I sleep for only a few hours. I don’t know what wakes me. It is still dark, and the snakes are silent. Everything is quiet. The only sound I hear is the river quietly gurgling next to me. Still, I’m wide awake.
Bringing myself to a sitting position, I retrieve my drum from the altar. I tap it quietly while I pray and gaze past the river and over the trees to the mountain beyond. My eyes land upon the far mountains just as the Morning Star rises. I watch the light follow it. Blackness fades to the darkest of blues, growing lighter with each passing moment. Quietly, I sit, singing my prayers to the Great Spirit. Silent tears flow freely down my cheeks. All I have seen, all I have done, all I have known, has brought to this moment. I see the worth of each anguish, all the horror, and every sorrow in the sight of this star and its promise of a new day to the people.
I watch the star continue to climb through the sky, showing a path to the Sun and the day as they follow it across the sky. Light begins to grow, and I sing a prayer to the new day. I take the blessings, and I honor the directions. Then, I lay my drum upon the altar once more, and I stand in my Vision Quest circle. I stretch and wish a good morning to the river and the trees and the snakes and all that is good around me.
Before sitting again, I carefully fold my blanket and lay it with my drum upon the altar. Then, I turn and ask the West to share with me its teaching. I watch the leaves tumble across the meadow, lifted by a warm breeze. The birds move amongst the trees, some flitting toward the high cliffs that stands as a backdrop.
Just as the sun breaks free of the mountains behind me, I see the Great Earth Mother’s face revealed to me on the rocky face. Carved into the high red cliff, I see her face, young and beautiful and free. I watch her and I imagine her dancing with a sweet smile touching her lips. I see her as she is, feminine and strong and full of every potential imaginable. I watch her love and grow and see her children as they become mothers themselves. I see her nurture her family and move gracefully from a bearer of life to an elder’s wisdom. I watch her as she ages and dies and is reborn again as a beautiful baby girl, held tenderly in her own offspring’s arms.
It takes most of the day for the sun to journey across the sky and show me her story carved upon the canyon wall in shadow and light. I sit for hours, mesmerized by the beauty of her journey, and I do not move. I do not see the flies or hear the river or have any words in my head. All I know is the message on the mountain. Like an old movie projector winding a tale of my ancestors, I watch the shadows on the cliff shift and show me this story, and as the sun moves through its peak in the sky and to its place not far above the cliff, the story ends. It is back where it started, the child grown into a beautiful, graceful woman, dancing within the Earth once more.
I know in my heart I have been given a Vision. I am grateful to have had the honor to watch this history, and I hope others were watching the great red rock and saw this story as well. I know I will not be able to give justice to the beauty of what I saw when I return to the people, but I know in my heart I will never be the same for having seen it.
As the story fades and the flies return, I believe it must be time to return to the people and share my Vision, but something deep inside me speaks and tells me I must remain for the Morning Star. There is another message for me from the Great Spirit.
I struggle with the thought of staying in my Vision Quest Circle. The nights are cold, and my thirst is so strong. I cannot imagine it is vital for me to stay. I have received a message for the people, and this is the reason for the Vision Quest. I am here for the people, but my mind is insistent; there is something more for me, so I wait.
I search for my message, praying again for my chance to return. The flies peck at me, and I surrender to the suffering. I feel betrayal and pain, and I feel failure. I am not strong enough to do what the Great Spirit is asking me to do.
Robin comes to land on the old gnarled tree next to my vision quest circle, and he ponders me like he did just yesterday. There is no doubt in my mind it is the same robin I saw at the beginning of my Quest. We recognize one another. He is here to tell me this is my opportunity for a new life, but I argue.
“Maybe you are here to tell me I have received my vision, and now I must leave.” I do not look forward to another night battling the cold.
Then, I hear the words again, this time in another voice, ‘You must wait for the Morning Star. There is something more for you.’
I try to stay. I push through another hour or so with the flies, but the weakness prevails in the end. I do not wait for the Morning Star. I allow the thought of the coming cold and the desire for food and a drink to overwhelm me. I abandon my personal Vision and accept only what I have received for the people. I make excuses, saying, ‘The strength is not in me, not yet.’
Seeing the Sun and its plan to set once again, I pull up my flags. As I do, my heart breaks, and I hear an audible moan from the Earth, as though she was not ready to part with them yet. Many will say to me, ‘all things happen for a reason.’ I suppose this is true. However, in situations like these, I think the reason is that I have failed.
As I stand, I hear the flap of wings as Robin flies away. The opportunity given to me is lost. I cannot reclaim it now. I try to convince myself I must leave. I have made the right decision. I do not want to spend another night alone, but I know better. Loss settles into my bones. I have taken care of the people, but I have forgotten myself.
I return to the camp destitute. I have fallen short.