Enter the Dragon

When seen from the lake, Apu Sawteeth is like a sleeping dragon. I, paqo, on my wachu, am about to awaken it.

I speak to the dragon as I hike the clip over the dragon’s knees, a pair of abrupt rises. I have visions of what’s beneath me, within the mountain, the dragon’s lair, the Apu’s sanctuary. I see hallowed chambers ornate with gold and jewels, with pillars and walls of luminous labradorite, its tailings flecked into the moon-rock anorthosite I admire at the surface. I see the awakening within myself as well.

I cross the nameless brook I studied by map. I know that ahead is the longest and steepest part of the ascent, up the dragon’s haunch. As part of my Paqo Wachu, I’m to gather three stone relatives, khuyakuna representing the foot, the heart and the head of the Apu. I choose to start with the head. No use in lugging stones up the mountain! These stones are to be wrapped in black, red and white cloth, respectively, placed as artes upon the mesa altar ground. They embody elemental forces as gifted by the Apu. They serve as calicanto artes for harnessing the raw powers of Nature. They’re a draw-down of otherwise untamable energies, the encantos, when in their pure state; the firmness of rock, the fluidity of water, the rising of wind, tools for the shaman-artist.

I continue my ascent. It’s the straight shot up the ridge and it seems endless. I grab onto roots to pull myself up and across slabs of rock, the skin of the mountain, the dragon’s scales. The trail is red with duff, edged with moss and bunchberry in profuse bloom. Everything is soft underfoot. A light rain begins to fall. Mist swirls as the trees fall away opening up occasional vistas. The neighboring peaks, lined up as the dragon’s tail, disappear into the gray. As I arrive at the summit, I step upon a stone and take notice. I meet my khuya representing the Apu’s head. It’s pointed and gnarly, much like the mountain itself. The woods around me is still, silent, immediate, as am I with it. I give thanks for this offering and place it into my pocket. I arrive at the summit to an open view of the massive bald slopes of Apu Gothics as they reappear, albeit briefly. All is primeval. I feel the eons long arc of age in these living, sentient beings, the Apukuna of the ‘Adipacha’. Their bones are several billion years old, far older than the verdant cloaks they wear. I sense them speaking, in deep resonance, a language understood through intuition and the ability to perceive frequencies well below human hearing.

The rain is steady, but I’m dry and warm under my gear. I continue on a bit and meet with a snowshoe hare, in his summer brown coat, parked on the trail. He’s placid, sitting still, no worry at my presence, just a leap away. In fact, the fellow seems to welcome me. We share an extended moment before the rabbit stretches each hind leg and then disappears into the underbrush with a single leap. I return to the summit vista. Mighty Apu Haystack has emerged from the mist. The Great Range arcs before me, appearing and disappearing between swirls of rising cloud. The watershed far below is Shanty Brook, tomorrow’s destination. As I descend the steep pitch in the rain, I break into laughter at the realization of my summit encounter with the hare.

“Don Oscar!” I say, “So good to see you! Tiyayukuy Hatun Willka Altomisayoq! Welcome, most venerable teacher and guide! Hare, the great leaper of faith, is your totem! You’re here, with me, on top of the mountain! Haylli!

The level of support I feel is increased by a factor of a hare’s leap, an appreciable measure when venturing into the unknown. Maestro’s presence delights me to my core. I also sense how, within myself, I want to do this thing well, this Paqo Wachu, which is not the attitude to carry because expectations weigh the most, like stones carried up the mountain. I consciously let go of looking for signs and open myself to receiving whatever messages are naturally present.

I feel a different set of muscles hard at work as I descend. Adirondack climbs often go on far longer than my enthusiasm for them. I reach the nameless brook, which means I’m down from the dragon’s haunch. I’m at the heart of the mountain. With patience and open to trust, I observe a stone in the stream that invites me to pick it up. It’s reddish in hue, somewhat heart-shaped. I’ve received my next calicanto khuya. I offer tobacco and speak of my gratitude for this gift and head down the trail. I reach the crossing back across Shanty Brook. I pause and reflect on my journey thus far. It’s been a magical day. My sense of purpose and mission is revved. My Paqo Wachu is well underway. I’m at the foot of Apu Sawteeth, where I receive the third of the calicanto stone relative trio. I make my offering, my ayni and prayer, and meet up with the trail leading to home.

Back at camp, I warm up with a bowl of soup as I make my journal entry. I tend to a fire in the cookstove and spend the evening drying my boots by the stove chimney. Day 1 is complete, a success on many levels, yet I’m feeling contradictory emotions; fulfillment and satisfaction tempered with the knowing that tomorrow is the real deal, the Big Day. I will load my pack and venture into the wilderness, a bushwhack into darkness.

I turn in for the night, appreciative for all that I have, my creature comforts met another day, my head upon a down pillow. I ask myself, before falling asleep,

Tomorrow, when I hike up Shanty Brook, where will I land in my leap to Source?

About the Author

 Pieter Lefferts

Pieter Lefferts

Featured Contributor

Painter. Writer. Musician. Teacher. Healer. Artist. Pieter is on a path to fulfill his soul’s puppeteering of his Earth walk. His mission is to enhance the beauty of this world through his creative endeavors. He’s been an initiate of the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition since 2014, having completed many advanced trainings. He has received numerous awards for his art and work as an educator.

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