When I came around the bend in the highway and saw the ridge lines around Mancos, I immediately fell in love. The pines had dissolved into brush, and I could see the contours of the land. Still lush and supportive of life, I saw meadows and ponds dotted along the landscape. And the bluffs! The mountains! Beautiful!
I was coming into town to see Fred, who was my contact at Lifeseed. This is a small intentional community of three parcels, approximately 1 acres each. They are individually purchasable, but of course Fred and Catherine want to make sure you’re someone they want to live next to. I pulled up and met Fred, and he gave me a tour of the property. They have two greenhouses and a house for him and his wife. One of the other parcels has a yurt, and the last is bare land.
Fred allowed me to camp for a few days. On Sunday morning we gathered in their garage for a live stream of Michael Beckwith’s church services. There was one little boy present, and when we would stand up to sing and dance he had to be center stage, casting his dancing shadow on the projector screen. At the end of the service, a Native American from Santa Fe announced that he would offer a peyote ceremony at a local house in about an hour. I chatted with a few people, then struck camp and headed over to the other house.
The ceremony included drumming, singing, telling stories. The peyote was served as a tea, the cactus buttons were floating in mason jars. I didn’t feel high or disoriented from the peyote, and I didn’t hallucinate. I felt aware, awake and present with the group. Our official said their people consider the peyote a medicine, that it is heavy alkaline and can cleanse the body of indigestion, and many other ailments physical, emotional, and spiritual. The warriors of his tribe would use this medicine ceremony as an opportunity to open their hearts and connect with each other, which was a rare opportunity for the men. He continues to use it in the same capacity, facilitating groups for young men, allowing them to experience connection and share their gifts and their stories.
We passed around the water drum, each getting to try it for a song, and we all got a chance to hold the shaker and sing a song of our choice. I met a dozen sweet, kind people this way, and felt really welcomed by the Mancos community.
A few of the people I met live in Durango, a few that were traveling like me, and Jeff who lives in Mancos who offered to show me around the area. I’m really grateful for all of these connections, and I look forward to getting to know the area more. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up living in Mancos!
That night I camped in a canyon northeast of Dolores on the 145. I came to a clearing with an unmaintained road cutting off through the meadow to my right and leading to a side canyon - forest service land. There was a black car parked there, and I thought he might want the spot, so I’d better look for another. As I looked down at the map on my phone, he walked up to my window and I rolled it down to speak with him. He tells me that the biggest black bear he’s ever seen was scared off when he drove up the road. So watch out, he’s in the area. I asked him if this would be a good spot to camp and he said yes. I got out of my vehicle and ended up speaking with him for another hour.
His name was Jason, he said, with a malt liquor in his hand. His dog Dozer, a massive 15 year old bulldog mills around the area, ocassionally sniffing me, or something on the ground. He has a scar running down the whole right side of his face and some of the bone is missing. This is from a gunshot wound, he explains. He shows me scars on his neck, arms and back from an axe fight that he got into. Almost died then too, he says. Jason has lived in the area his whole life. He tells me more about his history, his family. He says God must have kept him around for some reason, he’s still waiting to find out what that might be. But he’s proud of his son, who’s happily married, and he’s happy to have lived to see that.
Jason says good night, and heads off in his car. I set up my bed and am turning in for the night when Jason’s headlights swing back around and he pulls up besides me. “Saw the bear again just up the road. He’s headed in the other direction so you should be good.” I thank Jason a second time and he heads off.
The next morning I got up, made breakfast, did my qigong, meditation, and read some from the book that Winston had given me, “Incidents Beyond Coincidence”. Jason had offered the previous night to come back with some guns so we could do some practice shooting. I haven’t shot a gun since I was a child at my grandpa’s house, so I was down for a new experience. Plus I’ve been feeling more and more like it would be good self defense if I’m going to be hiking in bear country. I waited until 10:30 or so, but didn’t see Jason. He had also told me about a rock ampitheatre up the canyon, so I decided to walk up the road and check out the canyon. I figured he’d see my vehicle parked and know I was still there.
I hiked maybe a mile into the canyon and found a spot on my left where the rocks formed a smooth contour, shooting high overhead. Along the way I had seen some logs torn up, presumeably by the bear. No other signs of him though. I looked around me, considering the possibility of turning back. It didn’t seem like I was going to see much more if I continued. Then I looked up the rock face and saw that it was climbable to my left. So I climbed up there and walked along the ridge. I came to a tree that was growing out of the ledge and I sat down and meditated for about an hour. Afterwards, when I was coming back down the rock, I saw movement across the canyon. I sat still and watched as the bear sauntered through the brush, and deeper into the canyon. I think Jason’s estimate of 300 pounds was probably accurate. You know, if I hadn’t stopped to meditate for an hour, I would have run face to face into that bear. How’s that for divine protection? Certainly divine timing.
I hiked back, got in my vehicle and came up to Durango, where I sit typing this under a tree. It’s time to meet Dan, a friend of my friends in Longmont. We all met at a music festival two years ago. Now it’s time to hang out and catch up!