully bring us a step closer to finding such a magical place . . .
The slight humming from the tires spinning on pavement suddenly shifted to a lower pitch.
I had gotten off to an early start. One-hundred miles to the East of basecamp to cover before Grandfather Sun’s rays met the horizon. And I was now passing through a small town. If you can call it that.
A 25-mph speed limit through a school zone.
From the outside, the small school house appeared to be bifurcated, with clear division lines between the “old” adobe to the “new” expansion. Spaces for offices and an auditorium, maybe? They only taught K through 6th grade here. Less than 50 students from what I understand.
The town named for two adobe buildings that served the U.S. Cavalry during the Indian wars. Those buildings long since returned to sand.
You won’t find a web page for this tiny community near the Mexican border. Its nearest and largest neighbor is McNeil with a population barely above 200.
There is sparse indication of any human presence along these roads other than the plots of irrigated agriculture that checker the landscape throughout this otherwise barren desert chaparral.
As you continue to pass over those invisible lines between state and county, where the road maintenance crews change hands, you might, if you look closely, recognize a different pattern in the brushed concrete. Or maybe a different shade of asphalt. Or an unmistakable change in the state of surface disrepair.
Me, I notice the change in sound waves.
The tone of F sharp major now fills my head. Mesmerizing melodic vibrations. Carrying my mind to another destination. As can all highway noise when you traverse a long distance.
A Coachwhip skirts across the roadway in front of me. A flash of sunset-red. Its serpentine undulation picking up speed as it senses the vibrations of approaching rubber on concrete. A horizontal lightning bolt.
I wonder if it too can hear that euphonious tune I hear as I streak by.
Snakes represent rebirth or resurrection, initiation and wisdom. Encountering one, where life itself is challenged on a daily basis, you should expect to be going through some type of transition. For me, it is a time of death to many elements of the past, the return or rebirth of lost soul fragments, the erasing of negative Karmic traces left behind, and the awakening from past psychic trauma.
I was headed to a place where I had been before. A place beckoning to me. A place where I, like that old school house, could undergo a new expansion.
It had been two years since I had struck out for this remote mountain enclave. And my need to return was as strong as that of the Sandhill Cranes on their migratory route. Thousands pause nearby at Whitewater Draw before returning to their southern nesting sites.
Twenty or so miles out, a sign tells you there will be no services, of any kind, beyond this point. And as I near the entrance, I have to stop abruptly to let a flock of Wild Turkeys finish crossing the road. It seems appropriate considering the Opata tribe’s name for these mountains is “Chiwi Kawi,” meaning “Turkey Mountain.” Although you’ll find differing accounts on how the Chiricahua Mountains, and the Apache Indians sharing the same name, acquired this designation.
Some say “Chiricahua” (CHEER-uh-KAH-wuh) applies to the “chatterer,” of Apache Warriors as the way they spoke in code during battle. Others say it means “grinder” because of the Apache practice of breaking the bones of captured Mexican soldiers. The name “Apache,” itself, is believed to derive from a Spanish translation of “ápachu;” the term for “enemy” in the Zuni’s tribal language. But the Apaches referred to themselves simply as “Ndé” meaning “person,” or “the people of.”
The names and derivations of the people and their tribes carry with them the history and stories of the ancestral spirits that still prowl this landscape. And they are deserving of the upmost respect.
This is the territory once occupied by Sitting Bull and Cochise.
I pull into my staging point and examine the items I’ve gathered in my day pack. Contemplate if I need anything more as I down 20 ounces of water and refill the bottle. I’ve planned for ten miles today. Half climbing up through Echo Canyon with an elevation gain of 1380 feet to the rim. To Massai Point. And then the return five miles.
Grandfather Sun has awoken and it’s now 70 degrees. Time to move.
An hour in, I’m already perched high above the Apache and Ponderosa Pine trees. But it seems like I left the streambed bordered by Sycamores, Cottonwoods, and Willows an eon ago. I’m in a different land. And at a different time. I’m now passing through the occasional Pinyons, Junipers, and Cypress as they cling onto solid rock, their roots somehow piercing the baked Earth and the Stone People, searching out an invisible aquifer below.
I am surprised by the visit of a rare Spirit Guide. It climbs up the steep incline to my right and walks right out in front of me. It seems totally unconcerned with my presence and continues its march disappearing into the Rabbitbrush and Manzanita. The Coatimundi then amazes me further when it circles back to me. It made a decision to return and comes at me head-on. No fear. It comes to examine this human specimen that invades its territory. Maybe it wanted some company during its solo journey, or perhaps it read my aura and knew I was an ally.
Directly in front of me now on the trail, I contemplate its Medicine.
The Coatimundi is “known for its connection to adaptation, generosity, acceptance, intelligence, family, finding the truth, and connecting to the physical and spiritual.” It reminds us how our motion connects body and mind to the Source. It conveys the message of having empathy for others. A relative of the Raccoon, it similarly is a protector of the underdog. It urges you to look around and share your strength with those who need it. While being generous with time, energy, and possessions, be sure to help those recipients with developing their own provider skills. Never create a victim or a dependent.
These same messages I’ll have repeated to me on this summer’s journey in multiple places and in many forms.
I breath this Medicine in deeply and hold it in my heart. I give Great Mystery my thanks for having sent this amazing Spirit. And just as suddenly as the Coati appeared, it turned and vanished once again.
And this encounter was not the only one I had on this day. The Turkeys in the roadway convey the message of shared blessings; the Mexican Jays resting in the Silver-Leafed Oaks, the lesson of the proper use of Power; the Lizards along the trail, the subtlety of Perception; the two Coyotes at the entrance of this Monument, the Tricksters, for one must be alert to both Wisdom and Personal Folly.
Two Protectors now circle above. Believed to be like Mercury, the God’s own messengers, the Black Hawks remind me to be vigilant. It’s getting late for hiking. The shadows of the Rhyolite Monoliths that make up this mountain range have grown shorter and my own has finally disappeared completely as Grandfather Sun reached the highest point in its ecliptic.
It’s now 100 degrees and climbing. My water half consumed. Time to take heed and descend.
Over a few weeks’ time, I had been gradually extending my hiking distances in this desert climate. Acclimating to both, the elevation and the heat. Preparing for other adventures to come. But I had over-extended myself a little on this hike. The heat and fatigue were taking its toll. My mind was being enveloped in a fog. And I still had a significant distance to go.
No other human soul was around. I’d be walking or crawling out. One way or another, it was up to me and me alone. Or was it?
As I took note of my physical sensations, I heard, and then saw, a group of Crows roosting in the Pines, and a shortly thereafter, a group of Ravens in the rock spires above me.
Traditionally and superstitiously, such groups are called a “murder” and an “unkindness,” respectively. While I understand the fears of the past, the scavenger nature of these winged Spirits, their association with Death, and the labeling of the color Black to somehow represent “Evil,” I’d prefer to look at other interpretations of this Bird Medicine.
A more researched, and I believe respected, source concludes that Crows represent the secret magic of creation and spiritual strength. Ravens – also powerful magic, creation, and shapeshifting. Crows remind us of our power to create and manifest the “magic of life.” Ravens teach us to bring our magic out of the dark and into the light. Both are messengers about our own inherent powers to shape, or shapeshift. Not necessarily a physical shapeshifting into another form, but rather shaping our own internal and external everyday worlds.
I estimated that I had about 2 and a half miles left to my hike. And I knew a familiar, and rather large, trail marker would show itself with just a mile and a half to go. Reaching that marker would recharge me. Provide a known quantity to an unknown situation. So to draw upon more of my inner strength and will power to reach that marker, I began chanting. Or calling cadence if you prefer another term.
In sync with each step, I chanted, much as the military does when the soldiers are on a forced march. And yes, this exercise takes your mind to another place and frees the body to do so, so much.
Even though I was fatigued, my pace quickened. I was passing familiar landmarks and just waiting. Holding on, until I saw that familiar trail marker. I knew I’d hit it soon and I had been tracking my time and distance with my cell phone health app.
But that trail marker, standing a foot and a half tall and three feet wide, never materialized. And suddenly, I was back near my staging point. Back near the dry stream bed where the Sycamores, Cottonwoods, and Willows grow.
I became a bit disoriented. Not believing where I was. Time seemed to have collapsed.
And then I emerged where I had parked the car. Now how is that possible? I checked the time and distance, and I according to my device, I had walked nine and a half miles. Not ten.
But I knew this area. Had hiked it before. I had even extended my hike at Massai Point to ensure I would log over, not under, the ten-mile mark. So, what happened?
I was greatly relieved and soaked up more fluids. Rested a bit and explored the area around me. That extra half mile could have pushed me into heat exhaustion, or worse.
Did calling cadence take my mind so far away that I would miss such an obvious trail marker? A marker that appeared at a “T” conjunction of trails, where I would need to execute a right-hand turn?
Was I magically transported that half mile? Did I manifest myself to a different location? Did the Crows and Ravens lend me their magic, or awaken mine, to somehow saunter this distance effortlessly? Shave just enough distance off to allow me to finish short of blacking out?
Just where did that half mile go?
Or did the Medicine of the Coatimundi soak in, and my body’s motion connected me with the Source, who in turn eased my passage? Lifted my physical body up to float like a feather back to my point of origin?
I didn’t question such a miracle. Miracles happen every day if we choose to see them. I humbly gave my thanks with the full realization that I had not acted on my own.
I was not solo out in this wilderness.
You can try to apply logical and rational explanations all you want, but my gut tells me what really happened. And I am a little closer to that destination we call home because of it.
Postscript: A ten-mile hike may not seem like much of a hike for those of you who are younger and much stronger, but for me, that distance in the heat and altitude was challenging. And I was building up for other challenges. This year, I met some real hikers on my travels, one in particular had hiked thousands of miles, and I’ll have some stories about them soon. : – )
I’m also sure you’ve gathered, from this and my prior writings, that my system of beliefs parallels that of the First Nation’s People. Some might call me a Pagan. Others a Omnist. Others have claimed I worship the Creation instead of the Creator. But I believe the Source is in absolutely everything. Every Being. Every Atom. Every Particle of Awareness. Every Elemental Force. How could it not be. I try to recognize the Presence in everything before me and learn from what the Source is trying to teach us.
Prior Related Posts:
Photo: The Rhyolite monoliths, or pinnacles, in the Chiricahas create its majesty and its magic.
 Animal-Speak: The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small by Ted Andrews. I use this book frequently along with Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson; as well as, Sacred Path Cards by Jamie Sams