We returned from vacation last week. We decided we would travel by train to Grand Junction, Colorado, rent a car, and spend time in Monument Valley, AZ and New Mexico and return by train. Sounds simple enough, right?
Well, actually, it was a little more involved and more adventurous than I had dreamed. Our outbound train was almost 5 hours late in arriving in Grand Junction which meant cancelling reservations in one place and trying to get them in Grand Junction so we could pick up the car because the car rental closed at 6 and our train wouldn’t be in until well after that. Whew!
I learned – again – for the umpteenth time – there are simply some things out of my control. I prefer to have a plan and for things to go according to plan. Not this time but oddly, I was okay. Something about the pace of traveling by train with the multiple stops and never quite getting up to speed created a more laid back approach even as I prayed for a cell signal through the Rocky Mountains to reserve a hotel room in Grand Junction with a shower and a comfy bed! Our roomette on the train – seats which converted into beds – was better than sitting up all night in coach. It was a little bigger than a phone booth but I doubt Clark Kent would have been able to change to Superman in it (for those of you born after the early 1980s ask your parents or grandparents about phone booths!) A shower and comfy bed was much needed.
Thankfully, our hotel sent someone to pick us up at the train station around 9:30 when the train arrived. I just love the West! Our shuttle driver wore bib overalls and a small brimmed cowboy style hat with a feather in it. We were in mountain country and I loved it! With a smile, he loaded our luggage for our 10 minute ride from the station. Once in the room, we collapsed in the comfy bed!
The next morning our bib overall wearing driver shuttled us to the car rental place to begin the next leg of our journey to Monument Valley. Utah is lovely and it should have been a nice 4 1/2 to 5 hour drive to Monument Valley, AZ turned into almost 7 because Utah department of highways was blasting. Yea, the kaboom kind of “let’s blow up rocks and stuff” blasting. Apparently, rock blasting is Utah’s answer to orange barrels season found elsewhere in the nation!
A prayer for cell signal and I made a call to our guide for our Hunts Mesa camp out. He would wait for us at the visitor center in Monument Valley. We were about an hour and half late getting there. Then the fun REALLY began!
I never knew a Chevy Suburban could climb rocks and sand but our Navajo guide, Tony, showed me it was possible. We only had to travel 7 1/2 miles from the visitor center to the top of Hunt’s Mesa but it would take us 2 1/2 hours. Once we made it to the top of the mesa, the tour began. Tony dropped us off so we could watch the sunset over Monument Valley.
If Monument Valley looks familiar it is because it has been the other “character” in numerous western movies, five with John Wayne directed by John Ford, and even a few non-westerns like Easy Rider, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Back to the Future III and Forest Gump. A word to the wise, if you want to take a picture of the spot where Forest Gump stops and announces he’s tired, please pay attention or have you life insurance paid! We encountered a woman who simply didn’t want to leave the middle of the road until the very last minute. We smiled and waived as she took the pic of our rental car traveling along on US 163!
The bouncy, white knuckle drive to the top of Hunts Mesa was worth the trip. It’s almost as if time stood still in this valley. There are no utility lines or poles. Words don’t describe that it was like sitting on a rock atop the mesa watching the colors and shadows shift and change. Mesmerizing. Magical. Breath-taking. Magnificent. Sacred. That’s probably the best word. This truly is sacred land.
I felt deeply and profoundly moved within my spirit by something ancient and healing. I felt the sacredness of the place. The vastness is breathtaking. Science tells us Monument Valley’s rock formations which lie within the Navaho/Dine Nation, are eroded remains of their Rocky Mountain ancestors, formed by sandstone deposits and geologic uplift and then shaped by wind and water.
I felt the spirituality of the land. We were on our tour October 3 to October 4. I hadn’t deliberately planned to celebrate the Transistus of St. Francis of Assisi atop Hunt’s Mesa but it turned out that way because of how we structured our vacation. I watched the sunset receiving images of light and shadow and even wrote a bit in my journal.
Once the sun set, Tony guided us back to the camp for a hearty steak dinner with corn and potatoes and Navajo tea. The heavens were truly telling of the glory of God that night! We saw billions and billions of stars in the night sky including the Milky Way. We just don’t see the stars like that in Ohio even away from the lights of the cities. In the higher altitude we were closer to the stars and away for the light pollution of big cities and saw more stars in the night sky. We slept in a tent in comfy sleeping bags. Sometime in the night, I heard a light cool breeze dance through, kiss the tent with her gentle breath and move on. The next morning the valley seemed cleaner and brighter.
As the sunrise kissed the landscape, I recalled the John Michael Talbot song, “Sunrise/All Creation Waits” from his 1981 Troubadour of the Great King album, an album I played and played throughout college and after.
“Sunrise in the morning
Let all creation greet the dawn
And praise the Lord who created
Brother sun to open our eyes
For all of us would be blind
If not for the light of our Lord
For all of us would be blind
If not for the light of our Lord” – John Micheal Talbot (c) 1981
As the colors, light and shadows emerged and expanded, I recalled the moment immediately following cataract surgery in 2017. I saw so many things I never knew I was missing. October 4, 2019 I stood atop Hunt’s Mesa and felt immense gratitude for new eyes to see the amazing landscape of Monument Valley. I also felt heartfelt gratitude to the Creator for new spiritual eyes of the heart to see and walk with others on their spiritual journeys. This landscape in Monument Valley held a spirit of place and timelessness.
Questions for reflection, journaling or contemplation:
How do you experience “spirit of place”? What do you feel? What places are sacred to you? Journal, collage, draw or paint your place of Spirit.
When was the last time you felt gratitude for being able to “see”? What do you see with your spiritual eyes? What have you been “blind” to but now you see? Who or what opened your eyes to see?
What do you hear with the ear of your heart? Who are your companions on your journey? Your spiritual friend(s)?
(This blog is not intended to serve as individual spiritual direction. Spiritual direction and spiritual companioning is typically done face to face in a confidential setting. If you would like to explore one on one spiritual direction, or to experience group spiritual direction, please contact me. If you, your faith group, your church or your book club would like to know more about spiritual direction, please contact me. In the meantime, my hope is that the photos and this blog serve as a pause in your day, food for thought, or just a reminder to breathe in and breathe out all that is holy and good. The Divine Milieu is all around us. Thank you all for your prayers and support.)