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Spooky stuff in Sedona

Posted on 2015.07.21 at 20:45
Current Location: Flagstaff, AZ
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When the gods want something to happen, they can get right down to business.

The first thing I did in Sedona is the first thing I usually try to do when I arrive in a new town during business hours: I went to the Visitor's Center, used the bathroom, refilled my water bottle, got a free map or two (in addition to the tourist map, which just shows the commercial parts of town, I always want the realtor's map that shows everything) and a few brochures for likely local institutions. I also asked one of the friendly volunteers how to find the public library, since the VC didn't have wifi. The volunteer was eager to tell me all about the library and how it gets no government money. Someone donated the land. A fundraising campaign put up the building, bought the books, etc. As for staffing, it seems that there are a lot of retired librarians in Sedona, so the potential volunteer pool is wide and deep.

I could probably make friends here pretty easily. If I could afford the place, I mean. Sedona is ruinously expensive. Between the natural beauty and gentle climate, the easy proximity to the city of Flagstaff to keep it from getting a case of small town insularity, and the constraints on growth/sprawl imposed by the canyon setting, being outrageously pricey is more or less a given even before you factor in the reputation for New Agey energetic woo-woo.

It's technically two towns, divided by a county line. Uptown Sedona is Tourism Central. It's where you go to arrange a Jeep tour of the red rock country, buy souvenirs, and rent a hotel room for about what you'd pay for the same square footage in downtown Boston. The library was on the other side of the line, in West Sedona, along with the grocery stores, the schools, and just about everything else that serves the needs of locals.

The directions were straightforward, but somehow or another, I couldn't find it right away. At the division between the two towns is a pair of rotaries. Now, having lived in Greater Boston for decades, and especially having intimate knowledge of the double rotary at Fresh Pond in Cambridge which is part of the route to my brother's, you'd think I could handle this pair with no problem, but I got turned around somehow and ended up on a side street, not entirely sure where I was. I decided to park, get out, walk around and look for a street corner with signs, to help me get oriented. No such luck. About a thousand feet down the hill, the sidewalks and the stores petered out into sagebrush without intersecting any other streets. I walked up to the rotary and turned right, but all I found was a pair of long walls as the highway passed between two high-end destination resort type places, the Hilton and one called the Cedars. I went back to my car. The walk had done me good, but I was still frustrated and achy from the drive, and I still didn't know where I was. Looking back on it, I should have been able to figure it out. The streets of Sedona really aren't that confusing. But when the Cosmic Forces want you to do something, probably the easiest way for them to get you to do it is to mess with your mind.

Finally, I noticed what They wanted me to notice: a New Age store offering, among other things, massage. Deciding that I could use a massage right about then, I went in and asked. It was about 11 a.m. at that point. I walked out with a massage appointment for 1:30.

I found lunch in Uptown, at a booth called the Doner Empire. It offered "German-Turkish street food", basically gyros with red sauerkraut. It was good. I ordered it on salad instead of in bread, so it wasn't too filling, which was also good; an overfed belly is not what you want when you lie down on a massage table. 1:30 found me back at the New Age store, which I had found to be one of many. They're not just a tourist thing in Sedona. They're everywhere. I don't think there's a three-block stretch of retail without one. My massage therapist's name was Claire. She looked like my fellow grey-haired German-American, and she really knew what she was doing. In fact, her massage had an effect that I used to feel regularly on the massage table, but which I hadn't felt in many years: I released sadness. Bawled like a baby. It was tiring, but it felt good.

She asked me about my regular massage therapist back in Massachusetts. I explained that he hadn't been available because his other job is as a PCA for a friend of mine, a writer who is disabled and who has been doing a lot of author tours this past several months, so the two of them have been on the road a lot. She asked what this writer friend wrote. Before I knew it, I was telling her all about Raven, of whom she had not heard. She was looking, it turns out, to explore her Norse ancestral spirituality, and she liked the fact that he is kind of controversial.

She also explained the technique she'd used on me. It's called myofascial release. It was developed right here in Sedona at a place called Therapy on the Rocks, which still exists. A lot of my symptoms, she said, could be explained by unexpressed emotions being held in the body. Which made sense to me. I never had the experience of deep grief that I'd been expecting after my mother died. In fact, my thoughts and feelings about her seemed to be the same ones I used to have when she was alive. So the loss of range of motion and increase in pain that I've had in the almost five years since then might be eased by finally letting those emotions out.

After the massage, we exchanged sticky notes. The one she gave me said www.myofascialrelease.com. The one I gave her said www.ravenkaldera.org. That was Saturday.

Monday morning. I was packing up camp. (What's a cheapskate to do in Sedona? Why, camp out, of course. Much of Oak Creek Canyon, between Sedona and Flagstaff, is part of a National Forest, and the Forest Service operates campgrounds there, which charge a very reasonable $20/night.) I had just about everything back in the car when I noticed that my campsite was getting a lot of attention from ravens, a species that is endemic to the Southwest. Two of them buzzed the place, swooping through the air. Then one settled on a branch and the other lit on the ground next to the picnic table. It picked up some pale thing (I later concluded that it must have been a rind from the cheese I ate as part of breakfast) in its beak, held it cross-wise for a moment, then turned it 90 degrees and ate it. Then it flew up to join the other -- two? Where'd that third one come from? And shortly there was a fourth, flapping around the campsite. Then they dispersed, flying off through the trees.

An experienced ornithomancer might be able to deduce the whole message the Gods were sending me, just from that. All I knew was that there was a message. I got out my rune tiles and my I Ching.

The runes I got were Ehwaz, Sigel and Mannaz. Travel, Victory, Community. The interpretation that immediately came to mind was that the purpose of my journey was fulfilled and now I should get back to my community. The I Ching reading started with number 7, Earth over Water, Acting Together, with the image of a group gathered together like water in an aquifer. 6 was in the 4th place, advising that when the odds are overwhelmingly against you, retreat sensibly. 7 turned over into 40, Thunder over Water. Before a storm, there is tension. Thunder above and rain below clears away the tension. When a problem is overcome, it is best to get back to normal as quickly as possible.

So it looks like I'm not going to be getting an apartment in Flagstaff or anything like that. I'll do a little touristing around, maybe do a course of treatment at Therapy on the Rocks, but then I'll be heading back to New England.

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