Thursday, July 2, 2009


Sleep is hard to find, when the sky of Idaho beckons with moonlight. Jon and Spider have shown up at our campsite by the river after the slowest sunset I’ve witnessed. Hours of color across the sky, the mountains. They arrive in the dark, following the little lantern light I’ve lit for them.

Waking this morning, Spider drives off to find coffee as we pack up camp. He returns with, as he says, “the longest drive for the worst cup of coffee,” but it’s wonderful because it’s him who delivers it. Pulling out, we head to the mountains in search of the petroglyphs he’s seen there four years ago. This journey takes hours, and Spider reminds us that anything worth having requires an input of energy. We’ve drawn spirit cards at the start of this work: Moona gets a black panther, and I get a dragonfly, suiting the theme of grace that’s been in the air this morning. So it goes like this: we drive up as far one canyon as is possible in his truck, get out, hike steep inclines, to find we’re not in the right canyon. After one such hike, Spider hands me a Calling Rock, and explains its use… to call spirit through the river, and allow anything which does not serve to be carried away and purified. He and I share the love of picking up unusual stones, but pockets begin to drag! Many unmarked roads through national forest are followed, with open grazing cattle disturbing the landscape and soil everywhere. The Rewilders hate these cattle, who destroy the native plants with their grazing. And indeed, they seem quite stupid as the don’t even get out of the way when the car almost hits them. More roads, more canyons. Finally, we find the right road.

My car is scraping bottom on the mildest of these gravel roads, and is terrified by inclines. We come to the bottom of such an incline, and Spider has driven ahead and tells us to hike to where he is. Which is not that far ahead, but the grade is substantial. Although I’m not very good at estimating these things, I reckon it was between 35-45 degrees. The scenery is stunning, but hiking up the gravel path is an exercise in caution and breath management. We reach him, and he is able to drive us maybe another tenth of a mile, before we all have to get out and walk. The climb is long and hard. Jon gives Moona a piggyback for part of the time, but even he can’t sustain that. Along the way, we sample many of the wild plants and seeds, and plant some seeds as well. My companions know so much and know it not only in English, but in Latin and the Indigenous names as well.

Hiking up maybe a mile or two, at a point where the object of this climb is visible, Moona gives up. She just sits down, puts her head in her hands, and sobs with huge silent shakes. Returning to her and pulling her into my lap, my own sobs follow. We sit and cry, at the difficulty, the beauty, the heartbreak and our own fear of failure. The connection is silent and we witness each other as brave, vulnerable warrior women. She is the one who turns the moment, as she begins to plant seeds that she’s found, emulating what she saw our friends doing earlier. The care that she takes, offering each one water from her water bottle, and her invitation to me to do the same, reclaims the energy of the creatrix, the Mother, and us as her tenders. And it’s hard to sob and be afraid while doing that work. Her intuition astounds me. From that moment, we joyfully climb the remaining last bit, splashing cold water from small muddy springs on each other. Finally, we come into the grotto in the canyon where a waterfall welcomes our hot and exhausted bodies. We strip and play in the water, which is beyond cold. Our song comes, and we sing spontaneously together the song of the waterfall, and it echoes through the walls. Peace is restored in our hearts and bodies. Dressing, we offer the space to the boys, and eat apples. And go to look, finally, at the petroglyphs which are, as one would expect, haunting and too beautiful to stare at for long. There is one in particular that is under a small ledge, of people dancing towards the shining sun. And here we are, worshipping that same sun. While taking a slew of pictures, we celebrate this canyon, this waterfall, these ancient drawings, our love for each other in community and friendship, and our own good fortune to have completed this long climb. My pride in Moona is beyond words… she has grown so much in just these past few days.

We climb down, with lots of gathering along the way: Jon returns with his shirt stuffed full of stinging nettle and his feet bare, and Spider has sage stuffed into all of his pockets to use as gifts of smudge. I’ve found a few more rocks, one with a perfect circle drawn on it which resembles a fish eye. There is the loving return to Arco, to leave Jon and begin our eastward movement. Jon gifts us with an ammonite fossil that he found, and it’s wrapped in a beloved cloth. Lots of hugs and laughing, and it’s time to go and oh how I will miss these folks, and yet it’s so intense here too, and Moona and I have more miles to discover. Now I’m sitting in the car, where we are sleeping tonight, in the national forest near Swan Valley. We’ll leave for Wyoming in the morning. And the quote of the day is from Moona, upon learning we’re still in Idaho: “Idaho, I want to hug you!” and she raises her arms and does just that, as the mountains float past the car window.