OF SOJOURNING AND EXILE

Kokopelli is not quite of this place, but he will stand in for the local hunchbacked flute players. As will Krishna, in tunes that begin slowly and build to ecstatic climax. Maybe they will be joined by a wandering sailor, looking for water. Maybe by fiddlers like me. Our melodies haunt and echo. This music demands dancing. The drummers appear.

You might ask what the Native American flute is made of. As well as Krishna’s pipe. What kind of bone or horn the sailor has carved. What opens as a simple, plaintive cry gains complexity and liveliness. Spider, in fact, weaves their intricate counterpoint.

The sailor knows sees their progression running from reel to jig to, ultimately, hornpipe. Who knows what the Hopi or Hindu call it — the effect is the same. Just look at a cow skulls and see where the horns were. Look at elk antlers. Look in his Bible, where horns are an image of power. Some who venture out into solitude return with their own power song. Begin wailing. Begin reeling.

I reflect. Suppose my children are born here? Is this really an arrival or a failed promise? What about the long exile ahead? The decades of trying to understand precisely what I’ve encountered in this desert and at its rim. Perhaps I will face a desert in my profession, as well. Perhaps I’ll find the sea is another kind of desert — one giving rise to the fishermen who were Christ’s first apostles. I already know of salmon returning to the desert.

I had believed this would be his Canaan — my place of milk and honey. I could spend the rest of this life pondering exactly what I experienced. Attempting, as well, to recover something of the encounter. The tune ends, but I remember its sound and its place on my maps. No matter that I might have even found this Canaan in a large city of orchestras and quartets, stages and screens, galleries and architecture, lectures and bookstores.

Maybe I’m merely sojourning here all along. In exile here as much as anywhere. And maybe it wasn’t the desert as much as the promise itself I explore.

At the end, a door closes. Maybe a gate. Like Eden, with its reality that I’ll never return. This desert is not a land that many visit. It reveals its true nature slowly, if you’re patient. If you’re reverent.

Actually, this might be just one more gate locked behind me. Even if I could return, I’d find everyone scattered. Or at least older. Here I haven’t even collected an antique basket or beaded moccasins or a piece of turquoise and silver jewelry to carry with me. Wherever I’m going.

Those were the days when I could read a totem pole and anticipate the stories. Maybe even name the children and their grandparents.

I should have known traveling with Kokopelli comes with risk. There’d be a price, eventually. Maybe it was while I was at the office or those other times when I turned, and he wasn’t there with me.

Now I come home and both Kokopelli and my wife are missing. I should have been suspicious all along.

It’s time for me to leave, then. I’m free.

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

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