Grandmother Spider – part 2 of my journey to Canyon de Chelley
(If you missed Part 1, click here)
The miles passed by as morning flowed into afternoon. The spacious landscapes of rural New Mexico never cease to enchant me, even on this cold and cloudy day. My spirit soared and my mind quieted, content and curious, leaving far behind the usual list of to-dos.
Crossing into Arizona, I entered the lands of the Navajo Nation. I offered my gratitude and asked permission to visit. This kind of honoring can occur anywhere – in the city, along the highways, in the wilderness – respecting and listening to the spirits of those who live in the places we’re passing through. My destination was Canyon de Chelley and Spider Rock campground. I’d reserved a hogan to sleep in for the night.
I still travel old school – paper maps, landmarks, getting lost to find the way. And it began to dawn on me that I didn’t know exactly where the campground was located. I started to wonder if I’d need to conjure up a Plan B. Then I saw a sign indicating I had ten miles to go. Almost there. It’d been a long day on the road and a long journey that started last spring. And this time, this season, this second quest to see Spider Rock, I was finally going to spend time on the lands that had come to me in a dream. (here’s how it all began in March 2018)
As I drove deeper into the canyon, the sunshine and blue skies emerged from behind the clouds. In the view from the road along the canyon rim, the red rock mesas and sheer canyon walls were compelling. I turned into the campground’s driveway and found the office. On the door was a chalkboard with a handwritten message stating that the host would be back soon. My name was listed next to the assigned “small hogan.” I loved this simple, trusting approach to life. I glanced around the deserted campground. Where was my little home for the night? I was really looking forward to sleeping by a warm fire inside the sacred geometry of the octagonal one-room house.
I was surprised to hear a friendly “hello!” The man greeting me pointed the way to my hogan. What I saw wasn’t translating. It didn’t mesh with the pictures in my mind. This little hut didn’t look like the hand-built wood-beamed structures shown on the website. This wasn’t like the other two hogans just across the driveway or all those I’d passed by on my travels today.
The small hut looked haphazardly built, wrapped with tarps to block the wind. The thought passed through my mind to drive away. I could camp in my car. I had plenty of blankets, I reassured myself.
I paused long enough in my run-away reaction to take a deep breath and take a few steps closer. I peeked inside the hut and noticed the earthen floor, the curved tree branches creating a dome over the platform bed, the fabric wall-hanging, the pile of firewood beside the woodstove.
I really wanted the warmth that woodstove would offer. That’s what convinced me to stay. And after all, this was an on-the-road Gratitude Ceremony, a sacred journey. I wanted to keep my focus there, appreciating the gifts and staying open to the magic beyond what in this moment I could (and couldn’t) see.
As I built a fire, the crackling flames and golden warmth melted away my worries. I was back in the adventure of it all. Bundled up in sweaters, scarf, mittens, woolly socks and hiking boots, I set off to find Spider Rock. I sprinkled tobacco as an offering for the land spirits, the canyon, and Spider Grandmother. She is known in Navajo and Hopi traditions as a creator, protector, and companion of humans. The towering rock formation, Spider Rock, is understood to be her home.
I followed the cairns across the mesa, down a hill, and to the rim of the canyon. The scent of juniper trees floated by on gentle winds. There were horses grazing wild and free.
The immense beauty of the canyon is simply beyond words. I walked along the canyon rim, marveling at the flowing shape and diverse colors of the rocks, the immeasurable depth to the earth far below. What would it be like to live inside the canyon? As humans? A herd of elk? An owl?
I explored the trail along the canyon until the sun was low in the sky in the west. I kept nudging myself to go a little further, certain Spider Rock would be just around the next bend. But it was getting late and I needed to return to my camp. How could I have missed an un-missable destination?
With some kind of magic, so it seemed to me, Grandmother Spider had crept away into the crevices. Apparently it wasn’t time for us to meet.
I sensed the way of a spider who’s weaving a web. Thread by thread. Intricate. Purposeful. Sacred design.
So I’d savor my quest. And soak in the richness of each and every step, gathering information bit by bit.
So I’d hold the remembering of the visions in my dream, hungry to learn more about this land and Grandmother Spider, her medicine and our connection.
So I’d open my arms even wider to embrace the mystery and magic. If and how and when I’d have the whole story wasn’t only up to me. The web was being woven collaboratively.
I stood near the edge of the canyon, watching the shadows of wispy clouds and soft sunlight dance around the red rock walls. I already knew that I would be coming back.
(to be continued…Part 3: Coyote, Buffalo, & Raven)