Ours was not the journey of Ulysses. There had been no dramatic battle. No obvious defeat or shipwreck, either. We weren’t accompanied by our own troops. I intended to make my home here, at the edge of wilderness, and venture into its realms, rather than circle back toward some faraway but faithful woman or goddess.
With the exception of my spouse, who also traveled with me, I was fleeing my own people and hoping that strangers would be better, or at least different. Crucially, I would continue to enter the back country to be reminded of some mystery, as if on this edge of the continent some faithful remnant was making a final stand in defense of Old Ways handed down through practice from antiquity. Still, you could look at the ground and be disgusted here, too, to find white fibrous butts, the thimbles of broken cylinders left behind wherever man goes, along with the larger, inescapable debris. Look up and see contrails of airliners and military aircraft. You could scoff that in vapor-lighted cities, where cancer is the predominate cause of dying, few inhabitants are aware of the flickering stars or the planets in their orbits; the populace is ignorant of the very lunar phases you will so closely follow here. Taunt them, arguing that Jesus is the only bum welcome on their streets and parking lots, and accepted in their midst only because he’s conveniently dead. Maybe he’s not all that welcome, either, if you look closer. Meanwhile, vandals spray-paint his name on forest boulders alongside highways, as though a word alone can distribute clear-cut salvation. Ponder the contempt for both creation and creator. The Old Orders dismiss superficial religion. There’s fasting, and then there’s starvation. The soul knows a hunger, one that comes at the beginning of prayer. Some practitioners know this opens a furrow their horses help plow. For now, I would venture into high places to be reminded of the ancient interplay of dualities. Not just good and bad, but the overlapping harmonies as well. Make my rounds, however quickly at first, acknowledging the slower nomadic practice.
When I packed for this move, I preferred boxes over baskets. Something squared, for paper and recordings, especially. Typewriter. Electronics. We weren’t transporting dried berries or salmon. Blankets cushioned furniture and china. The cardboard presented fewer overlapping harmonies. Learn to weave baskets and I might learn something of the Cross. Especially in its curving.
Handle with care, all the same. Let go of one, something shatters. Or the other, something bounces. Baskets stack differently than boxes. See which one fits a squared room better. Which one, a hogan, wickiup, tipi, or kiva.
Step outside. Turn to the four directions. Then name them.
MALE / SUN
FEMALE / MOON.
AIR / FIRE
EARTH / WATER.
SPIRIT / LIGHT
FLESH / SHADOW.
Draw out their colors according to tradition or your own intuition.
Soon the divisions break down, into Yin/Yang swirling.
This is where prayer begins its dancing, even without Kokopelli’s piping.
In such turning I was brought to the edge of my intellect. Facing the expanse toward the horizon, my knowledge of geography, geology, botany, zoology, astronomy, and survival itself proved defective. The edge and depth of my emotions, too. Return to my religious texts and I’d find a different story. Not the one taught to children, but more sinister dimensions. Walk far enough away from the village or highway into open fear, admitting this experience might break me. This Dedicated Laborious Quest draws on all my ability — mental, physical, and psychic — until I’m forced to pull strength from some kernel of infinity within myself. As you pull, roots come forth. Draw them from the emptiness within the basket. The emptiness waiting on the horizon’s circle, as well. More roots, reaching out like cosmic rays through the sky, are visible only to the spider — these beads on a rickety filament.
For more insights from the American Far West and Kokopelli, click here.