Changes are happening, we’re saying good-bye, letting go and honoring our past:
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We are out in the east side of Tucson in the kiva playing free form music. The round hard walls down in the earth resonate and amplify in such a special way. Our sound comes from the vibrations of didgeridoos and singing bowls. Rhythm pounds steadily from the thundering echoes of Native American buffalo drum. My hands are hitting my 1960’s Cuban conga just right in that special place toward the center of the drums head and near the rim. The clacking rip of a wooden Mayan frog with ridges carved into its back somehow blends with a zydeco washboard. This below ground pit, a womb in the Mother Earth, is filled with raw primitive discourse.
The house is going to be sold. It may be the last time that we have to find this spontaneous expression of spirit in this sacred space.
A decade or more ago, DF lived in the upstairs of this dwelling in the calm of the desert. She would wander out the road east and up into the foothills of the Rincon Mountains. She was in a time of sweeping change and this was her retreat to solitude and peace. Now, she must slowly be saying goodbye.
As we find our finish, the color of the end of the day creeps under the breaking up of a day of cloud cover. Beams of light shoot across above and behind us. After the day of diminished light, it is as an animal suddenly freed and able to run wild again. This is the promise of a clear day tomorrow. While watching the overcast skies turn into a magnificent sunset, we commit to a hike back into the hills behind us.
We have missed the sun often these last couple of months. The usual dry desert of this season has been drenched with frequent rains and even snow. The rivers have been flowing strong. Everywhere, dry washes have had water in them for days on end. As a boy, I’d watch the circus performers on a small square screen in black and white. There would always be that guy spinning plates on the ends of long sticks. The wobble would get more and more extreme as the plates slowed. I would wonder at what point that one would dip so far as to fall. We all sat on edge waiting in suspense. It seems that our new climate has been gradually wobbling more and more. Arctic extremes are dipping down wetter and colder one year and then record droughts come next. I don’t know who is supposed to come by and give the plate a new spin, this time.
So as a result, Arizonans have been getting stir-crazy. They have been putting on old winter coats that have been resting in closets for years. Long ago out of fashion, yet looking brand new, anachronisms walk the streets. Last week, there were several warm days, just a teasing taste. Tomorrow is a Sunday and people will feel like the waters have parted and will rush into the promised land.
The quiet Milagrosa Trail, which translates miraculous, has become very popular in recent years. As we pull up to the private gate, it is Sunday morning late. There, the trailhead has more than a dozen cars parked up and down the street. We pass through to our VIP parking at our friend’s home. The chill of the morning air has dropped away and I feel the luscious burn from the blanket of the sun on the side of my face.
Our host comes out smiling to greet us. We exchange benchmark pieces of information to remember just which forks to take. I mention the crowds. He tells me that there are lots of mountain bikers. They start up at a different trailhead and glide downhill all the way to here. It takes about three hours. I ask about privacy and we get directions to a special spot.
We are dressed as we take off down the street to where the pavement ends and the trail begins to climb. It is loaded with people, like a city park. I have the respite of an airy kilt. DF soon unzips the bottoms of the detachable legs of her pants.
We step on stones to cross the creek. It becomes obvious that there will be plenty of seasonal water to enjoy.
DF is reminiscing about when these were her stomping grounds. She tells me of that time when she encountered her first Gila Monster and then running home for her camera, before it disappeared.
She points and mourns the dead hulk of a once great and unique saguaro friend. This one had numerous arms which drooped down instead of up. “She” had a skirt.
She points out the granite rock shelf where she would often sit and listen to the saguaro talking and singing as the breezes passed through its needles.
By the time that we have gone half way toward our destination, we have encountered more than a dozen bikers and twice that number of hikers.
Everyone is friendly, greeting us with a smile, a nod, or wishing us a fine day. Two guys even loved my kilt, but I’m still looking for my truest sense of freedom and my peace and spiritual solitude.
DF is engrossed with the world and falls behind me. Up on this progressively higher ridge, I come to a gate and surmise that I have a time to wander over to the edge of the canyon and see what the low road might have given us. It is a deep and “miraculous” gorge. The steep colorful walls give a distinctive character. There is water down there.
About the time that I bring out my camera, I notice a group of climbers on the far cliff. It is interesting to watch, but I need to make sure that I don’t lose track of DF out here.
As I get back to the trail, I notice DF climbing up the slope. She is about 100 feet ahead of me. It is too compelling, I decide to try sneaking up to see how close that I get before I am noticed. Much of this trail is a bedrock shelf. There is little sound when walking upon it. There is no sandy grit or crunch. Within ten feet of her and the now creeping matured boy scout, who is ”walking like a warrior” gets discovered.
In spite of last week’s hard freeze, the flowers of spring are coming out. All along the trail there are lavender colors and the yellow daisy-like colors of brittle bush.
Down in the ground cover, more varieties are coming of age. It has been wet, all it needs is the warm weather and sunshine.
We find our turn, off of the trail. After a short bushwhack, we are behind a ridge and in a stream laden with many large flat rocks to lay on. The kilt is off before I am out of sight of the trail.
We make our way across drowned buffle-grass clumps and over rocks. Around the bend, the place opens up.
Just ahead, I see a wet squirrel pulling itself out of the water on to a rock. Its coat is soaking and matted down flat. It has been completely submerged during its swim. Above it, there are two butterflies dancing together.
Stripping my heavy sweatshirt in the sun is delightful. The wind is calm; the added warmth of the sun places the temperature to just about perfect. After laying my belongings down, I sit on the granite slab to remove my shoes. Even the slab is not too hot in the sun. There is no shocking chill to my bare body. Goldilocks has discovered just right.
We begin the activity of lounging. First, a good smooth spot, which is flat, so to comfort the contours of the body must be found.
I relax into this place and begin to take my sun all over. The sounds of ripples and falling waters dominates the quiet. It is pleasant music. It is all that I need to drown out any thoughts of concerns. I watch my breath going in and out as by body settles in the grooves and contours of the rock surface. I watch my nude body shifting and feel the world completely with it.
DF has found a perch above me. There is a patch of darker rock which is smoother than the rest. There is nothing to be done, but the business of relaxation.
But Lather still finds it a nice thing to do
To lie about nude in the sand
Drawing pictures of mountains that look like bumps
And thrashing the air with his hands
After a time, I notice that my front is warm and perhaps beginning to redden. I get up, only to roll over. I take the discarded sweat shirt and make a supportive pillow out of it.
In good time, I notice a small sensation crawling up my still leg. The bugs are not a problem. Most are not out yet. It has been too cold. I get up off of the rock and the critter gets off of me. It is a small dark spider. Not a trouble maker, but still not someone that I care to have further up than my legs.
My still position has given my neck a crick. I go to sit between DF’s legs. She massages it out, as we watch the little folk.
Soon, the spider is investigating my shoes. We watch it going in and out around and under. I watch to make sure that it doesn’t decide to make a home and get mashed by my toe.
We stroll around as we eat the sandwich and bread wrap. DF grimaces, holding her toes to a submerged spot and tells me that the water is anything but perfect. I give it a try. It is more like a Michigan lake. Fortunately, there is no need to refresh a body from the heat today.
DF steps away to do her Chi Gong and I just meditate in the moment, stretching.
The wind is picking up. Clouds are getting darker and increasingly, they are stifling the sun at times. A gust comes through. There have been many fun soft ones, but this one is stronger.
I look behind. Just out the corner of my eye, I’m startled by a dark object in the pond! It isn’t a wild animal, but it is DF’s pants floating downstream.
I call to her. She reacts, wondering why I am interrupting her meditation. Tip toeing barefoot out on a sand bar, she reaches quickly down into the water and pulls out the soggy, soaking clothing as water gushes out the bottom back into the stream.
We look around, not seeing her light white top. Could it also have taken flight?
We find that the rest of our inventory is complete, however those pants of hers are cold and they won’t dry in this weather.
We have been watching the skies. In time, the dark clouds are beginning to gather. They will bring rains latter tonight. Well, that is a concern for later, but a strong wind may be bringing us that change in the weather.
Distinct sensual textures are seemingly endless. I take my bare feet across the delightful surfaces on a naked stroll. I take a few steps on warm rock and then a cool one. The next step squishes down into sand, and then another into the springy cushion of tall grass. I take care on a slippery wet rock.
There is a granite gully that is feeding into the main stream bed. The shape of the bedrock has dabs of water flowing out of the grassy earth above. It streams down in sheets to a puddle and that flows in a groove. Where there is no soil, it is just bare enough to give me a delightful walkway, as I explore.
I hear something in the bushes beside me, only to recognize it as the sound of the air.
I find DF, as I return to the main meandering creek and sit down beside her. I tell her that this is my idea of full retirement, learning to just be, exercise and then quiet. I ask if it appeals to her…”say, seven days out of the month”… she ponders that.
The clouds are blotting out the sun more and more. The wind has picked up.
We have a granddaughter to gather later. It is time to return. DF however, has a very cold pair of pants. I have a kilt and a pair of sweats in the bag. I offer her my kilt. I have no plans to wear it anyway. I can slip into the sweats later. It is one thing to have to dress after a perfect naturist interlude. It is another thing to have to dress in cold soggy clothing after a perfect naturist interlude.
DF is in a most incongruent fashion. She is embarrassed when I take her picture. Her tie-dyed logo tee shirt meets the digital camouflage kilt with a strong call-ash. It doesn’t flatter her legs which reach down to a pair of silly socks. A similarly contrasting water bottle completes the clownish ensemble. She will borrow my sweats before she goes into the grocery store, she says.
I put my sweat shirt on, but decide to just grin and bare the bottom half for now.
It is later afternoon.
We noticed on the way up, that nearly all of the traffic was coming back down the hill, having gotten an earlier start. We will most likely not encounter anyone, until we get closer to the neighborhood.
There are two men on a far ridge and a man with his dog near the first house. I put on pants to pass through the neighborhood.