TURNING, RETURNING

My cultivated exercise of substance and spirit, my Dedicated Laborious Quest, is an interplay of natures — my own character and communities and varied ecosystems as they ultimately feed into our universe. As they harmonize, intuition leaps and skips; intellect dances with the heart. Emotions and each individual’s senses potentially humanize a fertile terrain rather than snagging within wildness. Wilderness, meanwhile, represents another order. In its sacred opportunities, the field of endeavor itself, whatever its name or specific form, becomes secondary to the abundance being disclosed around and within each practitioner. Indeed, many who participate and even excel in some activity where the D.L.Q. begins to appear — be it a gymnasium or playing field, a studio or stage, a laboratory or workshop — remain oblivious to the gateway my spiritual brothers and sisters and I have entered. When I meet a celebrated mountaineer who perceives icy heights, it turns out, the way a trucker regards a highway, I’m disappointed he failed to become a mystic seeking cosmic oneness. Accomplishment that’s solely technical remains devoid of unity. No, I’ve already learned that birds along the way are not just birds; my Teacher’s gardens nourish more than a stomach. In a circle of heavenly order as well as disintegrating debris, Kokopelli and I prepare a clearing and settle for the night. Observe planetary and lunar motions. Greet the sunrise. All natural phenomena give birth in an opening, should you find it. Likewise, locating a personal opening, an enclosed space within a universe, can bring recovery, renewal, healing, and salvation. To sit at the center of one’s birthright repeats an ancient journey made only on foot. There have always been charlatans who gain large followings by pandering to appetites for instant gratification, these days offering the comforts of jetliner or Interstate automobile. In reality, the aspirant must abandon even camel or mule along the way — eventually jettison everything, including his own backpack and affection for the very form he practices. In time, even his intentions. Step by rocky step follows a pathway that regresses through that origin. Perhaps the aspirant’s teacher has been there; perhaps he’s lost. At last, with his very life is at stake, if he turns back, he bears a haunted look in his eyes forever. I’ve come far, answering a call in the night, goaded by some deep wound and an overwhelming loneliness. In this exploration, dreams and mythologies correspond to trail markers. Once you discern how paradox differs from contradiction, you embrace its place in the teaching. To climb a higher ridge requires first descending to a valley.

Kokopelli, of course, knows all this and much.

He knows you may have taken any of a number of pathways to the holy garden. One may have played high school football — likely on the offensive line. One may have been an Eagle Scout, backpacking through winter forest. One may have built theater sets or lighting. Analyzed interstellar noise or constructed parquet flooring. One may have repeated violin scales, like me, or cared for younger siblings. The stories Kokopelli’s heard are endless. The common thread through all is this: the commonplace is never good enough. The spider’s thread climbs higher.

It’s no accident I came to dwell in desert, the timeless opening for religious surrender and ecstasy. By good fortune I also encounter great mountains, summer snowfields, crystalline air, unrelenting winds, a circle of fascinating comrades, and a new fullness of myself, no matter how briefly. From those heights, my art and intellect extract an essence, an inspiration to share with brothers and sisters who remain in suburbs and cities, often by necessity or by the duties of urban economy and civic obligation. My goal as poet, priest, artist, philosopher, naturalist, explorer, teacher, or prince — whatever that call — is somehow to preserve a sense of this supernatural potential and cosmic harmony.

Kokopelli says we can do all this when we play a dance. “They can feel it, and that’s enough,” he explains.

To be authentic, such an extended sojourn must somehow reflect other facets of existence as well: violence, savage revolt, a wide ranging lack of dignity or purposeful employment — at least, a recognition that socially valuable work seldom offers adequate compensation. In this preparation, the pilgrim may be propelled backward through history as well as forward into science fiction and interplanetary speculation. How curious that desert is so often perceived as a place of escape: gazing into its vast inhospitable space, you’ll detect nowhere to hide. Such terrain strips and confronts. No other environment, excepting surfaces of large water, is as mirrored with brilliant sunlight. All reflections turn back on the very thing you might most desperately seek to escape: yourself, especially.

If you hide behind a boulder, it evaporates. If you raise your hand to block glare, a Greyhound bus hisses past in a cloud of dust and thunder. If wearied by this torment, you retreat to the house, you’ll find that boulder waiting in the bedroom. A note on the kitchen table will divulge your beloved has taken that bus to the seacoast. You cannot sleep in her absence.

For more insights from the American Far West and Kokopelli, click here.

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