I scrambled out of my den and stood there at the mouth of the cave looking down at the canyon. It's a big cave, high enough for a human to stand up in, and the view from the edge is magnificent, so it should fill me with a sense of wonder. But to tell the truth I am still a little hung over from the datura party last night and the only thing I can find to wonder about is what to do with the hour or so before sunset and with the rest of the evening.
I'm not really hungry yet. I know I will be soon, but I'm not sure I have it together enough to stalk something bigger than I am tonight. And I'm not really horny, but I have this hazy memory from last night of Lucita walking over to where I was sitting and suggesting in that subtle way of hers that she wanted to get it on with me tonight. What she actually said was, "I need to get it on with you. Tomorrow night. Be there at sunset."
What can I say? Lucita is a hottie. She is considered by all the guys in the scorpion community to be the hottest piece of...uh...tail in the canyon. So I should feel flattered. But I'm a little wary, because the last time I spent time with her I made the mistake of taking her to the vortex. Lucita's from down on the mesa, and doesn't get out much to places of power. She had heard from some of the gals that I knew how to find those places. It's true, I do. I don't know how I know how to find them, but I do...I've been able to find them ever since I was a kid. I just took it for granted, thinking it was one of those things that everybody knew how to do. So I was surprised when I got older and found out that many in my community didn't know they existed at all, and many of the ones who did believed that they were hard to find. Sheeeit! How hard is it to find a power place? I know they keep shifting location and all, but all you have to do is wander around until you feel that tingling sensation in your stinger. I mean, how hard is that?
Anyway, against my better judgment, I took Lucita to the vortex one night, and she just flipped for the place. The moment we scrambled up onto the ledge and she felt the swirl of the energy dance, her eyes glazed over and her stinger started to sway back and forth. She stood there for a few minutes, swaying to the rhythm of the place, and then she turned in my direction, smiled sweetly, and jumped my ass. We fucked like teenagers on jimson weed, rolling and tumbling all over the ledge as the dimensions opened and closed and the lights danced around us. We fucked until dawn, and then we walked home. Well, she walked - I crawled. I managed to make it back to my den, but then slept for two days and couldn't hunt for a week.
Anyway, that's why the thought of meeting Lucita at the vortex tonight is a little daunting, especially for a scorpion of some years who is fighting a major datura hangover. So I'm just standing there gazing out at the canyon, wondering whether I can get it up for either a good hunt or a good fuck, when this voice behind me says, "Namaste, dude."
Sheeeit! I jumped so high I think I bumped my head on the roof of the cave.
I land facing the direction the voice had come from, ready to run in any direction but that one. But I don't run yet. This is MY cave. So I just stare into the shadows, trying to figure out where the voice had come from. As my eyes get used to the light I begin to make out a dark shape. I stare and stare at it, and finally realize what it is. I almost barf up the spider canapés from last night when I realize it is human. It's a bozo! Wearing jeans and hiking boots and a leather jacket. Sitting cross-legged in MY cave.
Where the fuck did he come from? I know I was pretty stoned last night, but I have never let anything sneak up on me in my sleep, not in my whole life! Sheeeit! And this bozo has been sitting there all this time, watching me while I was standing with my back to him, trying to decide whether to satisfy my stomach or my dick. He could have jumped me any time, pounced on my ass like one of those damned trapdoor spiders the guys are always warning me about. But he didn't. He's been sitting there the whole time, still as the rock he's sitting on, just watching me. And smiling. I feel the pressure of that smile tingle in my stinger as I stand there trying to figure out what the fuck to do next.
I could run. That would be the smart thing to do. Word on the mesa is that messing with humans can get you stomped flatter than roadkill on a Saturday night. But he hasn't made any threatening moves in my direction, and besides, I'm curious. Who is this bozo? What's he doing in my canyon? What the fuck is he doing in my cave? And why does this whole scene just creep me right out?
It's so familiar. There is nothing in my life that is even remotely close to this scene - I usually avoid humans like the losers they are - but this scene is so fucking familiar! It's like I've lived through it before, or something like it, and it's creeping me out.
Maybe I dreamed it. I do that sometimes. I eat too late and go to sleep and have this cabron of a dream and then it's all blown away by the winds of morning. I mean, I remember nothing. Nada. Not a trace. But then, weeks or months or years later, I encounter some weirdass scene in the desert and I remember the dream, remember that I have Done This Before.
At least that's what I tell myself. Charley, that old gray coyote from the North Rim, thinks it's some New Age shit he calls déja vu or 'past-life flashback.' Some people's children. I think Charley fucked himself up on that vision quest he took to Santa Fe. Came back talking some seeerious sheeeit, lemme tell you. I like my dream theory. Whenever I encounter something familiar like this, I just assume that I dreamed it some time ago in the past, and managed to forget it until something in the present reminds me of the dream. No muss, no fuss, no psychic hoohah, no problem.
But that fucking human is still sitting there smiling and I am still standing over here creeped out to the max and I can't for the life of me remember having dreamed this scene before. It's new. But it's so familiar.
Fuck it. I'm going to beat feet. I edge over to the right a little bit, about to disappear in a puff of dust and leave this bozo to himself, when he says, "You know, I wrote a story about a scorpion once."
It stops me dead in my tracks. My stinger is tingling like it does in the vortex, and I am majorly creeped out by this whole scene, but I just can't move.
"I was trying to tell a true story, but from a different point of view, the way someone other than myself might have seen the same events. So I picked the point of view of a bystander who was actually there. It was a fun story to write. I really got into that scorpion's mind, had fun feeling what it might be like to be him."
The bozo stops for a minute, as if remembering something, and then says, "But that evening - in the story and in real life - didn't turn out all that well for the scorpion. He died. He got squished all over the sand. I always felt bad about that." He pauses again, longer this time, and then says, "But hey!...shit happens, right?" And then he laughs.
The laugh creeps me out even more. Don't get me wrong...it's a good laugh, for a human, but it has that same familiarity to it. It's like I've heard that laugh before, being laughed by someone else. I don't know who. I've never seen this bozo before in my life, much less heard him laugh, and have certainly never met anyone else who laughs like this. But still it sounds familiar. This is far too much information to process on a datura hangover.
The bozo laughs again
and says, "This is pretty crazy, isn't it? I mean, I pick this cave
to meditate in for a few minutes, and now I'm sitting here talking to
a scorpion! Go figure."
"But hey!...as long as I am talking to you, I hope you don't mind if I continue." He pauses long enough to see if I'm going to run away, and when I don't he says, "I'm kinda on a Road Trip right now - a vision quest of sorts. It's been a particularly powerful one, one that has brought me many realizations. And I would really love to talk to someone about them, so since you're the only one around, maybe I'll just sit here and talk to you for awhile."
Just what I need, a crazy bozo on a talking jag. Well, it beats wondering whether I should stalk food or sex.
"I've been down in Phoenix, at a birthday party for a guy I used to know. He's dead now, but some of his students threw a party for him anyway. It was way cool. He would have been proud.
"It was held in a beautiful hotel designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright's apprentices, with generous help from Mr. Wright himself. It was to die for. The building is a national treasure. And that's where a couple of hundred guys and gals who knew this guy decided to throw a birthday party for him. They did a great job. The setting was perfect, the food was perfect, and above all the soundtrack was perfect.
"Two of the original members of Zazen, the band that was created by the guy the party was for, got together and played for the event. They were perfect. Even though a bank of synths and sequencers stood in for the remaining member of the band, they were perfect. It was quite an experience sitting there - in an Aztec-themed conference room designed by Mr. Wright himself that could pass with little stretch of the imagination for an Atlantean temple - listening to them play songs from the album they had called Atlantis Rising. It was one of those rare moments that cuts across the strata of time."
The bozo stops talking and stares at the sky, watching my friend Garuda do loops and spirals, warming up for the routine he always does at the end of the day. He calls it a sunsetdance. Hawks are like that - artsy-fartsy, total showoffs. But, gazing up at him with the bozo, I have to admit that he's really good. He does those spirals and outside loops with a flair that the other hawks in the canyon don't seem to manage. He has style.
The bozo, as if picking up on my thoughts, says to the sky, "The party had style, man. Which is appropriate, because the guy we studied with had style, too. He would have liked the hotel, and the way everyone dressed up impeccably in their most chic outfits, and most of all he would have liked the sheer timelessness of it all." He turns to me and says, "Do you ever think much about time, dude?"
"I think about time a lot, especially in places like this, where you can see it not only as a kind of eternal now but also stretched out in front and in back of you, like a continuous thread of light.
" I'm starting to get a little bored. Babbling about parties is one thing; I like parties. But if this bozo is going to go all crazy coyote on me about time, I think I'm going to go back to thinking about making some with Lucita.
"I wonder if you guys have names for things. Is it only humans who feel compelled to name things, to associate sounds with places and with the beings who live in those places?" He gestures to the canyon we call The Mountain Lying Down and says, "The first humans who came here saw how the river had cut its way through the rock, exposing different layers, each of them clearly part of a certain epoch, a certain period of time. The canyon is a veritable timemap. And, being humans, of course they had to come up with names for these different time slices, names that suited their respective geological epochs. Given the grandeur of the place, they started naming things for gods and goddesses and spiritual teachers, mythic beings from different eras of human history."
The bozo points and says, "Over there in the distance are the modern ones, mythically speaking. They named them after Jupiter and Venus and Apollo and Thor, and a couple of others they called Isis Temple and Cheops Pyramid. Then they decided to get Biblical, so in the same direction, in the foreground, you have the pair they named Solomon's and Sheba's Temples."
I look. He's pointing at the two mesas we call Flat-Chested Lupe. Humans! Can't live with them, can't kill 'em.
"But then they discovered even older layers of rock, and having used up all the Western myths they could think of, they turned to the East for even older names to match the epochs of time that these places revealed. So over there, more to the left, you can see Brahma's Temple and Krishna's Shrine and Buddha's Cloister. And that one, the one just to the right of Vishnu's Temple, that one they called Rama's Shrine."
I hear the name and stop listening to the bozo's rap about time, because suddenly there is no time. That name - Rama - reminds me of something. I can't quite put my stinger on it, but it's something to do with whatever is making me feel so creeped out. Although, now that I think about it, I don't really feel all that creeped out any more. It's like I've gotten used to the familiar feeling that was creeping me out before, and now it doesn't feel so creepy. Just familiar.
Sheeeit! This is weird. Maybe it isn't really happening. Maybe I just ate too much datura and I'm still at the party, dreaming all of this. I whack myself a quick one up aside the head with my stinger to wake myself up. It doesn't work. I'm still standing here in my cave having a conversation with a bozo. Only now I've got a headache. Sheeeit!
The bozo gazes at the mountain for a while. A long while. Finally, he says, "That was the name of the guy we had the party for in Phoenix. Rama. He was my teacher. For many of the people in the room, the ones who threw such an impeccable party, he still is their teacher. The entire weekend was just as he would have staged it - beautiful surroundings, impeccable food and service, impeccably dressed guests. It was Rama's birthday, after all, and they wanted to create an evening he would have been comfortable attending. They did. Maybe he did. The energy in the room was certainly familiar. I enjoyed it a lot."
The bozo turns to look directly at me and says, "It was a beautiful scene, extremely refined and subtle and full of light. The Zazen concert was great, and the next night the group that set up the event had a business meeting to discuss what their charter is and what they seek to accomplish. They hope to preserve as much as possible of Rama's written and musical works, to encourage those of Rama's students who feel like writing about their experiences with him, and to spread the dharma by providing classes in meditation and self discovery. It is a noble charter, created with noble intent. Listening to them, my heart chakra just went crazy with pride, for them and for the teacher who had produced such students. I sat there fascinated as they went about doing business as usual, planning more events like this one, just as if Rama were still sitting in the room with them."
He suddenly laughs that laugh again and says, "But as I was leaving the business meeting an old and dear friend, one who normally shares my distance on this whole scene, walked up to me with an oh so serious look on her face that I have come to associate with something tremendously wise and funny about to come out of her mouth, and said, 'I just have one question...Rama's dead, right?'
"I laughed. I laughed a lot. And I'll admit it...part of my laughter was me just doing my sardonic Uncle Tantra thing again. But another part of the laughter, the part that really matters, was not like that at all. It was a real belly laugh, the kind that shakes your body and brings tears to your eyes and lightness to your heart and sets you free. Because y'know, man...it's a good question.
"If Rama was enlightened, then his body may be gone but the part of him that really mattered, the light sandwiched in between the en- and the -ened, that is still around. It had nowhere to go. There has never been a time when it was not here. It just danced for a while in the form of a guy named Rama, and then became undifferentiated light again. And y'know, my friends may be right. If the light is still here, then the part of Rama that really matters is still here."
He gets quiet for a minute and then continues. "I learned a lot in that moment. I realized that my fellow students' ability to focus on Rama and his energy is better than mine. They seem to be able to immerse themselves in that energy as easily today as they did when he was alive. I admire them greatly for this. It is a quality that I do not seem to possess. I am too easily distracted by the world.
"My friends aren't distracted. They don't seem to have any trouble focusing. It's like their primary interests in life lie in those areas that were of interest to Rama - meditation, spreading the dharma by teaching, succeeding in business and martial arts, that sorta thing. That is where their attention is focused, not because they are faking it or are caught up in some fantastic dream, but because that is where their interests lie. I have other interests.
"For one thing, I am hung up on art. I had as much fun exploring the hotel we were meeting in as I did at the birthday party. It inspired me to create art of my own. And, as nice as it was to sit in a room with old friends and catch up on old times, I am hung up on meeting new people, having cool conversations with them, and catching up on Now. I had as much fun talking with some Japanese tourists this morning, up on the rim. And I am hung up on the road. It calls to me right now more loudly than Rama does. I think I realized, standing there laughing at Isabelle's one-liner, that it was time for me to hit the road. Even if it takes me in a different direction from the road many of my friends are on.
"Earlier that day, on the way to the sunset hike that my fellow students had organized, I had driven past the signs for Taliesin West - Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio - and realized that I would rather be going there than going on the hike. Don't get me wrong...the hike was fun, a walking meditation with my friends through a world of nature that was on fire with power. I enjoyed every minute of it. It's just that some part of me realized that I would be having even more fun at Taliesin West, enjoying a walking meditation through a world of art that was on fire with creativity.
"So this morning, instead of going on a hot-air balloon ride with the other Rama students, I packed my bags and threw them into Protector and drove to Taliesin West. And at first it felt a little sad, standing there alone waiting for the guided tour to start, imagining my friends across town about to go soaring off into the sky. It felt as if in deciding to do something else I had turned my back on my friends and walked away, as surely as I had walked away from Rama's study several years earlier.
"But then the tour started. It was home and workplace as Art, designed not only to blend with the desert but to enhance and complement it. My tour guide explained that the buildings may have been designed by Mr. Wright, but the creation of them was a collaborative effort. He dreamed it; his apprentices built it. And then they all lived there together. During the day they dressed in jeans and work shirts and learned about art by making it. During the evenings, they dressed up in their tuxes (every student was required to bring a tux or set of evening clothes) and learned more about art by watching movies or dance recitals or classical music concerts, all held right there on the property. It must have been an interesting environment. Wright was supposedly a hard taskmaster, but he taught well. Some of his apprentices went on to become famous architects themselves. Other apprentices still live there at Taliesin West, passing along Wright's teachings to new generations of students. Still others abandoned architecture completely and made names for themselves in other fields. But I would be willing to bet that few of them, whatever they wound up doing with their lives after Taliesin West, regretted the time they spent there, their time out of time studying with a great teacher."
He stops talking and stands there for a moment gazing at Garuda, who is still practicing his art. He's hovering - beak into the wind, wings spread, motionless - as if he is waiting for something, for just the right moment. Finally it comes, and he dives for the canyon floor, screaming the whole way down, pulling up just at the last moment. Sheeeit! that looks like fun!
The bozo smiles as if it looks like fun to him, too. He says, "After the tour ended I was walking back to Protector, thinking about all this, when I looked up into the sky and saw the hot-air balloons. There were several of them in a loose group, so they almost certainly contained my friends from the birthday party. And the sight of them made me smile, because it looked like the people riding in the balloons were having so much fun, and because I had been having so much fun, and because in that instant I no longer felt any distance between my friends' way of having fun and my own.
"We all studied with the same teacher, who was a hard taskmaster, but who taught well. Each of us will deal with those teachings in our own way. Some of us will continue to focus on Rama. Some will find other spiritual teachers. Others will wander off and do their own thing. But we're all on the same path. Rama, whoever he was beneath all the mystery, spent many years teaching us about that path, showing us how to recognize the road signs along the way that point to it. Right now, for many of his students, those signs point to doing business as usual, attempting to spread the dharma and inspire new people in the same ways that he spread the dharma and inspired people. I have a deep and profound respect for them and for their intent. The dharma is in good hands.
"My road signs point in another direction, and because Rama taught me so well, I must follow them. I have no choice, because I learned in my time with him that my life glows and is filled with laughter when I follow what I perceive as my path and it sucks when I don't. Right now my path seems to be about the road, and about writing stories of my adventures there.
"I hope that the stories I tell will do some good, and that someday one of them will touch somebody and help them remember a little bit of who they are, who they were, and who they can be. But I suspect I'll never know . So I guess for now I'll stop worrying about that part of it and keep telling stories, one after another. If Rama was right in that restroom so many years ago, sooner or later I'll realize that one of them is the last story, that I'm finished, that I've written enough. That, just as he said, I have a book."
The bozo chuckles and says, "I hope it's soon. Rama may have moved on but I'm still here. And I have other books to write before I move on, too." He smiles. It's a pleasant smile, but it does kinda remind me of North Rim Charley's smile when he got back from Santa Fe.
Still smiling, he says, "Spiritual teachers aren't permanent, man. They drop into your life long enough to plant some seeds of knowledge, and then they move on. If they do a good job, those seeds may begin to sprout in your lifetime. And even if they don't bloom before you die, the game's not over. The seeds lie dormant until they are awakened in another life.
"And if they don't wake up, the game's still not over. You can tell yourself that you are no longer playing the game, and try to live your life like everyone around you, but it never works. Everyone around you may try to tell you that there is nothing more to life than eating and fucking, but a part of you knows that it's not true, because a seed has been planted somewhere deep inside you and part of you knows that it's there. Sooner or later it will wake up and begin to sprout."
He laughs that laugh again and says, "And if it doesn't wake up on its own, and if you're lucky, they send in another teacher to wake you up. If you're really lucky, they send you one who is just as crazy as you are, someone you can identify with, someone who teaches you that not only can you be more than you are today, you can do it simply by being more yourself, today. It's just the coolest thing."
Sheeeit! This guy sounds like North Rim Charley, too!
He sits there laughing to himself for a while, just like Charley does, but finally pulls it together and says, "There is more to life than eating and fucking, man" He laughs again and says, "There is eating and fucking and bringing your entire attention to the experience."
The bozo stands up and says, "Which reminds me...I've got a date tonight with those Japanese gals I met earlier. I'm supposed to meet them up on the rim to watch the sunset, and then take them to dinner. So, as much as I've enjoyed talking with you, I'd better get going. I hope I haven't bored you too much." The bozo fastens the fanny pack around his waist and checks around to make sure he hasn't left anything there and then walks out to the edge. He's on the other side of the cave from me, and still hasn't made any threatening moves in my direction, so I stay put and just watch him.
He stands there looking out at the canyon for a while and then says, "It's going to be a killer sunset, man. You should go somewhere cool to watch it. Rama believed there was much to be learned from watching a sunset. He said to me once, 'Think of the time of sunset. The sunset is a time of transition. Neither letting go nor holding on; neither right nor left. It's that moment I would like to explore with you. It is that moment that I consider the doorway to the highest reality.'"
The bozo stands there for another moment, and then says, "He said many things, but that is still one of my favorites."
Without looking back, the bozo steps over the edge and scrambles down the slope to the human trail below. He starts hiking up towards the rim, bouncing along like he's listening to some kind of music with a boppy beat. Just before he gets to the section of trail where it disappears behind the rock wall he stops, turns in my direction, and waves. For some reason, I wave my stinger back at him. He smiles, and then walks around the corner and out of sight.
Sheeeit! How weird was that?
And I thought that the visions I had last night at the datura party were strange. This is without question the weirdest start to a day I have ever had. But you know, it wasn't all that bad. This bozo is definitely the craziest being I have ever run into in my life, but I kinda liked him. He had an Ok laugh. For a human.
And, after all, it is only the start of the day. Looking at the sky, I realize I've got about half an hour before the sunset, and then my day really starts. I've still got time to have me some Serious Fun tonight. Both my hangover and my headache seem to be gone. I'm actually feeling pretty good. Go figure.
So. After all this weirdness, I'm back to the question that started the day - what should I do with the evening?
I could go hunting, but I'm not all that hungry yet and now that I think of it I've still got some of that lovely stinkbug jam that Lucita gave me last week, the first time she asked whether we could get together again. That was sweet. So was the jam. There's really nothing better than stinkbug jam. So I think I'll blow off the hunt for tonight and go see Lucita instead. I'll bring along the jam and we can share it.
But you know, instead of meeting her at the vortex and doing that whole thing again, I think I'll leave now and catch her on the path before she gets there and take her to The Place Where All Roads Meet instead. I chuckle, thinking about the bozo and his hangup about names. He would like this one. Charley says it's a human name, an Anasazi term for the center of a sand clock, the narrow point where the sand trickles through and where, for a moment, there is no time, only Now. We use their name for the place because, quite frankly, we can't think of a better one. It's a place of power, but it's quiet there. It's not like the vortex, but somehow it is. The vortex is about raw, surging power. The Place Where All Roads Meet is about silence, and that kind of power. You feel eternal there, because you can feel eternity there.
Yeah, that's what I should do. Instead of going to the vortex, I should take Lucita to The Place Where All Roads Meet and eat stinkbug jam with her and watch the sunset and just talk. I can tell her about my conversation with the bozo and the familiar feeling that creeped me out so much, and see if she can help me figure out what the hell it all means, or if it means anything at all. I'd like that. Lucita is a smart lady. Maybe being in a different kind of power place will slow things down between us to the point where we can actually have a conversation. Maybe I'll even learn something from it.
And maybe, if we're lucky, we can watch Garuda do his thing. We can sit in a place of silence and watch the sky do its silent lightdance to celebrate the end of another cycle of time and watch Garuda dance his equally silent celebration for the passing of the same cycle and the beginning of another. Maybe instead of being tossed around by the swirling energies of the vortex, we can just sit there for a while and meditate and appreciate the silence. Then we can fuck.