The Rhythm Way

The plains of Navajo sandstone spread their great wings over the land. Gnarled Piñon and Juniper trees dodge their goliath reach to root a tenuous hold in the waffled crypto - sand-swept soil. Gathered ‘round their elder council, two little flowers the color of fire, one honeybee, and a thousand unheard stories. 

Brother wind, sweeping in great and grainy gusts, travels along the swirls and eddies of ancient rock flow, twisted tree, and made-to-fit stone washes, continuing his time-honored task of stripping flesh from bones of all who pause in the shadow of forgetfulness. I am a guest in this harsh landscape. Come to join the battalion of the weathered silent ones, exiled in their patience, and their cackling. Come to listen to the bones of me speak of things the small mind, with its tiny urgency and its fear... and its freneticism, cannot hear unless mirrored back from the deep well of the natural world.

I have come to learn my place in the Mystery of things.

There is an unmistakable tenor in the air of this place that evokes no sound but song, rising, at times, from the earth of me, passed cracked lips to echo and reverberate in acoustic cathedrals - LOUDLY - as if what I said mattered. As if all of the creatures of this place - the raven and the coyote, the horned owl, and the great mountain cats, all belonged unequivocally, in the chorus of life unnoticed, tending to the way of things, the life/death/life of things through their tender song, and their fluid power, and their hooting and cawing and howling, and through their silence most of all.

In a dream I am an old woman with long grey hair and a soft cloak, sitting by the side of a stream-bed, yellow leaves scattered, stark in contrast to the brown-black humus of the earth. The air sharp and clear, sky blue, like high desert at dawn. And there is a young woman with me. Strikingly blonde and beautiful, her skin soft, soapy white, she is naked and at rest. My hands, wrinkled with age; every thought, every grief, every joy, every birth and death of me drawn and catalogued in creases and divots, fingernails curling yellow and dry. My hands, they hold a pair of heavy metal scissors. You seamstresses, magicians of fabric and thread, you know the kind. Heavy! And sharp. And I am rocking back and forth to a soft tune on my lips as I cut away chunks of flesh from our peaceful maiden. Cutting away what no longer serves, cutting down to the bones so that there is nothing more but the way. Only clear intent. 

Only the kind of power the world needs right now. Midwifing not just the new, but the death of the old.

And then there is a memory. The womb is warm and wet. The light filters in diffused oranges and reds. An ancient rhythm rocks my gelatinous shape, curling spiralic blooms of life - a tail brushes my cheek. Only 28 days new, just arrived from the timeless, silky darkness of the bardo. A glorious and noble was choice was to be made! To differentiate. To take on form. To move into the world - THIS world with great and dignified urgency...fueled necessarily by a pure desire that is the WILD LOVE of things. That is the cackling bag lady on the stoop of the world in exile. That is the newborn baby all fluid and light. That is the ecstatic coupling of beloveds in tangled, sweat-soaked sheets. That is the rock people stoic and witnessing. That is the way of the wilds, which is the way of the earth, and is the gift of HUMANITY in our complexity and our confusion and our larger-than-this-life place in the nature of things. 

All tumbling in the great cycles of life... and inevitable death. 

And there is noble defeat but no despondency here in the bones of me. For there is an older story that lives in the marrow of each of us. That has to matter more to us than the plans we make and the identities we curate, and the small battles we win, that keep us small. It shows up in our anguish and our exile. It makes itself known only on the whisper of true prayer, only after the offering of everything that we think we are. Only in the yearning and the heartbreak. In the orgasm and the birth contraction, and the last shuddering breath before our final return. 

Every death keeps the rhythm for new life. 

In the preparing of the feast of me for Mystery I ask; what needs to die, for something to be born? For there is NOTHING in nature that is only “rainbows and chimes and light.”* There is predator and there is prey. One without the other is a sick and dying ecology. A too-small story. 

In the land of the Navajo Rock People, way out there amongst the wind and and the weather, a particular medicine is held for the remembering. And when flesh is stripped from bones and there is only the core of you standing and trembling in the face of forces so much greater than you, you are gifted a new kind of strength, still in its its beautiful and harmonious balance. 

“Take the small pill - the black one - the one of night and shadow, and walk amongst your people again;”  they say. 

And feel in your heart the great and ephemeral cycles. They will teach you of true fear - which lies in the living of too-small lives, not in the inevitable call of death. They will teach you soul power and service. They will teach you of noble urgency and offering. They will teach you when to let go, and when to hold on with all your strength of heart.

This is the way of things. The ancient way. The Rhythm Way. 

*A big thank you to Pinar Tory for her wise insight and her words on rainbows and chimes and light.