Approaching the Start – Its Up To You

Welcome to the new year. The first day of the calendar year is a reminder of new beginnings. We tend to make resolutions of what we are going to do for the coming year, mostly bold proclamations that we would love to complete, but generally set aside after a short period of time. We enjoy making predictions for the coming year, and try our best to divine the events of the coming future in wide, sweeping generalizations. Sometimes these prove to be true, sometimes these pan out to be absolutely nothing or something in-between.

There is really nothing wrong with loud, boastful statements proclaiming our success going forward. Nor is there anything wrong with ominous warnings associated with dark clouds on the near- and far-horizons. But to be able to discern what the future may or may not hold – one must move forward. Then the terrible moment will eventually arrive – when the boastful statements or dire warnings actually come true. And the true measure of the matter does not come from the veracity of the statements, but rather from the depth of the individual’s experience.

I see the start of a new calendar to be similar to that of an initiation. A new beginning that starts with a step into the unknown. Where one finds that the beautiful forest holds terrible secrets within its dark depths. And those terrible secrets become the lessons which one can build upon – failure or success – the experience teaches us where to step, what to watch, what to listen for on the wind, as we wend our way through the dark unknown.

At my very first Gulf Coast Gathering (which incidentally was the first Gulf Coast Gathering), I was initiated into the Bardic grade. I was the very first initiate to step forward for initiation. There was a bit of the “fear of the unknown” with everyone. None of us knew what to expect. I believe all of us were afraid of “getting it wrong” when there was really nothing that would be “wrong” in our actions. It wasn’t what we did or how we said something – it was the experience that mattered. Much like going forward with 2019, you won’t know until you do it.

I have wondered, quite often, what would happen if we – as a collective society – approached the coming year with the wide-eyed wonder of an initiate. Perhaps, if we looked into the unknown with a combination of fear, wonder, and excitement, that perhaps we might not see the world in terms of combat, warfare, or us versus them. Perhaps, we might see the dawning of each new day, the start of each new week, the beginning of each new month, the approach of each new year as new steps towards an experience that we have some control over. We can control our feelings, our dislikes, our hatred, our approach to leaving some out of things because they are “different” from us. If we can do that, perhaps we can get to a point where we understand that each individual has to experience life for themselves. Their experience will not be the same as ours because they are not us – no matter how similar they might be.

I honestly believe that no one else has had the same initiatory experiences that I have. That the way someone else experiences those same sensations from those same ritual techniques will be similar in some aspect to my own, but unique enough to be different from everyone else.

What will destroy the magick of an initiatory experience? Knowing what is to come beforehand. The things that made my initiation such a wonderful experience was the unknown. Pulling back the shroud on an initiatory experience prior to an individual experiencing those moments, in my opinion, deprives them of one of the most beautiful sensations one can experience. You will notice, I have not discussed any particulars of any initiation, except in the most general of terms. No one likes having a surprise no longer be a surprise. Trust me on that.

The same holds true for the coming year. There are things we can speculate at, which are likely to come true. Mostly because we understand the psychology and mannerisms of the individuals in question. Yes, Trump and Putin will meet somewhere in the world for a BDSM evening between the two of them. Yes, Putin will be the top. Maybe. If it were true, I will need a lot of mind bleach, that’s for sure.

There are a lot of ways to view the coming year. I personally like to view it as a present that slowly gets unwrapped. You might have a guess to what it might be from the shape of the package, but there are smaller details that you will get to experience when you unwrap it. First you have to unwrap it. Just as you have to take a step forward in time to experience the coming year, or you have to take a deep breath as you step down the Path to your new initiation. The experience awaits as an unknown. You can fear it, you can embrace it, or you can do both. The final choice on what you do and how you experience it is completely up to you.

Mesa Verde – Crow, the Spirits of the Land, and the Petroglyph Point Trail

Yes, I am on vacation. Yes I am blogging while on vacation. This particular trip was planned about two years ago. Southwest Colorado has always been something of a mystery when it came to planning a vacation. But the draw of Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon have been too great to ignore. Chaco Canyon will happen in two days – Mesa Verde was yesterday.

Arriving at Mesa Verde, you could feel the “old” in the air. Walking into the visitor’s center at the main gate, you can see Point Lookout looming up the way. The visitor’s center is full of the typical tourist stuff. I managed to come away with a good book on the Ancestral Puebloans which had a DVD companion packaged with it. From there, the trip took us to the gate to purchase our ticket into Mesa Verde, and on down the trail we drove.

Or I should say “up” the trail, as the winding road took us up and around Lookout Point, along several ridgelines before bringing us to the first of the Cliff Dwellings that can be visited – Spruce Tree House. Its named for the large number of spruce trees located around the dwelling. While walking down the trail to the cave dwellig, I spotted the entrance to a walking trail called “Petroglyph Point” and something said “you gotta see that.” I had two hours before I had to be on the Cliff Palace tour – and a round trip of under two miles meant I could do this easily.

I definitely wasn’t thinking things through when I set out from the Spruce Tree dwelling and back down to the start of the Petroglyph Point trail. This was not a paved sidewalk in suburban DFW I was going to be walking on. It was broken terrain, where I was going to need to take care of where I stepped. And I was walking this alone. Not the brightest thought in the world, looking back. I could have turned an ankle, broken a leg, fallen face-first into the various stones I was walking over, or even slipped off a few of the “staircases” and found myself hurtling downward to the base of the canyon. But something said I HAD to go. And I followed that voice to my two-plus hour excursion along a broken, ragged trail across the cliff face of the canyon.

The Start of the Trail

At first, I thought I was merely walking the trail to see a set of petroglyphs. Fifteen minutes into my walk, I halted after a particular steep climb to catch my breath. I could feel the touch of a hand on the back of my neck. At first I tried to be casual about it and dismiss the touch of the wind. But I have felt this touch before. I knew it was Crow. A scream from on high brought my attention skyward to see a crow freewheeling on the currents of the canyon. I lifted my camera and took a series of sports shots to try and catch the crow’s image. When I pulled the camera down, I felt the caress against my neck again. I sat very still, and listened. And heard the sound of the wind in the trees, another scream from the crow above, and the thought arrived in my mind: keep walking. 

 
So I stood up and continued along the trail. Soon, I came to a VERY narrow passageway – and I nearly balked at going through. I’m not the skinnest guy in the world. But the voice told me to hold for a moment, and think of who I am, and where I want to be in my life going forward. I stopped for a few moments, brought to my thoughts where I am now in my life. All the changes that have happened over the last two years, and how those changed have changed me as a person. Then I switched gears and thought about where I wanted to be, what I wanted to really do with my life, and how those changes were just inches away from my fingertip touch. Then I made my way through the very narrow passage.  When I made it to the other side, I realized that I had just participated in a ceremony of some sort – making my transition from one life to be born anew in the next. What that holds for me, I cannot say just yet — only that its happened, and this is very much on my mind.

A Second Passageway

After thirty more minutes on the trail, I came to a second passageway. This time, I heard no thoughts, I felt no reassuring touch on my neck and shoulder – so I stopped, opened my feelings and emotions to the environment around me – and I felt them. LOTS of them. The Spirits of the Land, or if you will, the Spirits of Place. They were literally everywhere. And not one of them was paying attention to the humans around them. After all, why should they? Its not like we are all that significant to them. They have been here far longer then we have. They would not perceive us as anything, until we threatened the environment that they protect. And all I was doing was walking along a rocky path to view some carvings on a nearby wall. I was literally nothing to them.  So I drew a big breath, walked through the passage – taking care not to fall down the makeshift stone stairs that had been added here – and once again felt Crow’s reassuring touch. “Keep going” was the message. And I did.

  
I was now nearly two hours into my walk. The tour of the Cliff Palace certainly seemed an unlikely happeneing (it turned out that it was unlikely – I was physically drained when I finished the hike). But I continued on to the petroglyphs. I started this hike, I was damn sure going to see these petroglyphs! Twenty minutes later, after scrambling through three harrowing downward jaunts and two very hallenging upward climbs, I arrived at the petroglyphs. Through the first two-thirds of my hike, I had seen no one. It was only me on the hiking trail. Arriving at the petroglyphs, I encountered three families that were taking a break. The next upward climb involved some handhold/foothold pulls to get to the top of the Mesa for the journey back to the museum. I watied until they started their upward climb, and then I spent time looking at the petroglyphs. The symbology seemed a little simplistic to me, until I remembered – these folks were not exactly Picaso or Rembrandt. They were merely depicting what they knew on the wall in the closest approximation that they could make. 

 

It was here that I realized my third mistake – I had taken no water with me whatsoever. Again, not the smartest thing in the entire world. When I made it to the top of the mesa, I was greeted by a cool wind that had not been there before. Apparently, someone was looking out for me enough to cool me off. The rest of the walk was over fairly flat land, which proved to be the area directly overhead from the Spruce Tree dwelling. When I arrived back at the museum, I knew I was far too spent to make the trek through the Cliff Palace cliff dwelling. Crow whispered that it wasn’t important – what I had just done was what had been needed.

Final Thoughts

Its hard to say what you will do when one of the Gods or Goddesses calls you to somewhere. A little more forethought, and I would not have left myself so vulnerable to my environment. Perhaps this was by design – to place me in a certain frame of thought as I approcahed that first passageway. Perhaps not, all I know is that I didn’t THINK about precautions and safety measures. IIt never entered my mind – and I am typically an overly cautious hiker. But now – I have something new on my plate. And I have some serious choices to make going forward. I know there are going to be many more meditative circles where I approach Crow and seek further advice. There’s a lot to think about. But when the Gods come calling – sometimes you don’t get the choice of packing a day-lunch for the trip…