The Aztecs believe they started up in what’s now New Mexico and wandered for 10,000 years before they got down into where they are now, in Mexico City. ~Jerry Pournelle
The Ranger Station
“Are the glyphs here similar to the ones down South?” I asked the uniformed Park Ranger at the Petroglyph Visitor Center as he directed us on the map to a few readily accessible trails featuring a variety of petroglyphs. He wasn’t wearing the light tan Smokey the Boar hat, I guess because he is indoors. I like the iconic hat. He speaks the monologue I had already heard him spin through a few times to other inquiring visitors, a monologue I imagine he spits out hundreds of times a day, thousands a week.
When I used to go on week-long fishing trips in the Canadian wilderness, I would close my eyes at night and see ceaseless repetitive videos on the back of my eyelids of lures plopping into the water and gaping mouth pike moving in for the kill. I imagine this spiel is his video permanently etched on his inner eyelids.
“The petroglyphs,” I repeat. “Are they similar to the ones north of White Sands.”
“There are no petroglyphs at White Sands.”
“I know. I was there in the spring. About an hour North of Whitesands there is a park with twenty thousand plus petroglyphs. Are these similar?”
“This is the only park in New Mexico with petroglyphs.” He said before attending to another visitor leaving me confused and feeling abandoned.
I had been there, we, my wife and I had been there. The beauty of the southern preserve fueled our desire to visit this National Monument. We visited there almost exactly six months ago in late May over the long Memorial Day weekend. We took a minivacation slotted into the last week of the month ensuring we would take advantage of the national holiday and save one precious vacation day. We had no idea we would be in New Mexico again this year spending another long weekend in this land of crystalline skies.
The memories from May are vivid in image and lasting emotional impression. We left oven hot Alomogordo heading for the slightly higher elevated Three Rivers Petroglyph site drawn by the promise of 21,000 petroglyphs on protected BLM lands. Even more memorable than the glyphs themselves was my very close and very personal encounter with Grandfather and Rattlesnake. My wife saw neither so was skeptical that they existed believing both were the product of dehydration brought on by the intense sun on the cloudless day gnawing on my uncovered head. I had forgotten my hat. Days later, I, too, harbored doubts until a second mystical experience in the Philippines less than a month later.
The north and south petroglyph sites are separated by a mere 200 road miles (156 by bicycle). This is practically next door by wide-open expanse New Mexico standards. Distance is viewed differently out here. I met a mixed anglo-Hopi couple years who traveled 300 miles, each way, to do their weekly banking. The Ranger had to be familiar, if not downright intimate, with the southern location. His profession would have demanded he know of the sister site.
Was he, for his own reasons, trying to keep me away? Y’all can explore here but not there? Maybe he was jealous because, although the northern claimed three thousand more etchings, the southern sites were higher quality and more accessible. Could it be an interagency rivalry? The Southern unit is a BLM holding and his a higher status National Monument? Did arrogance dictate he wouldn’t or couldn’t acknowledge the other’s existence?
There is another possible explanation ringing with harmonics akin to an X-Files episode. It is not out of the realm of possibility. My experience at Three Rivers was extraordinarily extra ordinary. Mystical and unexplainable through a lens tuned to an everyday understanding of the logical world.
There, I encountered two spirit beings. One claimed to be my ancient grandfather though I am still not sure if he meant it as a direct bloodline or an all beings are connected construct, therefore, anyone elder is a grandparent and we are all brothers and sisters.
The other Spirit being I encountered with was a talking rattlesnake who, at the end of our conversation, fused with a rock leaving a well-defined etching, a fresh looking, sharp-edged petroglyph without the wear and tear of a thousand rainstorms or the rubbing from millions of curious fingertips.
My extra-ordinary, X-Files, the truth is out there explanation is this. There is an almost uncrossable barrier, a semipermeable mental veil through which north knowledge is mostly inaccessible to the south and south knowledge is mostly blocked from the North. My connections with Grandfather and Rattlesnake bridge the corporeal and spiritual worlds allowing awareness of both. It is not a far stretch that I have a unifying awareness allowing me to exist, mentally, in both north and south worlds simultaneously.
This line of thought came to me days later, triggered by events that would occur a few hours future in the day. At the time though, I was stymied as to why Mr. hatless Ranger did not understand the words coming out of my mouth.
Boca Negra Canyon
We are in Albuquerque because I have a job prospect. We came early for a mini vacay and to determine if our lifestyle was amenable to the much smaller than Chicago city. One concern is the restaurant scene. It is paltry in Albuquerque with respect to Chicago. We don’t eat out a lot but I love that we can eat food from around the world within thirty minutes of our home. I looked at the offerings on yelp and was concerned there was only a couple of Thai restaurants. Thai is run of the mill in Chicago but almost unknown in Albuquerque. And the amazing Ethiopian cuisine is non-existent. Our goal for the weekend was to determine if the New Mexico lifestyle would outweigh the lack of culinary diversity.
With my company visit scheduled for the next morning, getting an injury while hiking and turning up lame for the all-day interviews would not be a good move. Weighing this against our wanderlust, we chose to visit the relatively easy to navigate Boca Negra Canyon section of the Monument, a short couple of miles from the visitor center. When I’m hired, we will have ample time to investigate all the monument’s petroglyph offerings including those only accessible by long, arduous hikes.
The drive seemed much shorter than the distance ticked off on the GPS. I’m used to dense city traffic, Chicago traffic where distance is measured in time heavily influenced by current traffic mass. The time for a similar two-mile drive back home routinely varies from a few minutes to the better part of an hour. The wide open spaces on New Mexican roads is a delightful change.
We pull into the canyon, pay the entrance fee and park at the first lot in the only available parking slot. Not a good sign for one who prefers solitude in the wilderness. There are three trails at Boca Negra. The longest is Mesa Point with the greatest elevation gain. The other two are the almost flat Macaw and Cliff Base trails. We decide we will approach our walk in that order.
The landscape is largely basalt, a volcanic rock vomited from Earth’s rumbling underbelly more than 150,000 years ago. Over time, the rock surface becomes coated by a thin brown layer of oxidation known as desert varnish. Subsequent layers painted over time pushes the color into the black spectrum. The ancients chipped through the varnish creating images whose meaning is lost to modernity.
Well, that is the ‘scientific’ explanation. Grandfather explained the ancients did not create the images. They chipped away at hotlines along the surface outlining beings long trapped in the rocks, trapped when the rock was molten, a New World Pompeii. The beings were able to emerge through the chipped lines.
Mesa point trail is a narrow, one person wide slice winding in and around the sharp basalt. It includes switchbacks, elevation changes, and way too many people for my liking. That’s expected when visiting on a Sunday, a gorgeous Sunday, a sunny and warm not too hot Sunday with consistent breezes ensuring we did suffer the heat beneath the cloudless sky.
I am wearing very cool looking gym shoes, more fashion than gym, ill-equipped for exercise, especially rock walking. The soft soles are pliable, comfortable on smooth surfaces. When I climb rocks to let others pass, I feel every rock edge on the soles of my feet.
People with young kids were out in force. Earth whisperings are drowned by human cacophony. After I am hired and we set roots in Albuquerque, which could be as early as March 2019, I will wear hiking boots and we will traipse the less accessible, less used trails until we have seen every petroglyph on these rocks. I require solitude to deeply experience ancient wonders. With noise, the glyphs are pictures. In solitude, they become living stories, portals into the souls of the creator artists.
There are many interesting petroglyphs scattered along the trail. The volume, though, is significantly less than we experienced at Three Rivers. There, virtually every exposed rock was decorated including smallish ones at foot level. Here, untouched rock faces, virgin canvases accounted for more than half the rocks. Why the difference from the south?
To my untrained eye, the beings were released by related peoples. Themes overlap. There are a few reminding me of those in the south. The techniques appear to be congruous. But there is enough variation, like the McCaw glyph, which I thought looked more like Roadrunner, for which the McCaw trail is named, leading me to believe the Spirit Beings locked in the rocks are distinct peoples. And the ancients setting them free probably professed a mildly divergent belief system.
Back to Grandfather’s words. Did the ancient artists give form to the trapped beings? Or were the beings already formed and the artists captured their essence perfectly? Questions to which I will never have a definitive answer. After experiencing, first-hand, Rattlesnake fusing with Rock, I do lean toward Grandfather’s teaching.
McCaw trail, next in line, has fewer people wandering. Perhaps the groups felt they had seen all they needed to see on the first trail. I always feel like I need to see more. Another glyph, another temple, another ancient ruin, another country, the canyon around the next bend, the next book.
We crossed paths with a few quiet individuals, adult individuals with cameras, no kids. McCaw trail is flat, runs along the break, a natural fissure between the mesa and the parking lot. Boulders are strewn about as if giants smashed a few lego buildings and left without cleaning up. There are a few very short upticks to see glyphs tucked away behind rocks. The masterpiece of them all, the pièce de résistance is a series of four figures, four amigos on a single rock face.
From left to right, I dub them: First Person, Dick Head, Bird Man, and Ghost Being. Reading from right to left, my interpretation would differ. Spirit Being evolves to Bird Being evolves to Rabbit Man evolves to Enlightened One. Which sequencing is correct? Is either sequencing correct? Is there even a sequence or are they four random images? Did four ancient buddies get drunk on mescal or high on peyote and this is nothing more than Aztec graffiti?
I’m not sure in which direction the ancients read or if the direction was even germane. There are also spots higher on the rock over the beings. These may represent stars. In that case, the reading could be circular beginning in the middle as in emergence from Earth’s core expanding concentrically to Earth surface, the heavens, and beyond.
I wish I understood the ideograms meanings. Knowing would help feed my desire, my need to connect with the ancient artist minds responsible for their creation. It’s not enough for me to admire their work. I crave union with the creator’s mind. For that, I need time. More than time, I need solitude away from all the people distractions, including my wife. How do I send her along her way without being a total ass? I can live with being a partial ass but total ass grates on my own psyche and I start feeling guilty. I don’t want to feel guilty. The trick is to find the right degree of assholeness where she is only mildly irritated. I need a plausible excuse, a believable lie.
“I’m a bit winded, babe, still feeling the effects of my bronchitis. This elevation makes it worse. I think I’ll sit here a while. Why don’t you continue on?”
“I can wait with you. I’m in no hurry.”
Think fast. Think fast.
“We are going to Santa Fe by the Turquoise Trail next. It is a slow road so there may not be enough time to wait for me to regroup my energy, then see the rest of the trail, then go to Santa Fe, and still get home before too late so I can get a restful night’s sleep prior to my interview. I know I have a lock on the job, still, I need to be well rested so I don’t shoot myself in the foot.”
Damn. Diarrhea mouth. My words were running nonsensical. I just can’t lie with the ease anymore. Was she smelling my shit? “Go on ahead. The trail is easy. Straight. You won’t get lost.”
She tilts her head ever so slightly. The straw cowboy bought at the Visitor Center hat throws a shadow cutting across her nose, just below one eye. “Are you sure?”
“Yup. I’m sure. It will give me a bit of time to shoot some photos for my Frozen Memories blog. I haven’t posted anything in a long time.” And off she goes. I watch her cute ass wiggle until she’s out of sight.
As is Western practice, I automatically fall into studying the series of images from left to right. The first petroglyph feels almost familiar like I am looking into a friend’s eyes. No, a more familiar face. Maybe a reflection. Strange. A line exits the top of the head and curves right. Antenna maybe. Exits? No. No. No. Wrong direction. The line is entering the being from the heavens. A connection with a deity or deities? Linkage with the universal weaving through all life?
Out of the corner of my eye, I catch movement. A light brownish red flash. A slithering snake’s tail disappearing into the black volcanic rocks. Rattle? No rattle. I think. Probably not venomous. Hopefully, not venomous. Even if it is poisonous, I am a snake aficionado, have loved them since I was a grade schooler. My interest is piqued. I have no choice but to follow.
Had my wife still been here, pursuit would not be an option. She has a deathly fear of legless reptiles. I don’t understand the fear. She’s not afraid of lizards, has affection for tukós who are little more than snakes with legs and an interesting singing voice. If she had seen the snake I would be holding her, helping her calm down, prying her vice fingers from my arm.
I walk around and behind the rock with the four beings careful not to crush the fragile vegetation, careful not to surprise the snake on the chance I was mistaken regarding its deadliness. It could not be a rattler and still be venomous.
There. Ahead. The snaking tail. It beckons me like the curled finger of a red light district madame trying to lure me into her bordello promising sweaty ecstasy. I hurry to the rock. Nothing. The snake has eluded me again.
I find I am on a trail. I had not seen it from below. A faint trail, probably a game path. I need to bend low to see it’s flow. It winds through the vegetation. I follow, slowly, carefully watching every foot placement. It leads around and up and up and around the slope from the road heading upward, toward the flat mesa top. I lose it between two rocks each with a rounded base and a low opening to narrow to crawl through.
I scrambled over dropping down in a semi-circular opening. To my left, there’s a narrow, cleft in the rock. I peer through the vertical slit, sniff the air. Not fishy. It is devoid of any vegetation or debris rocks. It’s as if it had been groomed clear. Odd.
There is no sign of my quarry apart from a very light s-shaped, half-inch wide imprint, a snake fingerprint heading between the rocks. In the movies, this is the scene when the villain waylays the fool ignoring all warning signs. I feel drawn…no…called. I must go through. This quest is bigger than Snake. There might be some cool petroglyphs hidden from public view. If they were outside in easy viewing my hero’s journey would be a fool’s errand. I bet there are glyphs, protected from the ages and they are in excellent condition. Well, that’s the rationale I use to propel myself onward.
The cleft is too narrow to walk straight through, to deep to see the other side. There is a sliver of light but nothing else. I turn sideways and start shimmying through. It narrows. It is tighter than I expected, triggering my one and only phobia. Well, not one and only. I also have a dread fear of colonoscopies but it’s a topic I don’t care to discuss. I like snakes but don’t want one crawling up my ass.
The tight spaces phobia is peculiar to caves, is based on dream variations the worst where I am underwater spelunking and became wedged with both arms pinned at my side. It is impossible to move forward or backward. I shake my head only to break my headlamp on the wall. I panic quickly depleting the oxygen in my scuba tanks before suffocating and succumbing to final blackness.
I suck in my gut as far as possible but still must force my body through the unforgiving uterus. The rocks front and rear tear holes in my clothing, press deep scraping through superficial epidermal layers. I bleed. It stings like hell. Hopefully, there is an easier escape.
Shortly, I am able to use my extended right hand, fingertip grip the rock edge, pull myself the rest of the way through. On the other side…sound stops. No chirping birds. No singing insects. Even the surging winds have ceased blowing. The color of the sun mutes brachiates into sub colors. The last time I experienced light taking on this texture was at Three Rivers where I met…
“Hello, Grandson. It is very good to see you again.”
“Grandfather?” The ancient was sitting cross-legged on the ground still looking as sinewy as when I first saw him six months prior. “Is that you? I often wondered if we would meet again. Well, first I wondered if you were real. I had doubts, thought I was a tad bit loco. Until Tukó convinced me you were. Then if I would see you again. I doubted it being that you turned to dust and disappeared in a breath of wind. So, no, I didn’t really expect too, definitely not this soon.” I was asking to give me insight into my destiny when he dissolved. Maybe he will be more forthcoming today and I will finally find out why I am.
He smiled the smile of a wise sage, a patient sage, a kindly, mild-mannered priest tasked with explaining obvious catechism to the near blind.
“Of course, it is me. I’ve been calling to you. You seemed not to hear me whispering with the wind so I sent Snake for you.”
“That snake I followed? Was it you? Was it Rattlesnake? I didn’t see a rattle? Was it chopped off?”
“Not me. Not brother Rattlesnake. It was a gopher snake. They eat the rodents that raid our crops. Our brother is still fused in the rock where you last saw it during our previous visit. The snake you followed was an Earth Snake, not a Spirit Snake?”
Bubbling with excitement, I pace the area stepping backward, a neurotic polar bear trapped in a zoo soul eroded by captivity. “I have great news grandfather. I am moving from Chicago to Albuquerque in a few months. I’m ecstatic. We will be able to visit on a regular basis. We’ll have lots of time together to explore my destiny.”
Grandfather smiles, a knowing smile creasing his deeply browned, face furrowed by deep lifelines. His smile lines most prominent. All in all, reminding me of a newly plowed corn field. The furrows are serpentine crooked, not parallel as those dug into lush Midwestern farmland. I imagine him with a sharp rock hoe on his hands and knees trenching the red earth, rows bending to the lay of the land, curling around deep-set rocks and lone juniper trees. How many decades, perhaps centuries, did it take to for those lines to form? Probably less than one lifetime in the dazzling Southwestern Sun?
“You will not be moving to this land you call Alba Ker Kee, Grandson”
I stopped pacing startled by his response. I looked for a sign he was playing with me. Nothing. He is a visionary. His previous prediction of the Philippines and Tukó came to be. It seems sages are not all knowing visionaries. But he was definitely wrong this time.
“Sorry, Grandfather. You are mistaken this time. I have a job interview tomorrow. It is a job I am sure to get.”
“You will not get the job, Grandson. Alba Ker Kee will not be home to you and your wife.”
My heart jumped. “Yes! It! Will!” My teeth were grinding. I could feel rage building. “The hiring manager wrote the job description just for me. He used my resumé to craft it. All I have to do is show up and not shoot myself in the head and the job is mine.”
He sits rock still except for his head slowly twisting from side to side so slowly his hair barely moves.
Growing frustrated, I slow down, annunciating every word so he can comprehend reality. “The only real discussion point is my salary. I will jump on any number remotely close to what I’m currently making. Less is ok with me just so I can move here. Then it is just a matter of picking a starting date. I will hold out until after my bonus is disbursed. Then I’m done in Chicago.”
His blind eyes close, stay closed. The knowing smile, the one reserved for rampaging two-year-old shrinks when they must be told a hard truth. Its nap time little one. Or we have to go home now. Or you must share your toys.
I am losing energy, starting to doubt my obvious destiny. “My destiny is here, Grandfather. It has to be. I have been dreaming thirty-three years of living in the Southwest. Now is finally my time. I can finally settle into my destiny…”
“Sit grandson. You are agitated. Sit on the ground with me. Feel Mother’s calming presence in your body. Let her seep into your soul.”
I sit across from him making sure my head is settled in the partial shade and lean my back against the great rock. It is surprisingly cool. I am able to easily take up a cross-legged position. There is no pain in my knees. I haven’t been able to sit comfortably in this position for years.
“Be still. Calm your spirit with deep breaths.”
Ok. Relax, I tell myself. There is an explanation. Breathe in four counts, hold three counts, exhale seven counts. We will talk and he will realize his mistake. Breathe four, three, seven. His blind eyes are missing key future indicators. Four, three, seven. Sage? I smell sage, burning sage. The sweet aroma tries to pry my eyes open but I keep them closed. I sense a small fire between us.
“Grandfather, is that sage burning? The only thing missing now is some flute music from Carlos Nakai.”
“Yes, yes it is Grandson. Carlos’ people are a different lineage, a long line of musicians also reaching back to the original Bering strait passage. I am aware you enjoy the aroma spoken by this sacred herb. ”
That is so true. Whenever I find a sage plant, I run my hands over the leaves and rub the sage scent on my person. I wish it grew in Chicago but its the wrong climate. The wrong climate for sage, the wrong climate for my soul to soar. I can’t wait to move to Albuquerque. It’s only a few hours from Moab. I’ll…we’ll…be able to go at least once a month. I’m going to buy a full-size pickup truck, all new camping gear, sleep beneath the stars all over Southern Utah. I can’t wait to see how the cycles progress during the year. I’m going to have photos of Delicate Arch in all seasons and as many sunlight angles as possible. Early mornings, late mornings, full moon nights, new moon nights against a blanket of stars. It’s going to be awesome!
“Yes, Grandfather. I hear you. I was lost in my dreams. I feel much calmer now.”
“Grandson, as you know, my visions presage possible futures, highly likely futures. Did you not meet Tukó as I told you during our last visit?” His words were arranged as a question but delivered as a declaration leaving no room for equivocation.
“Yes, yes you did Grandfather.” My anxiety is starting to awaken.
“Did Tukó not tell you life is a series of destinations?”
“Yes! Yes, Tukó did.” He is starting to understand my words. “And Albuquerque is my next, my final destination. I was created for the Southwest and this place is my Southwest. Well, the closest with decent jobs in proximity to my locus. My destined home.” There. I laid it out for him. Verbal line scratched in the sand. Knock the chip off my shoulder. Hold my breath until I pass out. He has to see his mistakes now.
“Grandson, remember I told you we are kith and kin to Rattlesnake?”
“As such, our life has many parallels with theirs. They live in a temporary skin. When they outgrow the skin, they feel constricted, a tormenting angst drives them to seek out rough edges they rub against to scrape off the old and begin anew. They are reborn into a shiny, fresh body. It is a process continuing until they die. Follow me so far?”
“As snake inhabits a temporary skin, our kind live in a temporary place. The chafing you feel in your soul to travel is the same uneasiness snake endures when it is time to shed. For us, to stay in one place stifles growth. It is spiritual death.”
I did not like where this was headed. “It sounds like you are saying my destiny is to wander?” I wanted to eat those words the instant the left my mouth. Pandora was free.
“Exactly. You, grandson, have no single destination. You will never settle down. There is no single location for you. Your destiny is, has always been,…”
I very confused. My wife and I built detailed plans the past weeks culminating in us moving to Albuquerque either at the same time of a few months apart. Me first then her when our home in Chicago is sold. Or was it I who made plans and dragged her along in the whirlwind of my enthusiasm? Did she really want to uproot? I could not let his madness continue. I stand up so fast, I hit my head against the rock. Again I pace. Again in neurotic reverse. I scream, “No. NO. NO!”
“…always will be to search.”
“Search? You are saying I have no destiny?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
I drop to my knees defeated. We sit in abject silence. Grandfather is calm as the rocks, my spirit a churning thunderstorm. There is so much internal lightning my head, I cannot think clearly. I force myself to engage in calming breathing. Breathe four counts, hold three counts, exhale seven counts. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
As much as I hate to admit it, his words ring with a potential truth. I am a seeker. Not in the seeker-sensitive evangelical Christian sense though I was a member of such a church for a decade plus starting at the end of my tumultuous twenties ending when a ‘so-called’ Christian ruthlessly betrayed me opening my eyes to the folly of rote religion and pretend believers adhering to the laws only when it first their ego. It was a painful lesson to learn but one that had to slap me because, as Grandfather said, I had stayed in one place for far too long. I had stopped seeking and became lost in accepting.
I would have to say, my seeking started at least ten years earlier than the church phase with hints in my teens forward to my present, to now. There seems to always have been deep-set roots pulling me into future futures. My drive to seek is merciless never allowing me to settle comfortably for too long. I thrive in the steep ascent of the learning S-curve and begin to lose interest when it tapers off.
I am a solid Associate / Bachelor’s / Master’s candidate, topic dependent when it comes to learning experiences. I would go crazy existing in the relatively flat end of the learning curve akin to Ph.D. level education. I prefer wide to deep. Wide knowledge to deep knowledge. Wide open desert expanses over deep forested lands. Wide women to….well…the analogy only goes so far.
The nearest I’ve come to feeling in my destiny, at least recently, was the year and a half I called India home. It was 18 months of deep exploration, steep S-curve, in a culture vastly different than the one into which I was birthed. Looking back, it was 18 months of wide learning. On subsequent visits, I felt an affinity with the country but the dynamism so prevalent while living there was absent. With the exception of our two days in Varanasi during Dev Deepawali swimming in a sea of 10 lakh, one million people. Overall, it was more like boning an old friend, than nailing a hot new honey.
Prior to that, I would have to say it was the first morning I opened my eyes in Arches National Park and saw the giant red rocks in warm, sun rising light baring all their red, amber, orange warm glory. In the moment and with each subsequent visit, I have been sure Southeast Utah was the home for which I was born. My destiny of destinies. This also explains my frequent new hobbies while living in staid old Chicago.
Now…I fear if Moab’s all been a mirage predicated on my wished for future instead of my designed for future. I had never been in southern Utah long enough or accumulated sufficient experience days to hit the flat part of the curve. If I ever did, it would be time to move on. The magic vanished.
There have been life lulls with lessened searching activity, a low hum mumbling below the typical rumble. These occurred during times I study a newly found idea in depth, looking deep into a canyon, unpacking an owl pellet to understand night hunter essence before once again having my vision inextricably pulled to the next bend in the labyrinth. The dual thoughts what? and why? pulling me ever forward.
I thought I searched because I was haunted by questions. What is out there that will show me why I am? What in me needs to be explored so I understand who I am? These are perplexing questions. I once believed there existed a single, unifying answer whose utterance would forge my better, perhaps blessing humanity and animals and plants and rocks. It never dawned on me it was because my wiring, my essence is to seek.
Based on our previous interaction, I now understand Grandfather has inside knowledge into my future. I have no reason, other than ego, to doubt him. It seems logical, my destiny, my joy and my burden, is to seek, to search, to quest. To probe, dig, unearth, examine, record, perhaps proclaim on the interweb in a blog for my sparsity of followers then move on when the knowledge swamp is shallow. I am destined to forever journey. Having no ultimate endpoint is my ultimate endpoint.
I rise, brush the dust off my jeans, return to a seated position in the much longer shadow. How long have we been talking?
“Ok, Grandfather. I accept your premise. My life destiny is to search. And search I will until I die.”
Grandfather lets out a laugh, a deep belly laugh that seemed to go on forever. Tears appear at his eyes. His long hair billows then settles silver against a deep red-brown tan like a streak of precious metal exposed in a mountainside after dynamite erases in an instant what takes erosion centuries.
“You are still thinking to narrow Grandson. You still fail to see the great expanse laid out before and behind you. You will understand better if you let your soul guide you instead of your logic. Your destiny always will be to search through this life AND into your next as it was in your past lives.” Emphasis on the word and. And, a connector word, the builder, opening minds and growing ideas into infinite possibilities.
“Grandson, you and I are of a unique heritage. Do you not feel the consanguinity umbilical connecting your navel with the beings residing in these rocks?”
“Exsanguinate? Blood removal? Like…vampires? The rock beings are vampires?”
“No. Lineage, grandson…blood lineage.”
Grandfather waves his hand toward the rock on his right, my left. The four images I was contemplating when enticed by the Earth Snake appear on the rock face with a noticeable difference. These look fresh. The lines are crisp, unweathered by time. Every detail is prominent. He speaks.
“You and these beings are of the same blood. These are you foretold by the ancients before I was ancient, by the beings before The People emerged into this world from the preworlds.”
“Grandfather, my blood originates in Europe and Scandinavia. I have no connections to the originals birthed in the Americas. The only tribe I belong to is the Wannabees.”
“Yes, I have long wished I was of Native American origin. Not the real Natives, but the fantasy version, Earth connected, animal whispering, mystical. I want to be, a Wannabee Indian. Anyway. I’m made of 100% Anglo DNA.”
“Too narrow, grandson. The origin stories from around the world start with First Man and First Woman. In some stories, they are made from clay with life breathed in from a god, others hatched from cosmic eggs, some were born when gods breathed into ears of corn, still, others were pulled from a giant’s armpit. Whatever the emergence story, the offspring from First Man and First Woman populated Earth. All are interconnected like Spider’s blanket. The blacks, the yellows, the whites, the reds, and you pale Scandinavians are all linked by common blood from the original ancestors. The Americas are populated with the peoples that crossed the frozen land bridge that once connected East with West…
“It’s called the Bering Strait.”
“Is that what you call it now? Good to know. They crossed and populated the Americas. You have close blood ties to those choosing not to cross, chose to root in the white tundra, and eventually became the Scandinavians. There is a direct link between your direct Scandinavian ancestors and the ancients whose blood coats the Americas. And if you go back even further, all peoples spring from the same pond tied to our common mother.”
“It would tickle my kibbles to think I was part Native American. In fact, it would explain my deep-seated tendency to view Earth, animals, plants, and rocks as sacred souls destined for an afterlife. But, it is a fantasy beyond possibility. I took a genetic test. There isn’t a trace of New World blood swimming in my veins.”
“Not all the originals in this land have the same blood we do. They came as groups and in waves. With the very first comers, there is a connection to you, to us. Tracing the bloodlines back from the progeny of that group and from you, there is a common thread with convergence at a shared mother. The mother, your biological mother had twins conceived of separate fathers during the same pregnancy.”
“It was harsh times. Life precarious. Food was scarce. She only had enough milk for one child. So, she decided to split the twins hoping, at least, one would live and continue her lineage into the future. She kept one and raised it in the land you call Sweden. The other she sent with her sister whose child had died. It was born small, weak. Lived only a few hours. She wet nursed your half brother. She traveled with the group searching for bountiful lands foretold in their grandmother’s dreams. Both brothers inherited seeking blood from your ancient grandmother. Your half-brother, an original crosser is one of my ancestors.”
I stroke my white beard trimmed to a 1/4 inch three days ago so it would have perfect form on day four, interview day. It wouldn’t look too manicured, nor to unkempt. The right mixture of tame and wild. How, in a respectful way, do I inform Grandfather, his story gives new meaning, that he is full of shit. Still…still…still, our previous encounter left seeds of doubt in my head.
“I call bullshit. This is too fantastical to even consider, old man. It’s crazier than Tukó and that was really out there. Why are you telling me these outrageous tales of lineage?”
For the first time, Grandfather appeared flustered. “Grandson, it does not matter from whence your blood originated. All that matters is where you are going in this cycle.”
“This is not your first life, Grandson. These rock beings”, he opened his palm toward the petroglyphs, are your lives. They are clay pots in a larger clay pot.”
“Huh? I don’t understand.”
“That’s because you speak before you listen. This story in the rocks begins with the image furthest East.”
“East? It starts in the East? I was wondering how to read this.”
“The ancients laid out their stories from East to West. To understand, it is necessary to address each being from East to West.”
“So…If the petroglyphs are on a South wall, like these, I read from left to right. And if they are on a North wall, they are read from right to left?”
“That’s confusing. What if they didn’t know which direction they were facing?”
“That is impossible, Grandson. We always knew which direction we were facing. It was encoded in everyday language. We had no words to describe an object positioned to what you call the left or the right. We would say, the snake is crawling to the East. The waterskin is hanging on the Southwest tree. I have pain in my West knee.”
“That’s wild. Most people, nowadays, have no concept of East or West or North or South. Hell, I’ve been relying on my phone’s GPS for a few years and am losing the ability to know which direction is which. I used to have a compass in my head and never get lost now I feel lost a mile from my door without a navigation system.”
“I’ve seen glyphs on walls facing all directions. How does one read East and West?”
“Facing East one reads top to bottom, West bottom up.”
Four Amigos Glyphs Explained
Grandfather tilted his head and pointed to the glyph wall using pursed lips. “These four beings are aligned from youngest at the East to most enlightened at the West.”
“The Easternmost is early life, birth through adolescence. The being has large eyes and mouth to take in the wonders of the physical world. The line entering the head is a light umbilical connecting with the great mystery. It cannot yet live independent. There is only one arm because it has not yet gained the necessary wisdom to embrace the physical world. The formation of the second arm signals the being is ready for the next phase.”
“The next in line, the rabbit looking being, is physical prowess, speed and power, denoting the late teens and early twenties. The mouth is closed because awe is gone replaced with a powerful ego believing all that is worthwhile comes because of that physical prowess. The head is small because this being is small minded evaluating life only by how it affects him personally. You see, at the top of the head, there is no longer a connection to the stars. There is now a large phallus for this is the season when the being spreads its seeds. During this time, violence is prevalent. There is an inner war turned outward and the destruction of existing beings, human and nonhuman alike. When this propensity for violence abates, the being is ready to become Thunderbird.”
“The second from the West, the bird, it is Thunderbird. The violence weighing down its spirit has mostly faded. A touch still remains as seen in the sharp, flesh piercing talons. The soul is feather light. A feather soul has the ability to fly. Thunderbird is destined to soar until it recognizes the folly of borders and walls, the meaningless of segregation. The ego previously controlling the small-minded beings rendering them unable to see beyond their own petty interests opens to the universal, the understanding all sustain the web of life. This knowledge opens the door to the revelation that all beings are united by spiritual interconnectedness. You can’t hurt any other without damaging the self.”
“The final being is semi-corporeal. You can tell this by the faint outline. Interest in personal physical space is nearly gone opening the soul to spiritual forces. And, as you can see by the open mouth, a return of awe. This being is sensitive to spiritual perturbations ebbing and flowing with an intensity directly proportional to its spiritual connectedness. The drive is to seek until intimacy with universal consciousness. When perfect union is achieved, the body dissolves completely in the final life death releasing the spirit into the heavens.”
“Those stars existing outside the timeline represent the released, the beings, like me, who have passed through all phases and exist transcendent of space and time. For us, every place is here, every time is now, past through the future. The more distant the future the more obscured our vision. Some fates are preordained. We can see those. But for others, there is no fate but what they make. Their futures, like your future is murky.”
“That’s so cool. I wondered what the ancients were trying to convey.”
“The message was clear as crystal to the people of the time. It is only to the moderns who have forgotten their roots that they are confusing.”
The Glyphs Are Me
“Grandfather. I want to learn. Please teach me more.”
“This panel was made by your blood ancient specifically for you in this moment. This is not just a general depiction of life phases, it is your phases, the three you have already grown through and the one in which you are currently traveling, seeking if you will. Each of your phases passed through each of the four phases. Think of a snake with four coils. It is all one snake with each coil its own complete circle.”
“Wait, wait wait, waaaiiiitt! You are saying I’ve already lived three lives and am currently in my fourth life? Based on average life expectancy, I am somewhere around 300 years old?”
“Again, too narrow. These are phases. One may need many lives to pass through a phase. The most enlightened beings, the ones open to learning, can pass through all phases in one lifetime. They are extremely rare. Only a few have ever existed. You are not one of them. If the being is obstinate and stubborn, as you have been in every life Grandson, a phase needs many lives to open the internal eyes readying the being for progression. There are beings so bullheaded they’ve been stuck in the same phase, typically Rabbit phase, for all their past lives and counting.”
“How long have I been working through my phases?”
“You first birth was more than two thousand years before today.”
Grandfather stopped talking. He knew by my slack-jawed stare, I need time to grasp his words. I stroke my beard.
“This entire concept sounds identical to Buddhism or Hinduism with their belief in reincarnation. My people are Christian. We live once, we die, we are judged then it’s Heaven or Hell forever. Holy Shit! I was a contemporary of Jesus.”
“Think universal, Grandson. The Buddhist Nirvana, the Christian Heaven, the Islamic Jannah, the Mayan Huracán, all heavens are one and the same. They are the star phase after one has obtained enough wisdom to become transcendent in space and time. Being cast into Hell actually means to return to life’s pain wherein one can be cleansed by fire as gold is released from quartz. The more trials by fire, the greater the purity of wisdom. When wisdom is complete, ‘Heaven’ is realized.”
“When your Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’, by pure of heart, he meant, one has gained enough wisdom to see beyond the selfishness of the heart making them ready for transcendent existence. The sermon on the mountain was all about extinguishing selfishness. Blessed are those who hunger, thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers. Love your enemy. Give to the needy. Do not judge. One transcends by knocking down walls and building bridges.”
“Your Jesus was made known to the people during his final phase. The crucifixion coupled with him forgiving his torturers was the earthly act releasing him from corporeal dependency. When he appeared to the disciples on the third day, they believed he had risen from the dead. It was not resurrection in that the body was reanimated. Rather, he had transcended space and time and could, like me, appear in a physical form, not necessarily the exact physical form, anywhere in any time. This is why, post ‘resurrection’, Mary of Magdalene thought Jesus was a gardener in John 20:15 and the disciples did not recognize him in John 21:4 and Luke 24:13-35.”
So much for me to take in. It sounded logical, appealed to my sensible nature. “Ok. For the sake of argument, let’s assume you have correctly interpreted Scripture. I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole. Too much bad succubus mojo infecting my current life. Your description of the images and me being in my fourth phase means I’m that ghost shaped thing?”
“Indeed. You are in Spirit phase.”
“How can you be sure I passed through the flying bird thingy phase and am in spirit phase not one of the other phases?”
“The map, Grandson, is all over your body.”
“Map? What? Where?”
“Those brown spots on your skin…”
“…are the places the feathers were attached to your skin during third phase. You can always tell a person has spent at least one life in Thunderbird phase by the spots on their surface. Your vast number of freckles indicates you spent many lives in Thunderbird phase. As I said, you have always been a stubborn being.”
“What did I have to learn to shift phases?”
“I do not know your exact lessons. The truth needed to shift to any phase is peculiar to the individual. For Jesus, it was the truth learned on the cross. For Buddha, it was truth learned at the foot of the Bodhi tree. I do not have insight into your truth.”
“Are not my truths the same as yours? Isn’t truth, truth? Is not truth is absolute?”
“There is no such thing as absolute truth. Everyone must find their own truth. It is steeped in their own truth that wisdom emerges. Sometimes truths across beings converge, mostly they are as divergent as individuals are unique. Truth to the vegan and the cow declares meat is murder. Your truth says only humans can be murdered and the cow is merely food. Two truths in direct conflict yet both are true truth to the holder of their truth.”
“That’s just circle jerk logic.”
“Circle Jerk? The image I see in your mind is a group of men standing in the circle with each rubbing one out? What has that to do with truth?”
“Nothing, nothing at all, Grandfather. Just an expression. My intent was to say your logic is circular therefore not valid. I have difficulty believing your wildisms.”
“You still have truth to learn, realities to accept before transcending this phase.”
“Will I learn it this life?”
“I cannot see that far. You have not yet made your future.”
“Can you tell me what’s next for me?”
“That I can do, Grandson. Your next seeking is in Old México.”
How the hell does he know future things? “We are going to Old Mexico over the Christmas holidays.”
“Mexico was the ancestral home of the Aztec, some of the oldest inhabitants of the Americas. Many of their spirits still roam the land seeking revenge on the Spaniards.”
He stands up and walks toward me, puts his hands on the sides of my head. It feels like I am being touched by a cloud, so ethereal is the touch that I can barely feel the warmth of his flesh yet can feel connectedness.
“Close your eyes, Grandson, and open your mind. I will attempt to share my vision with you. Tell me what you see.”
“Concentrate on the back of your eyelids and tell me what you see.”
“I am walking on a long dead, dirt road. I see Sun and Moon, both at the same time, both distinct against blue sky. Neither overpowers the other. I am speaking with Los Muertos. The dead scatter when Puma approaches. It has sleek tawny fur, muscles ripple with every step. It opens its mouth. Sharp fangs glisten. I am, surprisingly, not afraid. Puma speaks a language I do not understand. I sense the message is important but I can’t translate the ancient tongue.”
“Grandfather, I must know. What is Puma saying?” Frantic, I open my eyes.
“Grandfather? Puma? What are you talking about David?”
It’s my wife, her hands holding my head. A crease between her eyes. She looks concerned.
“Did you hallucinate again? Earlier this year you thought you saw some ancient Indian spirit. Then in the Philippines then you claim to have talked to a tukó. Now, I hear you mumbling about suns and moons and pumas and grandfathers. You better see a doctor when we get back to Chicago.”
“It wasn’t a hallucination”, I retorted trying hard to hide my testiness. “It was real. I tell you, I was with an ancient spirit. There was this snake I followed…”
“Snake! Where?” She grabs my arm with fear ferocity stopping blood flow. “Where did you see a snake?”
“It’s gone now. I followed it up into the rocks and squeezed between two boulders. That’s where I met up with Grandfather. We had a long conversation. By the shadow movements, it had to be a few hours. I learned so much. He shared his vision with me. When I opened eyes, though, I was here with you. So, strange.”
“I was gone for less than five minutes. I came back because I have to go to the bathroom and need you to drive me to one. And if you were up in the rocks, how did you get back here?”
“I…I don’t know. I can’t explain it.”
“You can’t explain it because it never happened. When we get back to Chicago, I am going to take you for an MRI. I just know you have cancer, probably in your brain which is why you are having these hallucinations. Let’s go. I neeeeed to go to the bathroom, NOW!”
And with that, we walked back to the car, found a bathroom, then drove out of the park leaving Grandfather behind. The next day, I had a great interview. Nailed all the questions. Wowed the interviewers. A week later, the hiring manager left a message telling me they were going in a different. I was shocked, not shocked.
Old México was on the near horizon and I needed to learn some Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec empire, so I would be able to converse with Puma.