Barefoot in the Dark

It’s June in the Adirondacks, typically hot and buggy, but this summer solstice in the North Country is chilly and wet. I step with care, naked, across boulders, to the middle of the brook. The pool is deep enough to slip into, whole body. Once in, I’ll dunk my head for a full immersion. I take my first step in and every notion of warmth, so dear to the mammal, is gone. I’m not even in to my knees. I force myself deeper into the stream so that I’m submerged, for a committed moment, within the icy course of Shanty Brook. It’s the ritual hucha cleansing preceding ceremony.

I shiver as I towel off, back on ‘my beach’. I feel good, robust, alive. Reverently rowdy. I shout out to my surroundings in spontaneous song, belted out from my heart to the hearts of the mountains around me. I’m loud. Shanty Brook is louder. I sing with her, her tone, her color, her timbre, her lyric. Translations don’t matter. They all mean the same thing. I am, and so am I. We are. Undivided, we are as I am. What a song!

Afternoon fades into evening with much to do before dark. I break out thermal leggings, a long-sleeve top, fleece vest, and get to work. My Khuyay Tawantin mesa is the first thing I unpack. I place the tied bundle atop a boulder that becomes the keystone to camp. Heart and hearth, but if for one night in its billions of years of existence, this earthen relative is the locus for a man’s sense of home. I love the notion and tell the boulder so. Tirakuna, watchers from the ledges, vibe their keen interest. They accept my presence within their court. I express my gratitude to them for this sanctuary amongst the ‘milleniatude’ of stone relatives, from countless grains of sand, to the singularity of an Apu. Light is fading. I turn to pragmatic matters before ceremony. I prepare my bedding, an impromptu leveling of sand, tarp, pad, blanket, down bag. I aim to keep things dry. My boots are soaked.

To my surprise, at the start of my Paqo Wachu, I was given an unofficial nod by a local official that, if it were him, he’d build a fire. He tells me it’s common among hunters, alone in the woods to have a small fire for cooking and a bit of companionship. I take him up on the notion and gather stones for a fire ring. I will burn my Hatun Hallpay Despacho, after all.

The Tawantin mesa is specific in its purpose, precise in its protocols, different from the Pachakuti Mesa in that it aligns to the east, instead of north. The head of the altar ground points to the rising sun. It’s an attenuator between the Apukuna to far into the Above, where each Apu has its own celestial estrella, its guiding star shining upon the Apu like a porch light welcoming the apu back to its celestial home. Gods and goddesses, after all, descend from the stars for their earthly play.

The Tawantin mesa also enjoins the seq’e web, the nervous system of our living Pachamama. I intuit due east and consecrate the ground with libation, cornmeal, tobacco and a three-leaf k’intu. I add an inseminating drop of Florida Water to the fertile ground upon which I lay out my manta, my ceremonial cloth. I offer mikhushanku to Mamapacha, The Seven Directions, Apu Sawteeth, to Siwar Q’enti, to the Apukuna of Peru. With a fresh breath I extend my offering to the T’eqse Muyu, the omniscient Infinite Presence. My mesa activated, I perform the rituals of ceremony, offering two-leaf k’intu, bay leaf pairs, to the duality of being, the cosmic dance of male/female, day/night, heaven/earth, spirit/matter, in polar reciprocity.

I prepare the despacho with prayers of love and gratitude for the apukuna. I invite Siwar Q’enti to give wing to my prayers. With the despacho complete, sitting upon my altar ground, I endeavor to make a fire. It’s a struggle. Everything’s wet except for the paper I made sure to keep dry. On the third try, using the last of the paper, I get the tinder to burn. It’s dusk. I take in the falling dark, the sounds of the brook, the vague glimpse of moon through the cloud cover. The forest canopy drips, saturated from days of rain. All is still. My fire casts a friendly glow. I’m at peace, pleased with this moment. My concerns for where I might make camp are over. My paqo wachu is going well. I continue my conversation with all my relations, seen and unseen, in unspoken reverie. I feel the fine grit of sand with every step.

I  put the Star Relative poncho over me and take a seat on my bedding, appreciative for this gift. I invoke the presence of its prior keeper, Red Bear Who Sees All Worlds, the Reverend Gary Langston, an enduring spirit guide for many since his all-too-soon departure from this plane. He mentored me in life as he does now, in spirit, as I sit within the cloak of Star Relative Light. I speak of my gratitude for the lineage of the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition, for don Oscar Miro-Quesada, don Benito Corihuamán Vargas and don Celso Rojas Palomino, master adepts of Peruvian curanderismo.

I feel at home, here, in my paqo’s camp, embraced by Nature. I’m at home within myself as well. I slip into my sleeping bag. Trace moonlight disappears as I listen to the brook. The black of night swallows the forest. My fire is but a humble flame. Eight battery powered tea lights I brought define my sense of place. I breathe it all in. My serenity is interrupted as a steady rain begins to smack my face. I curl my ground tarp over me, hoping to keep dry. It’s to be a sleepless night.

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.