My Journey to Canyon de Chelley, Part 3
It was time to head back to my camp. The air was getting frosty as the sun dropped low in the west. I hiked along the canyon rim, following the flow of the rocky ridges, returning the way I’d come.
The deep quiet was tangible, velvety rich and nourishing. I breathed in as much of the beauty as I possibly could – it was boundless. The red rocks. The vast opening of the canyon to the depths of the earth far below. The juniper and sage. The expanse of the sky stretching from horizon to horizon. The adventure of being on an adventure. The sweet belonging and feeling at home.
I walked along pondering the dream that had drawn me to Canyon de Chelley (read here, how it all began). The dream was a vivid memory of a world, a life, a people, filled with harmony and love. I stopped in my tracks, my heart thrilled by the discovery just ahead. There were sun-bleached, weathered bones nestled in the soft ground beneath a juniper tree. The skull of a coyote. The wild dogs of the desert. My beloved four-legged friends.
Coyote is a powerful teacher about perseverance, about flourishing and thriving against great odds. For many generations, humans have judged, harmed, and tried to eliminate coyotes. The coyotes didn’t accept this agenda for their lives. They didn’t give up or give in. Coyote continued going about being Coyote – genuinely, ingeniously, purposeful in their pursuits. Coyotes flourish and thrive in all kinds of climates and terrains.
I sprinkled tobacco as an offering to honor the spirit of the wild dogs. I listened, asking if this skull could come home with me. I wondered about the life of this particular coyote. What was it like to live wild in these wild lands? To be part of a pack? How had the bones, these sacred elements of life and death, come to rest under this particular tree?
As I picked up the skull, a pair of ravens rose up from the interior of the canyon. The ravens spiraled through the air, dancing in the sky. Their sleek midnight wings glistened in the softening sunlight. I marveled at the ease of the ravens’ spiral dance, their graceful pairing, their intimate connection with the canyon through the eyes of their flight.
And here we were again – the four-leggeds, the winged ones, and me. My mind flooded with memories of my encounters with coyotes and ravens. This was part of everyday life when my dog, Jasmine, and I lived in the red rock mesas of Abiquiu. Coyotes chasing Jasmine. Jasmine chasing coyotes. Watching a mama coyote guide a river of pups across the mesas. Coming nose to nose with a wild dog as I hiked to the top of a ridge.
And then there was Raven. A pair of ravens often followed us through the arroyos on our walks. I watched ravens teaching their young how to fly. And helping themselves to Jasmine’s bowls of food. And feasting on the bones she left behind. And showing me how to stay attentive and aware in the here and now, because this is where life is lived. This is where the magic will be found.
As the memories came alive, I sensed Jasmine’s spirit with me in the canyon. And my dad, in spirit, joining me here – it was his birthday. With both of them, I’d been a midwife through their dying, witnessing and supporting their passage through their very last breath.
I looked over the vastness of the red rock canyon, wondering about these threads of my life weaving across time and purpose and place. The canyon. Coyote medicine. Dance of the ravens. The places I’ve called home. The sacred passages of death. My beloved Jasmine, in spirit, still part of my pack. My dad as a spirit guide, always watching over. Becoming a lineage carrier of an ancient ceremony with the bones. Learning to stay true to my heart.
I wrapped the coyote skull in my bag, feeling grateful and a sense of wonder. I continued on my way, heading back to my little hut and the golden warmth of the fire.
Full Moon setting in the west on my journey home the next morning.
Manaole u Manaole,
from my heart to the heart of the mother earth to your heart,