Raven’s Gift (Part Two)

The True Colors of Healing

Finally the clouds on the turquoise coat I painted for Rico, my unique horse, will meet their sky brothers. We have to wait for the thawing to be complete so that it can free Rico from the snow pedestal that imprisons his hooves. “Sometimes it takes a bit of reverse magic to heal cold feet,” I hear in my mind.

One strange morning years ago the toy horse suddenly appeared with a broken leg, without falling or being crushed. For my childhood companion to keep standing on his feet I built a platform out of salt dough, which I painted and decorated to make it look like a wintry field, with some vegetation peeking through the snow and raven tracks below the horse. Now as Rico and I wait for the snow to melt, I remember the strange circumstances of his ‘fracture’ and tell him: “You broke your leg exactly on the same spot of my car’s punctured tire, there in Rudy’s childhood land, in Santa Rosa.”

“It’s not really broken,” says Rico telepathically. “It’s just a wounded knee. Maybe because I made mine the aching of the most famous man who ever rode me. The second you put that red ribbon on my leg I started feeling better though. I know this tie can never be torn…” “Like the red thread of destiny…” I whisper.  “The more I see it, the more I think my encounter with Raven and then Spider, on NM53, was actually part of the uncovering of that thread. Maybe the tarantula I was so happy to spare from the wheel of my Black Spyder Dodge decided to lasso me, its savior driver, with the red thread of destiny my soul was reawakening to…

Rico adds: “Exactly. All the world creatures you encounter on your path are helpers and messengers. Some of us are a bit more than that, turning into your guides in the underworld, which is not as scary as some might think. It’s just a soul snorkel swim away. I came to your childhood world for you to start piecing together the scattered threads and tangled cords your soul had buried in frozen oblivion. I am an ancient horse, and I was sent to your Barbie universe for you to remember… All the concepts that remain in human psyches through what they hear, watch, see, read, or play with, are hints from their inner wisdom, from their most profound intuition, from the memories of bygone times, long lost but still slumbering somewhere, as embers waiting for the right breath to reawaken them.”

“You are an incredible poet and philosopher, my beautiful Rico,” I smile. “Something I watched and retained in my psyche, which really resonates with what you’ve just said, is the story of the matchbox in Like Water for Chocolate. Doctor John Brown tells the story to Tita de la Garza when he takes care of her traumatized self. She is so done with emotional pain and verbal abuse from Mamá Elena that she goes silent for a while… For some reason I stored in the attic of my mind the tribe of Doctor John’s grandmother, Luz del Amanecer, a name they translated into Morning Star. Grandma knew how to dry damp matches; she was a Kickapoo.”

“I get a kick outta Pooh too,” says Rico with a sweet horse tear rolling down his cheek.

“Silly sweetest thing, you’re gonna make me cry too…” I say, as emotional memories are flooding my brain sometimes way too busy analyzing the amazing connections orchestrated by the Great Mystery to take enough time to bask in my feelings. Quickly regaining my thread of thought though, I go on sharing my discoveries. “Only recently have I learned that the tribe originated in the region south of the Great Lakes… Legend has it that the name of the tribe would mean ‘wanderers’ in Anishinaabe, because of their migrations, to Mexico but also Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.”

“Oh, so maybe in their wandering they met Dorothy on her way to Oz…” ventures Rico.

“That would make an awesome story!” I agree enthusiastically. “In the Mexican-American movie the tribe is also honored through the last name of Tita’s true love, Pedro Múzquiz. Múzquiz is a municipality in Coahuila, Mexico. The local band of Kickapoo lives in El Nacimiento, which means the birth… of a river. From there —on another road 53 like the one to and from Zuni where Señora Spider lassoed me with a red thread— it takes less than an hour to reach Santa Rosa de Múzquiz …”

“Santa Rosa, huh? Like the New Mexican realm that gave your grey pony a flat tire last time you drove there!” adds Rico who feels his left hind leg slowly coming back to life.

“Oh wow… Everything does intersect…” I acknowledge in awe.

“Like in the Bermuda Triangle,” giggles Rico, quoting Sam in Sleepless in Seattle. “So what does the matchbox story say again?”

“According to the abuela, we’re all born with a matchbox inside, but we need tools to light the matches, like oxygen and a candle. Oxygen comes from the breath of our beloved. The light of the candle can be a melody, a word, a caress, a sound, just anything, but something able to ignite one of the matches to let the explosive flare feed our souls. The doctor explains that the matchbox gets damp if there’s nothing to ignite it, but we should take our time to light the matches one at a time. If a powerful emotion should ignite them all at once, they would produce a splendor so dazzling that it would illuminate far beyond what we can normally see; and then a brilliant tunnel would appear before our eyes, revealing the path we forgot the moment we were born, and summoning us to regain the divine origin we had lost.”

“Death…” whispers Rico.

“Or Rebirth. Raven Reveries and Spider Stories bring back the knowledge while alive” I add.

“Did they bring oxygen for your matches?” asks Rico.

“Oh yes,” I confirm. “Very subtle though, so if it took too long to ignite one match the caress turned into a virtual punch in the face,” I laugh. “Sometimes I felt as mine Tita’s pain and cold, but instead of knitting a kilometric quilt like her, I would write rivers after crying them a little… It was my way to wrap in them both myself and my first reader, who’s both a mind reader and writer.”

“What is a mind writer?” Rico asks.

“A screenwriter able to make an invisible plane with carefully woven threads to plant it in the mind of life actors.”

“Do they always agree to play such scenarios?”

“Most of them don’t even know they do if they are not aware of the movie in the making… Others are more recalcitrant, maybe because they’re writers too…”

“And why are you writing this new story of our common dream now in your waking life?”

“Because writing is my way to lasso my soul’s itinerary back, to come full circle. Also in the hope that some readers may find their own souls’ red thread through this dream story I write as a testimony. And finally, because I was influenced by the Kickapoo metaphor and also the title of the movie I guess. Sometimes when your water has been boiling angry for too long, waiting for a sweet chocolate treat that seems to never come, the water of your emotions can cool down so much that you have to repeat the heating process to get just the right temperature and texture you’re willing your chocolate to reach to finally be savored. It could also work with atole caliente, a sweet lavender color drink made of ‘crushed’ blue corn. Have you noticed that the almost opposite meanings of ‘a crush’ and ‘being crushed’ eventually fusion their ‘senses’ in an eternal cycle? I know what it’s like to be caught between la mano and el metate because of a crush that grew as tall as the most magnificent corn stalk, then crushed into ground corn by its grower, so that more blessings could come once the magic powder from the exploded kernels would be scattered to the four winds… Let’s call it alchemy.”

After a while during which both my horse and I are silent, I add: “You know, Rico, the hot and cold feelings remind me of a water candle I saw in a vision; the flame was a water drop… Then when the water flame turned into snow a deer became its candle wicker, to take me down my first deep dive in the stories my soul wanted me to bring to life. I guess the deer was literally the light for my candle.”

“Come on baby, light my fire!” sings Rico. “Were you riding a pony when you followed that deer?” he asks.

“Nope. I was walking in the snow.”

“I’m about to be freed from my own snow,” says my horse with a smile. “And I am glad that we’re together on this dream journey. When we see Raven I want to ask him if he knows about that matchbox story.”

“I sure hope he will give you direct answers, so that you don’t turn into that water for chocolate, either boiling or freezing. Being direct is not exactly how he accustomed me though; he would always twist the red thread in an incredible cat’s cradle, letting me figure it all out by myself, even if it took forever…” I sigh. “What bothered me the most throughout the years, when trying to decipher My Raven’s dream hints, was that he would let me go astray without ever cawing about it. However I must recognize that I willingly took forever too, because I would end up becoming enthralled with the History and stories I was discovering while on his black bird tracks. And the deeper I walked down the thick forest of my findings, the stronger I felt that trees were antennas intercepting the radio waves of the divine.”

“Could these be family trees too?” wonders Rico out loud.

“Very much so,” I confirm. “But broader families than just the ‘blood relatives’. Soul families are more complex… I’ve always wondered how family trees should be depicted, by the way. I mean, where should the ancestors go up above or down below, in the branches or in the roots? Logically you would think the roots, but then we have as many ancestors as they have descendants… quite complex. Maybe we should draw two inverted pyramids to better represent our multi-layered beings…”

“And activate them to fly in their Merkaba shape,” adds Rico.

“Oh you know about that too… I was in awe when I read a bit more about the concept. I must admit I’ve gained many interpretive tools and creative skills through these years’ detours. ‘Detour…’ It reminds me of the Indian Detours Harvey organized for his patrons in the “Wild Wild West”… What was his first name again? Fred! Like Freddy the April’s Fool Fish, heehee!”

“Who’s Freddy the Fish?” asks Rico.

“A catfish…” I joke. “No, actually it was more of a carp. Not Rudy’s golden carp though, I say turning around to look at Rudy’s entrance door. It was more of a balloon ‘spokesfish’ for 80 pounds of frozen carps we cut into pieces under an April snow for future corn to grow in Jémez Pueblo…”

“Why?” wonders my Barbie horse.

“Because when you bury fish in the soil it will give nitrogen to the plant, helping in its growth process. The helium I brought on that day would eventually serve my own growth process, although unbeknownst to me…”

“Heal… yum!” says my pun-lover Rico in a voice that imitates those cartoon voices one could think are dubbed by humans “high on helium”. The horse feels his own healing happening, through his legs that recover mobility after the somewhat contradictory move that made me ‘subzero-ing’ him tight onto the ground while painting his coat in the colors of the sky.

“Hell yeah! Heehee…” I say. “Balloons can fly because helium is lighter than air. And in turn air is what makes snow lighter than water, the element tied to emotions. Because of the snow that day in Jémez we had to postpone the balloon release I had proposed for the kids under the guidance of a medicine man who’s also an amazing educator. The idea was inspired by a magical event early in my life: my four-year-old self letting go off a Belgian sky-runner balloon that landed in a Mexican cornfield.

On the day of the failed balloon launch in Jémez, I had made a corn husk doll, a balloon carrier, who ended up being adopted by the medicine man’s daughter; she called her Clara. But I also processed my frustration through a half-inflated white balloon on which I drew scales to convince me that it was an April Fool’s trick. You remember that in Belgium people use a fish to symbolize that day. The half-inflated white balloon mirrored the half-deflated red balloon of back in 1975. In my mind’s eye I saw the day ‘grampo balloon’ was found in the field, and I imagined that in its last breath grampo had told the corn husks scattered on the ground all the things seen during the transcontinental flight… Then in turn the corn husks became dolls that enacted those stories. 

“Oh I can’t wait to know more about those stories lived by grampo balloon!” exclaims Rico.

“Maybe we’re on our way to live some of those stories that we’ll make ours as we fly over the same ocean as grampo balloon did 45 years ago!” I suggest.

“45 sums up 9,” adds my toy horse grown real.

“Yup, my life path number… All seems to be orchestrated by cosmic forces that will give you the green light only when all falls into place according to their plan… Green lights take us back to cars.  Believe it or not, there was another car malfunction on that snow day in Jémez. My battery went dead because I forgot to turn off the lights. But now I know all those little mishaps were for me to finally see the light, as clear as Clara’s name meaning, once I was ready to question the deeper realms in which every detail in our lives is set into motion… I was forced to look back in the mirror of time to see why my childhood balloon took such a magical journey. It was definitely calling me to this continent and forcing me to ponder journey axes, conquests, culture clashes and coexistence. Now I feel I have to honor the nickname Billy the Kid gave me in the White Sands a while ago: Chica Mares, the Sea Girl. One last time in this dream we are sharing I have to visit a place across the big pond where I left part of my soul. Are you ready to fly in reverse over the ocean where a balloon bridge was built almost half a century ago?”

“Yesssssssssssssssssss!” whinnies Rico. “My snow has thawed, and the released water is forming a little cloud below my feet so that we can be gently elevated!”

The raven tracks I painted on Rico’s snow stand have disappeared down the thawing drain, but on the ground I find a black feather dripping wet. Was it left by that raven calling me when we were talking with Rudy and Teresa, the one that landed on the horno? I shake the feather dry and tie it to its brown sisters that ornate my horse’s mane. Rico and I watch the melted snow cloud inviting us to hover over the entrance gate. My horse whinnies in excitement and bows for me to grab his black and turquoise mane and hop on his back. The last time I rode bareback was as a 9-year-old; it will be interesting to see what’s left of my balance forty years later… I remember someone telling me once that I did not really know how to ride a horse if I needed a saddle. Very true, but I’m sure practice will turn me into a real (not rough) rider! As soon as I am on Rico’s back, the cloud bursts in hundreds of luminous bubbles and I find myself clad in the clothes and accessories I was wearing when I went on an improvised horse ride on a movie set in Tabernas, Almería, a month or so after a very strange Eve of all Hallows aka Halloween that forever changed my perception of things. I am happy to get my necklace back in its original form, made of those tiny beads that reminded me of sand particles.

The cloud magic also affects Rico’s mane, which grows two long, sturdy braids acting as reins on his neck for me to tie my bag and hold on in case the flying gets rough. My horse is taking it easy at first and we gently elevate to slowly glide over the adobe ‘wicket’ of the turquoise fence. From above, the gateway looks like one of the playing card servants in the Queen of Hearts’ croquet court, or a Diné Rainbow Yei, like the ones that protect sand paintings. I don’t see any sand drawing though. Maybe my shoes carried some of the White Sands particles when Billy sent me flying here. If it’s gone now, I decide it means an invisible Navajo healing ceremony was finished in beauty. Sounds good to me, especially since the last time I was in Rudy’s homeland I wanted to pay my respects to the souls who suffered at Bosque Redondo, but I was stuck in “the land in between” because of that flat tire…

Rico is now ‘air-trotting’ down the road. To our left an old wooden cart is slowly crumbling under the weight of its memories, and I wish I could go further back in time to see it drawn by two horses bringing a bountiful harvest. At the road intersection, I ask Rico to stop for a while and land by the street sign. Willing to take my balance skills to the next level, I carefully stand on his back, where I seem to manage to stand still. This was the only thing that impressed me from the stuntmen when I visited one of the two Western movie sets in Tabernas. The rest of the show seemed pretty stupid to me; the script replete with badly chosen Spanish contemporary content in a conversation amongst ‘Wild Western outlaws’ failed to make me laugh. But seeing one of them standing on his horse did make an impact, and for a split second the sight took me to the historic Wild West Show that so fascinates me, and to the real Far West where a tall British guy reenacted the stunt in a place that one day would grow berries from the Far East…

Standing on Rico I wonder how I can actually do this myself, and an ancient wind whispers to my ear that it’s all about trust, and it’s all in me. Haven’t I spent years pondering ‘balance in all things’? It obviously applies to physical balance as well. I’ve also been working hard to regain the feeling of trust in some areas of my life, and maybe this exercise will help in the process.

Now reading the street sign and obeying an old urge, I sit back on Rico to grab my eyeliner from my make-up pouch in the bag and use it to finally write the missing ‘tilde’ I always felt like adding to CaÑada Vista. I stand again on Rico’s back and find great joy adding the little wave over the letter ‘N’. I know there was a subtle and personal reason for this ‘name conflict’ to occur in my mind, and I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given to explore it. The erasure of the characteristic Spanish spelling of the ‘eñe’ sound, which turned a mere cow path (cañada) into a big country (Canada), was yet another personal reminder of the Saint Lawrence region and its bridges… We all see different things in signs, but as long as we see something, it’s a sign that we are growing in spirit! But still, it feels great to rewrite the story of this street name. What can appear to foreigners as mere details of a language —maybe too subtle for those who have a short-spanned patience— exist for very specific reasons. Without the Ñ a Taoseño becomes a Tao breast (seno), Norteño rejects its “northerness” saying “Norte, no”, and years, años, suddenly become asses (anos), and I’m not talking about donkeys.

“Eeeheeeeheeeee,” laughs Rico who is hearing my musings. “I think ‘Cañada’ now looks great on the street sign!”

I know this language involution must have intrigued and bugged Rudy enough as to honor the original Spanish name of the city, restoring its R in his novel AlbuRquerque, like I’ve just done with the Ñ of CaÑada. I have a feeling that the name of the father of Rudy’s character Randy López, the limbo wanderer, revealed what Rudy also considered the real name of his street: ‘Juan Diego López de la Cañada de Juan del Oso’. The long name (of which Randy himself was not too sure) pays a tribute to Juan Diego, the witness of the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Tepeyac, Mexico; and to John the Bear, one of the most famous hybrid (half bear / half man) characters of European folklore brought to the Americas in a storyteller’s bag of tales. John the Bear is famous for descending into the underworld and rescuing three princesses.

I guess in this tale of mine the princess goes down under alone and eventually rescues herself climbing back to the surface, to avoid being ñoña (dull, prudish or spineless), displaying a tiny bit of the (sweet) chola attitude shared by all the members of the wounded healer gang who swear by unconditional love to self and others… Spelling-wise, a ‘chola’ is a ‘cholla (cactus)’ that lost its ‘L’-shaped spines… A bit as if Hollywood lost one of its ‘L’ to become a HoLy Wood again… And was not ‘Chola’ an Empire in India? Quite fitting for a ‘voidful’ cholla stance that rolls on colorful chakra wheels: this Southwest ‘Chola Empress’ has crafted her crown out of smoothed cholla bones, through valuing the lesson of the heart-piercing sword that drew red teardrops down the root; learning to plant seeds in the trench dug by the the blow to watch green shoots sprout around her new heart, thus earning her royal purple wings to watch her new life from the mountain she climbed…

Sometimes it is a great feeling for a writer to right a perceived wrong in a subtle or not so subtle way. You get to decide what is worth righting / writing… riding! Back to maimed names, nitpicker me used a sharpie to add two tildes (accents) to the ‘-no-’ of my piÑÓn lotion bottles… Does it mean I have a thin skin? Maybe so, back in the day; now it has grown much thicker. I have also worked at erasing that old skin’s dead particles rubbing it daily with the gritty mitten assembled with the spiritual grains patiently gathered in my desert retreat over the years… They say just one speck’s irritating presence in an oyster shell is what builds the most beautiful pearl. I’ve always wondered if human beings, born from a shell according to the origin stories of the Pacific Northwest, are the irritating sand particle for Mother Earth’s shell… Then does she turn us into pearls if we love and understand her enough? Recently I’ve learned that oysters are living water filters. The world amazes me.

“Caw caw caw” calls the raven, flying from Rudy’s garden to check on me and Rico before leaving in direction of the river and the Sandía Mountain. I watch the black bird shadow slide on the ground as I ponder these past, sandy-gritty-desert years. The street Rico and I have reached is named Valle Vista, which offers a great view from my horse “mirador” (lookout) toward the mountain named after Pueblo clowns’ favorite fruit… Pues sí que he mirado cierto valle, I sure did observe that very special valley for the longest time, sometimes seeing what was not there, or not seeing what was, like a DoÑa Quixote fighting her own giant windmills, ‘the windmills of my mind’… I love that song by the way. There’s a real “American” windmill down the street, on the premises of a ‘manor’ named after that structure. “Manor”… The word conjures up scenes taken from British tea parties rather than Southwestern sceneries. The slender metallic shapes of ‘American’ windmills have always caught my eye. They’re so different from the massive European windmills I knew, made of brick or stone… On a road trip through La Jornada del Muerto I remember thinking that the windmill I photographed looked like a gigantic spur that fell off a conquistador boot… I’ve learned to trust the wisdom behind those thought associations.

Maybe the recent conversation with Rudy and Teresa about that nursery rhyme of a miller who fell asleep, letting the windmill wings spin too fast, paved the way (or opened the sky) for this windmill ‘encounter’. “♫ Meunier, tu dors ♫” Ha! ‘Tudor’… Back in Britishlandia! For now, I am reminded of another Miller character in a somehow scary movie; she really did not have… ‘manners’. She made me nervous throughout the first part of the movie, although in the end I had to recognize that she was not as crazy as I thought in the first place. Her modus operandi might have come from the many years she had spent analyzing other so-called crazy beings… I must admit I am quite a fan of the Cheshire cat’s wisdom; “we’re all mad here”. Also, observing the she-Miller’s words and behavior, together with the initials and meaning of her name, I gained some valuable insights for my personal soul quest, setting aside my initial reaction of rejection to dissect her inner core. I also learned to see my own shortcomings in the mirror of her irrational outbursts. But now she feels so obsolete that I wish to, once and for all, blow her knee-jerk anger and envy away, symbolically giving them back to the wind. I also want to thank her for this realization: I only need to ‘blend’ the letters of anger in my head’s ‘Boggle’ box, putting the ‘r’ first, to recognize the value of the gift: to ponder the range of human emotions. My love for that Boggle game once earned me the nickname ‘blender’. It took me a while to understand where such moniker came from, or simply to recognize it as mine, but today I proudly own it. Hey! ‘Nathalie Blender’ does not sound too far from ‘Nathalie Bléser’, which English speakers automatically change to ‘Blesser’ anyway…

Still standing on Rico’s back, I ask him to walk down a few yards on Valle Vista. Amazingly enough I am not falling despite the movement! Taking advantage of the magic dream realm that defies the laws of physics, I carefully extend my left arm over Rico’s ears to grab the manor windmill between my thumb and middle finger, the one embraced by a Kokopelli ring. Once in possession of my treasure, I carefully sit back and ask Rico to walk toward the new street intersection. Leaning against his neck, I reach out for the wand in the bottom of my bag. I feel warmth arising from the Thunderbird I painted on his chest, but I attribute it to the hot sunny day we’re experiencing. I ask the wand to forever turn the object I hold into a pinwheel clad in a ‘range’ of seven colors to display a spiraling rainbow, like one I had imagined in a color maze which made me work on my chakras, looking for those that were blocked or unbalanced, one of them being the solar plexus, the yellow sun between our navel and heart…

Today in the dream I make up an incantation wrapped in bilingual words. Sitting in the lotus position I rotate on my stallion’s back like a circus horsewoman, pronouncing each ‘verse’ as I face the six sacred directions: “Gone are the days of unrest / I’ve Deciphered all Your Best / Like the Circles that I Find / in the Windmills of my Mind / Tu Fais Tourner de ton Nom / Tous les Moulins de mon Coeur.” I murmur the words while blowing on the object, thinking of other windmills in places I associate with exiles, wounds, losses, faith, reencounters and writings…

The magic has worked. I now own a cute rainbow pinwheel which will be our compass. I brandish it toward the sky for it to spin at full speed and whisper to Rico’s ear “Go where I go, Rico. Go, go, go!” and the horse elevates above the manor. The formula I’ve used is borrowed from Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. A little movie theater by the end of the rail tracks in Santa Fe is named after Cocteau… It always struck me as odd. I am remembering the writer’s words when he asked the muse to inspire him for his play, The Two-Headed Eagle: “How will my play be born? How will it impose itself upon me? Which shape will it take? I am free, I pay attention and stay aware, ready to be given orders.” I usually dislike being given orders, and I tend to question everything. However I feel totally identified with the kind of obedience Cocteau evokes. I see the profound ‘logic’ behind the apparent contradiction of claiming one’s freedom and willingness to obey in the same sentence. Maybe writing is the only activity capable of mitigating my sometimes ill-advised pride and my extreme reluctance to submissiveness. Sometimes I ruminate for ages, but despite the influence of past traumas that may paralyze me for the longest time, I always end up yielding to my muse through writing my heart out, my way to set myself free from an overflow of unuttered feelings, which reveals another chakra I had to work on: the throat. This is probably why I painted Rico in the color of that chakra, the beautiful turquoise sky he so longed to tread!

My sky stallion and I are flying above the area where the windmill stood, and I brandish its new rainbow pinwheel persona, shouting to the four winds “Your old mill has shown me my true colors and wants to accompany us on our dream journey!” The Four Winds… Don’t ask me why I pay attention to such details, but it’s the name of the travel agency owned by the mother of psychic Jessica in Sleepless in Seattle. The name appears in the scene when Jonah and Jessica have just mailed their letter to Annie… Here’s another ‘American’ thing, a magical mailbox which can either receive or send letters depending on the position of a little red flag… Why has the meaning of ‘red flag’ been reduced to a warning sign, especially in relationships? I choose to honor this ‘two-direction mailing’ meaning instead.

Hovering over this Northwestern portion of Albuquerque, “NW,” I say “No Way”, hearing in my head one of the movie lines: a misunderstanding stemming from the kids’ tendency to speak in initials only.

Jessica’s mother: Jessica! Tell Jonah’s father where his son is flying right now!!

Jessica: NY.

Jonah’s father: What does that mean?

Jessica’s father: No Way.

Jonah’s father *losing patience*: That’s NW!!!

Jessica: …New York. He’s on his way to New York.”

As if blessing my pinwheel “theft” and to keep on playing with coded messages, the NW Albuquerque street names offer amusing synchronicities. Rico and I are flying over Orilla (shore) Road NW, the name of my intercultural festival in Spain which was held for five years in a row: De una Orilla a Otra, From Shore to Shore.

“Rico,” I realize out loud, “can you believe that ‘horse’ is the anagram of ‘shore’? No wonder you are the one I chose to fly me over the ocean!”

 “Eeeeheeeeheeeee!” he whinnies in approval. “And now ¡mira!” he adds. “We’re flying over Mirador Drive NW, like where we lived in Spain!”

“Perfect,” I say with a smile. “Have I ever told you that the saint’s name of our former address magically inspired the symbolic setting of a novel? I consult the book whenever I feel the gaze of a medicine man forever offering a tobacco prayer on a wall…”

“Will you show me that medicine man wall?” asks an eager Rico.

“Of course I will, mi precioso caballo.”

We go on deciphering messages in the street names while slowly hovering over them. Mill Road NW and Wind Road NW are obliged names for windmill thieves shouting to the four winds. We are headed towards direct reminders of the land where Rico and I spent many years of our lives: Calle España NW and Almería Drive NW… Yes, this Spanish province, just next door to ‘my’ Granada, comes back again and again as our dream destination. Above Namasté Road I smile and whisper “no mistake,” remembering the funny interpretation of a young boy who knew nothing about Sanskrit or Hinduism, and translated the greeting into what sounded familiar to him. I heard the anecdote from a young friend I took on a balloon ride. I think it is important to pay attention to those apparently meaningless details, because throughout the years of my soul journey I’ve noticed that all the place names where I’ve lived held messages hidden in plain sight for me to interpret.

Rico now crosses above the Río Grande, ready to cloud-climb toward the Sandía Mountain.

 “This is so beautiful,” I whisper, observing the ebb and flow of the current and wondering about all the life it carries. But my water reverie is soon interrupted by Rico’s complaint, followed by a fright.

“My Thunderbird feels hotter and hotter… Oh my God! FIRE!!!

In front of us a huge, dark plume of smoke is weaving a black robe in the sky, making it difficult for us to breathe as we get closer to the fire.

“It’s the Friedman Recycling Plant!” I say.

For some reason I have incorporated a real fire in my dream… Of course I start seeking the symbolism behind the name and characteristic of the burning structure. When heard in English, ‘Friedman’ speaks about liberation, whereas its German spelling evokes peace. Peace and liberation through fire, the element of the solar plexus chakra, at a recycling plant, to get rid of the old and let new sprouts feed off the ashes… No wonder Rico’s Thunderbird was feeling hot! Thankfully I know from the waking world that there were no casualties in that fire. They say a lithium battery was the cause of the accident. The ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ signs on batteries are a perfect representation of polarity, the one embodied by the mighty Thunderbird. In case we needed more winks, the fire started behind ‘Mud Monsters’, a business specialized in aquascaping. Perfect marriage of Water and Fire! I say the ‘mud monsters’ represent our own selves in the making, like in this great creation by Pueblo potter Roxanne Swentzell. If we are lucky, the shaping and then firing process may be supervised by one of Kathleen Wall’s sacred clowns, slurping una tajada de sandía (a melon slice) while helping us see who’s really hiding behind the smoke mirror…

“Look! The flames draw a gigantic fire heart!” says Rico.

“I see it clearly, yes. Just like I saw a heart in the fireplace embers one winter in our Mirador home… I was remembering it on the ‘B’ day of my sidewalk chalk alphabet illustrations for September. I knew I was to build a rainbow bridge to love, and my subconscious split the name of the month into ‘ember’ —hence the burning heart memory– and ‘sept’, ‘seven’ in French, which took my mind strolling down the seven crystal balls of Tintin’s Peruvian adventures.”

A sudden urge makes me grab my bag hanging from Rico’s long mane braids to take the book I mention. I start flipping through its pages while Rico takes us past the smoke.

After a while I exclaim triumphantly: “I knew it! I needed to check something. As often when I do things thinking from the heart, using my brain’s right hemisphere, I was thinking kind of backwards, painting the rainbow colors in a reverse order, with violet above and red below. And Hergé did it too! Maybe I reproduce the ‘mirroring colors’ whenever I draw rainbows because I read that comic as a young child… I always thought of giant cherries when I saw Professor Calculus following the lead of his pendulum. Don’t you think the original name, Professeur Tournesol, which means ‘Sunflower’, is more poetic, Rico?”

“Definitely,” Rico whinnies. “And I love the sun you painted on my throat above Mighty Thunderbird too! Even if I complain from time to time, it always keeps me warm.”

“I am glad you do… By the way, my sweet turquoise pony, Thunderbird is a car model too. Once under the Trading Bird sign of a store specialized in turquoise gems, I took a picture of a flat tire of a turquoise Ford Thunderbird. It was the ‘same’ left rear tire as the one my gray pony got punctured as it rolled on a cactus in the Santa Rosa wilderness.”

“Thunderbirds can be pretty wild!” adds Rico. “Trust me, I know. Sometimes it’s like the bird really has a life of its own.”

“I was not really ‘thinking’ when I painted your Thunderbird, you know. It was like a ‘mandate’ from my creativity. I hope you two mostly get along well though! I remember that while observing the nameplate of the Thunderbird, I saw the union of fire and water, and screenshots from an episode of an adaptation of The Little Prince. The lovely young man helps twins, a male and a female, to finally make peace once they understand the angry message of the firebird, guardian of the kingdom’s crown. He demanded unity between the two burning it all until they stopped fighting. The bird can indeed be pretty dangerous and ruthless if there’s imbalance…”

“Maybe your subconscious was trying to make you see where your own imbalance was,” says Rico who starts to sound like an equine shrink, able to analyze my subconscious while saving us from a fire…

“Quite possibly so,” I admit. “According to my friend Susan Zummo’s amazingbook, Mapping the Inner Landscape, ‘the car is me’ in the dream world, whether we are awake or asleep. Susan says that the left rear side has to do with feminine energy and past life events.”

“So I guess it meant too much or not enough feminine energy,” suggests Rico. “Either in this life, or another life, or both!”

“Clear as mud… from the mouth of the mud monster horse” I laugh. “Now you’re sounding like a true Belgian. We’re well known for our concession-making skills, les compromis à la Belge!”

“Is this why you painted those black-yellow-red hands on my left shoulder? The colors of the Belgian flag?” wonders Rico.

“Maybe there was a tiny little part of me that thought of it,” I admit. “However I was mostly inspired by the Medicine Wheel colors, because YOU are medicine, sweet Rico, and I love you this much…” I say leaning against the horse’s neck to give him a biiiiiiiig hug.

“I love you toooo,” says my faithful horse. “Now put that book back in the bag and hold me tight, I am going to speed up and climb these clouds to pass the mountain and reach our true altitude.”

I obey the horse and hug his mighty neck, filled with a wonderful sensation of safety and peace. “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough…” I hum as I ‘look to the mountain’, thinking of Tewa Pueblo words I learned from Professor Gregory Cajete: Pin pé obi. He first heard them when he was seven years old, transitioning to his next 7-year cycle of life, while practicing to run in the relay races aimed at giving strength to Father Sun on His Path. A blind elder told little Gregory to always keep his gaze fixed on the top of their western sacred mountain, to feel capable of leaping over bushes, trees and rivers and reach the mountain top. From the summit, one can contemplate all the hard work it took to climb the steep slope, and decide what to do next as the gaze rests over the valley. I let sky runner Rico concentrate on the elevation process and I smile a smile as big as the huge watermelon slice we are flying over now. Imagining the blind elder’s wisdom, I close my eyes to gaze toward my inner mountaintop, pressing my ear against Rico’s chest.

My Barbie horse’s beating heart is the miracle of the hollow tree turned into a drum, playing the beat that holds the key to true healing. It brings back memories from a storyteller jamboree in the heart of the Jémez country, where I received an obsidian arrowhead that announced trying years ahead; years during which my throat chakra would choke, smothered by the shavings falling off my heart to shape my soul in the hollow tree needed for a new melody to be heard. Now, galloping through the sky of my dream, I am regaining my heart song, and my desire to reunite the two chile question marks whose pungency made my eyes water, to embrace a heart grown strong while journeying through the mirror, where light and shadow merge.

A horse pendant well acquainted with the tales emerging from the deep well of my throat made me write recently that “the key to be reborn is to set aside the ego to learn the value of the void, letting the wild horse of your soul gallop deep down the spiral of time, treading the happy hunting grounds where the arrowhead of your throat chakra once roamed, carrying in his mane your favorite writing quill…” Yes, true healing takes tons of time and thousands of miles of trials, but once you make it through the tunnel, the end of your race to the sun is greeted by the flags of your regained balance, wrapped in the yellow-red-black-white tones of the four realms of your being. My once-lost arrowhead has become the tip through which my raven quill is willing to pour love songs in the river of life. Their union through the writer’s breath is the word bridge between the spirit world and readers. The pointy shape of my unique quill shows the direction of my future steps, which can only be forward, as Jémez medicine man Joseph Brophy Toledo taught me with his bow and arrow.

Only after watching the video of that early summer encounter did I realize that both Brophy and I were wearing the same colors, the healing colors of the Medicine Wheel, which also appear on the “shinny” stick the medicine man brought on that April Fool’s Day when the snow prevented us from planting corn and releasing balloons.

Shinny is the Native American ancestor of hockey, whose many variations are played among many tribes. Brophy painted his shinny stick in the four healing colors of his medicine: corn… Those colors that represent the different skin pigmentations of the human race also evoke the colors that clothe the sun on its daily run across the sky. The two goals of the ancient shinny game were set three miles away from each other, a six-mile span that could keep players entertained for weeks. The ball they played with was usually made of seeds sewn in animal hide. Semi-asleep on my sky running horse I realize that I have been the seed ball, and that Billy the Kid’s croquet stick that sent me to Rudy’s pathway to get closure was really the medicine man’s shinny stick! Flying as an arrow is one thing, but only made possible after being pulled backward, as shown both literally and figuratively in these two screenshots from Pride and Prejudice.

I like how both protagonists of a love story that did not have the easiest start revised their former behaviors in order to go forward. This is why my toy pony painted in the color of the throat chakra and the medicine wheel is drawing a bow in my ample dream skies to pull back the arrow of me across the ocean to cleanse the black sap that once oozed on its shores.

Willing to brush away any remnant of the dark stains that menace the dream in the making, I pet my flying horse, caressing his left flank. The gesture brings to life a new vision of Rico’s paints, the medicine wheel and a letter N reflecting its shiny self above another mirror image of some Quixotic knight from Splendor Solis, The Splendor of the Sun, an illuminated alchemical work by Salomon Trismosin.

I see this as the colorful illustration of the interrelatedness of mankind’s wisdom. Pueblo Corn, Shinny Sticks, Lakota Wheel and Alchemy, all share the same healing colors, meeting in the diamond of their balanced center after passing through the rebirth process alchemists call nigredo, the blackening; albedo, the whitening; citrinitas, the yellowing; and rubedo, the reddening. Our black and white self builds strength for us to jump into the bright colors of a New Sun, a life action character suddenly stepping into the wonders of an animated world, like Dorothy sent up above through a twister on her way to meet the Wizard or Alice sucked down below through a rabbit hole to prove her worth on a croquet course.

“Rico!” I exclaim, waking up from the vision, “Billy the Kid on that croquet course was really a medicine man using his shinny stick to send me flying to Rudy’s pathway so that you and I could grow a new, shiny version of ourselves! You are the rabbit and I’m Dorothy! I mean you are Toto and I’m Alice. Oh man, I mean… Well, you know what I mean!!!!”

 Rico, who knows me well and understands me even when I don’t make any sense at all, happily whinnies as we go on soaring across the vast country clad in fluffy clouds. The horse gives an even more accurate description of who we are.

“I’d say we have become the heroes of your favorite childhood show… You are Sandwoman building your own dream as we fly pursuing a jackrabbit rainbow down the black hole of your pillow.”

“What would I do without you,” I answer.

Rico is happy to taste the wind he yearned for, taking me one more time to the land of cheap western movies. With my rainbow pinwheel for a compass we streak the big blue sky like a shooting star yanked off a fake sheriff’s vest, or like the children’s book character Rudy mentioned earlier in the dream: Juan, who in order to win Rosita’s rhubarb pie after riding Jack the Jackalope across the Milky Way, comes back home to his love covered in stardust.

“Theeees eeeees my faaaaavoreeeeete of Rudeeeee’s cheeeeldren’s booooks!” whinnies Rico who reads my thoughts.

“And it´s perfect for the occasion! Oye, Rico, sweetie, where are we?” I inquire.

“We are flying over Kansas right now.”

As my horse says so I hear in the wind Rudy’s voice quoting his limbo curandera, Única: “Your soul is a galaxy. Within the soul lies an astrolabe, a compass like the one Ulysses used to cross the wine-dark sea. The soul sails across the greater universe, seeking unity with the universal soul. Your compass guides you to Sofía.”

Sofía is Randy’s beloved, patiently waiting for him by her cherry tree on the other side of the river, and of course besides being Randy’s love she also embodies wisdom. I somehow know Rico and I are headed to our own kind of Wisdom School, which shares some aspects of the school little owl Ollie was sent to. The wisdom teacher role of Ollie’s grandma and Randy’s lover has been played by My Raven and his unique kind of wisdom for the longest time now, but our classes had to be held on the “innernet”. I am so eager to see him in dream across the big sea… As I lean over Rico’s neck to see what Kansas looks like from above, I see a Native man running back and forth on the plain.

“Hey, do you need a ride?” I shout.


One thought on “Raven’s Gift (Part Two)

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