"Within the desert, time slows. Thirty years pass and a saguaro tree is still a short, stubby pup. Seventy years pass before it grows arms. The sacred beings remain accessible in the desert stillness, listening for our prayers, waiting to answer them. They have been driven from the cities by our cruelty, by our disregard for sacred spirits. We must leave civilization behind if we wish to commune with them."
— from Coyote Medicine: Lessons from Native American Healing by Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D.
This old, twisted pinyon pine stood at the edge of the Rio Grande gorge rim with her lithe, sinewed arms dangling over the edge and reaching towards the sky. She was our closest neighbor at last week's campsite.
I could feel the decades in her gnarled trunk and the intensity of the seasons in her twisted limbs. Beneath my boots I could feel the depth and determination of her roots in the uncompromising rocks.
Stepping between her low branches and clinging securely to her trunk, I could sway peacefully with her in the threatening wind at the edge of the rim and look out over the winding river and the shapes of mountains beyond, just as she's done for hundreds of years, with our without the company of ancient medicine-gatherers or modern campers.
At night, as millions of stars punctured the dark sky canopy above our tent, I could feel the veil between worlds grow as thin as the high mountain air. Spirits, both familiar and strange, were there in the dark waiting to communicate. I could even feel the palpable presence of my Teacher in a way I haven't since coming to New Mexico. I spoke to him at the circular edge the camp lantern was slicing in the obsidian darkness and let the cold, strong wind carry the words away. All the way to India? No. Only as far as the ever-present space between thoughts - where teachers, students, grandparents, grandchildren, parents, children, spirits and humans reconvene and reconcile, swaying safely together in the branches of time, in silent communion at the edge of space.