Of Owls & Ancestors
First light comes early during the northern summer solstice. It’s a long, drawn out affair. I welcome the transition of night into dawn.
“Tiyayaykuy, Illari!” I say, welcoming the rays of the dawning new day, both here in camp, and within myself.
Starlight is fading. I feel the apus embracing me, their massive, deep resonance. Marvelous realms thrive within their interiors. I’m but a discoverer, an early explorer of these mystical, multidimensional realms. In the imagining capacity of a good mind, it’s possible to make seemingly unimaginable discoveries.
I lay in bed, in no hurry, warm in my sleeping bag. The morning’s cold and damp. Sunlight skims the leaders of the tallest trees. Morning gold dispatches the shadows as night-black forest turns evermore green. My sopped boots sit, pathetic atop the equally sopped log underpinning the jam that’s been my fortress. I know it’s inevitable that I’m putting them on. I also know that the wet blanket, sleeping bag and poncho will weigh considerably more when it’s time to go. I devise a plan for relinquishing warmth. I rule out a full immersion in the brook. It’s too cold. Hypothermia’s a genuine concern. I sit up and stretch. I fetch my food cache from the limb overhanging the brook, a deterrent to overnight theft. Breakfast is two hard boiled eggs, with a pinch of salt. I feel the metabolic kick right away as I savor flavors made acute in the purity of wilderness conditions. I save the shell fragments to pack out. The peach I eat is pure joy, proof enough of a loving Creator.
I rinse in the brook, open to receiving an istrilla, the highest order gift illuminating the relationship between paqo, apu and apu guia. I reach into the stream, yet question myself, am I guided, or is this my ego wanting to fulfill a mission? I make an offering and pocket the stone, deciding time will tell after I’m home from my wilderness excursion.
Morning ceremony done, I bundle my Tawantin mesa and commence to break camp. I lace my boots, ready to make the trip back to my waiting boat. Fresh socks and neoprene booties keep my feet dry. I gasp at my first attempt to heft my backpack. I spread my stance to center the load. Mind over matter keeps me upright. I’ve not felt as earthbound as I do now. My return trip begun, my paqo wachu enters a new phase. I bid farewell to this waka, this sacred hollow that I’ve come to love, and follow much the same path downstream as on my way up. I walk the stream when the going looks good to do so. A stone in the stream catches my eye. It has a striking shimmer, unlike others nearby. I pull it from the flow. I’m reminded of Oumuamua, ‘The Scout’, said by astronomers to have been an interstellar object transiting our solar system. Some speculate Oumuamua was a probe sent by extraterrestrials, reaching out to humanity. Oumuamua’s discoverer considered naming it Rama, after A. C. Clarke’s novel, Rendezvous with Rama. I leave a hair as mikhushanku and pocket the stone. I feel something strong with this one. “We’re onto something, you and I,” I whisper, “Hatun willka istrilla, presenting yourself, when I’m not of an expectant mind.”
I work my way to the trail leading home. I’m eager to relinquish my burden, but I take my time, making each step count, just as I did on the way upstream. Step wisely, step well. I come to the brook crossing. I practice my motion before I cross, encumbered as I am. A tumble would be disastrous. I step, my connection secure upon the other side, the home side. I’m across and soon arrive at the Warden’s Camp to be greeted by a large bear. It spins and bounds away. Guess I’ve got a reputation. I lug my load to my boat, haul it from the rushes and shove off. The day is bright, warm and breezy. Cat paw gusts push me home, or I use an oar as a rudder to deflect the push to leeward. I arrive and stow the boat. I drop my gear and head for a nap. Later, my brother and sister-in-law arrive with tonight’s dinner. Although grateful, truth is, amongst two-legged again, I long for my paqo camp.
As we head to the fire after dinner, my sister-in-law asks about the bottle of Florida Water on the porch. I grab my essay* from the kitchen shelf, explaining its ritual use, describing when, new to the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition, as I was preparing ground for my first apacheta, within the Sanctuary, where ashes of our family grace Pachamama, I embraced the lesson of following my heart over stiff adherence to protocol. I begin to read the essay at the fire. As I do, a barred owl calls out. I pause. We listen. I read some more but I’m asked that we listen to the owl instead. I suggest that the owl is here for the story. More owls show up, five in all. They circle overhead, silhouetted against the moonlit sky. I declare that they want me to finish reading my essay, in communion with our ancestors. These owls are our ancestors, embodied. There are five stone memorial markers in the Sanctuary. The owls want me to finish sharing the tale. I’m to read the rest of the story for us and them. They’re the winged expression of our family lineage, present, in the spirit mask of these magnificent birds. I’m humbled in my expanded awareness, silently acknowledging the exquisite flow of nuna kallpa, my soul power, in connection with all that is, seen and unseen. I am the hollow bone.
I turn the embers, rekindling the fire, but opt to be the first to go to bed. I bid goodnight and amble uphill to my cabin. All is, indeed, well and good.
* The complete essay regarding Florida Water and the Camp Apacheta can be found in, How to Get Even with The Universe by Getting Right with The World, written by PMT practitioner and shamanic adept, Steve Guettermann (see Resources). Florida Water is now my standard for ritual use.