Chapter 2: The Whisper
Do you hear my whisper?
What does the wind whisper to you?
Listen to the song of the manzanita tree and the desert holly,
As we step down this trail,
Towards the late afternoon spring.
There is a lifting up, of an accord to heaven,
On this wash of red sandstone and hematite;
A distant drumming, together of our heartbeats,
One pulse as we walk along the mesa’s edge.
I catch a glimpse into your eyes,
As the peering sun squints between feathered clouds;
On canyon walls, I hear a subtle song reflected,
From a past long shared, in a distant foreign land.
The whisper of times spent wrapped together,
In a blanket near the fire, on a brisk winter’s evening;
And of moments that we danced slowly together,
In the soft hush of the spring morn.
You searched for me in rainbows that color the sky,
You watched for me in the thousand winds that blew,
You met me in diamond glints in the snow;
When you thought, I was gone.
Turn my way and know;
That I am here, and have always been,
Do you hear the whisper?
(c) 2017, Ron McFarland
There is no shame in being a broken man. Loss fractures time. And, in time, every man will be fractured. With loss, love is recalled. We pass through a long string of days. And search for the mountain. Yet we forget the soft smile, a gentle laugh, and a brief touch. I seek to recall these flecks of life. In distant clouds or over the shimmer of dawn, I sketch your memory. To build a lasting shrine is my heart’s keepsake. I color your grey tomb with red earth, burnt sienna and the blue sky of daylight. To burn sage and hang gold tapestries on temple walls. For you.
Day one. I look to the sky. The clouds of yesterday’s storm have cleared. It’s the way I like it. The heavy silence is interrupted by a wisp of wind that settles back down to dead quite. Silence gives a man the space to believe.
I thought each day would be the same for us. You’d expect nothing to ever happen in Flagstaff. The smell of dust and pine, the wrestling of the trees, and the anchor of the mountains. I anticipated the dozens of years we knew each other would reach kindly in the past to copy another data point onto the road of the future. But there is a secret conviction that life holds for us. And each sentence is a judgement to surely bring the strongest of men to their knees in unheralded times.
I am silhouetted against the bright crisp blue sky of the early daylight. Rays of sun bounce from a crisp 3-inch virgin layer of snow. A draping of white powder over the long sage colored Ponderosa pines reminds me of a southwest Christmas card. Sun glints from the white snow blanket, like a million miniature diamonds. Each sparkle is like an angel’s wink.
Directly to my north are the great San Francisco peaks. The towering mountain range is known as the Dook’o’oosłííd to the Navajo. But the white man, draped in monks garb, once huddled around a makeshift wooden cross of some unknown monotheistic deity attributed the Dook’o’oosłííd to St. Francis, certain that the native peoples never existed. At least, not as humans.
No man ever expects to be conned. No red man, no person of earthen rust skin, whose soul is pulled from the blue sky, would have seen this trickery. I do not find it a shock that the first people refer to whites as the spawn of the devil. With each measured and conniving act, over the centuries, the pale devils have used language as one of several certain wedges to pry the indigenous people from their culture. Without culture, there is no identity. And without a bond to the land, the earth is for the taking. If it were not for St. Francis for which the mountain was renamed, the deed would have been done in the honor of a different Saint. I am now convinced that the true heart of each saint would have rolled over in their collective graves. Pink, orange and fire red streaks in sunsets over the mountains must be the blush of St. Francis for the injustice and continued onslaught against the native peoples. I am certain. For these sins and other unnamed evil misdeed, as a white man, I hold the shame of my progenies.
I wait awhile, my cold hands shoved into my leather jacket pockets. I look between the mountain that bridges the vastness of father sky down to the deep corridors and veins of mother earth. Time passes in subtle waves. Each moment shapes the pulse of the day. It is the cadence of mother earth’s heart and breath of father sky. It is palpable to those who listen.
This land is where spirit roams between red sandstone and hematite of canyon walls. Stances of Aspen stretch far towards vistas of rusty mesas. Crisp winter mornings, paint orange summer sunsets and open to soft evening autumn breezes. In the spring and summer, gentle melodies rise from waves of purple three-awn and tufted green hair-grass. In the fall and the deep chill of winter, love nestles in these mountains. Rhythmic tics set the pace to my journey of unfolding truths.
I headed out in my patched robin blue 1982 VW minivan. It has served me well over the past thirty-five plus years. It has been my shelter, my lumbering ride, and my escape. Now, Flagstaff and the San Francisco peaks are in the rearview mirror. I proceeded east on I-40. The elevation dropped from 7,000 feet to 4,000 feet in a matter of several miles. The tall ponderosa pines gave way to scrubbier cousins, the juniper pine. Fields of juniper yielded to the brown-red sand of the high desert. I headed towards Winslow.
Streaks of light pink on pale blue skies were the backdrop of distant mesas. The absence of trees allowed wind to pick up strength. Gusts of wind occasionally thumped the box-like structure of the van. Scattered patches of snow lay on the desert floor. These were the spitting remnants of the evening snowfall in Flagstaff. The journey was set into motion to honor a friend.
(c) 2017, Ron McFarland