(My Light Opera . . . )
Opening your heart is a dangerous business and idealistic trust of spirit a tenuous road. And yet, without trust, life has no meaning. It had become obvious to me that I wasn’t “getting” something important. When we were asked by the Spirit Quest leaders Hanneli Francis and Melanie Rose to set an intention for the Quest, I asked for clarity.
After an intense, cathartic sweat lodge, where we wailed and laughed in a dark hut resembling the womb of Mother Earth, it was time to go up the mountain. Still high from that experience, I volunteered to drive to the trailhead from which we’d hike to an isolated lake in the shadow of Mt. Jefferson. The poor souls in my car wound up eating the dust of two cars ahead of us as we climbed a road so steep and full of washboards it threatened to send my little Thunderbird slipping over the edge into eternity. “So this is what happens when you open up your heart to spirit guidance and stick your neck out,” I mused silently.
Sometimes the haze was so thick I had trouble seeing the car ahead of me, but I had to follow closely because I didn’t know the way. The stalwart woman who rode beside me covered her nose with a cloth just so she could breathe, but I had to stay focused and endure.
“I’m so glad you’re driving. My palms are sweating,” my passenger confided as we skirted a sheer cliff on a road so narrow there was no way an oncoming car could get past us. Little did she know I’m used to driving in South Florida, a state so flat that ten feet above sea level is mountain view property!
True to my usual pattern, I didn’t allow myself to freak out until we reached the trailhead. There, drained by the sweat lodge and the drive, I had to take several breaks to breathe slowly and calm my pounding heart.
I tried to focus on the rituals our leaders had prepared for us before we chose our own space. At this point, however, what I really wanted to do was get my tent up and crawl into my sleeping bag. What had I gotten myself into? Now I was going to be in seclusion for forty-eight hours and besides that, I was going to have to drive back down that friggin’ road!
I found my tent site quickly, a clearing near the lake with a terrific view of lovely, ethereal Mount Jefferson rising above the wooded ridges. It seemed so impossibly beautiful, it had to be painted on the air. The sight of this mountain, sacred to the Native Americans, gave me strength to go on.
Although I couldn’t locate a level spot, I put my tent up quickly, managing to find a fairly good place for my sleeping bag where I wouldn’t be slipping down into the lake. Exhausted, I placed a sacred circle of rocks around my tent, did a few half-hearted rituals for protection, then crawled into my sleeping bag while it was still daylight. I was too tired to get up and explore the dark, starry night. It was too damn cold to dance naked like a wood nymph and, besides, the mosquitoes were out.
The sleeping bag I had borrowed was supposed to be good for temperatures down to fifteen degrees, but it wasn’t living up to its reputation. Even with a woolen hat and my partner’s polypropylene underwear, my neck and shoulders were still freezing. I missed the feel of my partner’s hard, fuzzy, masculine body against me. I missed his reassuring presence. I had asked him to light a candle for me the first night and I felt him with me despite it all. I had tried to light a candle myself, but the matches I brought with me didn’t work. In my fatigue, self-doubt came up to torment me and I wondered if I would last. I wanted someone to stick me in the trunk of my car and drive me back to my warm trailer and my supportive honey. It was a long night of sleeplessness and convoluted dreams, but finally dawn came filtering through the nylon walls of my tent.