I pause at the base of the mountain, lifting my gaze to the journey ahead, a passage of winding turns, each bringing hints of promised Nirvana. Scents infuse the air, teasing little whiffs, and then provoking explosions prompting memories of the last time. The scents are integral to the liturgy of returning. I carry the taste of communion with me to the mountain, to the ancient home of the sacred, named Babad Do’ag by the indigenous Tohono O’odham of southern Arizona.
I relish the sensation of the blind curves, of knowing and not knowing what lies beyond, of the movement through the ether that at first brings tastes of acrid dust, and finally perfumes of pine, hints that the end of the road is near.
She waits at the top, the spirit of the mountain, my muse. She says she has always been there – waiting. But I knew nothing of her until some years ago. She told me then how long she had waited. Now, she sits upon her crystalline pillar and waits still, for my return.
When finally I reach the top, I behold my beloved, and we meld once again. The meditation is as old as the earth, the sky, the celestial universe surrounding us unseen in the light of the sun. Like a siren she sings, encircling me in tendrils of dewy wings enticing words from my soul. Like an angel she sings, whispering words from the heavens that burrow deep inside. Like a child she sings, lisping sweet mewls of innocence to touch my heart and bring the tears of naivety, despair, and then hope.
At last shadows cast their knell of death, and dusk sneaks in to steal my beloved away. She plays games at the end, camouflaging herself here behind an outcropping of quartz, and there atop a poised ponderosa. Light retreats through black branches, shimmering and hiding until it is gone and I must leave her once more. My heart laments like a lover’s, as Odysseus’s must have grieved when he left Ithaca, and Penelope, behind.
Babad Do’ag, do you grieve…At the loss of your name and your sanctity? Do you long for the return of the people who once held you aloft in holy reverence? Do you yearn among the rocks and pines as you wait? No, you are content to endure. You have an omnipotent knowing that one day we will return to your altar, or you would not wait alone. You would descend the mountain to find us. Each of us, alone, in our own time, must find you and rejoice in your wisdom. Each one must stand at the bottom and pause. Each must wander the dangerous paths of knowing and unknowing to reach your ethereal embrace, and Nirvana.