Sunday, December 28, 2014

It Happened in Kingman, Arizona

Blake: "To see a world in a grain of sand,"
Kingman,  the last Arizona dot going west on I-40, is an unlikely place for almost everything … an oil slick forest of billboards and fast food sirens place … a quick-stop for gas without a backward glance place … a stay here only if you missed Flagstaff place … an Andy Divine … who? ... lived here and now has a street named after him place … never an everything-changed-here place. But, there it was, the fever-broke here place, in a Motel 6 room no less, on one of those throw-away days between Christmas and New Years.

In an alternative universe I would have swung south out of Flagstaff toward the energy vortex of Sedona, nestled into a bungalow among the art-infested red hills, aligned my chakras with the winter solstice and sat in meditation on the Devil’s Arch until the four directions merged  into a deep cellular peace in a Hollywood-worthy moment. At the very least there would have been photos. But, who takes photos of a Motel 6 room in Kingman, Arizona?

If I had known then what I know now, I would have made that left turn off of I-40 onto I-17 headed south to Sedona and prepared myself for the change to come. But, what did I know? How could I have known that one night in a Motel 6 bed would wipe away the confused torment of the previous months and leave me in the welcome but recently unusual state of clarity. Perhaps, I should call Tom Bodett of the “We’ll leave the lights on” fame and suggest a new marketing strategy … Motel 6 … home of instant enlightenment.

But it wasn’t enlightenment exactly that happened that night in that comfy Motel 6 bed … it was much more of an evaporation, a disappearance of what was. Nothing new was revealed, no thunder rolled, no clouds parted, no voices spoke words of wisdom into my ear. It wasn’t what was suddenly there; it was what was suddenly gone: the conflict, the doubt, the fear.

More importantly, what was gone was the thought that I had to do something, take charge, make a decision, choose. What was also gone was the illusion that I was … that I should be or even could be … the controller of my destiny. Heresy! My entire life is a paean to self-determination; my theme song straight from “Invictus” … I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. Oh how I wish … or, now, perhaps more correctly, wished.

Suddenly my whole belief system blew out the window into that not-quite desert, rainbow dawn morning as I drove out of Kingman, Arizona, headed toward the unknown, knowing I had no control over what I would find waiting for me when I reached the bright Pacific waters but feeling, for the first time in many months, completely at peace with whatever it might be.

This is not the ending of the story, probably not much more than the beginning … or the beginning of the beginning but it’s all there is right now … a new awareness, a new feeling of peace … perhaps a fragile candle flame that could wick out  in a slight breeze … or perhaps the beginning a something bigger and stronger. One never knows. One can only wait to see what lies in store for us while taking one small step at a time toward the truth of who we are, letting that way-too-subtle whisper of the Universe guide our steps, accepting every twist and turn of the path for its perfection.

It makes for a rather comic, cosmic headline:  … kid from Kansas, with all the great religions, gurus and masters to choose from, finds peace in a Motel 6 room in Kingman, Arizona. As Paul Harvey would say: stay tuned for “the rest of the story."

Postscript: Facebook added another dimension to this story when the image below was posted this morning. I now know that what happened on 12/27/2014 in that Motel 6 room was that infatuation moved over and love moved in. Thanks to the anonymous author.

 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Starting in Kansas


Refection in Mesilla, Las Cruces, NM
You’re in Kansas … perhaps you’re in a tiny town just outside a slightly less tiny town … and you want to go somewhere and see new things and make new friends. People around you say, “Go for it!” … well some of them say, “What?!” or “Do be careful!” 

You’re encouraged though, so you pack your bags and head out. Adventure ahead. Before long, however, you realize you don’t know where you’re going or how you’re going to get there. You’re not even sure you know where you want to go. However, people keep saying, “Just keep going. You’ll get there. Don’t be afraid.” Just keep going … so you do … you just keep going.

Soon though, you’re tired … and discouraged. You haven’t gotten very far and things don’t look so very different from where you began. You slump down on a rock. Suddenly, some guy flashes by carrying a sign that says, “I got there in 3 months!” You're confused and shocked … but then someone else hurries by with a sign that boldly shouts, “Ha! It only took me 3 weeks!” And, before you could even grasp that, you see a woman on a skateboard wearing a colorful t-shirt proclaiming: “Thin thighs in 30 days!"

Your head is spinning and you’re too dizzy to even stand up, let alone chase after them. You just want to sleep … maybe back in your own little bed, in your own little house, in your own little town outside the slightly bigger town.
 
*****
 
It has taken me three months to realize that I packed my bags and launched my journey without really knowing where I wanted to go or how to get there. And, I don’t think that’s all that unusual … we often find ourselves drawn to something without knowing exactly why or what for. For me, I find that I almost always have to learn as I go, one step at a time until one day, I wake up and can say … “That’s where I want to go and here’s the road map that will get me there."

This morning was that day … two days before I’m about to leave, I finally discover what I wish I had known when I began. Perhaps that’s just the way these things are … if someone had handed me a road map three months ago, would I have followed it? … could I have? I don’t know … but now I feel like I have the tools and the information I need to create a road map for myself … and, perhaps … just perhaps … one that will be useful for others.

Part of me wishes I could roll back the calendar and start over … the other part of me knows that can’t be done but that I can use the understanding gained in the past three months to now choose a destination and plot the journey to getting there … not that there won’t be side trips and rabbit holes along the way … what would a journey be without them? 
 
No more forced marches for me.
 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Festival of Guadalupe

Guadalupe Festival (click for video)
Yesterday was the last day of the Festival of Guadalupe and the city was filled with pilgrims from all over the region who ran or biked here to show their devotion to the Virgin. It’s a lovely, noisy, chaotic time, filled with music, sirens, cannon-like fireworks sounding late into the night and beginning again early in the morning. Food, flowers, bright costumes and candles are everywhere.

Guadalupe is one of the most venerated of religious icons, especially to the campesinos of Mexico. Her story begins with Juan Diego, a poor farmer, who saw a dark-skinned apparition of the Virgin in the winter of 1531. She instructed him to visit the Bishop of Mexico City, ten miles away, and ask him to construct a church in her honor on Tepeyac Hill.

At first Diego was unable to gain an audience with the Bishop but again the Virgin visited Juan Diego and implored him to see the Bishop. This time he was successful but the Bishop demanded proof. Diego visited the same hill every day until December 12th when the Virgin appeared once more and told him to climb Tepeyac Hill to collect roses growing there.

Even though roses had never been known to grow on the rocky slopes and it was the dead of winter when roses would not flower, Juan Diego found the hill covered with blood red roses and returned to the Virgin with his arms overflowing. She filled his cape with the roses and bid him to visit the Bishop once more. When he opened his cape before the Bishop and the roses tumbled to the ground, it also revealed a beautiful painting of a dark-skinned Virgin with Indian features.

This proof of the miracle convinced the Bishop and the church was built and the famous cape is still on display.

The rest of the story … as with many a good story, the facts of this one are often in question.
  • Juan Diego, now a saint himself, may never have existed.
  • The Bishop Juan Diego supposedly presented with the roses was Bishop Juan de Zumarraga … except he wasn’t made Bishop until three years after the miracle … and, until his death 14 years later, he never mentioned the miracle, and, in his last catechism stated, “The Redeemer of the world doesn’t want any more miracles, because they are no longer necessary.” No one actually wrote about this miracle for another hundred years.
  • It is said that the now famous image of the Virgin was actually done as a commission by Marcos Cipac de Aquino, an Indian painter famous throughout the regions north of Mexico City.
The true miracle of the story may be how much this famous artifact with its likeness to the indigenous peoples of the region helped convert the people to a new religion and how deeply the Virgin is revered to this day. The Basilica of Guadalupe received 22 million visitors in 2010 and is considered the world's major centre of pilgrimage for Roman Catholics.
Here are photos from the day ...
The zocalo at night

Pilgrims from all over the region

Pilgrim parade past the zocalo

The pilgrim groups all carry images of the Virgin.


Parents dress their children in indigenous
 costumes ... including mustaches for the boys.