I’d been at Denny’s last night till gone 2pm, again, listening to two married couples having light conversation about Jesus and about the devil, I don’t know why it sounded so startling to me. Their Devil just sounded so matter of fact and they were all so well scrubbed behind the ears too.
I suppose right now I am certainly not and I am sure they would find what is happening with me quite startling too wouldn’t they. It was just an interesting ear wigging
I’d parked in a huge parking lot outside near the Anasazi Heritage Center on the south east side of the City Of Cortez. Yesterday was great, just allowing myself to be, creativity and curiosity surfacing without having to throw myself into some physical challenge to prove that I am alive.
I slept badly again though, to be honest the back seat hotel is beginning to wear me down, maybe 4 hours sleep broken every hour. I dizzy when I actually got up.
I liked Cortez straight away, dusty wide streets, glittering sunshine and seemingly more colourful and artistic than Utah. Shop fronts with character and humour, bright and cheerful.
A sign said “Beers as cold as your X’s heart, here”
Not sure about spending the rest of my days here, but a good colourful surprise and in fact just down the road from that seeming mystical land we drove through yesterday, that was something else, neck and neck with Oregon sage. I have loved the rocks of course, but it was always the wide open spaces that drew me to the US in the first place. I was captivated.
So that morning I sat in the San Juan coffee company, Stone walls Spanish tin worked roofed. Good tunes, good coffee. No song today I didn’t sleep deeply enough to connect last night I don’t think.
The dust blowing down the streets gave the town an air or romance and though I was really fatigued I was feeling so much better in myself. I have arrived, maybe that lady really was a Witch I had released something, so if so, a belated thank you to her.
Chalk on the back of the toilet door said “Men are 10 times more likely to get hit by lightning” probably because they are stupid enough to go wandering around out there during an electrical storm, I know, I’ve been there, though it seems I was quite lucky.
We took off to Mesa Verde, I’d planned to go there and then on to Pagosa Springs for an evening in the amazing thermal springs there. I was as I say wasted tired and when we rolled up at the Visitors center to get my stamp and realized that a lot of the Pueblo ruins were of limits due to falling rocks, my heart was just not in it, but I thought well I’m here you may as well go up there. I’d forgotten it was actually a 20 mile curling switchback drive.It is a remarkable place to see for sure, the Anasazi now called Ancestral Pueblo Indians created such a beautiful place here from about 550AD and lived there for around 700 years. The views over the canyon walls are staggering, their skill and there aesthetics which was a by all accounts a big part of their culture evident by the way they built their houses, their pottery and their basket work. You wonder how on earth they managed to get to and from those places each day, Bringing the rocks down to build with, their crops and what ever they managed to hunt. Apparently they chipped toe holes in the cliff faces and climbed up and down. Incredible to see really. It also has a great museum and the vibe was peaceful.
I really tried but as I said my heart just wasn’t in and I felt guilty. I really did try, looking out down the fabulous canyons, chatting with a couple, the girl from Croydon, they couldn’t see the houses in the canyon walls opposite I was pointing them out. But I was simply exhausted. Also I’d had this nagging idea that I should drive back across the Ute lands and go and see Ship Rock and it wouldn’t go away. I had the feeling it was “Big Name” I’d heard him clearly yesterday.
But for now I surrendered to fatigue and decided to drive back to Cortez get some gas and a coffee and see how I felt then. On the way out though my eyes were closing and I thought why drive to Cortez go to sleep right here. So I pulled up with a beautiful view of the Cortez valley to the north right across the windscreen. Pulled the blanket under my head and wrapped my sarong over my eyes and I was out for the count.
I came too at around 3pm groggy and sluggish, finished the switchback ride all the way back to highway 160 Then decision time, I paused at the gates of the park. Right to Pagosa Springs left to Ship Rock? The wheel turned left and we rolled left towards Cortez.
I clearly heard Big Name say “Good choice”
I recall admiring a ladies big fat faded and battered red 70’s Cadillac in the gas station, love those 70’s cars. Then back to the coffee shop. The gas station had my money for the gas. The coffee shop I figured needed the custom and it was on the 160 on the way to the Ute lands.
“Americano to go please” I said
The girl looked up and said “Well hello and how are you doing today”
I told her I was really tired, needed a coffee but I was very happy.
“Well that’s just great and what you doing, just passing through?”
I said “Oh I’m going to see Ship Rock and then I’ll make my way across to Ghost Ranch” I always presume everyone around there knows of Ghost Ranch.
“Oh I see” she said “and how are the Ghosts?”
I said without missing a beat “Oh there all fine, they’re waiting for me in the car”
She laughed really loudly and glanced nervously out the window at hummingbird. I laughed too. I imagined all the family in there waving back through the windows, Cynthia, JC, BiG Name, The Old One, Mercury and Herne. I wasn’t sure whether she’d been serious. She could tell I certainly was. I laughed all the ay back to the car.
I got in checked the map and said “Ok Guys Ship Rock Ahoy”
Now I call the Indian Big Name because I once asked what his name was and the name I got back was, well, I’m not telling you. You see there was an Indian tradition amongst some tribes, the men have a real name that they never tell anybody except their clan. Lets just say that the name that came back, I couldn’t quite believe, so I call him. ‘Man with the Big Name’
And another thing, all this ringing in the ears. I have genuinely tried to explain it rationally, if you want to call it that, because rationally speaking it is real and it is not tinnitus. Air pressure? I was up there today at Mesa Verde 7000-8500 feet up and nothing not a peep. Then down there in the car heading along highway 160 outside of Cortes 6191feet and the ringing in my ears was loud multi layered pitches.
All I can deduce is that the family were really happy with me, I felt Big Names presence to my right and behind as if a hand was on my right shoulder.
As we left town a sign said “If it’ not going right turn left”
A few miles outside of Cortez and you enter the Utes land. Pretty soon after the mystical landscape was still there, just as we’d seen it. My fatigue just left me Hummingbird coasted along like a cat purring. It was just so excellent to be “out there”
This land was prime Buffalo Range, this is where they would have migrated through and across it in their millions but were hunted to near extinction by the 1890’s by European hunters. It is remarkable and shocking to think that by 1900 there were actually only 300 buffalo left. They have since been slowly recovering. The Buffalo is a sacred and religious animal and fundamental to the Plains Native Americans. They were never to recover their old ways after the wanton disgusting massacre of that beautiful majestic creature.
I let myself imagine them there, you know looking out across it is perfect, but of course how could I really. It is a tragedy that they are missing from it. But still the land is magical. We sailed along coasting the crests in the uneven road on the reservation down along the 160 and then 491 “You are leaving the Ute Mountain Ute lands” and a few yards on down the road “Welcome to The Navajo Nation” We swept on. Ship Rock visible across the land 30 or 40 miles away. A strange jagged shape that looks strange out on its own away from the mesas, like something broken sticking vertically up in the dust.
The road was virtually empty until we came into the dusty battered town of Shiprock itself. It has a great big Navajo hospital, the usual sticky signs, but there is something desperate about it. I noted again the church presence here. Trailer homes some neat but all seeming to be scattered indiscriminately across the dusty place. It looked impoverished; there is no getting away from it. There was on the other side of town an area of affordable housing, all white square block placed in a sort of order but it just seemed sad. But what is there to do out here, there is no industry. It is a wild place way out beyond anything I could know, what is to be said or done about it. The Navajo are the wealthiest tribe in the US and have the largest reservation. I was quietened as I drove through the place.
But Ship Rock was growing ever closer. I wondered if I would be able to get close to it. I was most certainly on a pilgrimage now, that’s how I felt. On the southern side a mile or two out of town I found the 13 west, I was pinching myself. Then about 5 miles along there was an unmarked dirt road right off the highway that seemed to lead out towards the now gigantic Ship Rock. In geological terms it’s 30,000,000 years old and is what is called an ancient volcanic neck.
It is awesome to see it. We turned onto the dirt road another car turned on literally as we did. They seemed to loose their nerve and dropped back stopping on a rise as the road was simply terrible. It wasn’t really a road just a deeply pitted pockmarked eroded 4 wheel track. We crept along at around 5mph. It was fantastic though my heart was racing, the track seemed I thought to have been purposely woven this way so you had to approach it slowly this way and then that way and with reverence and there is no denying it the closer we got the quieter I got.
The day had been overcast all day and I wasn’t under any illusions that if it began to rain we were stuck out there for sure. And I mean really stuck. This dust, the plains here, once wet becomes mud, like glue within minutes, It is the mud from the bottom of an ancient ocean. I watched the horizon like a hawk for any signs of rain. We crept and inched our way forwards over great gaping holes, “slowly slowly hummingbird, well done girl” I was saying, sat bolt upright, peering over the steering wheel edging our way towards the rock. I wasn’t even sure whether I was allowed to be there I just presumed we could. After about 2 miles in I decided to stop about a mile away on a rise. Somehow it was just close enough.
“Is this good enough Big Name” I asked
“You did good Mick” He said
I have to say it was the most remarkable feeling, just there, engine off with the huge thing right there. I was and still am genuinely awed by it and the experience.
I had an idea to eat there. Got out opened a tin of Chick peas then offered some to the 4 directions, the above and below as I have always done at times like these, then sat back in the Hummingbird. It felt right to eat there, I am not sure why. The winds would rising up whistling and buffeting Hummingbird and then just stopping and there would be an incredible silence and then bam hitthe car again out of nowhere. I saw again the pastel blues and pinks dancing and swirling in the air and noted across the volcanic spine that runs a few miles right up to Shiprock itself were giving off pastel pinks. It was dreamy sat there no mistake about it.
I decided to open up, no better place I thought. Nothing happened at first and then after a few minutes to my amazement the sun came out to our left and shone right on us. It was dazzling, so much so it began to get very hot in the car.
I closed my eyes again and this time I am not sure how long I was sat there but I’d gone a little too deep and woke with a jolt, all I remember was somebody telling me “Do not to let the past eat away at what is left of your self respect”
I saw too but I was too deep and I lost it when I came round. When I opened my eyes, twilight was being introduced and I thought maybe it’s time to leave. But the sun was still up and it wasn’t going to rain. I also noticed far away on the rise the other car was still there.
So I pulled Hummingbrid around again to face the Ship Rock. Wound the windows down and this time I asked. I asked for a connection again. I worked hard to let go, to let each area of my body relax, but stay present, just relax, not cross the line.
I was looking up, I seemed to be laying on the ground, there was a huge man with black straight black hair stood looking down at me. It was Big Name as clear as day, he had black trousers on and long black leather boots to just below the knees, he had what I thought was a faded red cotton shirt on, sort of pink, and had wide black braces over his shoulders. He was holding a jug with a lip on it, and as I write this I am realizing it was like a traditional clay jug, he leant towards me and poured something towards my point of view. At that point I came round. It was a moment before I realized I had seen.
Twilight was gaining quickly now and it was just time to go.
Just before we left I got out one last time just to say thank you and noticed little pink purple flowers dotted in amongst the dried yellow grasses and pale sage. They were the colour of his shirt and later I realised the pinks in the air.
I saw these things
I stood very quiet but just smiling for some time. The sun was now just a golden dot behind the jagged line of the rocks to the left of us the sky had completely cleared, everything was golden. But really it was time to go, I turned her very carefully around and we crept slowly, very very slowly and quietly along the pitted holed dusty road, a great cloud of dust kept up with the car all the away back, I had an idea there was a celebration going on all around us as we seemed to be going far to slowly to kick up any dust, so left the windows open let it blow in enjoying feeling of the grit and dust under my fingers on the steering wheel. It had been a remarkable afternoon.
We flopped back onto the highway felt the tarmac under the wheels one last look back, “Thank you” I said then foot down.
I’d made a promise no more night time drives, Farmington was 37 miles away.
We made it just as it got black and found a Denny’s I was over the moon. The staff were all Indians, they were lovely to me food was superb. Later that night s I’d been working a group of Red neck whites came in. Gosh they sounded dumb and obnoxious, I just kept quiet as they seemed volatile, there was tension in the place for the last hour. I finished up and said my thanks to the lovely staff and went to sleep in the shadows across the way in the dusty lot by the Animus river.
I was still buzzing by what had happened out there and all that it implies for me.