The Medicine Man Knows of the Rhythm – excerpt from “Happy, I am” by Ron McFarland
The Navajo medicine man knows of this rhythm and pulse. It is shared by the subtle song of red-tipped grey northern cardinal, the warble of the thick-billed kingbird or in the other tunes, sounds and stories that many creatures of Northern Arizona tell. It is also in the whisper of the wind coursing through pine needles of the Ponderosa and the slant of the morning sun that the story of interplay between mother earth and father sky is told.
If you listen deeply, time passes in subtle waves. The undulation is barely noticeable to my undeveloped ear. Yet, in each quiet moment in time, a certain shape and definition is given to the pulse of the day. It is the breath that rushes through our lungs. It is in the glow of the sun over the horizon. It is in the chatter of the Albert squirrel scampering up the orange bark. These are the simple signs of the cadence of mother earth’s heart. It’s the rhythm seen by father sky. The tempo is palpable to an open heart.
This is the land where spirit roams between red sandstone and hematite. Whispers from the earth-soul echo from the canyon walls. Each facet of life is reflected in the four seasons. Winter, a season of solace, brings forth contemplation. Crisp winter mornings, barren of active wildlife, will soon be met by heavy spring snowfalls. Blankets of snow muffles the already quiet winter. By noon, after a snowfall, most of the snow has melted away, giving moisture to the dry earth in this barren season, offering hope for the up-coming season.
The snowy springtime yields a green canopy of freshness, ushering in birth in late-spring. Animals, birds and insects begin the annual dance of life. Stances of white aspen leaf-out and flutter in the breeze. They are the accent of green and white against the towering vistas of rusty mesas. Durning late-spring, gentle melodies arise from the waves of purple three-awn and tufted green hair-grass. The bloom of flowers is building to a crescendo. It is a time of blessings.
Summer moves slowly in on late-spring. In the evenings, the mountains soon are accented by the rich glow of orange-painted sunsets. In the sky, the sculptured face of God is in the clouds of the summer monsoons. Daily, an intense burst of heavy rain provides a raging 45 minute rain which provides nourishment to the land. The grace of spirit, in all it’s splendor, is shown by the land.
Fresh summer nights ease into gentle autumn breezes. The fall air fills with the chatter of rustling foliage. Quaking aspen leaves turn from a vibrant green to a brilliant yellow. The subtle green leaves of gamble oak tree transform into several ringing hues of red and red-brown. The colors shape a rich autumn pallet and longer evenings. Thanks is given for a plentiful season.
The full circle of seasons, at last, is completed. The cold of winter arrives once again. In the deep chill of the quiet winter, the love of the land nestles into the mountains. Retrospection is given to past seasons, while prayerful chanting ushers in the future ones. This is the rhythm of this land.
I headed out in my bondo-patched robin blue 1982 VW minivan. The old-lady has served me well during the past thirty-five plus years. It has been my shelter, my lumbering ride, and my co-conspirator in escapes. Flagstaff and the San Francisco peaks are now in the small rearview mirror. I proceed East on I-40. The elevation drops from 7,000 feet to 4,000 feet in a matter of several miles. The tall ponderosa pines of the peaks give way to their scrubbier cousins, the juniper pine. Fields of juniper soon give way to the brown-red sand and dust of the high desert. I head towards the town of Winslow, Arizona.
Streaks of light pink over pale blue skies provide the backdrop for distant mesas. The absence of trees allows wind to pick up strength. Gusts of wind thump occasionally the box-like structure of the van. Snow lays in scattered patches on the desert floor. These were the spitting remnants of the evening snowfall last night in Flagstaff. I finally set off on this journey to honor a friend.
(c) 2017, Ron McFarland, All Rights Reserved