Thursday, September 6, 2012

The HU Sound

Montezuma's Foot Bath

I'm hunkered down with three other writers in a cabin in Camp Verde, AZ, working on the manuscript for the book that the Travels With Jonah Project inspired. I'm even more impressed this year by the talent of my fellow Desert Rats, and I'm feeling pretty humbled, too. That's good.

The story I set out to work on is maybe not the one I had originally planned, and that's okay, because it has to be. I think this one will be better, though it may take longer.

Thank you all for your  support and patience as I work my way through it.

Yesterday, we took a side trip to Montezuma's Well, a site just up the road from our cabin. A round lake formed from an underground water source when the ceiling of limestone cavern above it dissolved. Around its rim, cliff dwellings over 800 years old are carved into the rock.

Montezuma's Well

I think this place is magical. At the risk of sounding like one A-Class hippie, I dreamed about this place a long time ago, so you can imagine how surprised when I first crested the hill that hides this oasis from the high desert. It's like this place is hard wired into my brain.

Oh, yeah, I am an A-Class hippie. Here I am hugging a giant Arizona sycamore tree.

To be honest, I've been feeling a bit down these days, fighting off a depression of the generic but powerful and exhausting existential, "what does it all mean?" variety, peppered with a nice dose of antsiness that makes it hard for me to sit still too long. Maybe this is just called "being a writer." 

Meh. Whatever it is: it is what it is.

So, today, I convinced a couple of my fellow writers to go out to Boynton Canyon in Sedona. I wanted to get a hike in and just zone out and try to think myself into a better mental space. 

But, when we arrived at the trail head, we ran into a slight hitch:

Great. Bears.

This probably would not be a problem, but I just watched Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man about a month ago, which was followed up by an OCD level marathon viewing session of Animal Planet's Fatal Attraction. I pretty much immediately had bloody visions of Timothy Treadwell flash through my head and tickle my extreme and irrational anxiety gland. I stomped off in the direction of another trail not blocked by bear warnings, while my fellow writing hikers followed after me complaining about my decision to suddenly abandon the Boynton Trail for one called Dead Man's Pass. 

"Fine!" I shouted at them after two-minutes of unbearable whinging. "I'll go down your dumb bear infested trail." I made some further childish protests about no one paying attention to my needs. Then I turned on my heel and passively/aggressively stomped back to the bear trail with visions of park rangers poking at my eviscerated entrails and shaking their heads while mumbling, "Damn hippies," under their breath.

Anyway, at the trail head, we ran into some other hikers, who were actually damn hippies. A sun baked, white haired dude with a small day pack and a fixed beatific grin stopped on the trail as we passed and handed each of us a heart shaped rock, which he told us was a gift from Mother Earth. I asked him if he had seen any bears, and he said they were really far off  in the wilderness and that I should just concentrate on love overcoming hate. He lectured us for a few moments on the power of love before moving on down the trail. 

I was still grumpy, but, I resolved to try despite myself and a few false starts.

Me at the secret entrance to the Secret Mountain. If you look closely, you'll see the outline of the heart stone in my pocket.

We spent the hike literally looking for love. Fellow travelers had hidden the heart shaped rocks the earth produced prolifically amid the branches of the junipers and clefts of cacti along the route. We had great fun pointing out the ones we found, and it was easy, too. There was so much love; it was ubiquitous. I tried to  foster a positive attitude in my mind as we climbed up the red rock face to a scenic outlook.

Boynton Canyon Trails are filled with heart shaped rocks  lovingly placed  in the trees by fellow hikers.

When we  reached the top of the rock, I have to admit, despite our encounter with the spirit man and Mother Earth's love, I was still feeling pretty pissy. One of my companions reminded me that we were at an energy vortex, which was easily identified by the presence of many twistier than average of juniper trunks, rock cairns built by other visitors and some hot lady doing yoga by herself way up on a rock a few hundred yards away.

I sat down with my back against a tree and proceeded to eat some almonds and the apple I brought with me, when I burst into tears. I stared out over the red rocks, and I told my buddy that I figured I'd get it right at some point. We had a really deep conversation, the details of which I will spare you from. I snuggled into the crook of the tree and just zoned out, like I wanted to all along.

A view from up there.

When we decided to come down off the vista, I felt a lot calmer. As we walked down the trail, I heard a buzz, quick and deep, like a hum under my feet. I stopped and asked the people with me if they heard it too. They hadn't. We started walking again, then just as suddenly I heard it again; maybe "felt" is a better word, a low, warm rumbling buzz, for the second time. It was strange and strangely comforting. I don't know what it was, so I've decided to just call it the HU sound, which is both appropriately hippie enough and most probably true.