For an unusual third time in a month, I was called to deliver blood to the only hospital servicing Cameron Parish. And so once again I set out on the Creole Nature Trail, one of the last surviving wildernesses in America. I call it "the Last Exit to Eden."
Before I left the outskirts of Man's domain, I got gas at a station appropriately named FOUR CORNERS. My half-Lakota mother would have smiled at the name. In Lakota myth there is a spiritual power in the crossroads spinning off to the four directions. She often told me that the four directions have to be in balance for all to be well with the world. From today's headlines, I would have to say they are at a kilter.
Often in Lakota myth, the directions are represented by animals. And on this trip, I met my share. I felt much like my own character, Hibbs the cub with no clue.
A lone dog stood sentinal in the front yard of a nearby home as I pulled away. He stood so still that for a second I thought him a bronze sculpture. But he turned his happy, tongue-lolling muzzle towards me as if to say, "I wish I were going with you." I waved a happy hello and good-bye in one gesture and went on my way.
I passed a majestic ranch, bordered by long, white rails. A small lake was just a few feet away. A bass jumped up in search of an elusive fly. A peace grew within me. The four directions of my spirit were in balance at least.
For a brief moment, I found myself at the end of a long convoy of parish vechicles off to some construction site. And I felt a wave of resentment much like the mountain men of old must have felt upon seeing pioneer families moving into "their" wilderness. I laughed at myself. How could the mountain men or I own the wilderness which existed long before we were born and would go on long after Man was only a radioactive memory?
Just before the long, winding S curve I love to drive, I spotted a single horse grazing in a blaze of marigolds. He looked up as I passed as if to snort, "Do you mind? I'm trying to have lunch here." Then, he went back to grazing.
As I pulled under the canopy of Cypress trees onto the straightaway, my old friends were waiting for me : the small herd of horses who love to pace my van in a friendly race through the clover and marigolds. They happily took up the game once again. This time they had company : a lone great Egret who soared above them on silent, mighty currents of wind. It swooped down and around in long, slow, graceful motions of its huge wings. I put down my window and drank in the sound of the gusting wind, the pounding of the hooves, and the haunting cry of far-off hawks.
I sadly parted from my equine friends as I started up the high, lonely bridge that arched and twisted up into the clouds like the feathered serpent of Aztec myth. At its peak, I looked out across a landscape that seemed devoid of Man. It didn't seemed to mind. As I hit the bottom of the bridge, I looked for my alligator acquaintance from the last trip. But he was off in search of more accessible meals than a human in a speeding van.
But I did spot a distant cousin : a huge tortoise slowly making its way across the road far ahead of me. I looked in my rearview mirror. Another car would be here before my shelled friend would make it across. I pulled over to the shoulder of the road, and I got out and lifted him all the way to the other side. As I walked away from him, he twisted his head my way as if to say, "You're a decent sort ... for a human."
As I continued on my lonely way, the quiet was broken by a huge flock of great Egrets playing tag with one another. They spread across the vast blue sky from horizon to horizon. And without warning, the flock enveloped me in its midst as the graceful, white birds darted down, welcoming me to their game. But, alas, I was rooted to the ground, and so they left me to waddle along the road.
And it seemed as if I heard the ghostly voice of The Turquoise Woman from Lakota myth and my mother's bedside tales : "You Two-Leggeds are so foolish. Solitude? Here? I am ablaze with life all around you. You are never alone, never unwatched."
A scary gust of wind shuddered my van just as I was traveling down the most narrow section of the trail, rippling waters from both edges of the road lapping up just inches from the side of my vehicle. I tugged on my wheel, and I felt a pressure on my van, steering me away from the grasp of the waters back to the center of the road.
I seemed to hear ghostly laughter, "Not your time just yet, little Lakota. You still make me laugh. And you save my turtles."
I nodded to the endless depths of the blue sky and whispered, "Thank you."
Just then, a red-winged hawk swooped across the road far ahead of me. I took it to be The Turquoise Woman saying, "You're welcome."
One of the tunes I was listening to on my trip was WHISPERS IN THE MOONLIGHT. And if you've been paying attention, you know who is whispering.
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