DREAMWALKING RAVEN BUTTE

By Gary Every

Sometimes dreams and reality intermix.

     Raven Butte is a black mesa with prehistoric sleep circles on top. The black, black rock stands amidst flat brown plains, sand dunes, and bleached-out volcanic mountains not far from the Camino Diablo.

     They say that Edward Abbey, author of DESERT SOLITAIRE and ecological saboteur extraordinaire, is buried out here. Unless, of course, the coyotes and javelinas have dug him up. Out here in this godforsaken desert, the Caneza Prieta wilderness, there are other corpses lain to rest, people who just won’t stay dead.

     There is the ghost of Melchior Diaz, one of Coronado’s consorts, the original Camino Diablo pioneer, who died an inglorious death. The charismatic conquistador  cavalry captain was chasing a Mexican gray wolf with his lance in hand when he plunged at his quarry and missed, dying of an embarrassing accident—a self-inflicted groin wound. They say that if you find Melchior’s lost grave his horse rises right out of the tomb. Diaz and his stallion charge together, chasing the wolves who no longer live there.

     There are other ghosts, older ghosts, who live here. The undead of the Hia C-ed O’odham, sometimes called the Sand Papago, sometimes called the Areneros, but always known as pirates, pillagers and plunderers, wizards, magicians, brujos, and sorcerers. The United States government claims they no longer exist, so they won’t give them a reservation, but they did give them a graveyard.

     Raven Butte is in the Tinajas Altas Mountains, a range whose natural rain tanks kept alive Spanish California colonizers and, later, thirsty American Forty Niners, but the Tinajas Atlas tanks also watered dream seeds. Between the first and second tanks is a rock overhang with just enough space to squeeze in a shaman, maybe a shaman and an apprentice, to stare at the ceiling adorned with petroglyphs, the visions of dream oasis.

     I know a Ria c-ed O’odham who, every night before he goes to sleep, practices a technique his grandfather taught him. He stares at his hand, trying to remember every bump, every line, every detail, and then recalls his hand exactly in his sleep. When he mastered this he began to recall the things in his bedroom, and soon he dream-remembered hikes in the mountains, recalling them step by step. Before you knew it he was going places he had never been, at least not while he was awake.

     During the daylight hours he would take scientists to the places he had dreamed and tell them, “We will find the ancient village over there.” And they did. The archaeologists dug it all up—pots, beads, shells, and bones, and this upset my friend—that they would disturb his ancestors. So he learned not only to dreamwalk through space but travel in time as well. He traveled to the villages back when they were alive with people and the elders welcomed him. The grandfathers began to teach him more magic, powerful magic.

     I climb a steep, craggy peak to take a photograph of Raven Butte where the ancients used to sleep while their souls floated amongst the stars. I watch a dust devil sail across the desert floor. It races over the sandy expanse, whipping the creosote bushes into a  froth. The miniature cyclone is all swirling, twirling, blustering wind and fury, spitefully tossing sand, sailing swiftly like a traveling desert tornado. It covers the vast distances across the desert floor, passing in front of black Raven Butte, cursing in an ancient tongue. Who knows where it came from, who knows where it will go.

     I chuckle to myself, there goes the ghost of a Pinacateno Arenero, there goes another dreamwalking sand Papago.

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