Negotiating the Peace


“Do you want the truth or a pretty picture?” he said.

I sat across from him in Denny’s. A tall, slim Indian man, dark hair held in a pony tail streaked with white and silver strands, mysterious eyes of chocolate and light. His partner sat to his side in beaded earrings that reached to her chest, a flowing blue dress over her large frame, hands of strength holding a beaded bag with turquoise and silver clasps, and coiled power enveloping the space where she sat as if occupied by unseen guardians. He seemed much friendlier. But I was wrong about that as I would be about much of my experience with Sky and Earth.

“The truth, of course,” I answered. He smiled and showed a perfect row of white teeth. But, his humor held more than that. It cradled 500 years of misunderstanding.

We ordered coffee, and he ordered breakfast. Quiet flooded into the noise of Saturday’s crowd and hovered over our table as a separate space. The air, I remember, seemed to waver in front of my eyes, an unreality about it all.

She lit a cigarette, and when her coffee came, she tore open and poured three packets of white sugar into it, stirring it with a beaten spoon. We all stared into the pond of it. Then she drank her coffee ritually, with gratitude. My heart pounded with excitement and fear.

Did they see me? I wondered.

I had blown into town on the vestiges of a Pacific Ocean breeze that still lingered on my path from the Laguna Mountains down into the simmering Imperial Valley. That gentle, moist breath evaporated like the gossamer of a former life, on that day in  Arizona.

An International Table of Peace she would later call it—our meeting that day. I would call it something much different for many years: a failure, another one; an abuse, or just plain bad luck. After four years at the feet of an American Indian spiritual guide I left the town broke and vulnerable.

But, I had a new question: could I see myself?


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