How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains John Muir
Okay I’m not in Paris. I’m not in the City of Lights soaking in the light of late autumn. I’m not eating warm-roasted chestnuts as I wander the streets of the Marias, not moseying into the shops in the Saint-Germain neighborhood where my grandfather once lived, not viewing the city from the Eiffel Tower or the top of the Ferris Wheel or the banks of the Seine. And I’m not finding my way home again to the already-reserved Hotel Tremoille which I understand is located on a quiet street a stone’s throw from the Golden Triangle and the Champs-Elysees. I’m not in Paris where I planned to be, where I dreamed I’d be, where my intuition seemed to be leading me. It had seemed crystal clear, this inner guidance guiding me to the light of the City of Lights. Little did I know that it was the earth’s clear crystal that I was really seeking and the clarity that emerges in the light of a wide-open landscape.
Before I even landed in Detroit on Thursday night, I knew that I was going to miss my back-up plane, the one to Amsterdam, then on to Paris, and that Paris was no longer a realistic destination, not for a visit of less than twenty-four hours – even for a girl like me who now was flying by the seat of her pants. And although I appreciated the outer voices from fellow travelers – “You should go to Seattle!” “Ottawa is a great city with a European flavor!” – I knew that, once again, it was time to go inward. Where in the world do you want to go, Helen? What is calling to you in this moment? I knew I wanted clarity, a sense of adventure, a next step in trying on my traveling story-telling shoes. So, in the wee hours of Friday morning, while sitting in the Detroit Airport, the dream began to take a different shape. And the Delta Representative on the other end of the phone made it easy. She felt sorry for me. “Paris!!!” she cried in dismay. “But maybe there’s something special waiting for you in Phoenix.” “Sedona . . . waiting for me in Sedona,” I corrected her. “I’m going to Sedona!”
So that’s what I did. I boarded a plane in Detroit at noon on 11-11-11 and headed southwest toward the desert and the sacred vortex sites and the wide open sky. And in the early evening with a pink and purple-streaked sunset beckoning me forward and the saguaro cacti waving their quirky arms, I headed north on I-17 toward the red rock of Sedona. And, this morning, I did what every girl who is going with the flow needs to do; I traded in my city boots for a pair of hiking shoes. And, in Sedona, it’s the Hike House where you will find such things. I loved the Hike House with its café and its gear shop and its maps and trail guides. The staff became my best friends. They cheered me on as I immersed myself in my new plan. “You’re going to love Sedona!” they exclaimed. “You’re on an adventure!” the young woman, who used to live in the town next to my town in the Upper Peninsula, said. They found me shoes, perfect shoes for a story-telling traveler who likes to dance her way around the globe, trail runners with a barefoot feel, the best play shoes I’ve ever slipped my hard-to-fit feet into! And my new friends made me a smoothie, pointed out their favorite hiking trails, nudged me out the door with an enthusiastic, “Have fun!!!”
And have fun, I did! I found my way down the Back O’ Beyond Road, parked the rental car, and placed one happy foot in front of the other, on a slick-rock trail pointing skyward to Cathedral Rock. My mind might have thought that what I wanted was city shoes, the light of Paris, the creative thrum at its heart, but my spirit knew that I was thirsting for something different. As I climbed straight up, sometimes clinging to handholds and footsteps, sometimes finding a more level spot where I could turn and marvel at the magnificent vistas of red rock canyons, I knew that I was in the right place. My body kept saying “I’m happy! I’m happy!” and my inner athlete grew hiking wings and I felt young again, enlivened. I smiled at fellow hikers. We encouraged each other on. I was on a pilgrimage to the top to my own version of Notre Dame. And, at the top of the Cathedral at a vortex site on a ridge jutting out into the sky, I leaned back against that red rock, with a crystal clear wind blowing through me, and, in that moment, I knew that I, indeed, was in the vortex.
And now, hours later, after another hike through craggly junipers, pinyon pines and the flaming red rocks at sunset, I find myself back in my motel with a full moon hanging outside my window. And I’m ready to crawl into bed, ready to pick up the remote and push that magic button that rents a movie. And guess where I’m going, for the second night in a row? I’m going to Paris! I’m going to glorious, infamous Paris, the city of light, the city of delights, the city I dreamed about. I’m renting Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris again and I’m spending midnight in Paris, just like I did last night, with main character and fellow writer, Gil, and the writers and artists that he meets from the 1920’s when he slips back in time. I, who find myself in the southwest of the United States, am dreaming up Paris!