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97_Vision Quest Three – Squirrel – July 5, 2000

I sit on the ledge overlooking the lodges below. The view is the same, but unlike yesterday, today I sit circled by sage. My flags stand guard at each of the four directions, and my altar is laid before me. My sponsor and supporters have left the circle, and I revel in the silence. Actually, what I should say is; I revel in the near silence surrounding me. My circle is tranquil, except for what may turn out to be one of the struggles that usually accompany the early hours of my quest. 

Whether it is the nuisance of flies or the discomfort of cold, I tend to believe I must work through the menial issues of my life before I can fully open myself to the Creator. With four days to go, I suppose it is good I get started working through these issues right away.

The precipice where I sit is separated slightly from the hill by a small ravine. It is only inches deep, but it creates a distinct line between the mountain and the ledge. As the mountain has a significantly steep grade, it feels as if my circle is hovering over the trees and river below. Anyone accustomed to Utah Terrain can probably bring to mind the sparse south-facing slopes of our mountains. Covered mostly in dry grass and sagebrush, steep hillsides are often the backdrop of red rock pinnacles rising up in sharp contrast to cedar trees and scrub oak. The mountain behind me is mostly bare, but in what appears to be a perfectly designed picture of the desert mountain, there is an impeccably placed cedar tree of significant size sitting squarely behind my ledge, almost like a guardian to my space.

When my small group of supporters arrived to prepare my circle, my sponsor assumed the padded shade beneath the tree to be my selected spot. It does seem inviting, but I gestured to the shelf beyond. 

The ledge’s dry, rocky circle is a sharp contrast to the comfort and protection a tree could offer, but I don’t seek shade. The tree does appear to be the perfect nurturer for a four-day commitment, but as I’ve already been established, I do not take what seems to be the easy road. In the end, I take the only road I think will lead to where I must go, comfortable or not. I follow the path The Creator has laid out for me. This is not the year for nurturing. This is the year I must sit bare, where I can see the world and where it can see me.

I first thought this circle was chosen because I must feel the ironic loneliness of this place. Like my life, it looks down at the people I call family, but I’m not really a part of the circle. It is an arrogant example of my life, an exploitation of how I want to think I’m part of a group, though I never really gain a secure place within it. I’ve spent my entire life in this ‘here but not here’ relationship with the world. I never fit, not even with my family of origin. I want to believe this is a failure of the people not seeing my value, but I think I like knowing people are close, but not close enough to fail me.

I climbed the mountain thinking these were all issues I would work through. I thought I would spend my time processing what it means to be excluded, and as we passed the tree, I thought of how it might represent nurturing, but really it meant comfort, the comfort of never facing my issues. As we stepped onto the ledge, I thought I was finally willing to expose myself to the world, but there was more. I didn’t pick the more difficult path. I wasn’t guided to the harder road. I dodged a bullet, maybe several hundred of them.

My first few hours on the hill were relatively quiet, but by the time I felt settled in, I was visited by the random barrage of rocks and seeds. Like stones falling from the heavens themselves, they clicked and thudded on the earth around me. I would have thought that maybe The Creator himself was hurling my next challenge at me if it were for the accompanying screeches of a rather unruly squirrel coming from the tree behind me. She began not long after my supporters left, first making herself known to me by a series of violent threats, likely aimed at the suggestion I follow them. She berating me with words of warning that were soon followed with the ambush of nuts and rocks. The missiles landed hard on the earth behind me but didn’t quite have the velocity to reach my circle. 

While the barrage has diminished slightly over the last several minutes, I sit now in my third hour of listing to the harassing sound of her rage. I have invaded her home turf and possibly put myself in a path to food or young or to something equally important in her mind. Unlike the doe the last year, it is clear I am an unwelcome guest, and good I found my way out onto this ledge. While it’s easy to assume a shady place under a tree may be our solace, it may also become our curse.

The sun is low in the western sky before the chattering begins to slow and then finally stops. I won’t know until the morning if she has accepted my presence here or is merely resting her voice for a new onslaught tomorrow. For the time being and the night to follow, it is quiet.I try to nestle into my blanket and sleep, but I am restless, and I struggle to find my way through the cold to a place of comfort. I don’t know it yet, but rest will not come for me, not until the morning star has risen and climbed high into the sky. 

I realize I will not sleep shortly after the last of the light fades from the sky, so I sit, and I drum, and I pray. I saturate myself in the bliss of one who has found her place in the world. Finally, I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and this feeling brings upon me a kind of peace I could never imagine. In this night, I know gratitude.

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