Let me tell you a story of a woman who was looking for answers.
Let’s call her Navajo Woman with the Long Blonde Hair.
Navajo Woman with the Long Blonde Hair went to a lot of places for many years. She spoke to a lot of people, for many years. She read a lot of books, with passages she carefully underlined. She kept asking questions, to anyone who would listen, to herself, to the Above. No question, in fact, was off the table. Whatever came into her life, she confronted it, and she looked to Great Sky, and she prayed to learn.
Teach me about love, she said. Teach me about faith. Teach me about forgiveness. Teach me about harmony, about balance, about completion. Teach me what it looks like to make yourself entirely new.
And Great Sky said, Here. Here. Here.
A dash of glitter. Kind words from a passersby. A few gold coins for her medicine bag. A new heavy coat for the cold.
Navajo Woman felt the heavens had been speaking to her for a long time, and the earth, too, but this is not anything she could say out loud, because the people around her were busy on their smartphones. They were busy on their Facebook pages. They were busy doing the things everyone thought they were supposed to do. Take out the dogs. Buy the groceries. Drop off the kids. Pay the utility bills.
Navajo Woman was trying to straddle two worlds. She was winning at neither. Maybe the point was never to win.
And yet she knew she was coming to the end of a long journey. She knew she was at the precipice of a new foundation, a new way forward. And so she drove one day, in her car, to a place called Hawk Mountain. She had heard two smart people reference it. And she had been visited by hawks, these messengers, for years. Now was the time to go where they go.
Her nails were red on the steering wheel. The coffee beside her was warm, filled with six packets of sugar and a a tablespoon or two of half-n-half. Croissant flakes dropped to her lap as she ate and played Taylor Swift and drove through tunnels and exits and open roads.
And then she arrived, and there were so many people, she thought she ought to go home.
Why hadn’t she just sipped tea and watched television all afternoon? Why did she have to yet again do this other thing? It was very cold. Very windy and cold. She hadn’t dressed appropriately.
The gift shop next to Hawk Mountain had fleece zip-ups, so she bought one. She almost bought a pair of earrings, too. She did buy a map. And she asked the woman behind the counter, since she was so good at asking questions, what path she should take once she crossed the road.
I’ve never been here before. Can you tell me which way to go?
The woman suggested the rocky trail. It was lit up on the map in red. It was a medium-level hike, the woman explained. Not too easy, not too hard. Would that work for Navajo Woman (with the Long Blonde Hair?)
Yes. Thank you.
Navajo Woman was not feeling good about this. Now that she was at Hawk Mountain, she discovered how tired she was, how ridiculous was this search for meaning of many years. But she was here. She had driven all this way. She wanted to get back in her car, but her feet just wouldn’t turn. The footsteps of one’s destiny are marked. They pull you down.
Up the hill that led to the trail, she stood on the edge of a cliff and gazed angrily at the yellows and oranges of changing trees, the sharp blue of the sky, the clouds moving and leaving awkward-shaped shadows. She could go left. She could go right. She could go anywhere she wanted to go. This was the problem. Too much freedom is a burden. And yet recognizing and embracing one’s freedom is the only way to live a life. It is the only way to know you are making your life your own.
Navajo Woman took the red path, even though she didn’t want to. Red like her nails. She stepped gingerly down, down, down into the Valley of Rocky Trail, wondering what she was getting into. Was this crazy? This seemed crazy. It was hard to walk. There was no smooth ground, and no sign of smooth ground to come. She had only just started and she needed a rest. She needed a good place to sit and breathe for a while. But all the rocks were jagged, and none of them offered itself up. None that was off to the side in a quiet space, at least. So she found a rock in the open and she sat, and she breathed, and she realized that this place the gift-shop-woman had brought her was hell. It was stupid. It was ugly. She was now so tired of life, tired of the struggles life caused. Maybe she would just give up. Maybe she would let it all end here on the rocks. And yet there was no way to make it end. There was no way to make it stop. Life required a constant reworking of things, a constant reframing and refiguring. She didn’t want to be here, and yet she was, so she had to do what she had come to do, and there was no way out.
So she stood up and walked. Hobbled. Hopped. One rock to the next. When she met a person, she asked for directions. They kept pointing at a far-off place. She had to just keep going down, they said, and then she would be able to turn and go up.
Down. Down. Down.
But soon all people disappeared, and she was left alone, stepping from one rock to the next, following blue tape on trees that led to more blue tape on trees and more rocks and no sign of any way up. She was so angry. This was so ridiculous. Why did she listen to a strange woman? Why didn’t she figure out at the outset what she wanted to do? Why did she follow the color red just because it was the color red? Who was she hoping to find in this godforsaken place?
(It was herself. She was always looking for herself. Shh. Don’t tell.)
So Navajo Woman felt a fire begin to glow in her loins. It was not a fire of pleasure, necessarily. It was the fire of life. It was the fire of “tired-of bullshit.” Tired of struggle. Tired of searching. Tired of wandering and meandering. Tired of being buried by crisis after crisis. It was the fire of what really matters.
It was the fire of figuring things out.
And once that fire was lit, and she saw that there was simply no sign of these rocks ending and turning into a mountain, no matter how many she stepped on and how far she looked, she did the only thing she could do.
She turned around and went back home.