Chaco Canyon, 1998, by Lassiter
I go to the Gathering of the Ways in Chaco Canyon with excitement, anticipation, and a lot of anxiety…
about what will happen. For the last 6 months, every time Peter or the 12 has said the words “Chaco Canyon,” the expression in their voices reminds me of that short musical phrase that is always played on TV shows right after a character reveals a huge secret. Da DA DA DAAA! Plus they keep asking us if we really want to go on this trip. I’ve been playing with doing the different things the 12 have instructed us to do: watching the birds, spinning, thinking about the Dance of Chaco Canyon, exploring Silence, etc. Will I be ready for Chaco Canyon? Or will I miss the spiritual opportunity of a lifetime because I have my head up my ass?
The drive to Chaco is about 15 hours from Austin. We leave on a Thursday after the kids are out of school and drive like hell through the night. James is caravaning with us, and talking to him by CB helps to keep us all awake. We arrive just before dawn Friday and are welcomed by a dark morning sky filled with the rising crescent moon and a shimmering Venus. Oooh, it’s beautiful! The magic of Chaco’s spirit of place is already seeping into me as I settle in for a snooze.
We’re the first ones here, so after the ranger station opens, we choose the campsite, set up our stuff, and explore the canyon while waiting for the others to arrive. It’s nice to have time to settle in a little. By evening, most everyone is here and we do our opening ceremony under the star-filled night sky. The energies have been called in and the adventure begun! As I lay in my tent trying to go to sleep, I still have no idea why I am here or what my role is. Again, doubt and anxiety surface. What do I want from this? Will I be able to do what I came here to do when I don’t even know what that is? I write in my new journal that I’ve titled “Dreams of Chaco Canyon,” then fall into a dreamless sleep.
The next day, a father wind comes to visit and likes us so much, he decides to stay. The sky is clear, and it’s hot and cold at the same time. Hot in the desert sun beating down even in April, and cold in the wind. Several people try to put up a tarp for shade, but Many Winds will have none of that. After a comical hour or so of trying to tie up a tarp with only rope, 2 real poles and some sotol sticks, it is pretty clear that part of this trip is about exposure to the elements! So we make the best of it, bundling up in coats and slathering on sun screen. Some of us stand on the picnic tables and play with the wind, holding our arms out like birds and pretending to fly. I feel ridiculous, but it’s so much fun I can’t stop. The wind is so strong, I feel like it might just pick me up and carry me away….
In the days to follow, we roam the ruins and canyons together and alone, each in our own way following our needs and desires. The spirit of place is very strong. At times, I feel the presence of the ancient ones who lived here. I hear them talking and singing, see them working and dancing. This seems so natural, I don’t even realize I’m having what some would call visions. In my mind’s eye, I see the Chaco shamans with brightly-colored feathered wings, wheeling and turning as they do the Bird Dance in the plaza. They lift their arms and fly into the skies on the father wind, scanning the canyons and valleys. I see the landscape from above. Is this it? Is this why I’m here? To learn that the Dance of Chaco Canyon is the Bird Dance, and that their shamans could fly? Coming to this knowing would be reason enough for being here, I am honored. Yet still I feel there is something more for me here.
The second or third day, I hike up to the top of a mesa with my daughter, my husband, Gwendolyn, Frankie, and Sharena. We are following ley lines, one of the things we’d played with in group work back home. We mess around, meandering over the mesa top, feeling the energies wax and wane as we walk. We come to a promontory over the canyon that is scattered with oval, bathtub-sized holes that look like they fill with water when it rains. They pull at me. It seems only natural to lie back in the holes and meditate a little. So we all lie down in these rock holes. We begin to hum and make our personal sounds like we do at home when we meditate as a group. I relax, feeling the hot sun on my face and the cool wind blowing across my form. My body sinks into the rock as I imagine what it would be like to fly over the mesas and canyons. Had the ancient shamans really done that? I see the 6 of us holding hands in a circle and hanging in the wind like skydivers. I feel it with all the emotion of my being. Ooh, this is fun! I call: Lassiter, come to me! Lassiter, help us fly!
When Peter first called me Lassiter, he told me that speaking that name would summon energies that would be helpful to me. I’d tried it before, with lukewarm results. But I try again today, calling with all the passion in my heart, and then some. I feel so free, so alive, so real, so right, lying in the sun surrounded by blue sky, warm rock, my friends and loved ones. I hear the rush of wings flapping right over my face, silence, and then more wings again! The birds are here! They’ve come to my call! The wind blows. The sun beats down. I feel myself lift up into the sky, as if a portal is opening and I’m moving right into it. Incredible! I’m flying over the canyon!
After awhile, I and the others rouse ourselves. Wha’ happened? Was it “just” a dream? Did they hear the birds too? Did they fly? Our eyes meet, and we laugh together in our joy. The energy is flowing like water between us. It is real! We merged our energies and together, we flew out over the mesas and valleys, taking off on a journey that continues to this day.
And among many other things, that is what happened (DA DA DA DAA) at Chaco Canyon.