Would you go hiking without headphones?
I would prefer not to. For context, headphones are on my list of “things I can’t do without” on OKCupid.
But today, I lost my them yet again. I’ve checked four pockets, beneath both chairs and even in the trunk of the car.
I’m about to embark on a two hour hike to one of Sedona’s “vortexes”. It would be absurd to go back into town at this point.
“It’s better this way,” I fool myself, “The whole point is to listen to nature. It will be a nicer hike without them.”
But as I start upon the trail, I hear a pleasant, distant flute. Aha! So I’ll have music after all.
I try to figure out where the flute is coming from, so that at the end of the hike, I might have the pleasure of meeting the musicians.
As I walk farther, the sound fades, slightly. It’s not in the direction of the trail. I could follow the trail, or I could be a snake charmed by a flute.
I chose the latter.
I look up towards a thorny hillside with a bit of doubt, but hey—I have water, fruit and a cell phone (and maybe band-aids in the car, too).
I crawl up until I find another trail. This one’s called Vista—a trail to the top, I assume.
Rock formations lie up ahead, and I identify a close, tall one. It actually looks a bit like the mushroom that the caterpillar sits upon in Alice and Wonderland. It’s also the sort of thing that would be easy to climb up on, and difficult to come down from.
But, there’s a flute on top of it. For a flash, I imagine the flute player would assure my safe travels down.
As I’m scrambling up, I call out, “Is that you with the flute out there?”
“Oh, hello!” replies a voice. “So good that you’re joining up here!”
The speaker calls out instructions on which hand and footholds to use, which saves me some worry.
I see a shiny gentleman, an exuberant yet calm face. He’s one of the shiniest people I’ve ever met.
“Welcome,” he says. “You’ve arrived.” I smile.
“Take a seat,” he motions to right.
“Thank you!” I exclaim, and sit down in a meditation posture.
“This is a song,” says the man, picking up his flute, “for courage.”
And he proceeds to play the most beautiful, soulful melody.
After a few minutes, he places the flute down, and says,
“You know, I come up here every day. Sometimes twice a day. And play the flute for an hour. It’s my way of healing the planet—because that’s what our planet needs now, it needs healing.”
He says this… not in any preaching way, but the way a four-year-old would give an ode to ice cream. With simple, pure excitement.
“I try to send out the energy of unconditional love. Because that’s all there really is. It’s really the root of everything. And the only thing that blocks feeling that constant stream of unconditional love is fear.”
“But fear isn’t real,” he says. “It’s hard to remember, but it really is just an illusion”.
He smiles. “Yes, today, this is my second time up here. This is quite the spot. I don’t come home with many pennies,” he says, “but I feel like the richest man in the world.”
This next song, he says, is a song for healing.
And he plays.
I asked for his permission to take photos first. I learn that his name is Rob.
When Rob finishes, he drinks some water, and reaches into his pocket.
“I have a gift for you,” he says, and pulls out a stone, carved into the shape of a heart, and hands it to me.
“Thank you,” my eyes go wide.
“This is so you can take this energy, this energy of unconditional love that you’ve cultivated and bring it home with you, and feel it always.”
“Thank you,” I repeat simply, awed.
We hear a noise below us. A man (who, oddly enough, I had asked for directions from at the beginning of the hike) pokes his head up, looking a bit uncertain.
“Well, come on up,” says my shiny compatriot. And Rob guides the newcomer up the rock, the same way he guided me. “Take any seat, it’s nice up here. We were just about to play a song for imagination.”
And he continues to play.
The newcomer acknowledges me, So you made it up here, too. We simply smile at one another.
Rob finishes his last song, which is for joy, and then he helps us down, one step at a time. It’s funny how he makes the route so easy.
I continue to gush out my thanks, which Rob appreciates, and then he adds:
“You know, you have to get older, but you don’t have to grow up. I never grew up, I’m just a big kid.”
Even at the bottom of the rocks, he continues his work.
“Oh hello, young man,” he says to a dude in his 40s. “I have a present for you.” And he has hearts. So many hearts to hand out. I imagine he has a factory in his basement, where he carved them all from the stones.
So there was nothing special to him about me. His kindness to me wasn’t a function of who I was—or what I was to him—but of who he himself chooses to be.
I think about him, and I wonder how he lives. He could be a dot-com millionaire or living off peanut butter. Neither would surprise me.
He called himself rich. Well, after all, I reason, he has all of the love, all of the appreciation, and all of the sunshine.
It’s a truly unfathomable sum.
On the my way back to the trail I get myself lost, and sing out loud for an hour.
And then I fly home.
This took place on February 15th, at one of Sedona’s “vortexes”.
I was a personal Valentine’s Day retreat.
I‘ve still got that red rock heart, and carry it with me everywhere.
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