(My previous sixteen adventures into other Realms of Awareness can be read in sequence on their own page, ‘Prelude’ just up there on the header, or you can catch up with individual episodes over to the right in the ‘Topics’ section, under ‘Prelude’)
I was a mess after my last adventure, physically and emotionally, and most certainly, spiritually.
The experience was raw, brutal, and I hadn’t had enough time to process all the ramifications before a week had passed and it was time to head out again.
I had no choice to fight last time, it was a question of survival. I suppose I did have a choice in that I could’ve chosen to stay as I was, not doing the final healing of that wound and accept the consequences of choosing that Path, but that would’ve dishonoured all that I’d struggled with, and for, in all my previous Journeys, and indeed, all that I’d struggled with my entire life.
But, did that mean I would always choose battle? Was that my Path in this Work? Would I be slaying monsters, however viscerally satisfying, from now on? I had no answers. But I had learned to trust my instincts.
Not surprisingly, I felt fuzzy, and unable to focus clearly… reminiscent of a hangover, which it was in a kind of a way. As I shifted away from the physical Realm a fog-like energy descend over me and cycled through a rainbow of colours until it settled on a deep violet that sent waves of peace and serenity, strength and courage, flowing through me.
The fog broke apart and I found myself standing on a stone plateau that had been scraped bare of any life by fierce winds and scorching sun.
I wrapped a scarf around my head so that only my eyes were visible and walked to the edge of the plateau, the wind buffeting me all the while.
The plateau was the last outpost of a high mountain range and after a very high drop-off, led into a long wide prairie covered in seas of swaying grasses and criss-crossed by tannin-stained creeks.
A staccato crack-crack-crack sound echoed across the plateau. I spun around trying to identify the source. I didn’t feel threatened, in fact the sound brought with it a sense of expectation, exhilaration. I walked along the edge until I came across a shallow depression, just low enough to escape the worst of the wind’s driving force.
A nine-sided circle had been scribed into the rock and in the center stood a woman with a long fighting staff in her hands that she was striking against another at her feet.
She grinned at me, daring me to accept her challenge. I sighed, it was going to be one of those Journeys. I descended to the fighting ring with my hands open and away from my sides.
“You know I’m not going to fight you,” I said as definitively as I could.
With a flick of her wrist that I barely had time to see, she sent the spare stick spinning at me. I caught it without thinking and immediately assumed a defensive stance. She was coming at me with a wild gleam in her eye, and I only just managed to parry her first thrust, enough to create a bit of distance between us.
“Still not going to fight you,” I said as she lunged forward. I fended her off again, but only just. Some sort of energy barrier rose from the rock along the scribed line of the circle. I was fairly certain that if I stepped over it unspeakable things would happen to my person.
She angled her staff toward my right knee, my weakest point. I blocked her but she kept going for it. I was getting cranky now.
“I will NOT fight you! Not without a damn good reason!” I shouted. “And you haven’t given me one.” With a twist of my staff I caught hers and flicked it out of the ring.
She nodded in acknowledgement, perhaps surrendering the point, I had no idea, and walked out of the ring gesturing me to follow. We reached the edge of the plateau where she stopped and pointed at the prairie below.
“She’s waiting for you.”
I was halfway down the trail from the plateau when a herd of ancient prairie dwellers, bison, heaved into view. They flowed over the dry dusty land like a wave, their shaggy bodies moving slowly but with great purpose as they headed to their winter pastures far to the north.
For all their bulk they seemed quite ethereal, then I realised they were Spirit Bison. Elemental beings of the vast plains of grass.
One of the larger females stopped and waited as I left the trail to join her. Next thing I knew I was perched between her massive shoulders, looking down the length of her snout, swaying from side to side, as she rejoined the herd. I mentioned earlier that I didn’t exactly have a stellar record riding four legged beasties, so I metaphorically crossed my fingers, (there was no way I was going to release my death-grip on her fur) and hoped for the best. A deep rumble vibrated through her body. She was laughing.
We talked about this and that, but mostly she talked and I listened until the soft drone of her voice lulled me into a half-sleep, half-trance state. She told me the story of how her ancestors first walked these plains after the great ice sheets retreated. Of how the land lifted, quite literally, once the unspeakable weight of the ice was gone. Of how the humans came and the devastation of the Great Sorrow they eventually inflicted.
“You have the seeds of your own destruction within you,” she said calmly. “It remains to be seen if you will transcend them.” That brought me fully awake.
“If we don’t?”
“I suspect the Universe will go on quite happily without you.”
I took perverse comfort in that. “Why do you still help us then?” I have to admit I expected her to say something reassuring or even comforting, like there were still humans who were worthy.
“Our Work here is not yet done,” she replied enigmatically. A frisson of fear rose through my body and I suddenly wondered if their Work had anything to do with humans at all. Or if it did, we weren’t going to like it. She must’ve sensed my concerns. “Never fear, we will always be here for those who Seek, but as humans as a species continue on their Path it will be harder and harder to earn the right to pass through the veil and find us. Guides will needed in the physical world.”
I nodded to myself. It didn’t take a genius to realise that was going to eventually be my Path, or a goodly part of it.
I traveled with my bovine companions until we came to a great gash in the endless plain, made by a river that thrashed and tumbled far below.
I reached up and patted my ride on her shoulder as a gesture of thanks. She snorted, still laughing at me but in a kind way, and trotted back to her herd. They faded into the not-quite-dust cloud raised by their hooves on the dry ground, and shifted into their own Realm. I wished them well.
I shaded my eyes and surveyed the steep sides of the canyon. One side was cast into dark shadow and the other still gleamed in the last rays of the setting sun. Down, or across, I wondered.
In the blink of an eye I found myself at the water’s edge. Hemmed in by the canyon walls, the sound of the river was deafening as it roared and raged through the narrow defile. I stepped back and almost trod on a woman tying the final lashings to the raft she was constructing.
She looked up as though expecting me and I felt the oddest sensation, as though I’d just stepped back into my Journey. She looked as though she was in a hurry so I helped her with the raft and we slid it into the river and jumped aboard.
We travelled through the night and into the day. The steep-sided cliffs changed to levee banks and the river slowed down to meander back and forth across the prairie. It took quite a while for my ears to stop ringing. We rested on the sun-warmed raft as best we could, but it was a temporary respite. Soon our watery highway dropped down below the land and canyon walls reared higher and higher above us. There was no turning away from the irresistible pull of the water.
The river roared again as it crashed through the ravine, and became more and more turbulent until its surface was a jumble of wildly churning foam. Other rivers and streams tumbled down their own canyons and flowed ours. The additional force carved great chunks out of the banks until the river doubled, tripled its girth, grew still stronger and wilder. It felt as though all the water in the world, in all the worlds, was swirling around our raft, sending it hurtling along to who knew where.
My companion guided the raft with a sure hand and steered our little craft safely through sudden rapids and around jagged spires that rose up from the riverbed like bloodthirsty sentinels.
I wondered if I’d ever be able to hear anything ever again, but I really wasn’t too fussed. My heart pounded my blood through my veins in sheer exhilaration. All my emotional baggage from the week before never stood a chance before the magnificence of this exhibition of Mother Nature at her most elemental. I laughed, wildly, glad to be alive.
The waters flowed even faster and stronger as the cliffs on either side, now far apart, disappeared into rainbow-strewn mists, and a roar of the river took on a different, more urgent cadence.
Just ahead of us, the river rushed out into space as the canyon ended in a sheer drop. The river had become a waterfall. Only when we were almost on top of it was I able to see how far it actually fell, and falling with it was probably going to hurt. A lot.
Our little craft shot out to the very edge of the waterfall and froze. Not as in, ‘Brrr, it’s cold’, but as in nothing moved. Not the foam caps on the river, not the river itself, not the two of us stranded above the precipice on our little raft.
I broke the tension and waved my hand around us. “You didn’t tell me about this.”
“It wasn’t here before.” My companion sounded a little peeved. “You brought it with you.”
“Name.” she said.
“What?” I had no idea what she meant.
“What is your Name?”
Not just any name, but my Name. The Name of my Spirit Self, a Name of Power. Now I understood why we were stuck up here on the brink of a very, very, very, tall waterfall. I focused within my sense of Self and waited for said ‘Name’ to make itself known.
A shiver ran through the unmoving waters. All that puissance couldn’t be held in stasis forever.
She waited, a little impatiently.
The river waited, significantly more impatient.
“I don’t know,” I finally said and sat cross-legged and dejected on the raft. “I don’t know.”
A subtle roar purred into existence around us.
“If you can’t find the Name, this is where everything ends. You will not be able to change this moment or escape it.”
The roaring grew louder. The raft began to tremble slightly with the river’s reawakening.
“I don’t know,” I answered, getting twitchy. Once the river roused fully, we, or more probably just me, would be flung out into the ravine to crash on the rocks and broken water far below. Energy pulsed through the raft and nudged it closer to the edge.
“The Name!” the woman demanded again and hauled me to my feet by the front of my shirt. “What is the Name?” she snarled in my face.
The raft shivered.
“I don’t know!” I shouted back at her as I broke her hold on my shirt and shoved her hands away. She stumbled to the edge of the raft and it tilted down with the shift in weight.
A staccato crack reverberated through the acoustics of the canyon. The river was breaking free.
“Don’t ever do that to me again,” I hissed at her.
She smiled, a feral knowing grin and came right back at me. “What are you going to do about it?”
I said what I knew I had come all this way to say. “Fight.”
The energy around me shivered and suddenly I was back in the fighting ring on top of the plateau with the long fighting stick in my hands. The woman stood across from me and I knew that she’d try and kill me if she could. Not because she sought my death, but because the nature of her challenge demanded that she made me fight with all I had.
We began. Slowly at first, testing the weight of the sticks, seeking each other’s weaknesses, and strengths. The sharp crack of the sticks striking each other sent a concussive force through my hands and into my body. With sticks flashing and darting, striking and protecting, I danced around her, and she around me.
We bloodied each other.
Furious and intense.
Energy flowed from me in vibrant vital lightning flashes.
The sticks and the fighting ring disappeared. A calm stole through me, radiating out, and I existed in the center of it.“What is this?” I asked in wonder.
And I knew. This, was my Name.
It was all about choosing my battles. Whether I could win them or not didn’t matter, it was what making that choice meant. It meant being committed, fully, seeing it through to the end, even if that ‘end’ changed along the way. (as such ‘ends’ are wont to do) It meant there would be times and events when the greatest battle would be to walk away, to refuse the challenge, to deny the need of another. It meant, knowing my Self, my true Self.
It meant, I was almost there.