Day Quest--Preparing for Pilgrimage

As promised, here's another day quest experience a little closer to home as I was preparing for the pilgrimage with Quero Apache ceremonialist Maria Yraceburu to visit ancient sacred sites in New Mexico.

My vision quest began on a beautiful summer’s day, with bright blue skies and wispy white clouds that looked like birds, flying out from a central point. I went to Mission Trails Park in San Diego because I was called to do my vision quest near water and I knew a sweet spot on Lake Kumeyaay, near the campgrounds at Mission Trails.
Moon Over Mission Trails by Chris Palmer, Creative Commons License
Moon Over Mission Trails by Chris Palmer

When we arrived, I gave offering and asked permission of the land to do my quest. A bullfrog answered immediately. We walked through the campground area and around the lake, marveling at the unusual clouds in the sky. The ends of the clouds looked like bird’s heads with trailing feathers. We got near the spot I was thinking of, and asked again if this was the proper place, and a dragonfly whizzed up. I offered cornmeal blessing and found a place to sit right at the water’s edge. Just as I sat, a sharp-shinned hawk flew across the lake from south to north, and within seconds, a yellow and black swallowtail butterfly almost landed on me.

The lake was teeming with life. There was a bunch of rabbits playing on the trail on the opposite side of the water, running back and forth across the path. A mother duck and her four ducklings were paddling in the water very close by. The mother duck stayed close to me for most of the first two hours of the quest, sleeping with her head tucked under her wing.

There were cormorants—a pair of adults opening their wings, and several babies that bobbed by. A large beautiful snowy white egret was in attendance across the water, showing itself and flying by several times. After we got settled, there was a bullfrog chorus from all around the little section of the lake where we were sitting. Dragonflies were flitting everywhere—blue beauties with iridescent sparkling wings. Many were mating. Two were laying eggs, I believe, for several hours, on the lily pads about 2 ½ feet away from me. A small gray bird, no bigger than your fist and very skinny with a white belly, came to sit in the willow tree right over head and stayed for a few minutes.

Dragonfly by Whologwhy, Creative Commons License
Dragonfly by Whologwhy
My guardian reported another larger gray bird, possibly a mockingbird, on the trail nearby at about the same time, and shortly thereafter a water rat or rodent of some kind scurried across the path.  Some white and yellow butterflies flitted by occasionally, stopping to light on a couple of bright yellow flowers near the reeds. There were frogs and minnows in the water, as well as what a fisherman later called bass, but I think they may have been trout. They would swim together in twos or threes and occasionally break the water with a gentle splash. A really vocal black duck with a red beak kept “laughing” at points where my thought process got too heavy. There were a few ants, but they left us alone, as did other insects, while we were there.

There were cicadas in the trees, humming along. One of the ducks would let the current carry it nearby, then flap its wings noisily skimming the water with its wings flapping into the water to get back to the open lake area and then do it all over again.

When I asked about my role in the ceremonies to come on pilgrimage, I noticed the lake became very calm, where a breeze and current had been rippling the water previously. The bullfrog chorus chimed in from all around the lake near me, and I took that as confirmation of the ceremony I was to participate in at Chimayo. It made me smile. The bullfrogs only croaked on occasion, few and far between--it was clearly in response to my question. Frogs energy: transformation and metamorphosis.
Frog by Jerry Swiatek, Creative Commons License
Frog by Jerry Swiatek

As I asked about my life’s path and left the teachings open to nature to respond, I saw a reed floating down the waterway. It was covered in bright sparkling green moss. It slowly made its way closer to me. As it neared the shore, it hit an old stump in the water. For several minutes the reed stick was perpendicular to the stump and it appeared to be stuck. But, slowly and surely, the current began to move the stick, it turned to the right and then ran parallel to the obstruction for a while, before, turning around again, freeing itself from the stump and continuing downstream. This was a lesson for me in patience, waiting, gentleness, ease and grace, and trust that obstructions in my path are not permanent obstructions. The stick didn’t have to do anything to get around the stump, the water carried it in time. No struggle, just calm waiting and trusting--everything changes; it's always changing.

Later in the day, a hawk was fishing, I think, as it dove in and out of the taller eucalyptus trees across the lake. From time to time, I heard other hawks and saw some soaring in the distance over Cowles Mountain. The higher the sun got, the more clearly I could see under the water and concentrate on where the fish were playing. There weren’t very many people who came by. Only three small groups that I recall, and they didn’t stay long. We had "closed the road" by ritually drawing a line with cornmeal on arrival.

Across the way, a couple of fishermen came later on. That was the signal to me that the quest was done. They were talkative and spoke a lot about how the lake and its creatures had changed over time. That the lake used to be higher, there were more fish and birds, more crayfish (one’s son caught a crayfish as they were speaking). I kept “talking” to the fish about how I knew they were too wily to be caught. It was funny because they’d move where the line was not being cast and would splash the water, just to let us know they were still there. When I asked my guardian what time it was, it was 1:11. Time to pack up.

As we were leaving the beautiful white egret may a last circle around the lake to bring the session to closure, just as it had begun. I made offering again, to thank the land.
Egret by born 1945, Creative Commons License
Egret by born 1945
Just as we were about to get into the car to come home, a gorgeous red shouldered hawk came into view. It circled close overhead with a beautiful display of its feathers against the brilliant, hot sun. Confirmation.

The biggest thing that kept running through my mind, was why didn’t I do this more often? It was such a calming and enriching experience. Just doing nothing but being a part of nature and appreciating the infinite beauty all around me, in all its various manifestations.

I remembered asking my dad when I was 6 or 7 when we were out at a lake one day, why he went fishing on Sunday mornings instead of coming with us to church. I’ve never forgotten his answer. He said, “This is my church.” Aho.


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