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Hi John, I loved your story “The Bright White Light” (Smoke Signals, MG #181). I’ve had several lightning moments, mostly up near Grand Mesa doing a Vipassana retreat. The Wakayan (Thunderbeings) were really active up there. I’ve attached a few paragraphs from a short story I wrote called Coyote Bones. The lightning snapped me out of suicidal thoughts … scary and good. Hope you enjoy it.
The lines of my identity began to dissolve as I stared down at the trickster, melting myself into the creek bed, alongside the beast. Adrift in the desire to merge back into the oneness, disintegrating and submerging deep into the feeling of what I thought it would be like to cross over and die, I floated away, over the hills, river and mountains. Then, an ever-so-soft yet penetrating voice whispered into my mind, “Is this where you want to be?”
Right then, at the very moment the question was posed, a flash of lightning accompanied by an explosion louder than dynamite cracked above my head. Smack-Sizzle-Boom! Thunder reverberated through the canyon with an echoing domino effect. A primal scream erupted from my mouth, snapping me out of my dissociative daydream as I jumped back five feet from where I was standing. My heart surged with a force like rushing water and the hair on my arms stood up on end. Quickly, my mind started ticking with the consequences I could face for being down here in this deep narrow canyon.
This could be a flash-flood zone. Yes, now I could see why all the bones were down here. I looked up at the dark sky as grey clouds bundled tight and fierce, huddled together like a pack of wolves in the direction I was headed. The steep canyon walls were at least 25 to 30 feet high on each side of me. It was definitely too risky for me to try to climb out at this spot. I knew that miles up ahead a cloud burst could send a rushing river of water, mud and trees through this place that could kill me. Jolted by the thunder and the fear of really dying down here, I began to run up the canyon looking for a way to get to higher ground.
The Bone People and Coyote Trickster were laughing at me now. I sensed the presence of anthropomorphic beings, ancient ones, floating high above the cliff walls, watching my unfolding dilemma. They were the witnesses of my life in this Land of The Lost juncture. They were the guardians of this place where I had come for lessons, their kind of lessons. This was the canyon that turned my head, and now I realized that I didn’t want to be down here with the bones. I wanted out!
The sky darkened and a firm rain began to fall on me. I was about half a mile from the coyote skeleton when I saw something up ahead blocking the trail. Within minutes, I found myself face to hoof with the stench I had smelled earlier up canyon. In the most extremely narrow part of the canyon thus far, where the white rock walls came no wider than eight feet across, was a deer carcass. Silently stiff and hardened by rigor mortis, it waited for me, twisted up in thorny brambles, branches and tumbleweeds. Its head was speckled with pieces of pink decomposing flesh and one cloudy black eye gazed downward with pity. Yellow bones were poking through its bloated hide while maggots swarmed in a frenzied feast of rotting flesh. Terrified, I saw the decomposing deer as a reflection of myself, caught in the tangled barbs of anorexia. I was forced to look at it. Turning back was not an option. The only way out was through, and the only way to get through this part of the trail was to press myself up against the deer carcass, pull away the thorny branches, hold my breath and squeeze myself between this doorway of death. The rain pummeled my face. Any moment now I felt like the red murky waters of a desert flood were going to rush over me and whisk my life away.
Panicking, I grabbed at the sharp brambles to clear my way, and cut my hand. Blood seems to flow faster in the rain. My feet got tangled up in the broken cottonwood branches that were scratchy and clumped up like barbed wire. Teetering to keep my balance and not fall into the sharp thorns, I fell onto the carcass. A puff of putrid air enveloped my senses. Gagging, I rolled off of the deer and into the mud. Sobbing out loud, I sat with my eyes closed, tears and rain pouring down my face. I was afraid, bleeding and shocked. I didn’t want to open my eyes. I couldn’t bear to see any more death. The penetrating light of truth was cutting my ego open like a laser, revealing to me that this experience was my un-buried treasure.
John: I was living in Taos, New Mexico, in the ’80s and was dating a beautiful Chinese-American lady named Nancy. She had moved from Santa Barbara, CA, to Santa Fe, NM, to attend Healing Arts School. She had a short-lived, boring career as a CPA counting beans and decided to shuck it all and reinvent herself. She was in her element and got way into the Santa Fe “New Age” spiritual community. I loved it because she practiced her massage training on me and all my buddies.
After getting certified in massage, she packed up and moved to the island of Oahu in Hawaii and set up her massage table on the beach outside of Kailua. She fit right in with her long black hair, brown rock-hard body and exotic Asian looks. She invited me over to visit and I was on the first plane I could book to Hawaii! She had changed her name to “Akua,” which she thought meant “Spiritual One” in the ancient Hawaiian language, but actually meant “God” to the locals, so she became the “Goddess on the Beach” who gave killer massages. Not far from the truth.
As soon as I arrived, she told me we were going to experience a week of spiritual enlightenment … Hawaiian style. Sounded good to me. After all, I had spent the last ten years in Taos, exposed to all kind of latent hippie craziness, and was open to anything. She had become quite a “seeker,” looking for the true meaning of life. While I was not really looking too hard to find myself, who knew what revelations I might stumble upon in this island paradise? Our first night on the path to knowledge, we went to see a “White Witch” (think of Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, in “The Wizard of Oz.”). She expressed concern over our yin and yang and told us to look out for both good and evil signs that could influence our future. Next day, we went to see a psychic healer who placed heated stones all over our bodies to release any bad energy we had accumulated in our years of drug and alcohol abuse. I was not sure how much I was cleansed, but I did get a second-degree burn on my butt that gave me a small scar that looked like an eyeball.
The third day, we went to a group meeting to see a “channeler” (big in the ’80s) who channeled Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes books. He was going around the circle of seekers having us say our names, then he would emphatically state (in a pretty bad English accent) who we had been in a previous life. He told me I had been a Sioux Indian Medicine Man and I needed to drink lots of saffron tea to find the true meaning of my life. Which would have sounded kind of hokey, except, six months earlier, I had gone to a New Year’s Eve “Psychic Fair” in Taos and a lady channeling a Civil War confederate soldier had told me that I was a Sioux Indian Medicine Man in a previous life. Whoa …. Either those two were in cahoots or maybe there might be something to this channeling thing!
By this time, I was starting to find out more than I wanted to know about myself, and decided to go on a solo camping trip to the Big Island of Hawaii to see the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The park was home to the 13,680-foot Mauna Loa volcano, which was still active and spewing smoke and debris in the air. It occasionally burped and sent lava flowing down the side of the mountain, continually adding to the size of the island. Mauna Loa had been relatively calm for a while, so I rented a tiny
compact car and drove straight to the top of the island, from sea level to almost 14,000 feet in just over an hour. It was getting dark by the time I reached the Park Service campground and I was the only one there. It started raining, so I quickly set up my one-person, borrowed tent, which to my dismay had no rain fly with it. Very quickly, the storm began to get violent and the wind began to howl all around me. It reminded me of the scene in the movie “Fantasia,” where the song “Storm on Witch Mountain” was playing and it was getting kinda scary up there.
The thunder was deafening and the lightning storm was becoming like a surreal dream. After my previous week of dabbling in the New Age “occult” world, a random thought crossed my mind to see if I could actually call up some of those “evil sprits” that I had been hearing about. Bad idea. That was one dumb-ass move, as the moment the thought entered my brain, a gigantic lightening bolt struck somewhere near the campground, everything went bright white and my hair stood straight up in the air! A huge gust of wind blew me and my mini-tent end-over-end across the campground. I was so scared, I almost peed my shorts. Terrified, I ran to the parking lot, with the wet tent wrapped around my ankles. I jumped in the back seat of the car and locked all the doors, wondering what the f–k had I done. What kind of idiot would call up the dark side in the middle of a lightning storm on an active volcano? Me …. that’s who! I pulled the soaking wet tent over my head and started praying to any “good” spirits that would listen, to have pity on me and rescue me from this nightmare.
It continued storming all night, and I was afraid to go to sleep for fear that I might not wake up. Finally, the rain clouds cleared and I looked out the window at the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen in my life, peeking at me over the vast horizon of the Pacific Ocean. That was all I needed to prove to me that good had prevailed over evil, and a new day was ahead for me after all. I’ll never forget that night when this young punk with an arrogant attitude thought he could actually call up evil spirits on demand and get away with it. Whatever happened that night, it made me start focusing on the good in life, not the alternatives. I learned a valuable lesson not to be asking for more than I could handle or it might actually come true. To this day, when I’m out in the woods camping,
and the lightning starts, I high tail it to lower elevation, hide in the trees and concentrate only on pure thoughts that would even meet the approval of Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. Oh yeah … what happened to Akua? She got married, came back to the mainland and started a very successful accounting firm in LA. Not sure if she found real the meaning of her life, but she does have a house on the beach and gets to watch the sun set on the Pacific every day.
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