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Stirring Ashes

I was deep into the Colorado woods for a cleansing hike. I couldn’t tolerate myself, my family, my work, my community or people anymore. I walked with no direction, down into a slot canyon, following a small dried up, and sandy stream bed. Feeling the rush of cold air against my left cheek, I turned in the direction it was coming from and noticed an aspen tree and coyote bush covering the opening of a smaller canyon.
Pulling back the brush I could see the passageway was only three feet wide but after several yards, it opened up. Curious, I entered the open area. To the left was a Ute Indian in tribal clothing made of buckskin, feathers and jewelry made from beads and shells, reminiscent of clothing of the early 1800’s. He was crouched and stirring cold ashes in the sandy soil, a method of concentration.
“Tell me what you seek traveler,” he said, without looking up.
Astonished to see anyone out here, I replied, “I was just walking to clear my head of the pressures of work, family and my life.
Standing near the entrance I considered leaving after responding but somehow did not feel apprehensive.
“This peace you seek cannot be found in the world you are living in today. Your life is built on frustration, greed, competition, and sadness. This has been since the white man came to our land. Now you walk among the soil of my ancestors and want to find what was here when you arrived. It was here for you to enjoy. You took much, slaughtering the buffalo, killing our people and pushing us away. Now you come to this ground to find what you destroyed.” Shaking his head, he continued stirring the ashes and finally looked up at me.
“I am not sure I can understand what happened here. My ancestors came to New York and I was the first one to migrate to the West,” I said. I found it inconceivable that I was out in the open grounds of Colorado, apologizing for actions of early settlers.
“The world you have created, live in, and pass to your children has become more and more confusing to everyone. You have created labor-saving devices that you have to labor long and hard to afford – washing machines, cars, plumbing and electricity. You spend untold amounts of money on chemicals for your health and beauty and then dump them into the earth causing a caustic harmful environment from which you have to protect yourself.”
He focused his attention back on the ashes as he continued.
“You spend large amounts of money to maintain a military to ensure peace. Imagine, making bombs that will kill millions of people to ensure peace. That is confusing. You print paper money and then work, steal, kill and do whatever you have to in order to get these worthless paper dollars. Your food is treated with chemicals. Terrible lies are written on package labels to convince people they are eating something natural. Real, natural food was what they had before they began killing everything and processing it. You passed many laws. The laws of nature, laws of God, and laws of common sense have been replaced by the laws of men.”
I was more confused than when I began my hike across the open land. Turning, I started to leave, but feeling a need to apologize again for what had been done in this land, I turned and he was gone. I crouched down and began stirring the ashes…

Darryl Armstrong is a mortgage banker in San Luis Obispo where he lives with his wife, Carol. His writings have been published both locally and nationally. Darryl is a member of SLO NightWriters, for writers at all levels in all genres; find them online at slonightwriters.org.

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