Friday, October 15, 2010

Joshua Tree National Park Day 5 Oct 14/10

I started a longer trail late in the day again and wandered around a few shorter trails earlier in the day... did some easy boulder scrambling... I drove to the Cottonwood side of the park through the largest, most deserted part... very barren and then the vegetation changes dramatically and there are some lovely new kinds of cactus and 'trees' here. I decided to take the trail to the Oasis... a trail they suggest 4-6 hrs for and I started at 3:30, so really I had about 3 hours. I always forget how early the sun goes down here. I decided I would turn around at 5, giving me enough time to get back. I have been walking very slow here, something I consider a triumph, enjoying every moment, not rushing... not just a result of my older aching feet, but that helps slow me down. When I hit the one mile marker, I realize I have done that mile in 20 minutes without trying so I decide maybe I can do the whole trail and I start picking up the speed in case the trail starts getting harder at some point or heads uphill. So now I am cruising, not really looking at anything, end gaining, pleased that I am getting more exercise than I have been walking slow, hooked right back into an older way of doing things. I'm walking really fast for awhile, legs are warm because I have been walking a lot today, so I am moving fast and I almost walk right by a tortoise without noticing and I stop. I have been wanting to see one of these for years, and I almost walk right by. So I hang out for awhile with this guy, he puts his head in before I get the idea to take a picture... I wonder how many things I have missed moving so quickly and I resume walking more slowly again, start feeling my breath again as I walk, laugh at myself and enjoy the scenery for real again- which is stunning. I have lost some time hanging out with the tortoise so I assume I will not be able to make it all the way to the oasis, but then I hit the 2 mile marker and I have made really good time. So once again I think- I can do this, I don't want to come all the way out here and miss the punch line of the trail... supposedly tall palm trees in the middle of the desert... a gorgeous oasis. So I start clipping again. Funny I should be headed for an oasis... I come from water, Nova Scotia and Ontario are full of water. I am not here for the water, I am here for the desert. So I am moving fairly quickly and somewhere between the two mile and three mile marker I suddenly realize the three mile trail BEGINS at the end of another trail that is easily another mile - so I have miscalculated. Now I have to think hard about making it to the oasis, so I pick up my speed more..
I haven't looked around since the tortoise and I glance up and it is gorgeous, but I keep going fast, looking down... and then I round a corner and I can see the trail ahead of me and it is long and no oasis... and I stop. I look down- there is a snake. Now as a lover of snakes I am thrilled. I have seen one other snake in the desert in Utah, a beautiful black and white king snake on red sand... not a poisonous snake. This snake is different, smaller and poisonous, maybe not deadly, but poisonous.

But I have to get a picture, cause of my 10 year old son... cause every time I see something like this I wish he was here and I get my camera and I take a picture, but it is too far away, so I get closer and take another one, and then closer to take another one... and he moves towards me with that sound designed to terrify any living creature and it works... and I do the appropriate thing that my adrenaline tells me to do, I back up really fast. Now I am wondering again if I should proceed or go back, it is 4:45... and I wonder if this snake is a 'sign'. Now I am here looking for 'signs' - big new ideas for my life, but I am very skeptical about the whole nature of external signs, but just as I am thinking about this I see a rabbit… and I think of Harry. Harry was a Mi'kmaq man I knew as a child in Nova Scotia. My mother believed in signs; she did crazy things based on signs… drove me nuts. I am rational person, sure I am a Baha’i, I pray and I believe in the ultimately mystical nature of life and yet I need things to make logical sense, to be scientifically sound. I more and more see this as a limitation, but nonetheless… I still think the mystical stays… mystical and does not move the material world in magical ways, it may move it scientifically… but rocks do not levitate and snakes do not appear for my personal specific spiritual edification.. So then this snake is just a snake, people see animals on trails randomly, or because they go at the right time of day and walk quietly… but them there is Harry and Fred… Harry would appear – at our house – as people often do in the country, unannounced and often when we needed him in some way. He was a healer. Harry always had some odd root of something in his pocket that he would put under your tongue if you were sick or tell you to make a tea with. They often tasted awful and were intended to cure. Later in life I was able to identify one of them he put under my tongue as golden seal…Harry appeared once in my life when my sister and I were staying with friends of family because out mother was ill. I don’t know why he was there, I can’t remember – but remembering the nature of Harry and his heart… I can only assume he was checking in to see how we were doing. Harry did not say much. I think he never said anything unless it was important. He was one of those people who would visit and sit silently in the living room… Harry got up and went outside to see the woods outside this house… there was an island across some water in a lake by this house and it had an inviting path. You could easily walk from the shore through the water to this little and I was maybe 11 and I decided to show this to him. I loved this little island. We went across the water and started walking down the trail. We were both silent. He stopped at one point and listened and gestured me to stop. He said ‘no animals’ and kept walking but listening and looking around. He stopped again and listened carefully…. ‘no animals’ and he gestured that we should go back. He didn’t say anything else, I just knew that this was not good. Fred was another friend of the family from the M’ikmaq reservation near our house in the valley in Nova Scotia. He was a Baha’I and my mother had informal prayer meetings at our house once a week and sometimes he would come. If he came- he would telephone and tell us and this meant that we should start praying while he ran over. His running was his praying. When he arrived we would maybe say one or two more prayers and then we’d have coffee (instant with evaporated milk for Fred) while we had filtered coffee with real milk. Once when he was over, he stayed for the longest time. We quietly wondered if he would ever leave…finally a huge flock of crows landed in the trees around the house… making a racket. Fred said ‘the crows are here’ and he left.

The first day I was here I say so many animals. It felt as if the desert was welcoming me- that the animals had come out to say hello! We are so glad you are here! It was a good day. It made me feel as if I was where I should be. Despite the fact that it was likely totally circumstantial… and yet I knew it was good. So is this snake a sign? Now you’d think the snake would be a sign to GO BACK. Don’t move towards the snake…It’s a poisonous snake after all. But being a woman, the destroyer of the world, I think it means go forward! Eat the apple my dear… but while I am contemplating this and watching the snake move on his way, I decide to go back. It is close to 5 and I do not want to be rushing on the way back and anyway… I can let go of the oasis- I have seen a hawk, a tortoise and a snake! So I go back, I don’t run, like Fred, but I am praying.

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