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Finding My Spirit

I have found that I have gained a great deal from the many opportunities I have had to travel. Interestingly enough, the most memorable experiences are most often unplanned and unexpected.

My older daughter Darby had a late spring break making a perfect excuse to get out of town for a few days. As cold and snowy as it had been this winter, hot and dry seemed the order of the day so what better place to visit than Arizona? As I began my research I arrived at Sedona as our destination of choice. There was a long list of activities available for the area (I don’t do well sitting still) and it looked like a beautiful place to spend some time. Researching further, I discovered that Sedona is the self-proclaimed capitol of day-hikes so we filled our backpacks with hiking boots, sunscreen and shorts and headed out west.

We arrived in Phoenix after dark, rented a car and began a 2 hour drive north to Sedona. The first thing I discovered about Arizona is their desire to protect “dark skies.” Once we left the heavily populated areas, all the outdoor /street lighting was minimal, eliminating light pollution that diminishes the view of stars. This is great for star gazing but challenging for the driver (me) to finish a long day of travel.

Given the time change, it wasn’t a challenge to get up early to begin our desert adventure. Drawing back the shades, I was welcomed by the towering red rock peaks I had seen pictures of during my trip planning. All the beautiful scenery that was completely obscured during our drive the night before was right outside our bedroom window as the sun rose over the surrounding peaks. We headed out in the chilly morning with no particular plan but we were prepared to be out hiking for the day. At the local coffee shop we met Emmanuel, a local barista/Shaman (I couldn’t make this stuff up)! Emmanuel not only served up a great café Americana, he also generously shared information on the area, especially the spiritual significance of Sedona. It was hard to miss the many references to the spiritual nature of this small town. Storefronts offering crystals, psychic readings, yoga and healers of all types were only outnumbered by artisan villages and workshops. Emmanuel went on to explain what hikes would offer us the best views and asked us if we knew about the Vortex. What we learned was that Sedona is unique in that a positive spiritual energy originates from this region and is concentrated in very specific areas. Sedona is one of very few areas in the world where this phenomena exists. Machu Pichu in Peru, Easter Island in Chile and Ayers Rock in Australia are a few positive Vortex locations but none are considered as powerful as Sedona. Emmanuel went on to explain that there are Vortex hikes that lead you to precise locations where the positive energy is most focused and he suggested that if we were mentally and physically receptive to these dynamisms that we may experience elation or, at least, an elevated state of being. Well, all I really wanted was a cup of coffee but “when in Rome”… so we headed out into the desert in search of our inner selves.

The Boynton trailhead was a 40 minute drive out of town through dry scrub and dusty dirt roads. All the while, we were surrounded by red rock cliffs in every direction. Our instructions were detailed and specific. Once we exited the car we began our hike on a dry creek bed trail that was populated by large Willows and Sycamore trees. The spring buds were just beginning to open and the chartreuse leaves of the Willows were the most colorful plants in the landscape. The trail rose steadily and with the change in elevation the plant life changed as well. Trees gave way to Manzinita shrub, Prickly Pear Cactus, Yucca and Blue Agave. The sun quickly warmed the temperatures into the 60’s and we stopped to shed a layer of clothing and take a drink. We were all alone with nothing but the company of Blue Jays darting in and out of the brush and Ravens dancing in wind currents above our heads. Just then, a faint yet distinct flute-like melody came from an unseen direction. As if on a breeze, the tune would drift in and out of reach but became stronger as we continued on the trail. A clearly distinct crossroads directed us to the Boynton viewpoint, the Vortex location our coffee dispensing Shaman informed us about. The trail incline increased and became more narrow and rocky and all the while the simple notes from the unseen flautist grew stronger. Finally, as we rounded a corner, the source of our music and the destination of our hike came into view. A quarter mile ahead we could see the trail rise another 200-300 feet to a bench of red, slick rock framed by 2 hoodoos… tall and skinny pinnacles of stone piercing a cloudless blue sky. Atop the nearest hoodoo was a man, too far away to be clearly seen, but obviously playing a flute-like instrument of some sort.

The trail became more like a rock strewn staircase than a hiking trail leading us up and up towards the bench. The music helped pace our steps, our breathing became rhythmic as the altitude and heat of the day had our bodies laboring toward our goal. As we neared our purpose the music suddenly stopped, throwing off our cadence and causing us to slow but not stop… we were so close now. As we reached the saddle, sweating heavily and out of breath, we took in the stunning view of distant snowcapped mountains and seemingly endless desert. Just then a man appeared from behind a pinnacle of rocks to our left. He had long, grey-white hair and dark, leathery skin the color of burnished stone. A wide smile beamed from his friendly face and a wooden flute stuck out from his backpack as Cliff headed in our direction (I actually didn’t get his name but he looked like a Cliff). Cliff greeted us and we thanked him for his wonderful music. He mentioned that he comes to this special place nearly every day to play his Native American flute (and twice on Mondays). He went on to detail the significance of this particular Vortex. ”Here you are directly at the center of two very powerful Vortex points, the feminine to your right and the warrior (or masculine) to your left. Here in the center is the balance of the Ying and Yang, a confluence of spiritual powers unlike anywhere else on earth.” I had not yet caught my breath from the climb up and Cliff was now making my head spin a bit. He reached into the pocket of his worn trousers and handed me a heart-shaped rock. “May the love you experience in this place be with you and stay with you for all your days,” and just like that down the trail he went. Needless to say we were stunned. It wasn’t yet 8:00am and here I am, directed by a Shaman to this powerful place in the universe and serenaded by Cliff the Native American flautist. As I slowly caught my breath and watched Cliff disappear into the desert I tried to settle my mind and focus on being… being still, being quiet and receptive to whatever this place had to offer. But like I said, I don’t do still and quiet well and the warrior hoodoo was just sitting there waiting for me to climb to the top. From the saddle where we sat, the rock formation is maybe 50-60’ across and about the same in height. There is no obvious path to the top but I figured Cliff had to have 25 years on me and he climbs this thing every day (and twice on Mondays) so it can’t be too hard. I found out differently half way up when it was too late to turn back. Grasping at overhanging rocks, scrambling over the smooth surface, trying to find sturdy handholds, I finally pulled myself over the rim to find myself on an 8’ wide platform and feeling as though I am a bird in flight. The cool breeze cools the sweat from my skin and I feel something powerful. I can’t say it wasn’t a fear of falling over the edge or a case of over-caffenation, but the feeling was overwhelming and I decided that getting back down ASAP was my best move. The three of us sat on that bench, between the Warrior and Feminine Vortex pinnacles and talked about Cliff, Emmanuel and the circumstances that brought us to this place. We talked about spiritual energy, where it comes from and how it affects our lives. Did we experience the power of the Vortex?

Throughout that day, and the rest of our time in Sedona, we enjoyed a great time and walked many miles taking in the beautiful views of the desert landscape. We took several other Vortex hikes, went to an ancient ruins and experienced some awesome sunsets. We went up to the Grand Canyon and caught a Tribe spring training game in Goodyear.

All in all, it was a great trip but all good things must come to an end and spring is coming to life at home so I needed to get back to work. The three of us arrived back in Cleveland late at night. Darby was flying back to school early the next morning so we went straight to bed, exhausted from the long travel day. As I unpacked by bag I came across the red heart rock given to me by Cliff and just then it all became clear to me… crystal clear.

Home is really where my Vortex is. This is the place where my spirit is most strong and my mind most clear. Soon, I will be able to get back into my garden, get my hands in the dirt and I will be completely recharged and invigorated once again. But Cliff was right. We do take the love and experiences of travel with us forever and always, making our lives at home even more fulfilling.

So I will continue to look forward to my travels as opportunities for adventure and discovery but I realize that there is no more powerful influence to the spirit than there is to be found… at home.

Now go outside and have fun in the dirt!