Full Wirikuta Desert Report Dispatch :)
I've been here in this desert for twelve nights now. It's strange how it feels like I've been here half a lifetime already. Time creeps along so very slow here. It's one of the reasons I come to this place the Huichole Indians call Wirikuta, to slow down the passage of time for a little while to catch my breath. The town I rent a small adobe room in is called Estacion Wadley. The state is San Luis Potosí, Mexico and I'm below the sacred mountain the Huichol Indians call Quemado, which is near a mountain pueblo called Real de Catorce.
Real de Catorce is an interesting old ghost town that was mined primarily for silver many years ago. Today, it's more of a tourist destination with a handful of religious festivals that locals of the region flock to. There are also many foreigners who've also set up shop there over the last few years. I hear they're even hosting an international Jazz festival later this month. Not my scene. I much prefer the rustic solitude on the desert in Wadley.
Not entirely sure why Wadley exists. The desert is full of the hallucinogenic peyote cactus the Huichol call Jikuri or "medicina". It's a sacred plant for them, but its also used by gypsy backpackers who wander here from all over the world. Though, I don't think the numbers are significant enough to justify a town to support it. They do farm nopale cactus at the small desert ranchos. Other than that, I don't know how the people subsist here.
The Mexicans who live here in this desert are earnest, hard, poor, and resilient. My guess is that life can be very hard here and the elements can be brutal. Still, there's a timeless quality and energy in this region that feels biblical. Nothing changes much here. The sun is harsh, the cactus unforgiving, and the storms intense, but there's a sense you get that you're in a place that has a different kind of power. A higher power. It's not hard to imagine why the Huichol call this place, Wirikuta, sacred.
The manner in which the days have drifted by makes it difficult to remember exactly why I came here and everything that's occurred here during my stay. My thoughts have mostly inverted internally after long scorching hikes in the desert, quiet nights dreaming below the Milky Way, and during the three separate days I spent eating peyote cactus out in the desert.
The place I tend to go for my personal desert pilgrimage is about a 45 minute hike out of Wadley into the desert in the direction of Quemado. There's a goat trail I've followed for nearly 22 years now. In the spot that I rest for the day, there is a mesquite tree that provides a little shade during the most intense heat of the day. Just a few meters from this tree that I call my "Boddhi Tree" there is a large peace sign made of stones. It was started back in 2009 I believe, and completed in 2012. I started it because I was very angry at the time because of all the war for profit and violence in the world. There wasn't really any particular reason I made it, but I used it as sort of a waking meditation on peace. That maybe if I concentrated hard enough on the idea of peace, perhaps it would eventually radiate far enough outward into the ether have some meager impact. It was also something to do while I was daydreaming out in the desert.
A Mexican friend of mine from Mexico City, Mauricio, has lived here in this town off and on for many years. Nearly as long as I've been coming here. He tells me my peace sign of stone is becoming somewhat of a tourist attraction, and that he's been seeing photos of it pop up on Facebook from time to time. Sometimes I find offerings left to the peace sign and I'm surprised somehow it remains in tact.
Now I simply reinforce the defining outlines with fresh stones, and the middle portions I've filled with small white Quartz stones. Each time I pull the few weeds that push through and add more sparkling-white Quartz star-stuff. This time I noticed that my Boddhi tree's branches were just barely spread out enough over a dry arroyo to support my hammock. This discovery is spectacular as the desert floor can be full of cactus and mesquite thorns. To be able to now rest quietly swaying in the shade aloft under a blue sky is an incredible blessing. Though, it's a good thing I didn't discover this earlier, or that peace sign may have never been finished.
It always takes a few days to acclimate to this place. When I first arrive it's difficult to remember why I chose to come here. It's poor, dry, dusty, and hot. There's also a train track that runs through the middle of town blasting its horn and violently shaking everything within a few dozen meters. I'm told that the only reason this place exist was originally for the train depot to pick up the materials from the mines. Now, the train rarely even stops here anymore.
The old man I rent a room from, is Don Tomas. There are other folks who rent rooms, but I've always stayed with Don Tomas out of loyalty I suppose. He was the first who took me out into the desert to show me the way. And, he always seems to have my best interest at heart. At this point, after all these years, I can easily call him my amigo.
Sometimes I'm completely alone here like I am now. But other days there are others here with me in the additional 6 rooms surrounding a dirt courtyard and adobe-wall contained compound. There's a primitive shared toilet that you have to flush by pouring a bucket of water into, and a shared cocina (kitchen) that has a table and a beat up old gas table stove.
There have been others come and go while I've been here this time. Most have been Mexicans who will stay for a night, then go out into the desert. There have been a couple here with me the entire time. A young woman with dreadlocks from Portugal who appears to be about 6 months pregnant, and her little long-haired Nicaraguan companion. I think he fancies himself some kind of self-styled Indian shaman, and likes to bang a small drum at night while singing, chanting, or sort of playing his flute, if you could all it that. I've also heard him attempting to play a stringed instrument of some sort, but thankfully he's mostly been going out into the desert to get is magic mojo workin'.
They are really a nice couple with such beautiful souls.
I asked the woman, Evelyn, if they planned on going to the beach after the desert, which is common. I wanted to warn her know that the Zika virus is spreading much faster than was expected and the effected infants with small heads is on the rise.
She told me she lost her first baby to the Zika virus a couple of months ago. She said they claimed it was due to Zika, that his skull didn't form right and that his brain was crushed as it grew. She went into their adobe room to get a photo of her baby to show me. He looked mostly normal, but his head did look a bit small to me.
Evelyn didn't seem to believe it was Zika that caused it. She said her baby's head was a little small, but mostly everything was proportional and she said she never had any symptoms of Zika. I didn't want to argue the point because it was already a bit awkward because the pain she was obviously feeling was palpable. But I did tell her that I believed that I endured the Zika virus just a couple weeks prior. Although I hadn't had it confirmed with tests yet, all the symptoms matched up. Told her that I read that many inflicted don't get any symptoms at all.
She said that there were 3 other women with Zika babies in Tulum, Mexico at the beach where they live, but that the locals were trying to keep it quiet to protect the tourist industry. Though, she also had suspicion that it wasn't the Zika causing the deformities, and more likely the chemicals they're freely spraying to kill the mosquitos. I agreed this was a definite possibility.
Still, days later when I was forced out of the desert to seek shelter from an intense oncoming dark storm, I saw Evelyn coming out of the shared bathroom. There was a lot of lightning coming down all around and ominous black clouds. I stayed inside my doorway because getting struck by lightning here isn't as uncommon as one might think. Evelyn just stood there with her dreadlocks piled artfully atop her head like some Mayan mother diety. Her face leaning back and facing the storm. Rain covered her for a few seconds and she smiled as she looked back down toward me and said, "The rain is coming so that it can grow the corn." I also smiled to see a little of this woman's pain being washed away.
Evelyn and her Nicaraguan medicine man Ariel, left a couple of days ago to carry the ashes of their first baby boy to Real de Catorce and up to the top of sacred Quemado as an offering. I'm leaving tomorrow morning, but I hope I get to see them one more time to say goodbye and wish them well.
Don Tomas has stopped by almost daily to visit with me. I was very worried that he wouldn't be around this time. He's 76 years old and had ongoing health issues over the last few years. The last time I was here a couple years ago, he had to be taken to the hospital in Matehuala for various lung and prostate issues.
This time he looks perfectly healthy and even stronger than he has looked in years. I asked him what accounted for the dramatic improvement. He said they did surgery on his prostate that helped, but still makes it a little difficult to urinate. They also gave him an asthma inhaler that he says helps. But, the biggest improvement came as a result of stopping drinking Coca-Cola. He said it was completely dragging him down, making his whole body ache, and robbing him of all his energy. Radical change. I know he used to drink the stuff like water, and I love me some Mexican Coke too, but seeing how much is health has improved, I stopped drinking it too after having one last cold bottle for old times sake.
A couple days ago during a morning visit from Don Tomas, I was still wearing my sleeping shorts, sipping a coffee with no shirt on yet. Don Tomas came up to me and grabbed some of my chest hair that's white. He asked me if I knew what the white color meant. I told him that it meant I'm getting older. He said no, it's from witches flying through me in the desert. Said they fly right through you, turns you hair white, and they suck and steal some of your blood. I asked, "Like Cupacabra?" He said no. There's no such thing as Chupacabra, it's desert witches.
I laughed and asked if he really believed that. He said he did, that there a lots of white witches out there, and you can see them flying as balls of light in the evening near the ranchos, and especially on the mountain.
Quien sabe? (Who knows?)
The solitude is starting to get to me a little. I'm finding myself pacing back and forth while talking to myself out loud. I know I'll come back here again, but I think it's just about time to leave for now. The reason I came here was to get a new vision and clues as to what I should do next with my life. Whether I should continue on this same path or do something completely different.
The peyote helps me concentrate and I sincerely believe it also has healing power. I always feel healthier when I leave here than when I arrived. Ailments dissolve away or are forgotten. There's good reason the Indians call this plant "medicina". As for a vision, I only had two thoughts.
One, that people keep asking me if I've written my stories down. I tell them I haven't but that I've been trying to write some of them into screenplays. They always say I should write them down in book form. Maybe I will. Words are much less expensive and far less complicated than trying to make a movie. Besides, perhaps once I get them written down, someone will see the value in helping me get them to the big screen. Or, perhaps that's not really all that important to me anymore.
The second thing I kept thinking out in the desert, between all the time I spent reflecting on my life up until now, was this: "It's not about you. It's never been about you. You're nothing. Make yourself into a vessel to allow great things to flow though and keep your soul open to the world. When you dwell on yourself, all the doors will be closed and you become trapped within your small irrelevant self."
That's all I got, but I think it'll do.