Chapter 2: The Whisper
From: Multiverse: The Secret Diary of an NDE Traveler
Do you hear my whisper?
What does the wind whisper to you?
Listen to the song of the manzanita tree and the desert holly,
As we step down this trail,
Towards the late afternoon spring.
There is a lifting up, of an accord to heaven,
On this wash of red sandstone and hematite;
A distant drumming, together of our heartbeats,
One pulse as we walk along the mesa’s edge.
I catch a glimpse into your eyes,
As the peering sun squints between feathered clouds;
On canyon walls, I hear a subtle song reflected,
From a past long shared, in a distant foreign land.
The whisper of times spent wrapped together,
In a blanket near the fire, on a brisk winter’s evening;
And of moments that we danced slowly together,
In the soft hush of the spring morn.
You searched for me in rainbows that color the sky,
You watched for me in the thousand winds that blew,
You met me in diamond glints in the snow;
When you thought, I was gone.
Turn my way and know;
That I am here, and have always been,
Do you hear the whisper?
Day One. There is no shame in being a broken man. Loss fractures time. Shane fractured me. In being shattered, new hope can arise, given time and care. The clouds from yesterday’s storm have now begun to clear. Sunrays bounce off a crisp three-inch layer of fresh powder snow.
I am silhouetted against the bright blue sky. I stand in awe of the great mountain. Moments pulse in this holy place of the Navajo and Hopi. Northern Arizona is a place of crisp winter mornings, painted orange summer sunsets and soft evening autumn breezes. Gentle melodies rise from waves of purple three-awn and tufted green hair-grass. This is a place where spirit roams between the red sandstone and hematite canyon walls. Love nestles in these mountains. Stances of aspen stretch far towards vistas of rusty mesas. Time waves away. Rhythmic tics pace to an unfolding journey of truths.
I headed out along with Pepper, my new companion, in my patched-together robin blue 1982 VW minivan. Flagstaff and the San Francisco Peaks were now in the rearview mirror. I proceeded east on I-40. The elevation dropped from 7,000 feet to 4,000 feet in a matter of several miles. The tall ponderosa pines gave way to their scrubbier cousins, the juniper pine. Fields of juniper yielded to the brown-red sand of the high desert. I headed towards Winslow. Streaks of light pink on pale blue skies were the canvas for distant mesas. The absence of trees allowed wind to pick up strength. Scattered patches of snow lay on the desert floor. These were the remnants of a heavy evening snowfall in Flagstaff. This was my journey. A journey set to honor my friend. My first destination was the Hubbell Trading post with a later jaunt to Canyon de Chelly.
It was a blustery day. I popped a CD of Michael Hedges into the CD player, a guitar player Shane listened to when he painted. Old VW vans lack ample heating. My knuckles froze around the steering wheel. I looked forward to a hot cup of coffee. No stores, houses, or structures around. Barren land stretched out over the horizon.
At Winona, I turned down Indian Road 15. I pulled over to the side and re-checked my map. Back on the road and through Leupp. Then onward to Greasewood. Later, to Burnside, I made a sharp right on US 191. Forward to the Hubbell Trading Post.
My mantra — to honor all speed signs. Even in my old bus, I could exceed the speed limit in places. The Navajo Police are quick to give tickets — a sure revenue for this still deprived and battered nation. Thoughts jittered on worn roads.
I hastily packed and made a plan earlier that day. –take a few photographs, journal a bit, and pay homage to my dear friend Shane. The air-cooled engine of the VW bus provides a soothing steady rumble. Pepper relaxed into the warm reverberation of the engine.
I arrived at Hubbell in early evening. The corner of U.S. Highway 191 and Indian Road 264 is bleak. A large expanse of lonely desert stippled with dried brush. A silhouette of mountains hid far in the distant vista. The gravel crunched under my boots when I stepped from van. Winds gusted. The chill lifted from the land. Pepper kept to my side as I walked towards the trading post. This is where I first met Ajei.
Hubbell is a large structure built of chiseled red sandstone blocks, unevenly cut. Bars on the window kept the uninvited out. Recently painted windowsills and doorjambs were stark white against the jagged red sandstone. A loud creak of the rusted screen door hinges announced my entrance. I turned the handle on the heavy entry door. It required a shove with my shoulder. I took a few steps on the uneven floor.
An unattended cashier’s station sat near the front door. Brightly colored Navajo rugs with strong angled patterns lined one wall. Bolted against the opposite wall were several standing bookshelves. A counter lined with several rows of jelly jars shoved against a portion of the third wall. Another counter sat slightly off-center in the room. A hand-painted sign was taped on the front of a counter in the middle of the floor, “Cold Drinks – Water – Coffee.”
I walked to the refreshment counter. “I’d like a hot cup of coffee, please.” The Navajo man behind the counter looked to be in his sixties. His black hair was shoulder length and was pulled tight and held by a white scrunchie. His pockmarked face was leathery. His extra weight sagged on his medium frame. Distracted by my request, he focused on cleaning up the coffee service area.
He turned around from the counter, leaving the small clean-up towel on the counter. He grinned, “Straight-up?” He brushed his hands against his jeans.
“Yeah, that’ll do.” I rubbed my hands together. Although it was much warmer inside than in the van from the old wood burning stove burning in the corner, it was still a bit chilly in the room.
I glanced around the room while the man behind the counter was pouring my coffee into a brown paper cup. The old trading post was well-stocked with Native American items. Some for sale, some for display. Several Navajo rugs hung on the walls– bright colors and intricate designs. Other items stacked on counters and hanging from shelves were the typical tourist crap. I turned back in Navajo man’s direction. “What’s your name?”
“Joe” he smiled. “Figures. I’m an Injun” he grinned even wider and handed me the warm cup of coffee.
I winced and wrapped my cold fingers around the hot paper cup. “How do I get a tour when I get to Canyon de Chelly?”
“Ask an Injun when you get there.” He snickered and turned back. He returned to wiping the counter.
A beautiful Navajo woman sat at a table next to the coffee counter. She wore a thin royal blue blanket draped around her shoulders. The blanket matched the blue and white earrings dangling from the lobes of her ears. The earrings softly touched her smooth desert brown skin. Her raven black hair cascaded far down her back, almost to her waist. There were two small feathers tied to her hair by a thin leather strap on one side. She softly smiled at me. I stepped closer to the table. I could feel her gentle presence. I introduced myself.
“Hi, my name is Ajei,” she replied. Her eyes were a gentle deep brown. I felt a great sense of compassion. She spoke softly and with clarity, “We each have a story to share. Our shared stories give purpose to each person on Mother Earth. The Holy People of our ancestors set knowledge and life activities into four cardinal directions.” I leaned in a bit.
“Your story will be like a sand painting of healing in four directions. The sand painting will provide you with four lessons that the winds will lift to the sky. The lessons are shared by the winds. And …” she paused. In a soft whispered voice, “…and these lessons will be told to you in four messages over this week. It will be your heart that knows.”
“Curious,” I thought. I waited for a moment. I started to say something, but Ajei continued, “My message to you will follow your four lessons. And by year’s end, you will know to lift the four lessons to the wind and share them with the world.” She softened and looked down in her unfolded palms.
I drew back from her. A chill creeped up my back. I paused. Disturbed, I politely tipped my hat, “Thank you. I must be going now.” I swigged the last drop of coffee, crumpled the paper cup and pitched it into the trashcan. I closed the door behind Pepper and me. That is how the four lessons started.
(c) 2018 – 2019, Ron McFarland, All Rights Reserved