Tomasz Alen Kopera


the Wanderling

"The Buddha said that neither the repetition of holy scriptures, nor self-torture, nor sleeping on the ground, nor the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations can bring us the real happiness of Nirvana. Instead the Buddha emphasized the importance of making individual effort in order to achieve our spiritual goals. He likened it to a man wanting to cross a river; sitting down and praying will not suffice, but he must make the effort to build a raft or a bridge."(source)

Although I am an advocate pro-advocate of the above quote I have on occasion run into situations where it just doesn't fit within the boundaries of how to accomplish the goals one is trying to accomplish. Typically those occasions fell under the sphere of a tribal culture. For me, most typically, a variety of Native American cultures of the desert southwest.

The Buddha was a strong supporter and advocate of the implied intent of the above quote. However, not all religions, cultures and spiritual beliefs back or practice such a concept in whole or in part --- not even some that fall within the boundaries of Buddhism itself.[1]

One of the problems faced by organized religions, or cultures that hold deep traditional beliefs that fall into the realm of things spiritual, is that they have to give the people something. People raised in that something or new people transitioning into that something, expect from that something some sort of positive spiritual results. Usually those spiritual results are motivated by some sort of trappings. If they do get positive results, at least as perceived in the mind of the devotee, parishioner, or follower, then, for them it's working. If it doesn't work then the devotee is pointed to others that it did work for. If that doesn't solve the dilemma they are encouraged to work harder.

I have a very long history interacting with Native American spiritual elders starting at a young age. My first two interactions stemmed from the same incident, the wreck of a passenger train I was on as a very young boy that derailed in the middle of the night in the raw desert land between Flagstaff, Arizona and Williams. Before the crash even occurred the following transpired from the source so cited:

"Mid-evening on the night of the-unknown-to-anybody at the time up-coming crash I had gone to bed in the bunk in my compartment and as far as I knew had fallen fast asleep. Sometime during that period, between the time I fell asleep and the crash occurred, I found myself neither asleep nor in my bunk but outside of the train standing barefoot on the desert floor in the middle of the night in my PJs some distance off from a set of railroad tracks, my hand being held by an elderly Native American man."


No sooner had I been standing there than in the distance to the east I could see the headlight of a locomotive heading in our same direction. Within seconds the train was parallel to where we were standing and then, almost as though in slow motion the train began coming off the tracks with the engine barely moving on it's side pushing huge mounds of dirt in front of itself and cars slowly going everywhere. Then silence and the passage of time returning to normal. The fireman and three passengers were killed. 113 passengers and 13 train employees injured, including among them the severely injured engineer. The adults I was traveling with were among the severely injured leaving me, the young boy that I was, without direct day-to-day supervision. Within a short time of the crash and it was discovered I was being unattended in any manner the railroad contacted my grandmother who was my emergency contact. She in turn called my uncle who lived in Santa Fe, the closest relative to the crash site. My uncle contacted an even closer friend to fill in for him until he could get there, a Native American spiritual elder he knew. The spiritual elder showed up at the hospital after the crash, mysteriously enough turning out to be the same Native American that was holding my hand in the desert prior to the crash.

The second of two incidents occurred within a short time of the above event and not long after the death of my mother. In a series of downstream events because of her death I ended up living with my grandmother. One day she went to visit her only remaining offspring, my mother's sister, taking me with her. After going shopping all day long in town we returned to her daughter's house, pulling up in front of the garage. I dutifully got out of the car and opened the two side-by-side wooden garage doors. There right in front of me on the floor of the garage only a few feet away in the glare of the headlights was my aunt's husband, the whole back of his head blown out from the blast of a double barrel shotgun he stuck in his mouth. My aunt, stunned into disbelief at what she saw, with the car still in gear and engine running let her foot slip from the clutch as she apparently tried to step out of the car and run toward her husband. The vehicle lurched forward in one huge leap, crashing into the swung open garage door knocking it and me down and rendering me unconscious.

In the milieu and confusion of it all, after the bump and cut on my head was attended to, I was all but forgotten until I was discovered missing sometime the next day. By then and unknown to all as to where I was, I was found dazed, dehydrated, hungry and wandering barefoot all alone with no identification along a desert road out in the middle of nowhere, so many miles from the location of the suicide the two events couldn't be connected.

The man who found me was an old desert rat of a fellow that was cutting across the desert in his jeep when he just happened upon me. The story as told to me by my grandmother years later was that the old man had no money, so, in those long-before cell phone days, he wasn't able to make a phone call --- nor did he have a phone at his shack. Instead he took me to the house of a woman friend of his even farther out in the desert, also with no phone. Some weeks later, taking me with him, the old man visited the dilapidated mining camp of another grizzly old prospector named Walt Bickel even farther across the desert that out of the blue just happened to know who my father was from his old gold mining days. After the visit, the old man and woman, armed with at least a little background information about me from Bickel, took me into town and left me at the sheriff's office.

When my grandmother came to get me the sheriff said he had personally known the old man and woman for a very long time and that both were fine and good people. The man was a rough and tumble old guy who was known to have been a onetime a muleskinner or swamper for the 20 mule team borax wagons that used to make the trek up and out of Death Valley and across the desert. Now days the sheriff said, the old man spent most of his time in one fashion or the other participating in Native American sweat lodge ceremonies and most likely I did too. The sheriff assured my grandmother there was no need to worry about anything related to my overall well being during the time I was in their company. According to the sheriff the two just didn't experience the passage of time like others seemed to. The period of days or weeks I was with them was really no more than just a matter of them coming into town relative to their needs.

The sheriff told my grandmother that the old man informed him he was driving along Old Woman Springs Road located down and behind the mountains from Big Bear Lake on the high desert floor when he noticed an unusual group of vultures circling in the thermals. They didn't seem to be zeroing in on an unmoving carcass of some kind, but moving their circle as though following something possibly injured but still alive. Reading the signs of the desert like a book and using his intuition as much as his curiosity, the old man turned north on a dirt road that led toward the old Bessemer iron mine thinking he might be able to get closer and get a better look. When he reach a point about even with the general eastward movement of the vultures he pulled over to the side of the road and standing up on the hood of his jeep peered out over the desert with binoculars to see if he could see anything. Sure enough, visually sweeping the area under the vulture's circle through his binoculars he saw some distance off the road what looked like and turned out to be, a young boy all by himself out in the middle of nowhere walking along almost if he had no clue as to where he was or what he was doing. However, the old man said, such it would seem, was not the case. It was as though the boy knew exactly what he was doing, but why he was doing it was a mystery.

If the boy was following the vultures with them acting as guides or they were following his lead it didn't seem to matter as the young boy walked straight to and into, only to then sit down in the middle of, one of the most unusual features in all of the Mojave Desert, a creosote ring. But not any creosote ring the old man said, but a specific one, with a huge diameter the likes of which he had never seen. By all description and location, without knowing it, the young boy had walked to, selected out, and sat down in the middle of what, after it's discovery 30 or 40 years later, turned out to be, and has since been given the name King Clone, the oldest known living thing on Earth, dated as being over 11,700 years old.

When my grandmother picked me up, strung around my neck was small cloth sack like a Bull Durham tobacco bag filled with 50 or more pieces of buckshot. The sheriff told her that one day when the old man did not return the woman and I went out across the desert looking for him. We didn't find the old man during our search but we did come across a fairly large but barely alive coyote that had been all shot up in the hindquarters and left rear leg by buckshot. We took the wounded coyote, a coyote that was easily twice the size of any normal one, back to the woman's shack. We then spent the rest of night and next day pulling buckshot out of the rear and back leg of the animal, throwing the little lead balls into a pan. The woman patched the coyote up as best she could and nursed him back to health over a couple of days. Then with his regained strength the coyote simply limped off into the sagebrush. However, before she turned the coyote loose she took the buckshot we removed and counted it out into two equal piles, putting one pile into a little cloth bag and the other pile into a second identical cloth bag. Then she put one bag around my neck and the other around the coyote's neck.

Before we left town the sheriff told my grandmother the old man and woman had driven in that day and if she wanted to thank them for caring for me he could take us to see them. The old man was in the jeep on the passenger side alone when we drove up with the woman just coming out of a nearby grocery store. My grandmother said the old man excused himself for not getting out of the jeep during the introduction because he had taken a terrifically bad fall in the desert some days before having scraped up his rear and left leg so badly he could barely move. My grandmother thanked them and we left. She told me before I got home she removed the bag from around my neck because she was afraid because it was filled with buckshot it might upset my aunt considering how her husband died. My grandmother also told me there must be some kind of desert tradition or something because the old man in the jeep had what appeared to be small sack of buckshot tied around his neck just like mine --- a bag that seemed to be an EXACT same duplicate of the one I had tied around my neck.

As an adult, in another situation I had gotten myself into, a Native American spiritual elder stepped forward and told me he recognized me from having attended sweat lodge ceremonies with the old man when I was a young boy and that he himself had personally officiated over the removal of the buckshot from the coyote. So, years before, there I was just a young boy being swept into circumstances well beyond my control that unfolded in such a manner that years later I was interacting with tribal spiritual elders at a fairly deep level without me orchestrating or initiating any of it myself.[2]

In my pre-teens, eight, ten, through to twelve years old, found me mostly under the auspices of my Uncle, an uncle who had long established himself favorably with a variety of Indian cultures and spiritual elders in the desert southwest. The following, which you may have run across elsewhere but I am repeating here as it strengthens my position in what I will present in a minute, is about him from the source so cited:

"Starting just after high school he began studying art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and the Art Student's League in New York City. Then, barely into his 20s, he decided to follow an important and well established artist he met and studied under named John Sloan to New Mexico. Sloan traveled to New Mexico each year for a few months to paint and relax. On my uncle's second or third trip, when Sloan returned to New York, my uncle stayed, having fallen in love with Santa Fe, the culture and the desert southwest. He was, if not more so, still a struggling artist and to stretch his limited funds and maintain his health he began fishing, hunting rabbits, and looking into the potential possibility of edible and medicinal plants indigenous to the desert. In doing so he was soon coming in contact with Native Americans. At first they found the white man foraging in the wilderness one day and painting pictures the next day a bit strange and kept their distance, but after awhile they discovered he was neither there to destroy the environment nor to exploit them. A few Indians, and then soon more and more, began to assist him, and in return he helped them with marketing their wares and making their art more commercially viable. He began looking into local plants, soils and rocks to enhance pigments and dyes. Overcoming many deep rooted apprehensions and suspicions he soon became accepted as one with the Earth and eventually many secrets and rituals that would otherwise not have been revealed were shared with him without concern.

"Back then borders were just lines on paper, if that. As it was, most people didn't even have the paper. Arizona didn't exist as a state until only a few years before. In the desert wilderness traveling from New Mexico into Mexico into Arizona meant nothing. Tribal units pretty much kept to their traditional lands that basically just ran from their central operating core until they faded out with no specifically designated border. Although peoples of one group might interact with peoples of other groups they kept their secrets to themselves. My uncle went between tribal areas and cultures up and down and across the desert interacting and learning different ways and methods of either doing the same thing or not doing the same thing, giving him a much broader base of understanding. What might be poison to one group another found away around and a use. Where medicinal plants, datura or peyote might be ignored by one group, one, the other, or all might be embraced by another group or clan. Learning and respecting local and traditional curing methods and rituals, over time what my uncle did was refine and synthesize, strengthening here, eliminating there." (source)

I was on my way to Supai Village and beyond when something of an unusual nature happened. Supai Village is the center of the Havasupai Indian Reservation. It is located in the Grand Canyon at the bottom of an offshoot canyon about ten miles from the main canyon rim and one of the most isolated and remote communities in the lower 48 states. The only way into or out of the village is either to hike eight miles to or from the trailhead, ride a mule along the same trail, or take a helicopter --- the helicopter option not even existing back in the days I was hiking the trail.

Before I arrived at the trailhead I stayed the night at the little gambling town of Laughlin along the Colorado River. Leaving early I cut through the mountains and down into Kingman. Continuing eastbound I stopped at the old Route 66 community of Peach Springs, Arizona, for breakfast. When I entered the cafe I noticed three young Native American men in their early to mid twenties sitting at a table together having breakfast.

Shortly after I sat down an older man probably around 50 or so and also a Native American, came into the cafe and immediately went to the table of the three young men. After talking for a few minutes he picked up the bill, walked over to the register and paid the tab. In doing so he went right by my table and as he did we made eye contact. He nodded slightly in a friendly manner and I returned the courtesy. After leaving the register he walked past my table a few steps then stopped and turned around asking me if I was the nephew of the biosearcher (my uncle). When I said yes he turned the empty chair across from me and half-sat as if he was going to leave any second. At the same time he asked about my uncle and if he was nearby. I told him I was traveling alone this time and on my way to the Supai Village and beyond as I had heard there were pictographs, or petroglyphs if you will, in an area of the canyons that have been identified by some as a Diplodocus, a huge plant eating dinosaur from the Jurassic Period, as well as a depiction of an elephant or possibly a Mastodon and several ibex --- and I was hoping to see them for myself. By then the three young men had gathered around my table. Just as they were leaving the older man told me to remember that the wall paintings are located in a area of the Havasupai Reservation that is not accessible to visitors.[3]

My uncle had seen the petroglyphs many years previously after coming across a report that Los Angeles oilman and multi-millionaire Edward L. Doheny had sponsored a scientific expedition into Havasupai Canyon in October and November 1924 to confirm what he had seen as a young prospector in 1879 --- namely some highly unusual petroglyphs on the canyon walls and the remains of an ancient megalithic fortress situated on the edge of a sheer cliff. The expedition formally identified the petroglyphs Doheny had seen as that of a dinosaur, an elephant, and several ibex, an animal that has never been found in America.(see)

It wasn't long after leaving Peach Springs that I reached the trailhead of Havasupai Hilltop and headed down into the canyon. I was two or three miles into the canyon well past the switchbacks, but probably not half-way yet when a series of bright flashes similar to what a signal mirror gives off began hitting my eyes emanating from a spot high up along the rim of the canyon north of me. As I continued down the canyon, for the distance covered I should have easily moved out of any reflected sunlight if it was coming from a stationary object. Instead the flashes continued to follow me with direct hits.


Now, I wasn't just born yesterday so I figured it had to be one of two things. First, as a kid I had seen enough cowboy and western movies to know that a glint of sun-flash up in the hills came off either a rifle barrel or the lens of a telescopic sight. Discounting that possibility I moved to the second possibility which was based on a situation that happened in real life to my uncle.

As you may recall from above my uncle had a long standing favorable interaction with a variety of Native Americans throughout the desert southwest. On Monday, July 16, 1945 at 5:29:45 a.m. Mountain War Time, my uncle, who lived in New Mexico, was startled, along with many others no doubt, by a huge flash of light that filled the whole of the pre-dawn night sky in a giant half bubble arc across the desert toward White Sands. Unknown to him at the time, that flash was associated with the first atomic device ever set off on the face of the earth. One month later, August 15-16, 1945 found him well into the rugged terrain on BLM land some 25 miles or so from ground zero and not far from the small New Mexico community of San Antonio doing some research into plants of interest to local Native Americans used as food, medicinal, and ritual purposes that may have been impacted adversely by radioactive fallout.

As the day was edging toward dusk my uncle was jarred from his concentration first by the feeling of an intense blast of heat followed by a deep chest shuddering air-vibration caused by a huge, weird-shaped flying object, seemingly made of metal and whining like a sick vacuum cleaner that streaked in out of the sky almost directly overhead on a slightly down-angle from parallel to the ground. The object, as it crossed out of sight barely maintaining its height advantage above the undulating canyons and rock strewn hills, all the while traveling at an ultra high speed, by the sound of it, slammed hard, and somewhat explosively so, possibly before it even hit, into the rocks and soil some distance away. By the time my uncle reached the crash site it was getting dark so he waited until morning to climb down into the arroyo where the object ended up. The next morning on the way down, in the subdued pre-dawn light, he slipped and got his leg stuck in some rocks. The more he tried to free himself the more wedged it seemed to get. When he stopped to catch his breath and refigure his options after a rather long and intense unsuccessful effort to work his foot loose, with the sun beginning to beat down, he noticed that several people had worked their way down to the crash site from the opposite side. He yelled trying to get their attention with no response. He scrounged around in his over shoulder bag and dug out a survival mirror, flashing a signal toward them that got their attention. He waved his arms and yelled again and in doing so one of the men started up the ridge wall toward him. The man moved a few large rocks my uncle was unable to reach and pushed with the full strength of his legs on another and within a few minutes my uncle was freed, albeit with a highly bruised ankle.(see)

Even though it was some distance to the rim and even more up to where the flashes were coming from, taking into consideration the situation that happened to my uncle, just in case, I decided to leave the trail and cross the canyon. By the time I reached the talus slope at the bottom of the canyon walls trying to figure my next move I saw a man some distance off waving to me. As we got close I could easily see he was of Native American descent probably in his mid-30s. We walked back into the trees on the valley floor and sat in the shade basically just talking and sharing water. He told me he had heard I had intentions of seeing the petroglyphs. He also said he would take me to the petroglyphs but as part of our journey, afterwards there was a man, a very important spiritual man, that he was assigned to take me to.

At first we stayed along the canyon wall traveling a rather long distance, then we began to climb. Photographs from the air of the plateau surrounding the the canyon on both sides would seem to indicate there was no way any of it was passable, and most likely for the uninitiated such is the case. However, the Havasupai and the ancients before them have carved out almost invisible trails and paths over some segments of the terrain that looks impossible to tread even a short distance let alone clear to the main canyon rim --- which is where we eventually ended up. It was hot and extremely fatiguing, at least for for me, plus, since I was originally going to Supai Village and the falls beyond I wasn't carrying a lot of water for an extended hike so water was scarce, limiting us to very little along the trail. Every once in awhile we would come across a shaded rain cistern with a handful of water or a hidden water stash that was most certainly known ahead of time to the man I was with. Even though it wasn't very far in air miles to the main Grand Canyon rim overlooking the Colorado River by map, it was very rugged and time consuming territory to traverse so it was nearing sundown before we reached our goal. That goal was on a stubby promontory right on the edge of the rim and what was behind it. What was behind it was a cave of sorts, not a deep cave with a small opening but more long than deep covered overhead by a canopy of rock --- sort of like a cave dwelling without a dwelling, but much smaller, say about 12 feet high, 20 feet deep with a curved toward the back ceiling, and maybe 40 feet long. If you didn't know it was there you would never see it as you had to climb down from the top of the plateau then circle around to it on a foot-wide path that you had to scoot along with your back leaning against the wall and nothing but a straight down drop hundreds of feet into the canyon. The immaculately clean cave was bare of anything except along the edge of the opening, but still just under the canopy, was a stone-ringed fire pit which looked like it hadn't been used in centuries. The overhanging verandah or porch-like rough surfaced promontory in front of the cave ran out front of the fire pit maybe 12 or 15 feet then ended with nothing but an open air drop into the Grand Canyon. Above the top of the canopy the cliff wall rose up 50 to 80 feet before reaching the plateau. That was about it.

The man I was traveling with told me to wait, then left. Not long afterwards a large bundle of sticks and wood tied together with a rope was lowered from above. I untied it, then a few minutes later another bundle was lowered down. Then the rope dropped to the promontory floor. By then the sun had completely set and it got so dark it was hard to tell where the promontory porch-like floor ended and the open sky over the canyon started. The man who led me to the cave didn't come back and in the dark, or at least until sunrise, I was trapped there. I put a few sticks into the fire pit and lit a fire, then sat out on the promontory with the fire behind me just gazing out at the stars.

After awhile I kept getting this strange feeling I wasn't alone. Several times I made quick turn around glances into the dim flame-lit cave trying to see if someone was there, but each time nothing. I was sort of dozing when I felt the warmth of the fire on my back had increased substantially and that the light from the fire had increased as well. I turned to see a man, and old man who seemed almost to have come out of the cave wall, standing behind the now nearly man-height flames.[4]

As the flames dropped to a more normal height I could easily see the man was Native American. He motioned me with an outstretched arm and open palm to come sit beside him on his side of the fire pit. He welcomed me, told me I was in a very sacred spot and that to his knowledge no white man other than me had ever set foot on it before. As he spoke I wondered how I could understand and hear so clearly his words and what he was saying. If any of you have ever read The Last American Darshan wherein I as a young boy sat in meditation before the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi at his ashram in Tiruvannamalai, you may recall that according to the scribes that recorded it the Maharshi spoke to me in his native language Tamil and I understood everything he said fully.(see) Now, I don't know why such things happen, but when the circumstances require it, for some reason it just happens. Such is the case with the Native American in the cave. To this day I do not know if he was speaking English or in his native tongue, but every word he said I understood. He told me he knew when I was very young I had been lost in the desert and after being found I had participated in sweat lodge ceremonies. He also knew of my experience with the ethereal woman-like entity at the Sun Dagger site in Chaco Canyon. But most notedly he said that everybody in the desert southwest that operated in the same realm as he did knew as a young boy I was very special in that I had been touched by the Native American spiritual deity or Yei he referred to as the White Painted Lady but known as White Painted Woman. The strangest thing for me though, and although I had absolutely no reason to think so, was that not only had I been to the cave before, but in the strongest deja vu like moment that I ever had, that I had met the man before. As he spoke, using two fingers, he marked my forehead, cheeks, and chin with a red ochre based pigment and under and around my eyes with black. With that he said it was late and that we should get some sleep.

The next morning at sunrise after sleeping on the ground, i.e., the floor of the cave, we went out and sat side-by-side Indian style on the cold stone promontory while he quietly chanted and drummed a small drum. Before we left the cave and sat down he told me there was a good chance we were going to be at the cave location for awhile and that we only had a limited supply of water. Plus, for me it was a long way back. So said, we each could only have a small sip of water (about a teaspoon full) in the morning and one at night.

"I had a couple of small packets of some really powerful herbal medicine from Southeast Asia or possibly India stashed away in my shoulder bag that was intended for emergencies only that when taken together you could pull the skin off an elephant --- herbal medicines I have purposely left here unnamed, but fall under the much broader Sanskrit word of Aushadhis. Really feeling like I needed some but afraid of the results since they were actually supposed to be brewed into a tea, and without any real amount of water I took only a tiny bit --- and amazingly enough the amount I consumed seemed to provide me with what I thought might be enough strength and clarity of mind to get me (through the day without drink and sustenance)."

Travels In The Yucatan

As found in the quote above from the source so cited I basically replicated the same thing in the cave although on this trip I was traveling with a backpack rather than a shoulder bag. So said I had to dump some of the stuff out to find what I was looking for prior to making the tea and going out on the promontory. While picking it all back up, oddly enough, I saw some distance across the cave floor my P-38 can opener, a small about one inch long device used by the military to open up C rations and K rations. Usually it was attached to my dog tags. How it got off and well beyond my reach from where I was sitting I wasn't sure, but I reinstalled it on the interestingly enough still hooked together chain, all the time trying to figure out how it got on to where it was across and on the cave floor.[5]

We sat on the promontory the whole day without moving. From a young boy growing up I had a Vulture as a Totem Animal. The first day on the promontory I saw two to three vultures circling close by, sometimes a few more. The second day the vultures were replaced by two or three of their much larger sisters or brethren the condor. Then the distinction between days and time began to fade as I fell deeper into a meditative state that sort of melded together varying aspects of samadhi, nirodha, and shamanic journeying into one stew. When I came out of it the old man was not to be seen nor was there any trace of him. However, right in front of me on the ground was a medium-sized handmade Native American water jar that appeared to be very ancient that had water in it --- the same amount of water that if each day a teaspoon of water was put in it twice a day instead of being drank it would add up to the same amount of water that would have been used in five days.

Although I didn't wear a watch I did have a cheap rubber Casio multi-function calculator watch attached to a little hook in my backpack. Besides being waterproof it had a ton of functional operations such as the day, date, dual time zones, calendar, stopwatch, calculator, backlight, and alarm. The day before I left for the trailhead I was in a restaurant snack bar area of one of the casinos in Laughlin. I was shuffling through my backpack trying to find something when I noticed a boy, probably around 8 years old or so, who seemed fascinated by the watch. I unhooked it and handed it to him while I returned to my shuffling. In the meantime he went about pushing a bunch of buttons and generally screwing with it. When he handed it back I made a quick check of date and time and since everything appeared in order I hooked it back in my backpack.

The next day while traversing the plateau with man that had signaled me and we stopped to rest I heard this slight beep-beep-beep coming from my backpack. It turned out to be the watch alarm. Somehow the boy must have pushed the right sequence of buttons and in turn set the alarm. In shutting it off I noted the day, date, and time, and again everything seemed in order. From that incident I knew what day and date I arrived at the cave. According to the watch, although to me it seemed no more than two days had elapsed at the most, seven days had gone by. During that time as far as I knew I hadn't moved, drank any water, eaten any food, or relived myself.

I looked at the amount of water in the water jar and carefully poured it into my empty canteen. I figured I might just barely have enough water to get back to the main trail to Supai Village if I rationed it, traveled in the early mornings and in the cool of the evening, holing up during the hottest part of the day --- and if lucky, find some of those rain cisterns. I knew I had to leave the cave during daylight hours because scooting around on the one-foot wide ledge leaning against the canyon wall had to be done, at least for me, while I was still light. I took a quick swig of water then headed out on the narrow ledge. I had only gone a short distance, maybe half way when I started to feel whoozy, lightheaded, and dizzy, as if, thinking back, the water was laced with hallucinogens or some sort of native spiritual intoxicants. There was nothing to hold on to and I was leaning back as far as I could to maintain my balance. I was going to have to drop my backpack --- which had the canteen attached to it with all my water --- when, just before I was about to fully pass out somehow I merged into the canyon wall, becoming one with the cliff and stone behind it. Everything got dark.

A couple of days later a group of hikers heading back up the trail spotted me laying buried up to my waist and unconscious in sand, gravel, and rocks of a sandbar down along the edge of the Little Colorado River some distance upstream from it's confluence with the Colorado River AND miles and miles away from where I last remembered being along the one-foot wide ledge high on the canyon wall. When the hikers first found me they would have bet money I was dead. Then, when they pulled me out they thought I had been either badly beaten, had taken a horrendous fall, or both, because the red and black color of my skin. Unknown to the hikers, what appeared to be red and black bruises all over my body was actually from what pigment remained on my skin. However, regardless of what I had been through or not been through, except for the fact I was stark naked, had no shoes, and my backpack with my ID and money was missing, I was in remarkably good shape. One of the hikers said it looked like I had been caught in a flash flood. Another said it looked like I was emerging from the Earth. After a brief explanation that I had fallen in the river upstream someone gave me an extra pair of swim trunks to put on. Someone else gave me a pair of shower shoes so the trail wouldn't be so harsh on my feet.

In the group of hikers was a couple who had a pick-up truck that, after their hike, were headed to Mather Campground near Grand Canyon Village. They told me I was welcome to go with them if I was willing to ride in the truck bed. Their truck was one of those jacked-up jobs with huge wheels and a chrome roll bar bolted down in bed with lights all across the top with little wire screens. I squeezed in the back between the role bar and a whole bunch of backpacks, hiking gear, and coolers, wearing only the swim trunks and shower shoes given me and off we went.

After going through the east gate they stopped at Desert View for awhile. In that I wasn't dressed as appropriate as I could be --- even to be hanging out with tourists, I just remained in the back of the truck --- that is until they didn't come right back and the day was closing down toward sunset and I needed to pee. In sort of a low key manner I began scrounging around for an out of the way restroom, finding one between the parking lot and the rim. In the process I saw a hunched over old man, which would be best described as a white haired old Indian walking with a large dog, a dog that was sniffing here and there as dogs often do but somehow more intensely. The thing is, I was sure I had seen the same old man sitting up amongst the rocks off the trail on my way up from the Little Colorado. At first when I looked up off the trail I thought I saw a pile of rocks or rocks that were formed in such a manner that they looked like an old man. When I took a second look they turned out to actually BE an old man.

When I came out of the restroom I headed toward the rim passing the old man and his dog right along my path. The dog, which was huge and much more wolf-like in my estimation than dog-like, had stopped to paw the ground. The dog began tugging on something in the dirt he had push aside. The old man suddenly turned in front of me and holding out his arm after taking something out of the dog's mouth said, "I believe this is yours." It was my backpack.

After a shower and a fair night's sleep at Mather Campground near Grand Canyon Village wrapped snuggly --- and finally warm --- in my G.I., O.D. lightweight combat casualty blanket compliments of my backpack, then picking up a few items of clothing, I approached the English speaking tour guide of a Japanese tour bus that I overheard was was returning to Las Vegas with a stop at Grand Canyon Caverns. I asked if there was any Buddhists among her group. She wasn't totally sure, but pointed out several she thought were, of which at least two could speak English. I showed them my necklace and explained my plight. It wasn't long before I had secured a ride as far as Peach Springs. From there I was able to get to the trailhead at Havasupai Hilltop, get my vehicle and head home.


As you may have noticed, during my experience, nearly every precept put forward in the quote at the top of the page attributed to the Buddha and texts that may have followed, such as sleeping on the ground, the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations have been in one way or the other, violated.

As to the period of time I was on the promontory and didn't move, eat, and apparently didn't drink any water for days --- as the two teaspoons a day were unconsumed and continued to add up in the water jar to such a point that it held the equivalent of at least five days of water --- and what happened during that period that I have described above as a deep meditative state that sort of melded together varying aspects of samadhi, nirodha, and shamanic journeying is, well, a story for another time. I will tell you that the birds continued to get larger, going from vultures the first day to condors the second. Then, as I write above, the distinction between days and time began to fade as I fell deeper into a meditative state. However, during an area of transition between the total completion of the fading into the deep meditative state I remember something that must have been on the third day. On that day, no longer were there vultures or condors, but an enormous bird of even larger size perched on the promontory with it's back toward me and tailfeathers spread in such a fashion that I was able to walk up on it's back and sit. After that, like I say, is a story for another time.[6]










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Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.



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The Case Against "Shamans" In the
North American Indigenous Cultures




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The remote town of Supai, which sits at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, is known for what unusual distinction?

Supai, which serves as the capital of the Havasupai Indian Reservation, is the only place in the lower 48 states that can be accessed only by foot, mule, or helicopter. With no reliable roads, the town must have all of its mail delivered by mule.

Footnote [1]

There was something that transpired when I was a young boy that was NOT Native American inspired and of which I didn't observe personally, but was however, Buddhism AND mantra related. I was the recipient of the event from a firsthand eyewitness of the account, told to me by a person I consider a highly credible witness --- an old man dishwasher that worked in a bar that I met sitting in a back alley one day when I was a kid. I was in elementary school, in the fourth or fifth grade or so, living maybe a year or two with my dad and Stepmother on the western edge of the central city section of downtown Los Angeles. Two of my grade-school buddies and I used to pull a Radio Flyer through the alleys around the neighborhood collecting pop and beer bottles for the deposit. After we collected a wagon-full we would turn them in various places around of which one was a bar. In the process of pounding on the back door I got to know the dishwasher there, an elderly Chinese man.

As a young boy without a lot of experience in the matter --- and never with my buddies --- I used to go by the bar and meditate in the alley with the old man even without the necessity of turning in soda or beer bottles for the deposit. Sitting in the shade on the back steps amongst the garbage cans and flies behind the bar one afternoon, while drinking hot tea out of tiny little cups with no handles in a near ritual-like tea ceremony he insisted on, the elderly Chinese man told me a story about the bombing of Japanese occupied Taiwan by B-29 Superfortresses of the United States Army Air Force during World War II. He said from ancient times there was a "girl Buddha" whose followers believed that reciting the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum would, because of her compassion, deliver them from harm. He said even though he himself had not practiced or invoked the mantra, while seeking refuge in the midst of the attack he inadvertently ended up amongst a group of believers who were also running to find shelter from the explosions. Then, while within the group, most of whom were verbally repeating the mantra, overhead, pure white and almost cloud-like the "girl Buddha" appeared in the sky above them actually deflecting the trajectory of the bombs away from their exposed path until they reached safety and out of harms way.

The mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, came up because of a 1940s comic book superhero called The Green Lama that used the mantra much like Billy Batson used Shazam to become Captain Marvel --- to invoke superpowers --- and, in the Green Lama's case, gaining super strength, invulnerability, the ability to fly, and even being impervious to bullets to the point of being bulletproof. The old dishwasher, for whatever reason, had a six or eight copies of the Green Lama of which, for whatever reason, he gave to me.

During those back-alley sessions, if the Chinese man used any names relative to the "girl Buddha" I don't recall them. Anything I know about her other than his description of the protection she provided, I have garnered later in life. Basically the "girl Buddha," or more respectfully, female Buddha, is known as Kuan Yin (also know as Quan Shi Yin and Kwan Yin), a Chinese female incarnation of Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara) the Bodhisattva of Compassion. A bodhisattva is an Enlightened being who has decided to "stay in the world" rather than becoming a fully Enlightened Buddha and living a compassionate life for the sake of all beings. With the mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, Kuan Yin tirelessly attempts to deliver all beings from suffering.



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After those early years, other than the occasional connection back to the Green Lama comic books of my youth, the mantra, at least for me, pretty much passed into oblivion. Then, years later, as fully articulated in Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery (linked below), following a set of near kidnapping-like extenuating circumstances in the then wide-open railhead city of Chiang Mai located in the far northern reaches of Thailand, after an exhaustive search by a renegade group, I was found by a Zen Buddhist monk amongst their midst under somewhat ragged conditions:

"(T)he KMT searching the city came across me, finding me with bloodshot eyes, drooling at the mouth, unbathed, dirty, unshaven, no clothes, sitting in my own urine and defecation, rocking back and forth, and highly unusual for me, robotically repeating over-and-over a mantra from my childhood Om Mani Padme Hum and so mind-numb that I was worthless to their or anybody else's cause."

The KMT, fighting to stay ahead of other factions seeking my potential expertise, had been furiously searching the city trying to find an unknown white American for days. When they heard there was a person of white or Anglo extraction, possibly an American, in one of the dens they went straight there. The Zen Buddhist traveling with the KMT was attracted to my constant repetition of the mantra, then seeing the tiny medallion around my neck knew I was under the protection of the Lord Buddha and could not be left behind --- no matter if I was or wasn't the one they were looking for.



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Footnote [2]

One day, in a rather obscure off the beaten path cafe in Taos, New Mexico, circa 1968, a small gathering occurred that included my uncle, myself and a few of his friends. During that gathering I told the following story regarding a man I met and worked for during my first two years of high school, a man I call my Merchant Marine Friend, the story of which briefly goes like:

In the early days of World War II my merchant marine friend was badly burned when the ship he was on was torpedoed by a German submarine. In order to save himself he had no choice but to jump overboard, landing in an area with oil and naphtha burning along the surface of the water, the fire scorching his skin as he plunged through and returned for air. Unlike his other surviving shipmates he was NOT found immediately following the attack and presumed dead. Then, weeks, possibly months after his ship was torpedoed he was found strapped by ropes to a piece of debris floating in the middle of the ocean thousands and thousands of miles away from where his ship went down. Except for being unconscious and heavily scared from the burn marks, which had seemingly healed, he was in pretty good shape. Everybody said it was a miracle, that his burns must had healed by the salt water. How he had made it in the open ocean without food or water nobody knew. Most people speculated he had been picked up by a U-boat and ejected at a convenient time so he would be found, although no record has ever shown up to substantiate such an event, nor did he recall ever being on a submarine, German or otherwise.

I elaborated on the story by including that the former merchant marine felt the results of being found replicated that of the Navy pilot of the PBY floatplane in the book The High Barbaree. Accompanying us at the table that day, and not at all that unusual, was a man known to be a highly regarded and respected tribal spiritual elder. The elder listened intently to me telling the story and, although not interested in the specifics because much of it was foreign to his culture, the overall theme of the story he liked.

A few days later he showed up with a truly elderly man. The spiritual elder had been talking to a group of men about my story when a man stepped forward saying he had been a Code Talker in the south Pacific during World War II and knew about PBYs. This in turn put a truly elderly man in the group into some sort of trance. The truly elderly man told the code talker for ME to beware of PBYs. Because of the unusual nature of the warning, PBYs and all, the spiritual elder brought us all together. The truly elderly man was somehow privy to the story that it had been said that as a young boy I had been touched by the White Painted Lady. Because of such, he felt a connection that otherwise might not have been there. Basically, through translators, because the truly elderly man did not have a full command of the English language, he wanted to know if I had access to a PBY. I told him not only had I never been on one or near one, to my knowledge I did not think I had ever even seen one. The old man slumped back almost as though he had fainted. Within minutes he returned to consciousness. He said that if not me someone from my past, possibly a woman, and if not her someone close to her would be impacted adversely in the use of such a craft. He told me to stay away from such aircraft and ensure that any of my friends that might fit the bill stay away from them as well.

Sometime after high school I crewed on a yacht come marlin boat owned by the multi-millionaire David J. Halliburton. One day in the marina I came across a former Rose Marie Reid swimsuit model I hadn't seen in years that I knew as Sullivan who had since become the wife of the son of a world renown underwater explorer.

Now, I do not recall if the above incident between the former model and myself occurred before or after the warning by the elderly man, but please note that I say the woman in question was married to the "son of a renowned ocean explorer." However, some years later and well after the code talker incident --- and with me being in absolutely no position to know of such things --- in the mid-1970s, she and her husband bought a PBY. Four years after the purchase her husband was killed piloting the plane during a water landing.


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Footnote [3]

Except for an incident that happened in the desert southwest in the early to mid 1940s that involved me and a tribal spiritual elder as found in The Spiritual Elder and the Santa Fe Chief, it was, for the most part right after the war with me still a very young boy that I started traveling around the desert southwest with my uncle and began interacting with Native Americans --- with more than one of those interactions ending up being highly spiritual in nature. It was during those same early travels that I first heard about and actually met Navajo code talkers. As the nearly ten year old boy I was I thought it was the coolest thing, Native Americans, the Navajo, being placed on the war front and speaking their own language back and forth between themselves and the whole of the Japanese war machine from Hirohito and Tojo to the lowest private not being able to decode or make heads or tails out of what was being said.

On one of our trips a tribal elder took us to one of the Seven Cities of Cibola. Like the majority of the early pueblo sites we visited, at least for me as a kid with no background or knowledge of pueblos or such places at the time, it was pretty much a dump of a place, that is, fallen down walls, piles of rocks, covered outlines of rooms. While I was out exploring and finding things that captured my interest which is what my uncle and the elder had been wanting, they kept widening the distance between myself and them. What caught my interest for the most part was not in the ruins itself per se' but a series of five or six upright stone slabs all set in a row at least as high as I, a ten-year old boy was tall, showing no apparent connection the ruins.

It was then I noticed my uncle and the elder, some distance off and not in the pueblo proper, after brushing the ground with their feet in several areas then kneeling and bending down as though they were digging up or removing something from the ground they stood up looking at whatever the elder took my uncle to see. Wanting to know what was so captivating but not being revealed to me, I start heading their way, but was stopped with a hand gesture from my uncle. In the meantime the object of their attention, which seemed to be wrapped in some kind of animal skin almost like ancient mummified leather, appearing all the same from where I stood as a book --- although as far as I knew the none of the Native Americans in the area had any legacy of a written tradition, ancient or otherwise. After my uncle carefully looked it over the object was placed as near as I could tell back in the same location it was taken from and covered up in the sand as though nothing ever happened.

When I asked him what all those secretive events were about he answered with a four word phrase that I easily recognized as a Tibetan mantra. I had become aware of and learned the mantra only a year or so before when I was introduced to a comic book hero called the Green Lama. Because his Tibetan background ordained his super skills he quickly rose to the top of being one of my favorites. The following is found in the opening paragraph of the Green Lama link so cited:

"Like Superman and Captain Marvel, the Green Lama was a 1940s superhero. Sporting an everyday guise as Jethro Dumont, a rich New York City resident and man about town, if necessity demanded it and he recited the Jewel in the Lotus Mantra Dumont underwent a startling and dramatic change, becoming the Green Lama, gaining super strength, invulnerability, and the ability to fly."

In an amazing set of timing, karma, and coincidences, as trite as it may sound, if I hadn't just learned of the Green Lama through comic books over the year previous I would have had no clue as to the cryptic remark given my by my uncle:


Although I was able to recognize and understand the mantra and that it's originating source was Tibetan, what I didn't know was how any of what I had seen or heard tied into anything we had been participating in, especially the larger environment of the desert southwest. That would come many years later following the death of my uncle and the rise of the internet. In the late 1990s to at least 2012 or so, bits and pieces of information began to bubble up scattered around the net regarding the potentiality of a sandstone slab found in Zuni territory that had, it was said, unmistakable Tibetan script carved on it's surface, of which, one of the inscriptions was said to clearly be the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra. I have linked the two most memorable internet sites remaining on the subject below, although not necessarily to be taken as an endorsement by me here of their content, because both sites have their critics and of which a good portion is highly valid on the surface, although many critical aspects put forth do loose a lot of their strength when meshed together with what I've presented.

You have to remember I am citing an incident over 60 years ago in the mid to late 1940s when I was a mere yet-to-be ten year old boy. Please note in text of the second link, the author, although nowhere is the name of the pueblo ever brought up he clearly makes reference to the same stone slabs that so enthralled me at Kyaki:Ma. The author writes, and I quote, "a line of large sandstone slabs that had been planted upright deep in the sand. 'Looks kind of like a Zuni Stonehenge,'" which pretty much puts the nail in the coffin as to which site is being talked about. My uncle took his secret to the grave with him, my remembrance of the events leading up to and surrounding the secret only staying alive through me to this day because of an early childhood fascination of comic book super heroes. Not much to go on, but something.




Not one credible archaeologist or scientist with strong undisputed credentials in the field has come forward substantiating the authenticity of the Zuni/Tibetan stone tablet so described in the above two links, nor can I vouch for it myself. For one thing no scientific archaeological backup documentation exists as to when, where, and how it was actually discovered, in other words, a la Carlos Castaneda, who I am totally familiar with, no field notes. The quote below is taken from the second link:

"The former pueblo site at the base of the mesa is where the archaeological dig was being conducted at the time of Dan's of the enigmatic tablets discovery by Dan. I asked them why the discovery wasn't mentioned to the other archaeologists and Clifford made the comment, 'Why show it to them, they'd just steal it like everything else.'"

The quote clearly indicates a discussion of an archaeological dig and archaeologists, but of who or of what affiliation they represent isn't mentioned. As well, one could if so aligned, side with Clifford to some extent, however what he does say carries within it's contents the scent of archaeologists within the group other than Zuni --- possibly untrustworthy in some fashion. Why he would be working with such a group is not known. The thing is, you just can't put together a high profile ragtag group of pothunters and go jackbooting ramshackle through a bunch sacred Zuni archaeological sites whenever a whim comes up, Zuni or otherwise. If the so mentioned Dan, said to have found the tablet, was a Zuni archaeologist of some repute, then most likely the digging team was duly registered and authorized to be operating on the location. If such is the case, knowing how sacred the tribal lands and artifacts are to the Zuni, it can be ensured that records exist on who, what, when, and where the team whence came.

In my much younger days I would have made a road trip to at least see the stone for myself, so at this point I am taking the graphics of the stone as the stone being real, although for all I know it might not even exist. The credibility I give to the Zuni slab actually existing is the incredible coincidence of where and how it was said to have been found and my experience with my uncle at the same Zuni site 60 years or more ago, especially so the mention of the upright slabs. The following is also from the second link above describing the location of the discovery of the stone:

"The ancient pueblo site was located north of a dirt road that snaked east from the present day pueblo. We parked and began to walk up a sandy hill that was covered in prickly pear and rabbit-ear cactus. We wound our way up and over the hill headed toward the base of the beautiful mesa that towered over the site. We took a break as Dan showed us the exact spot where he found the tablet. I looked around and marveled that I was standing on such a historic spot and I wondered if this was the exact spot where Coronado got beaned off his horse. The view to the south was spectacular in the late afternoon light that graced the ancient site. Majestic clouds dotted the sky and a pair of soaring ravens eyed us from high above as we headed over to a line of large sandstone slabs that had been planted upright deep in the sand. 'Looks kind of like a Zuni Stonehenge,' I joked as we scratched our heads and tried to figure out why this unusual arrangement of large stone slabs had been placed there."


One of the complaints lodged against the the object is that it didn't seem old enough, that is, it did not have an ancient quality about it, the carvings looking as though they had been done fairly recently --- although I must say I've seen shards of painted pots at various archaeological sites that have been exposed to the weather for centuries and you would never know it. However, the author does have a valid point. Nowhere in anything I have read about the Zuni/Tibetan stone has it been brought up that it was wrapped in anything, leather or otherwise. I'm the only one that says anything about such a probability. It was quite clear even at the distance I was from my uncle and the elder that whatever they dug out of the ground and were looking at was wrapped in what appeared to be leather.

If the object the elder and my uncle were looking at was indeed the same stone depicted in the graphics, then being wrapped as it was would most certainly have shielded it from the ravages of time, allowing from whenever it was made to the present day to have remained relatively unharmed. One thing that can be surmised is that the stone was carved in America on sandstone and not transported from Tibet in some manner. When the tablet was carved and who carved it is another thing. It certainly isn't representative of typical Zuni handiwork. The day I was at the pueblo with my uncle, from a distance I saw what looked like a book, although truth be said leather wrapped around a piece of sandstone could easily take on all the semblance of book from a distance. If what the elder revealed that day to my uncle was NOT the stone but instead a parchment of some sort with the same Tibetan writing on it that appears on the alleged stone, then what's not to say that someone in more recent times didn't simply copy the inscriptions onto the sandstone to ensure it's longevity, with the book, if it was a book, secreted away for posterity.


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Footnote [4]

When my uncle was in his early 20s he was traveling with a number of Native Americans around his same age in a then remote part of northeastern New Mexico when he came across a young man age 15 or 16 wandering across the desert. That young man, in later years, turned out to be the author of over a 100 cowboy and western novels, Louis L'Amour.

In 1970 my uncle was in California to visit has ailing brother, my dad, and while in California visited L'Amour to catch up on the old days and discuss things new. In the process of that visit my uncle took me with him. During conversation, knowing L'Amour had been engaged at one time to Margaret Runyan, who eventually married Carlos Castaneda, and both my uncle and I knew Castaneda, I brought it up.

After that, a good portion of what was left of the afternoon either circulated around or drifted back to Castaneda. Until he was told by me and elaborated by my uncle when questioned, L'Amour had no clue, as so many others still have no clue to this day, that my uncle was the Informant that Castaneda and others write about so often as having been the original source for his introductions into the rituals and use of datura.

The most important part of the Castaneda discussion between L'Amour and my uncle was how it impacted L'Amour, or at the very least how it related to two of his major works. L'Amour wrote two books, one published in 1976 the other written in 1977 but not published until ten years later, that were seeped with a heavy mystic quality about them intertwined with Native American spiritual lore and magic. The books, The Californios and The Haunted Mesa, both relied heavily on consultation with my uncle and his in depth strengths in both areas, but most surely so in Native American spiritual lore. A lot of what L'Amour weaved through both stories, but especially so Haunted Mesa which unfolded under the same spiritual blanket that covered my experience, was drawn from the kind of knowledge that my uncle was familiar with and that encompassed what happened to me. L'Amour writes in The Haunted Mesa:

"The Indians the white man met were no more original inhabitants of the country than the Normans and Saxons the original inhabitants of England. Other peoples had come and gone before, leaving only shadows upon the land. Yet some had gone into limbo leaving not only physical artifacts but spiritual ones as well. Often encroaching tribes borrowed from those who proceeded them, accepting their values as a way of maintaining harmony with the natural world.

"There were ancient mysteries, old gods, who retired into canyons to await new believers who would bring them to life once more.

"Who has walked the empty canyons of the lonely land above the timber and not felt himself watched? Watched by what ghosts from a nameless past? From out of what pit or horror and fear?

"The Indian had always known he was not alone. He knew there were others, things that observed. When a man looked quickly up, was it movement he saw or only his imagination?"



Footnote [5]


Footnote [6]

In The Boy and the Giant Feather, linked below, I tell of being given a giant black and white feather by a Native American tribal elder that was around sixty inches long. From that I have been questioned by readers if I have seen or come into contact with a bird of such large size that it would require a feather as big as the one I mention. I then go on to say I cannot answer with all certainty. Part of that uncertainty stems to this day from how, as a grown man at the cave, on the third day I faded into a deep meditative state but just as I did I recall seeing a bird on the promontory of an extremely large size. The following may add some insight to that uncertainty:


If reference to the the tribal spiritual elder giving me a huge long black white feather so mentioned in The Boy and the Giant Feather, the following is found:

"It was nearly as wide as the span of my hand and it's length was as long as I, a ten year old boy, was tall. Tied to the quill shaft, which was much, much bigger around than any piece of schoolroom chalk, was a small, double strand of leather string with ten colored beads attached, one for each of my years he said."

The quote below is in the book FOSSIL LEGENDS OF THE FIRST AMERICANS, Adrienne Mayor (2005), Princeton University Press, Chapter 3: The Southwest: Fossil Fetishes and Monster Slayers, page 163 and refers SPECIFICALLY to the same giant feather given to me and as so found in the quote above:

"According to Pleistocene bird specialist Tommy Tyrberg, a Teratornis fossil preserved in a dry desert cave could have cartilage and feathers. 'Even a wing of Gymnogyps (californianus) amplus, the large Pleistocene subspecies of the California condor, could be described as having man-sized bones. Remains of this bird have been found in at least six New Mexico caves.' Several very well-preserved Teratornis merriami remains have also been discovered in Dry Cave, Eddy County, and other caves in southern New Mexico, and teratorn skeletons have turned up in southern California, Nevada, Oregon, and Florida. A Native American fossil story that circulated on the Internet in 2002 claimed that a black-and-white feather, nearly sixty inches long with a quill the diameter of a stick of blackboard chalk, was made into an amulet by an old shaman in southern New Mexico. Whether or not that story is true, a feather of that size could be plucked from the remains of a mummified teratorn in a dry cave."


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