the Slow Road from Sante Fe
to Flagstaff Follows a
to the Second Mesa of Hopi.
September 25, 2002
The road from Sante Fe to Flagstaff can become a fable, the center stripe a borderline between truth and lies, the course a transitory illusion.
The road from Sante Fe to Flagstaff can be swiftly traversed, I suppose, were you to navigate the interstate highways, but I didn't. You might even fly, be there in a heartbeat. Each journey unlocks a sequence of choices, some freely willed, others predestined. On the slow road, which was my choice, I met the Crow Mother.
"Call it, then, your Journey of the Crows," saith Oksob de Opposite, alter ego and diligent guardian of the full passage. He stands tall on a stepstool in the Opposite Loft of my eternal hacienda. "Bestow a name upon it, which signifies value. Attach capital letters to it, which adds an element of formality. Embrace your heritage."
Scratches, Inks, Links.
The naming of things is inherent to my embrace of the known universe, an expression of quest for structure: for each element of life I encounter, I want a name, a sound, an edifice of meaning raised by scratches on stone, or inks on parchment, or links in cyberspace — a structure that merges into words, and in the merging allows the act of remembrance and reflection. I search out the names of the beings and creatures, of the stones and the tender shoots of riverine reeds, of wizened old grandfather trees and lithe saplings, of bodies of flowing water and flying things, of whirlwinds on a Hopi mesa.
Heritage is a flaming issue everywhere along my headlong dash into the Zephyr. So very, very many of The Others shout about theirs with such haughty exuberance and self-conscious primacy that I am moved to think about mine, especially in the charged atmosphere of incessant ethnic pressure and group fissure that further defines the Age of Dissolution.
I wonder, do The Others know they challenge the worth and values of my identity when they tell me again and again what I must not do? They dip a ladle into the double-dealing well of racialism, drink deep and long, and define me as the White Man, the Northern European, the Oppressor. Do they know the sharpness of their arrows, the depths of the wound?
Who can call me white when I'm as creamy brown as certain strains of sandstone on the mesa? Who can stereotype me as European when I'm multiple generations removed from the old country — if there was one? Who can condemn me as the oppressor when I'm the bastard child of an urchin, and a landless wanderer from the alleyway of the dispossessed?
"Perhaps we shall all perish together," saith Oskob, ever changing.
Weariness in the Snare of Indignity.
I think of heritage without end as I pass through the lands of the Indians, who tell me I am the outsider, tell me again and again what I cannot do in their most holy land. I accept their invitation to cross the threshold, and then become their infantile interloper, forever rude and incessantly imperial. I wonder why they engrave the invitation? Some nights when I'm snared by indignity, I grow weary of the self-proclaimed sacredness of the Indians and their pervasive, self-conscious sensitivity, but then I grow weary of life in general until the next episode of refreshing breezes and rejuvenating elixir arrives for the larder.
The Journey of the Crows begins at Sunday's sunrise on the gravelly quadrangle of the Silver Saddle. There in the quiet of my solitary farewell I watched the first crow messenger streak above old El Camino, flying fast to the north, and he say:
— Caw, caw, go this way, this way. Go north. Safe journey begins.
Dream, Flesh and Blood, Delusion.
I heard it clearly, the power windows were down even if the tenses are confused, I suspect the Hopi witch's poison lingers, I'm never sure if it's a dream I float upon, or the flesh and blood of physical experience, or an elaborate delusion.
They could tell you the myths, the old hag propounded, but the hag is most surely an invention; she said the artisans who make the carved dolls of Crow Mother, Yellow Corn Girl, and Mongwu the Great Horned Owl, they could tell you about spirals and emergence, about lightening bolts and navels, but what would the telling of them matter when everything told is a ruse for the dollar, or a mirror, or a trick?
I give you a hint it all makes sense if you stick with it, if you make sense of it; sooner or later you get there, Flagstaff Nirvana Purgatory, because this time your guardian's power was greater than the witches' poison coursing through your heathen veins.
The Suntracker Opens the Gateway.
Permanence is lost daily on the highway, but how different are the wayfarer's losses from those of other souls tethered to a planet of evanescence, and to hell with the necessary question marks, I ditched them in the dumpster beside the closed gate of the Jackalope, filled up my cup with a splash of Miss Lydia's cowboy coffee, and motored onto Cerrillos Drive, I was powered by pistons and wheels into the direction of the rising sun, sparkling with sharp white rays above the grey edges of the Sangre de Cristo peaks, and I left the Silver Saddle with full knowledge that so much is undone, always so much undone, but I was damn glad to be on the road again, listening to the echo of the permanent lodger's narration, the Japanese cowboy and his admonishment, "Stay the course," when the chosen highway, U.S. 84/285, turned away from Sante Fe and climbed to the north, and the sunrise became the early morning and became another herald, announcing the end of an episode, the end arriving, and fading, the end to an eighteen-night sojourn at the mystical inn of Miss Penny, patron of artists and cowgirls, her lodge on the surface of things a mere haven for the weary traveller, but in the depths a diaphanous venue for the living Work of Art that is Cowboy Ted, who is a child of the internment, and keeper of the scrolls of Alexandria, and singer of dirges and Euripides' last chorus. He is the Suntracker who once saw Sol's eye in the Sunset of a suicide and lives to tell about it.
To the north I cruised, away O wicked son to the mountains and the wild, cruised twenty miles to the closed doors of the Philosopher of Pojoaque, to the gateway of the Jemez and the second leg of my Journey of the Crows.
to be continued....