It has been the entire night and most of the day since I disappeared from his sight. He has been searching the mountain, exhausted and manic. Though it was not my intention, the patience of waiting for something to develop has worked in my favor.
I sense him somewhere just below mid-mountain. His location gives me about fifteen minutes to gain a true advantage. As soon as I remove the hide, he will smell me and come to where I am without much effort. Like Gollum of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ books, he is so consumed by his illness; he betrays his advantage. He was already ‘on tilt’ after Amber carried him with her over the mountain. Now, my ability to vanish from his clutches has put him over a lethal edge. Whatever advantage he had is gone now. He is confused.
“How could I have lost control? The pursuer is sure to catch me if he doesn’t find her soon.”
I hear his thoughts in my head, but he cannot hear mine. I am now speaking at a level of clarity that is incomprehensible to him, and I know; the pursuer could have ‘found’ him at any point in the last few days, but he is no longer what the pursuer wants. He wants a new self-loather. This guy has lost his edge. He has become too confident in his pattern, and now his ‘victims’ are outsmarting him. The pursuer wants someone new. He is excited watching the chase. I present a new challenge, and he hasn’t had a good one in a while. The loathing he felt is now open to challenge. Like any good predator, he will watch me, to gain an advantage over me.
My movement betrays me, but I can’t do much about that now. I know I fade in and out of his vision, which he does not understand, but he would love to figure it out. Every moment I spend on this mountain gives him the information he needs to overcome me. Like any good hunter, he wants the prey to be a challenge. Lately, it’s been like shooting cows in a field. I’m a bit more elusive, and he is becoming excited with the idea of a new hunt. So, he is just standing back and to see how this will play out. In the end, he may even be willing to help me.
Of course, he will help me until I become the one he pursues. Then, he will do everything but help me. I’m not as nervous about it as I might have been before, but this may or may not be a good thing. I find it challenging to know when I should pause. I felt guilty for my avoidance yesterday, and I slipped a little in my progress. I am only taking this one step at a time, but not knowing what the step is, sometimes I don’t know when I have taken it. I don’t know where I am today. I have been away, but I feel rested. This break was good, and I hope to see the next good break when it arrives. Today, it seems the timing of when I stop will be critical.
I try to center now and focus. The plan is coming together in pieces. I know I will drop the hide and run into the cave. I will follow guidance to the correct place to wait for him. When he arrives, I will confront and hopefully ‘heal’ him and then I must make it out of the cave and down the mountain.
I think I will leave something behind, but I do not know what. I think it may be used by one of the guides later, but I’m not sure. I know this general idea, but I don’t know when I leave or how. I also know; the moment I finish with the self-loather, I must make it off the mountain before the pursuer can significantly impact me. I’m not comfortable with the plan, but it’s guided. So, I prepare to move forward anyway.
I focus on knowing where to go, but I don’t get anything specific. I think I just need to trust at this point and leap. I gather the hide in my hands and prepare to run, asking, “Should I take the hide with me? Can I use it again?”
“No. It won’t work again. Prepare to throw it off and run.”
Adjusting to a crouch position, I sense him stop and put his nose in the air. He feels the movement. After a few deep breaths, I throw off the cape, and I run for the cave. The moment my feet hit the ground, so do his. I run blindly into the blackness as he begins his ascent up the mountain.
Once inside the cave, I feel along the cave walls for direction. He knows every centimeter of this mountain and can move at a dead run. I have to slow down, so I can feel my way along the cave walls. Luckily, I do not have to go as far. I should find my location and focus for a moment before he arrives. Each time I feel a fork or a cavern, I ask for guidance. It is a slow, tedious journey that I accomplish blindly. “Patience,” I keep telling myself, “Trust.”
He feels me in the passageway and shifts from a trail to enter. I do not know if the darkness slows his progress. I can feel his adrenaline pump through my veins as he moves up the hill. I focus on the wall to remain calm and just keep moving. There is something in me feeling the need to rush a bit, but I am more concerned with making the right decisions. I do not have enough time to turn back and correct a wrong decision. This race is a true test of my faith.
I feel myself going deeper into the cave and declining into the core of the mountain. I think the place I will need to be is somewhere near the center, maybe all of the way at the bottom. I hope there are no passageways through which he can ‘short-cut’ into the cave, but my sense is there are not.
As he travels, he begins to gain his composure. He has found me and has no idea I am doing anything but trying to escape from the mountain. He feels it is good he can sense me inside of his cave. Usually, he prefers not to have anyone in there. This is his sanctuary, but he feels the tunnel will be the safest place for him after his last experience. I won’t be able to hurt him here. He knows it. What he cannot comprehend is; I did not come here to hurt him. I came here to help him. I came here to heal him.
It takes some time, but I find my way to the cavern I need. Initially, there is no light here, but I know there will be light when he arrives. He cannot see any better in the black of this cave than I can, so I imagine he will bring light. I already know how the cavern will look when he illuminates it. I can see it in my mind’s eye, beyond glimpses of us talking. It has a very high ceiling and a pool of clean, clear water at the center. I feel every piece of it. This cave is becoming mine. Maybe it always was. Either way, he will enter into my core when he finds me here.
As I step from the corridor and into the open space, I sense a stag standing at the edge of the pool. Deer is awaiting my arrival. I walk around the pool and directly to him. Wrapping my arms around him, I bury my face in his neck. I am so grateful to have company again. He bends his head slightly, so his antlers wrap themselves across my back, like arms in a hug.
I only stay in his embrace for a moment, as I know time is critical. Feeling a fresh wave of confidence, I quickly fold my poncho in half and lay it lengthwise near the water. There is another woven blanket lying on one of the rocks, and I know it is for him. I cross to the entrance side of the pool and lay the blanket almost directly across from where I will sit. I cannot discern the directions in this cave, but I am sure Spirit is guiding my decisions.
I return to my bag and quickly lay a sage circle around my poncho, but I do not close it. I lay my ‘crow totem’ between my blanket and the water but inside my circle. This totem will be directly between us as we communicate. It will also serve as my altar. Now I understand the directions and return to my bag to remove tobacco. I lay this out, along with a bright, yellow summer dress. The dress is strapped and about knee length. It is lightweight and dances a little as I take it out of the bag, making me immediately think of Amber. She would wear this, but right now, I feel like it’s something I could wear too.
I quickly remove my clothes and put them into my bag. Before putting on the yellow dress, I dive into the pool. I cleanse myself in the healing water for several minutes, feeling the rush of life and memories shock my lungs. My mind returns to preparing for my vision quest in the river as I feel it move over my skin, like liquid medicine, filling every pore with life-giving energy. Once I feel completely clean, I climb out of the pool and smooth white sage over my skin. It is my first experience of a ‘dry smudge.’ It will offer additional protection without giving away the smell of sage. After donning the dress, I fill a cup with water. I place the cup between his blanket and the pool. Where it sits is relative to where my totem rests, but not exactly. His is not an altar. It is medicine.
When I am complete, I return to my side of the pool and offer a prayer with the tobacco. I pray to the directions for guidance, and I pray to the Earth Mother for protection, “Protect me please, like you would protect a child in your womb.”
Finally, I pray to the Great Spirit for words, words to guide this broken soul home.
My final words to the Creator are barely out of my mouth when I sense his presence outside the cavern. He has slowed down. He is winded, but he also notices a difference in the cave. He doesn’t know what it is, but he knows I am in here, and I have made it different. Right now, he doesn’t care. He figures he can fix the cave later. Right now, he needs to feed, and he feels he must find me to do so.
Before he enters the space, I hide my bag where he will not find it. Then, I wrap myself in IEO’s sweater and enter the sage circle. This time I close it and sit in the center with my legs crossed. With my hands in my lap, I close my eyes, bow my head, and Iwait.