May I be an empty vessel, an opening for the true living Earth to rise through me, so I may deliver Earth medicine to those ready to receive her gift. After setting the intention to dedicate my life to Earth and asking to be assimilated into the natural order, we set out on an adventure that peeled back the layers of my existence.
Many questions lingered within my mind as we filled our packs with our food for the trip, cinching our loads to our backs. I had never spent the night in the backcountry, with all of the essentials on my back within the desert landscape. Snakes, spiders, and scorpions breaching my sleeping bag was a real fear while the test of enduring a long-distance was another palatable weakness. One of the truths I live by: the only way out is through. I knew I would meet challenges, I knew I had enough grit to get through, yet ultimately I knew there would be some pain and suffering as part of the process.
In the photo above, my trusted companion and I dropped unfathomable vertical feet down into the canyon floor. There was a lightly etched trail where many had passed upon the surface, praying that each step to hold their weight. We chose the counter-route of the ranger's advice, meeting the traffic of fellow travelers upon their own soul quest. We met the wary eyes of Lamar with his stories and perspective of our collective adventure, an 80 year old grandfather, a young 10 year-old sprite, and a handful of nameless adventurers sharing the canyons with us along the way.
At every opportunity we dropped our packs and attempted to find a way to reach Ancient Puebloan sites. The pathways up to cliff dwellings was more of a scramble than a walk in the park. The people who made the canyon their home were a tough stock. We found granaries with pottery shards, corn, wood, stacked rock, kivas, rock dwellings, and rock art within nooks and crannies beyond the comfort of the beaten path. And, sometimes we found nothing at all--mislead by our guidebook's vague maps--more than once. It is hard to imagine the reality of the previous stewards of the canyons we visited, yet their spirits are alive and well within their remnants that have stood the tests of time.
The non-existent trail followed a creek bed that carried our drinking water within its banks. Bouldering with full packs was not in the memo--a slow and unstable route. Crossing the creek, bushwhacking, recrossing the creek, venturing through wild terrain was the course, each step counting. I named myself Steady Betty, as I was much slower than my speedy companion. My legs ached, my feet blistered, by shoulders cried for reprieve, yet there were miles upon miles to make, each bend within the canyon opening its beauty into new depths. Being present in the moment and witnessing the natural order unfold despite my discomfort was a force that kept me going against all odds.
Another question that took me deeper into my intention was could I humbly release the ego to accept the responsibility of being a living expression of Earth embodied? Mother Theresa's words paraphrased: She (the earth) will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in her LOVE than in your weakness. These words carried me through the bending of my mind. I reminded myself when I would relate to my weakness to stay the course, continue to open to the opportunity to grow beyond my limits, redefining my edge, and return to the earth for sustenance, security and peace.
We stopped 6 miles the first night and made camp, while making 8 miles the next. Making tea with water collected from the stream, heating up food in our packets of Indian delights, and preparing our sleeping arrangements was our evening ritual. In the stillness, the wild sang their harmonies with the natural rhythm. We heard owls, canyon wrens, and frogs, serenading each other as the stars dotted the darkening canopy. Feet sore from improper socks and bodies sore from carrying our loads, it did not take us long to enter into dreamtime.
Our last evening, I asked to receive a vision from the Ancient Ones.Being a novice, I hung our bag of food near the tent. There was a weather front blowing through which rustled the tent most of the evening. At one point in my dream, I thought something was getting into our food. I opened the tent (in the dream) and saw the biggest black bear I have ever seen coming toward me. My first instinct was to go out and grab the food and bring it into the tent. As I huddled inside, I realized my flaw and woke up my friend. When I looked back out there was a stampede of many animals going by getting out of way of the impending flood. I woke up with a start and had to check to make sure all was well. The vision was clear and the meaning continues to unfold.
The last morning there was a beautiful rainbow of color between the canyon walls. A sight to be seen, yet a warning to the canyon adventurer; rain on its way. We had 3 miles left yet we had to climb out of the canyon. It was a gradual ascent instead of the abrupt entry, yet it was still an amazing feat with a loaded pack, thank god for my walking stick! We passed a few dry waterfalls which would be awesome to witness when the unharness force of water unleashes its fury, us far from its path of destruction. We scaled the canyon walls and passed a cliff dwelling on our way out, a prize for our determined focus.
When we summited the edge of the canyon and looked back, it was an amazing sight to behold. We had come so far and received so much. Vigilance, focus, tenacity, endurance, mind over matter, being present, serenity, peace, stillness, steadiness, healing old wounds/stories, surety, trust, comradery, certainty with each step, honoring limitations, and embracing the wild, undomesticated ancient energy were a few of the gifts from the canyons. On my wish list, ultra light gear makes it to the top!
As for integration, this trip has changed my life. I continue to weave into my life what I learned from the heart of canyon country: May I have the endurance to withstand pressure and discomfort; may I have the strength to see it through each quest; my vision of the Living Earth resides within those canyon walls--the rock formations etched within my mind; may the energy that comes through me reflect the depths of this experience; may I be present--one step at a time, carry only what I need, and be grateful for what I have--what is offered is a gift--an exchange of an interplay of elements; may my relationship to Earth and All of Creation be my primary focus--all else will fall into place, may I give back, trust the process, trust myself, be gentle, and stay the course. I am delighted for the wisdom from this Sol Journey, the first of many!
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Alicia Wright is a creative artist and loves to explore the depth of her character within the wild.