The rough dirt road was a many-mile journey on bumpy washboard. The car jostled and creaked. My backbones felt rattled. The maps on the dashboard slid out of reach. The water jugs on the front seat tipped over.
Even so, everything quieted on the inside. A tidal wave of stillness washed over me, clearing my mind and opening my senses so I could breathe in every sight and sound and scent. My heart expanded into the spaciousness, the beauty and mystery in the land.
Entering through the north gate, I drove right past the campground where I’d planned to stay. Too many cars and campers. Too much protocol to follow. I sat in the parking lot at the Visitor’s Center while contemplating what to do. Then I drove on, exiting through the south gate. I felt called back to the mesas where I’d spent the night (a really cold night) last time I was here. (read story)
As I headed toward the wild lands, I met up with an unexpected companion. Stretched out across the roadway, soaking in the sun, the snake offered confirmation of the direction I was choosing to go.
She was the first snake I’d seen this spring. And this was the second time since sunrise that I’d stopped at a crossroads, listening, watching, gathering information, waiting until I was clear about my next step.
I felt the exhilaration of homecoming as I made my way down the two-track road and parked in the wide-open expanse of the mesas. It was so quiet I could hear the grasshoppers’ wings. The view reached forever in all directions – sky, clouds, rocks, sagebrush, hawks, the spirits of the land. And me. Utterly at home. Peaceful and content. Out here in the middle of nowhere.
It’s siesta time, as all creatures instinctively know, when the sun is high in the desert sky. Warm winds blew, rocking my car. I feel deeply asleep, nestled in a cocoon.
“Do you know where you are?”
I heard the voice before I saw him. He’d parked his Jeep nearby. I was surprised to see anybody else at my secret (so I thought) off-grid campsite. Was I in trouble? Was I in danger?
I told him we were on the mesas near Chaco Canyon. He told me about the GPS coordinates and the curiosity that drew him down this barely passable side road. So neither of us was lost. We were flourishing in the adventure.
“Are you an archeologist or just an interesting civilian?” he asked.
I had to laugh. Because Archeologist was something, way back when, on my list of things I wanted to be. Along with: Anthropologist, Astronaut, Veterinarian, Oceanographer.
Yet here I was in the middle of somewhere without the need for a job title, without the structure of calendars and clocks, without an urgent list of to-dos.
Simply loving the earth. Loving being alive. A vast field of connection. Just me being me.
In the weeks since this roadtrip, I keep asking myself what this man on the mesa asked me: Do I know where I am? In this particular circumstance? In the flow of natural cycles? In the various threads in the web of life I am weaving?
When I find myself at a crossroads, pondering the possibilities in my path, I remember the gifts from my journey to the mesas – to find my way to that deep inner stillness, to pause and listen to the worlds within and all around, and then, when I’m ready, to take the next step.