Shadows infiltrate and capture my imagination in this place of light. As I sit high atop the cliffs of Brandenburg Mountain, apple in hand and legs swinging free, my eyes sweep over the Galiuro Mountain Chain. The peaks soar to nearly 6,000 feet above sea level, small in comparison to the Tetons or Mighty Rockies, but they impress none-the-less. The diversity of the landscape amazes me. Washes of stone carved by seeps and floods create deep folds that delineate the softer peaks that are home to barrel cactus and sage. Igneous cliffs rise perpendicular to the canyon floor, impossible to climb, at least for me. The cottonwoods lining the creek change to saguaro and palo verde as my gaze travels up the mountain side and I think everything is here. Earth, Water, Air and Fire combine here like no other place known to me.
“This is your backyard.” Pat says to me sweeping his long arm outward and in that moment it takes my breath away.
Suddenly I am in it all at once. Dirt grinds into the back of my legs, a small ant tickles my knee, my hat sits heavy on my head, apple juice slides down my throat, sage teases my nose, the wind brushes my face, the low rumble of water reaches my ear and the sun colors my nose. Every pore of my skin is open, my senses fill until I feel I might burst with the beauty of it all.
Up here I can see whole clouds. They are more than mist and moisture in the sky, more than the white cotton clouds I used to see in the city. Here the clouds cast long shadows on the mountain sides, shadows that stretch for miles. I watch them move in tandem, the clouds and their shadows. It occurs to me they do not touch like my shadow which is always pinned to my foot. Yet the wind connects them, bustling them along at a steady pace, one never getting a jump on the other, one never lagging behind, a perfect balance of yin to yang. I like the shadow clouds. They remind me of the game rock, paper, scissors. Paper covers rock, scissors cut paper, rock smashes scissors but I would always choose shadow clouds because shadow clouds cover them all. Is it possible to disconnect one’s shadow side without losing it? To keep it separate but always near in case you need it? Is it possible to have the dark and the light so perfectly balanced that each stands as complement to the other?
The other morning I spent time with an intuitive healer. She held my hand as she closed her eyes to get a sense of my being. Opening her eyes, she smiled at me.
“Your spirit is a most lovely flower, a lotus, beautiful and kind. Yet I sense something pressing down at the center, pushing you down.”
She urged me to choose an animal and without hesitation I chose my totem, Swan. Next we identified my shadow side, the grizzly Bear. Bear, my shadow side, loves Swan so much he is killing her. He continually shields her, restricting her flight, keeping her out of the water, caging her for protection. Together, we explored this relationship of light and dark and how best to seek balance. Now I picture my spirit as a clear blue pond, big enough for Swan to swim gracefully at will, enjoying the comforting sight of Bear splashing in the shallows, each happy for the company and the support of the other, separate but together.
As I hike the mountainside with Pat I notice my shadow falling upon a red rock.
“What stone is this?” I ask.
“I believe it is rhyolite.” Pat replies and he, of course, is right.
Later that day I look it up. The mossy green gem quality stone ryolite is from Australia, but location changes its spelling and color. Dominant in the southwestern United States, rhyolite colors the cliffs of Aravaipa in the morning sun and is the red stone under my shoe. As I read about its spiritual properties, I finally understand what draws me to this canyon, this environment of red stone. Rhyolite promotes energetic balance, pushing one towards goals and providing strength to overcome challenges. For me this means that Swan will swim with grace and beauty, Bear will honor her and step in only when needed. It is no accident I find myself here.
The shadow clouds move on as we finish our lunch and stand up in the brilliant sun. I want to stay but we need to start back down the mountain before dark. Cholla stings my leg, piercing through my jeans, dust puffs up with every step, and sweat beads my brow. This is my backyard, but I don’t own it. It owns me.