There’s nothing like freezing your ass off in the desert to have you considering your needs. Nothing much like having your heart squeezed inside your chest to have you considering Desire. In short, desperation breeds contemplation, and you’d do well to slow down and reflect.
I recently met a man that had experienced such loss and death in a fraction of his life that one could scarcely believe it true. An ex-Marine who saw combat in several recent conflicts, a list he counted on deformed hands. The tall finger of his left hand which marked Bosnia had no middle knuckle and could not bend, giving the proverbial “bird” to the establishment that refused to pay for reconstructive surgery because the wound was one of the few he did not earn in combat. When I asked if he thought that ironic, he laughed brightly and sipped his Bud.
I met him on the road. On the shoulder of Highway 14 just outside of Madrid, New Mexico. He was conversing with an elderly Madroid, Sky, whom I had met earlier that day in town at Java Junction (yeah, I plug my people’s businesses!). The white of their hair, the wisdom peeking from behind their stubble, and Sky’s excited beaconing compelled me to cross the blacktop into their company. I was introduced to Crow, and stuck out my hand. He clasped my forearm in a warrior greeting: solid, affirming, Kindred. Yes, he had me at “hello.”
My pack was on my shoulders, and he asked me if I was coming or going. I figured both. I had been hiking a hill nearby, burning time before my ride to the airport. When I pointed to the ridge, he barely flicked his head and smiled, “Good job.”
He is half Crow Indian and half Russian, and had just finished a walkabout, landing in Madrid a little under a month ago. He walked to Taos, New Mexico from Florida, carrying the ashes of his wife and daughter. Tragedy saw his family taken from him and he was plunged into debt and despair. After a dark time, he took up his wife and daughter’s ashes and walked them a roundabout route across the US. He delivered them to his wife’s birthplace in Taos. After laying them to rest he set out again on foot, this time carrying Life in the form of a dog he adopted named Scooby. Crow said it was Scooby’s idea to head to Madrid.
This man gave me a very long lecture on Humility in no poetic terms. Please forgive me for paraphrasing. I did not have the nerve to ask him for permission to record or take photos until the very end of our visit, so details are fuzzy. He told me, “After my wife died and the government took everything, I could have watched the whole World burn and not cared.” He touched on his descent into a very dark time. Somehow, he decided to come out of it and make this Walk. On his Journey he found “There are many that are much worse off than Crow,” and he learned Humility. So much so that he considered having the word tattooed on himself.
I thought: Worse off than Crow? You have given Life and you have taken it many times over; you have seen your friends killed or worse; Life and Love have been ripped from your breast before dinner was cold on the table, and you have found many who are worse off than you? You have been shot and stabbed several times, “blowed up,” left as a boy, then as a man in the wild to test your skill, strength, instinct, and courage, yet the ordeal of others brings you to your knees?
He talked and I listened, interrupting with only a few questions sporadically. I will be going back and recording his stories. Our brief acquaintance has already given me much to contemplate, and possibly saved me a couple of mistakes. There are two ways to learn in life: through Story and through Experience. Stories are instructions. You can avoid pitfalls or be led to fortune by heeding the tales of those that walked before you. This is a key part of Awareness, a gift of our Ancestors, and the responsibility of Self Care. I have told myself that I am done doing things the hard way. I want to learn from Crow: to save my feet and use my wings, to Ascend, to reflect Sun and Sky against darkest plumage in bruise-colored beauty, to move between Worlds on Wind, to weave Life and Death into Medicine, to mock and call out the happenings in my Community and surrounding Environment.
Crow also Counseled me on the other side of Walking: Stopping. I had asked what his next plan was and immediately felt silly. Rest, of course. He and Sky agreed they have been through enough and are ready to take it easy. Crow said that one must know when to stop or run into the danger of walking forever. The places begin to blur, and the body gets used to moving, but you have to listen for the time to stop and do it. “There is a time when you must ask yourself, do you want rocks under your feet or grass? I choose grass,” he said, leaning back on the couch in Sky’s modest cabin.
So Crow has landed in Madrid. I am making camp in the area awhile, too. I will spend time with him this winter with a recording device. He has given me permission to do so and says he wants his story told. The prospect of this makes my mind buzz. I told him I’m tight with Oprah and it’s a done deal. He looked at me seriously. I laughed and admitted I was bullshitting. He said: “Why would you say that?”
I thought and said, “I guess I mean Dream Crafting.”
We nodded at each other and a dear friend captured our Souls.*
*Author’s Note: It is known most Indians don’t like their pictures taken. I told Crow I thought that was an old wives’ tale. He assured me it was true and that he was sharing something very specific and special with me. I Honor this now and share it with you.
One Love, Peace, and Light