"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Adventurer Soul

The last morning.
From the beginning the trip fed me surprises.

After an easy flight and a long wait I was finally being led to the shuttle that would take me from Phoenix to Flagstaff where I would catch another shuttle the next morning for Lee's Ferry. A man led a small group of us through the airport, away from the company's fleet, and out to the pickup area. There a small white shuttle sat with a familiar looking figure at the back helping someone load their luggage. Big Ed!

Big Ed, the Navajo driver who shuttled us to Lee's Ferry on the first trip, was going to be driving me the whole distance this time. Not me personally, although it certainly felt like that as I sat behind him and we chatted. He hadn't changed that I could see - the thin braid, the bandanna headband, the cheerful happy face. He asked where I was going and what my plans were. I told him and that I remembered him from before and I expected he would be driving me the next day. He confirmed that.

Toward the end of our trip to Flagstaff, Big Ed asked everyone where they wanted to be dropped. One women, sitting alone toward the back, said she was going to the Courtyard Marriott, which was my destination. I looked back and asked if she was headed for the Canyon. She was. At the next stop I went back and sat next to her.

There is no good explanation for what followed. So it can only be a miracle.

We went to dinner that night, traded stories, laughed, talked about the adventure ahead of us. She had questions. I had answers, and stories from my first trip. Shelly, short for Michelle. A California city girl. Young enough to be my daughter. Starting over at midlife after raising and teaching four children, now in their twenties. Tender heart. Adventurer soul. Courageous spirit.

We sat together on the shuttle to Lee's Ferry the next morning, chose gear next to each other, packed together and got in the raft together, talking the whole time. When we stopped for camp that first night, we decided to share a tent and a campsite. We rode together the next day. And so it went for the rest of the trip. An easy companionship that simply existed without either of us discussing or deciding. We took pride in our ability to pitch and break down our tent quickly and efficiently. We developed routines, again without actually deciding on them. People thought we were mother and daughter traveling together, and then shared in our state of wonder at our actual relationship.

At the end of the trip, after the long bumpy school bus ride from the river at Diamond Creek to the reservation at Peach Springs, we pulled into a lot where a now-familiar white shuttle waited to take us back to Flagstaff. There was Big Ed, standing with his big smile and bigger presence.  I was so happy to see him that I surprised us both by hugging him.

At the rest stop halfway to Flagstaff as Shelly and I were chatting outside the shuttle, Big Ed came up to us. He was holding the medicine bag I'd seen hanging from the rearview mirror of the shuttle. He said he'd been thinking of the two of us the whole time we'd been gone, wondering how we were doing. He wanted to share stones with us that held medicine, that he'd been given and carried in that bag. He told Shelly she had seemed so sad at the beginning, but that she looked different now. He reached into the small painted leather bag, and a small group of stones and crystals followed his hand out.

Shelly received hers first. A round polished stone of black and white. Beautiful and smooth and compelling. The veins of black creating pictures that changed with every glance. A stone of stories and hope and promise.

There was a stunning clear crystal in Big Ed's hand that my eye was drawn to, and I almost reached for it. But he handed me a completely different stone. This one looked very much like a small finger, reddish, slightly rough, rounded at one end, with a slight indentation at the other. It's hard to tell if it was shaped by man or the forces that shaped the Canyon we'd just left behind. It looks like it could have been a tool, or a bead that just needed a hole to complete. Or it could just be a small symmetrical miracle of weather and water.

Big Ed said we should carry the stones with us, and hold them when we needed to be reminded of the gifts of the Canyon.

At first I was disappointed. Shelly's stone seemed better, prettier. Big Ed's words were for her. He offered no special words of wisdom or insight for me. What message was I supposed to take from that?

The message is the mystery. I have a stone that is more question than answer. He didn't have words for me because this isn't the time for answers or outer wisdom. It's a time of deeper questions, inner wisdom. My stone reminds me that while there is a part of me always looking for the one answer to all the questions, true perfection is at its core imperfect.

Shelly and I rode together with the same shuttle company to the airport the next morning. No Big Ed this time, but he was there with us regardless. I expect he'll always be a part of our friendship, as he'll always be a significant part of my relationship with the Canyon and the River.


Gammary said...

Sounds like you were delivered the best gift of all, Shelly. Love the line about getting the one answer to all the questions. Stumps me a bit.
Maybe the ordinary stone is telling you what you carry around in your heart and mind is always more beautiful that what you might carry around in your pocket.

Linda Myers said...

Ah, lovely!

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Our fetishes choose us. Sounds like this stone chose you, or was chosen for you, to continue the healing processes begun by the trip. Can't wait to hear more.

DJan said...

The story of meeting your trip mate, and now lifelong friend, was simply wonderful. And the picture of the two of you at the top just makes me smile to think of your adventure. And you are definitely an adventurer in life, Deb, one who enriches many of us during your travels. Thank you for this great story, and I look forward to seeing that stone in October. :-)

yaya said...

So glad all went well! How special to meet a good traveler like yourself to share this adventure. The stones knew who should have them. You're more complex than a smooth stone with obvious outer beauty. Your past experiences and writer's mind needs something that will make you search and question what life will send you. You're up for the task! Welcome home!

Sandi said...

Love, love, LOVE this story of surprising gifts you received on your canyon adventure. What an amazing treasure to meet such a kindred spirit as Shelly, and have her to share your journey. I smiled to myself throughout the reading. It was just so perfect!

The stone, as Big Ed said, holds the medicine that you need, that is right for you, and you alone. You may not know exactly what that is quite yet, but I have no doubt that when the time is right, you will.

Glad you are home, safe and sound, and glowing from the experience!

Deborah Barker said...

What a wonderful story Deb. I do believe that some people come into our lives, often for a short time, but with great meaning. I would expect nothing less than a rough stone full of questions, for you with your ever enquiring mind and searching soul. I am so glad I stopped by today to read your post. :-)

Sally Wessely said...

If I know you, you will ponder the meaning of this stone and its significance to you and to the adventure that you had when you were given the stone. I am looking forward to reading just what the stone will teach you.

Elizabeth P said...

What a great story! I like that you know the time you are currently in and that after your initial disappointment that Big Ed didn't have words to go along with your stone you found your center quickly! I just popped over for my first visit after reading another's blog friends list. There you were and something prompted me to come over to say Hi.
Looking forward to reading more of your posts...
Hugs for now from a new blogging friend,

Barb said...

Big Ed gave you the perfect stone, Deb - not the one you thought you wanted, but the one that allows more questions. "The message is the mystery. I have a stone that is more question than answer." The final answer will come in due time - I'm not going to rush it! New friendship sounds like the true miracle on this trip. Hope the rest of your summer was as good as the river. Did it feel strange not to have to go back to school?