Answering the Call of the Desert

Pilgrimage article: Verde Valley, Mingus Mountain and Sedona–feeling Nature as inner friend and healer, life change, poetic essence of the call to pilgrimage by Shay Panther.

“The land called me here…to the edge of the Colorado Plateau, to Sedona and the Verde Valley to meet myself.”

What is it that I see when I look out at the sandstone bluff scarped against a color of blue in the sky that I can hear? What is it that’s missing when I’m not perched out on an overlook, drinking in with my eyes the sculpt of land tracing itself into my consciousness? A thousand stories lie within the stone, including mine, now.

The land called me here over 4 years ago, to the edge of the Colorado Plateau, to Sedona and the Verde Valley to meet myself ~ someone I didn’t fully know yet. I’m still getting to know me through the song of this land and the eyes of the stars here. There is something here in the desert that listens to me. It’s the rocks. And I hear their voices in the wind. They find out places in me I don’t know are there at first. They give me permission to be what I haven’t tried yet; to live what Phil Cousineau , author of the Art of Pilgrimage calls a “deeply felt, fully breathed life.”

31 years ago, and over 1,000 miles from here, I would awake in my room up in Oregon, listening into the velvet darkness of the night to the breathing of a mountain and the sighs of a valley that were increasingly filling my awareness–by dreams at night and by visions during the day. It was a high desert, deep blue-skies country–very unlike the temperate, rain-soaked state where I was living at that time. The mountain and the surrounding desert became my constant companions for the next 27 years, while I walked a Life path that had other places for me to go first. But on my extended journey here, I wrote stories about people who lived here and drew pictures of the wild beauty here, all the while hearing this land singing in my bones.

Through a series of sychronicities, I found this land I call my Heart Home–Sedona and the Verde Valley. And there are actually several mountains here: Mingus, Black and Bear Mountains to name a few. Even as I was coming here, I could feel the land already washing my spirit clean. Here there is the rush of waterfalls spilling off of red rock during monsoon season; the eerie yip and yap cries of coyote song in the desert dusk; the smudge of sun-fired embers streaked across the sunset sky, the scent of rain-soaked creosote bush. And there is the rock.

Upon my arrival, a mutual friend introduced me to Sandra Cosentino, owner/operator of Crossing Worlds Journeys & Retreats based here in Sedona. Through excursions of the heart– Medicine Wheel ceremonies, drum journeys and cultural explorations into Hopi and Navajo Indian country, Sandra helped me deepen and further the bond I had with the wild magic here– this ancient land that had courted me from the thick-treed slopes of the Northwest into the soaring rock and wrinkled hills of the Southwest.

Shay Panther is a writer, poet, songstress, tour guide .

Shay Panther is a writer, poet, songstress, tour guide. Photo by Sandra Cosentino.

What is it exactly that called me here? Mystery is what called me here–the answers to questions I hadn’t known yet to ask, hadn’t lived yet. Something Wise knew I was getting ready to ask those questions–and to hear the answers, and it called me in so that we could talk.

We often don’t have any precedent in our lives that suggests that this kind of connection is open to us; don’t know anyone who has these interactive dialogues with Nature, with the wild energies of wind & rock and the ancient voices of the ancestors. Sandra has been in dialogue and soulful connection with this ancient land all of her Life. By example she helped me trust this seemingly unorthodox conversation I had entered into with this place and welcome the Mystery to enter into me.

When I walk the land here, scramble the rocks, I feel the stone in the bones of my hands and shins. It isn’t an abstract contemplation of the composition of rocks. It’s a body conversation with the earth that holds the days of my life, and all my dreams; all my breathing and wondering; all of me that I am now, that I will be, am be-coming as I write this. It is a conversation without words, composed of meanings that my heart & body understand ~ and finds my mind at peace, in its being let off the hook of having to come up with answers.

There is a kind of peace that only comes from knowing we are held safe in the cradle of the land; under the canopy of the sky. No other place spells me like the red rocks of Sedona , the limestone cliffs of the Verde Valley, the thrust of rhyolite tucked in the heart of Mingus Mountain, or the secrets of the basalt gashes within the wrinkled hills here.

The rocks are still telling a story here. I am glad I am a part of it.

first posted April 1, 2002; updared March 3, 2008 & January 5, 2017

2017, Shay Panther is now known as:  TaVie Coquille Jazlyn.  She is a life long inner and outer nature explorer, writer, singer, voice actor. For many years she was a professional jeep tour guide in Sedona, Arizona. She also worked with ceremonies, insight work and cultural tours with Crossing Worlds Journeys & Retreats and as a Unity Village prayer associate. See her Seachange Solutions blog here.