Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Freedom is Gold

The Superstition Mountains are best known for the Legend of the Lost Dutchman's gold. A miner came to town boasting of a big find, with a chunk of gold to lend credence to his words. He died before anyone could get the exact location of the hidden gold mine. People have searched for over a hundred years, some dying on their quest for the lost gold. There are tourist sites in Apache Junction that recount the legend and offer the actual history. You can visit Goldfield, a ghost town that used to be an active mine. The Superstition Mountain Museum, Lost Dutchman State Park, Peralta Trail, Weaver's Needle, Apache Trail, Canyon and Apache Lakes, and Tortilla Flats are some of the golden nuggets you can enjoy as you explore history and desert.
The Superstition Mountains tower about four thousand feet above the desert valley. I have hiked to the highest point, I have hiked them in rain, snow, and at night by flashlight. I have watched lizards, seen petroglyphs,  and marveled at the forests of cacti. Sat in the night watching traffic at night in Phoenix. So close to the city but remote.
This year I arrived lost in my heart, soul heavy with sorrow, searching for myself and a direction. I went with the wind, except the aspects of my life that were burdensome stayed with me despite hopping planes and changing names and lives. I kept coming back to the desert. I kept going back to the mountains. There is an ancient indian myth of a white lightening woman who came from the sky and toppled the enemies attacking the tribe from the mountain. A spirit of a woman protecting a peaceful farming tribe, her legend set in my heart. She was their freedom.
I watched sunsets. My thoughts and feelings were the loudest sounds I heard, overpowering the night calls of crickets and coyotes. I was not happy. I felt diminished, stressed, helpless. I did not feel valued by the person closest to me and when I expressed this it was to receive ridicule and rants. Like the desert scavengers, I was surviving. I felt a kinship with the bold coyotes and the ranging ravens. If they could survive I could too. My choices were not helping me heal but they seemed to help my significant other. He needed help to live- I could be strong enough to survive that, couldn't I?
Golden light setting the cholla on fire, the fierce warrior  becoming desert royalty wearing a crown of sunset with robes of peach, rose, and wine colored clouds. Each night the clouds silently danced in different colors and patterns. Would you miss the beauty in their graceful performance? Many evenings I watched their performance and it gave me heart even when my emotions were drowning me. The sunsets circle the sky rather than only occupying the western side. It is impossible to avoid exclamation at times, the beauty stretching to see if it can outdo prior exhibitions. The best antidepressant is a moment of gentle beauty.

At Fish Creek Canyon, I played in a waterfall that would be gone in a day, just a black mark trailing down hundreds of feet of mountain.  I felt the ice cold water and wondered about the choices I made.
Listening to the wind, I felt it move through the canyons. Life is a series of paths, sometimes we reach a point where we find our best, healthiest option is change.
Wind, rain and ice wear the mountains down gradually. I have camped on primitive land in the Superstitions in years past, the mountains quietly stand. They've let me lean on them before when my life was heavy with change.  They call me to climb and explore, or was it the Lightening woman calling me? Was it her nudging me to chase myself down trails, around cacti and through washes? Such an irresistible curiosity, renewing my energy and spirit. More trails, sunset vistas, my feet kept going forward. Swimming in ice cold Canyon Lake, I realized life was a path and the one I was on wasn't right for me. I could change. I could be free!
I could stop letting someone dictate my life. Each of us is responsible for ourselves. I was surrounded by beauty, and if I chose to stop letting a toxic person paint my world I could heal. I became myself on the morning I drove away, freshly reborn east of Phoenix.
To me, the Superstition Mountains are freedom. Many die lost in the Superstitions, some fruitlessly searching for gold even now. I found myself there, found the audacity to pursue my heart, to reach past anxiety to strive for my dreams. I call that gold.