The Vision Quest: Rancho Ojo de Aqua del Potrero

I arrived at the campo on Friday, being welcomed by a surprised Eva and Meli, the campesinos. I was greeted with love, hugs and laughter. I told them of my intention to help them in the milpa prior to climbing the east mountain for two days of prayer, drumming and vision. I wanted to work in the field specifically as a transition from life in the pueblo and for grounding myself before my quest. This would be my first in Mexico and I had been anticipating the experience for weeks. Heavy rains each night kept us from working in the field, so I used those few days for prayer and preparation before embarking on my quest. Prayers consisted of invoking Great Spirit, my spirit guides, my angels and expressing desire for all that Spirit wanted me to know, experience and learn. Previous prayers had revealed a location on the mountain as well as how I was to set the site for a west-facing quest. Preparation consisted of making my prayer ties – a few hundred patches of cloth in the colors of the seven directions – yellow for the East/Lover, red for the South/Warrior, black for the West/Magician, white for the North/King, blue for Father Sky, green for Mother Earth, purple for the Mystery Within – each filled with tobacco and a specific prayer, then tied with red string. Another preparation was to acknowledge to Spirit the fear that I held – fear of a mountain that I had not climbed and was unfamiliar with – fear that I did not have the strength to endure hardship that I might encounter – fear that I could die on the mountain. The afternoon before my climb, I came out of prayer to find a finch sitting on my leg looking up at me. Intuitively, I received the message from this trusting messenger that all would be well on my quest. For me, Spirit often confirms its presence and guidance through the wingeds, the four-leggeds and the creepy-crawleys. Native animal medicine. My fear had been transmuted to inner knowing and strength.

Monday morning, I awoke to a beautiful sunrise and breathtaking sky following yet another night of heavy rain. I met Eva and Meli for coffee in their modest campo cocina. As I prepared to leave, Eva handed me a note lovingly scratched out on an old piece of paper:

 

favor de no molestar a lobo gris     es de mi familia     no ofende a nadie

solamente le gusta ir al serro     atentamente     Eva Diaz     ejidataria

 

I stashed the note in my pocket and hugged my dear friend. She smiled and handed me her machete. “Es para coyotes, Amigo Lobo.”

With pack, drum and machete in hand I faced the east mountain and began my trek. The mountain stood in front of me in its vibrant, glade-covered majesty. Sensing its essence, I knew its voice. “I am your teacher now. I will be gentle.” I walked the long, muddy path toward the mountain while enjoying the peaceful beauty of the rancho and the colorful, glistening light refractions of the sun through the heavy dew left by the rain. The beauty was awe inspiring. I began to enter one topography after another, each climbing to the next. First were the pastures with paths established by cow and horse which then led to tall mountain growth and cactus followed by thicker trees, large fern and undergrowth with no discernible paths. It was here that I began to confront spiders (the medicine of weaving) with their complex webs. Eventually, large spiders were everywhere with their thick, sticky webs. My childhood fear of spider was beginning to immobilize me so I stopped and acknowledged the medicine that spider has gifted us with from the beginning of time. “Spider… weaving webs of delight, weave me a peaceful world – carrying creation in your web, waiting to be unfurled!” I thanked spider for its beautiful creation and with machete gently opened my path again, continuing to thank each spider as I advanced. I thanked Spirit for the lessons that had begun – those of acceptance and gratitude and asked for guidance through what was becoming thick, impassible forest. That was when I saw a single file of four cows ahead of me. As I walked closer, they advanced further, clearing a path, leading me up, up, up. I thanked my friends, the fearful cows, for creating my path to the top of the mountain. I thanked Spirit for providing all that I needed. Once on the mountaintop, I walked North looking for the site that I had received in vision. That was when a hummingbird (the medicine of joy) arrived in front of me and stopped, looking directly at me. “Hummingbird… joyful little sister, nectar you crave! All the sweetness of the flowers, is the love you gave.” I looked to the West, and there I found what I had seen in vision – the site of my quest. Again, I thanked Spirit for its benevolent and kind guidance. Hundreds of yellow butterflies (the medicine of transformation) filled the site.

The site consisted of four trees positioned in a fifteen-by-twenty foot grassy square. The trees stood in the Southwest, Northwest, Northeast and Southeast – creating the four corners of my site. On the West side was a large, flat rock where I would position my altar. On the east side was another taller, flat rock which would be the seat of my quest. The sun was full and hot and knowing that the wood would be wet from three nights of rain, my first task was to collect all the wood I could find and lay it in the sun to dry. Wood and drum drying in the sun, I intentionally and prayerfully lay out my altar – my crystal, tobacco, sage, cedar, copal, my totem gray wolf, a heart-shaped green stone, a woven indigenous ankle band, a fossilized nautilus. Next, I collected free-standing rock and created a circular fire-pit in the center of the site. Black ground spiders congregated in the circle. Next, I strung four long red strings holding my prayer ties from the four trees. These prayer lines now created the space that I would not transcend until my quest was complete. Last, I chopped and prepared the wood for my fire. Now it was time to set the prayers for the space. I placed four lit carbons on the four borders of the site – North, East, South and the West altar. I gave thanks to the Mother by laying a gift of tobacco in the outline of the space. I invoked Spirit to purify the site while placing white sage on each carbon. I invoked Spirit to protect the site while placing cedar on the four carbons. Last, I invoked Spirit to bless the site while placing copal on the carbons. Three beautiful aromas of prayer filled the site. Mind altered by pure intent, body exhausted, I lay back on the ground, hands on heart, and began my prayers. “Great Spirit, I invoke all which is in my highest good and in the highest good of all life. I invoke the presence of my guides – Samuel, Erik, Crone, African warrior, King and Queen Nebu, Tonto, Ariel, and Little Guy – I ask that you guide me and teach me. I invoke my angels, Zembe and Zir – watch over me, protect my body, mind and spirit.” Then I invoked the Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen for healing of past, present and future, followed by the Dai Ko Mio for healing of soul. Then silence. Drifting, drifting, drifting. Hours, days, ages pass. Earth and sky. Blinding light. Erik stands over me, initiating my third eye with a symbol that I am unable to discern. Drifting, drifting, drifting. Ages pass. Mother underneath, supporting and filling me with love. Aroma of copal brings me back to the space. I arise, take my drum and begin with the traditional earth beat. Beat. Vibration. Beat. Vibration. The prayer of the drum. Hours pass. Mind clears. The sun begins to set in the West. Beauty. I light the fire. One by one, I place seven copal bars in the flame – each a prayer invoking the ancestors and elders from the East, South, West, North; invoking Father, Mother, Mystery Within. Flames dancing and copal filling the air of dusk, I drum. Beat. Vibration. Beat. Vibration. Pulse of the Mother. The prayer of the drum. Hours pass. Flame dances its mystery, its prayer. Stars peek through cloud cover. The prayer of the sky. Lightning dances in the distance. The prayer of the gods. Beat. Vibration. Beat. Vibration. I am prayer. Beat. Vibration. Beat. Vibration. Lightning. Smoke. Prayer. I place the last of the wood in the flame. Beat. Vibration. Beat. Vibration. Embers. It is time to release my prayer ties into the embers. Prayers rise as sweet smoke. I stand in the smoke. The sweetness invokes tears for a beautiful and broken world. “Spirit! These are your prayers!” Beat. Vibration. Beat. Vibration. Embers breathe their last breath. Hidden behind cloud cover, sky is no longer revealed. Darkness. Wind rises and dances passionately. Darkness. Cold. LIGHTNING! BEAT! VIBRATION! BEAT! VIBRATION! Darkness. Cold. Wind. RAIN! BEAT! VIBRATION! BEAT! VIBRATION! RAIN! RAIN! RAIN! beat. beat. no vibration. drum silenced by cold rain. no fire. no sky. no drum. dark night of the soul. DARKNESS! COLD! RAIN! “Thank you, Spirit, for this test and the endurance and strength you give.” LIGHTNING! COLD! RAIN! “With you, Spirit, I shall endure.” (but when will this stop? surely this will only be for a short while…) DARKNESS! COLD! RAIN! I am soaked and shivering after what seems to be three or four hours. DARKNESS! COLD! RAIN! I sit on wet Grandfather rock. I stand. I walk. I lean against Grandmother tree. The dance of Wind has ceased. “Wind! Where are you?! Move this storm!” Shivering. Shaking. No comfort in any position. DARKNESS! COLD! RAIN! “Spirit! Enough already!” I face East, leaning against Grandmother tree. I close my eyes. I think warmth. I shiver. I shake. I open my eyes to find I am facing west, leaning against Grandmother tree. I walk, but I cannot see. DARKNESS! COLD! RAIN! I am delirious. I cannot hold my body up. I lay in the mud. Drifting. Drifting. Drifting. Hours, ages pass. I do not know where I am. DARKNESS! COLD! RAIN! MUD! I come back to awareness of where I am. “Spirit! BASTANTE!” DARKNESS! COLD! RAIN! I try to figure what time of morning it is. My sense is that seven or eight hours have passed. Rain begins to lighten. Soaked, shivering, shoes filled with cold rain, rain-soaked clothes hanging cold on my shaking body. DARKNESS! COLD! WET! I begin to see moonlight attempting to break through the cover of darkness. FULL MOON! Beautiful. BUT IT IS DIRECTLY OVERHEAD! IT SHOULD BE MORNING! But it is not. “Spirit?! How much longer must I endure?! Why has night transcended natural law?!” I scream a primal scream. I chant. I tone. “I WILL ENDURE!!” COLD! WET! MOONLIGHT! “Please, Morning! COME!” Delirious, again, I lay in the mud. Drifting. Drifting. Drifting. I do not know where I am. Hours, ages pass. My shivering brings me back to awareness of where I am. Cloud has hidden sky. DARKNESS! COLD! WET! “Spirit… I have failed. I have not trusted your answer to my prayer. I know, now, that you have given me exactly what I needed. Thank you for honoring me in this way. Your way is perfect. I see.” I weep in understanding. A light breeze arises and carries the last of the storm and my ego need away. “Spirit… all is well. I am complete.” I began to see the early morning lighten the cloud cover. I gathered my altar, my wet drum, my pack and waited for more light before attempting my climb down the mountain. As more light came, I looked around at what appeared to be just another piece of land on a mountain. This was not the same place that I had confronted dark night of the soul. Clouds began to break and I could see the first sight of blue sky and sun. Again I thanked Spirit for its benevolence, guidance and pure love.

I began my trek down, my return. Beginning my descent, I came upon four horses (medicine of power). They led me all the way down the mountain, disappearing in the trees when we arrived to the original pastures. The heavy rains had washed away much of the original paths, but I could clearly see the campo in the distance and easily found my way.

Arriving at campo, I was greeted by Eva and Meli. “Amigo Lobo! Esta bien!” “Si. Estoy bien.” Eva prepared some coffee with chocolate and offered me frijoles and nopales. I declined the comida as I felt the need to lie down and rest, but graciously sipped the coffee. I retreated to my bed. Shortly after, I became achy and chilled with fever, vomiting bile for the next several hours. Eva brought me bread and atole with vanilla and chocolate. “Es para tu cuerpo, Amigo Lobo!” I ate. I slept.

The next morning, I awoke and – other than experiencing sore muscles from the mountain climb – felt extremely strong, energized and powerful. I hung my muddy clothes, shoes and drum in the hot sun to dry. I shared breakfast with Eva and Meli and shared my story with them. Eva shared that she had been praying for me while I was on the mountain. I shared that I was aware of her prayers and the prayers of many others back in the pueblo. For this, I was grateful. For many things, I was grateful. For many things, I am grateful. To Spirit, I am grateful. For Spirit, I am grateful. For, my life is Spirit’s prayer. I am Spirit’s prayer.