We stepped lightly, feet sinking into the soft sand that lay beside the creek. The air was heavy with the recent storm, the desert air saturated with wetness, and the undeniable feeling of Other. The babyman demanded we walk, pointing to the creek and providing the sweetest little grunts as encouragement. This he did, again, now, pointing at the birds that lay just ahead on the trail.
The oldest two girls followed closely, listening, feeling. This was to be an awareness walk, an exercise in extending the witch sight, in developing awareness of one’s surroundings and of the Unseen. Lessons in functionality begin early in our family, with emphasis placed not on the idea of having skills but in the development and use of those skills. This was a perfect opportunity to stretch awareness and cultivate that skill.
The creek flowed determinedly over the many rocks in its way. It chattered steadily, a gentle backdrop that made it easy to slip into a meditative trance, but that is not what we were practicing today. Now was not the time to become lost inside -not when the Other lay so heavily on the land, not when the chance to cross thresholds better left uncrossed was so very much a possibility. The baby grunted and pointed; I drew the girls’ attention to where he pointed, keep them focused on the world about them.
Usually, we would walk the trail from east to west, heading straight for the wildest places and easing back to the lightly landscaped trailhead. Today, though, we walked backwards, the better to be alert, to see things anew, to see what was there and beckoning.
Ahead, the trail broke for the forest. The weight of this opening was palpable; we stopped, watching, waiting.
The 6-year-old spoke. “It looks like a faery portal.” Her face was solemn.
Her 8-year-old sister agreed, nodding her head slightly, remembering to look more than speak, to see more than tell.
“It is now. But it wasn’t the last time we were here,” I tell them. We continue to watch and feel without expectation and with no other goal than to watch and feel. We’d spoken for days about the seriousness of faery portals, the importance of having a guide, and how neither of them had cultivated such relationships yet.
As we watched, the weight of the portal gathered itself and withdrew, pulling itself back into the forest, like a mist receding into the wild.
“Did you see that?” I looked at the girls, noting their expressions, looking for signs of awareness.
Turning back to the vanishing portal, a small child, clad in a glittery pink SuperGirl costume came running out of the forest. She bolted straight towards us, small arms pumping at her sides as her feet pounded the sand. Her face, as always, was determined, proud, fierce.
It was the 4-year-old.
“Momma, I just walked down the trail all by myself because I was looking for you and nobody came with me.”
We resumed walking the trail, the 4-year-old falling in step behind me. We spoke of the javelinas that frequented the creek, and the mountain lion that we saw just days ago. We spoke of her bravery and acknowledged her capability, but cautioned that she had been further from the house and from me than she realized. The older girls walked quietly, still listening, looking, and feeling, but now also picking flowers here and there to place on our Lady’s shrine.
The trail meandered over rocks, through shady patches dotted with mullein. The 4-year-old, now playing tour guide, named the plants as we passed them. The elder girl spotted a new birds nest just above the trail. And still we walked, moving closer to the sounds of civilization, to the murmuring hum of the town waking up, it’s denizens beginning their day.
The girls and I spoke of the calming effect of our walk as we approached our tinyhome, of the way one can tell the Other from the regular. Although our walk had an unexpected encounter (with what can only be described as a wild forest creature,) it still proved successful.
Throwing the Bones