Journey to the Heart of the World

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic


This is the story of a woman who transforms through her relationship with the Kogi tribe in Colombia

Submitted: August 27, 2018

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Submitted: August 27, 2018

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Journey to the Heart of the World

By Kent Osborn

 

Chapter 1

“I don’t even like to drink,” Brooke said with disgust, glancing at her beer and then taking a big gulp.  She glanced at her co-workers turned friends, Sarah and Kyle.

“That’s funny,” Sarah said.  “It was your idea to come to this bar in the first place.”

“Get used to it,” Kyle said smugly.  “She is always saying one thing and then doing another,” he said, shrugging.  “I’m not too surprised.”

“That is not true,” Brooke said, suddenly animated.

“Oh, no?” Kyle replied with a challenging air. “What about your trip to Colombia that you talked about all the time last month?  Remember, how you said you were going to take that hike to the Lost City, and visit the Kogi Tribe?  What happened to that idea?

I remember you going on and on about how the Kogi tribe kept coming back into your life...you read a magazine article about them in your dentists office, and you saw a documentary film about them on TV. And I remember how you kept saying you had dreams about going to visit them, and going on some type of quest.  You kept saying how you thought all this stuff with the Kogi was beyond coincidence, and you felt they were calling out to you to travel to them.” Kyle laughed wryly and seemed pleased by his memory of all these details.  Brooke was at a loss for words. She glanced vacantly at Sarah.

“He is right,” Sara admitted.  “Though he is being sort of an asshole about it.”

Brooke downed the rest of her beer and then ordered another, but these distractions only filled the space for a brief time.   She returned her focus to her friends and saw that they had not let her off the hook so easily.  Brooke took a slug of her beer and then pressed her lips firmly together.  It was true, she rarely drank and when she did it brought out a brazen side of her that she wasn’t always proud of the morning after.

“I will go to Colombia,” Brooke said defiantly yet slowly, so as to not slur her words. Kyle laughed at her mockingly and finished the rest of his beer and ordered another one. 

“That’s hard to believe,” Kyle said.  “You were always the most logical one in our office, but for the last few weeks you have been making me wonder.  Before last month, you were the least spiritual or mystical person I knew. Now all of a sudden you were summoned by the Kogi? By some ancient Lost City?”

“Take it easy on her Kyle,” Sarah said, elbowing him playfully.  “Even you said you wanted to go with her.”

“That’s true,” Kyle said.  “I just need a vacation,” he said, gulping his beer.  “That trip did sound interested.  Yeah, Brooke, it’s true.  Sarah and I wanted to go with you.  But...ha!   We also sort of thought you were losing it.”

“Well…” Brooke began, gathering her thoughts.  “There is something missing, and there has been for a while,” Brooke said, trailing off as her heart sank.  Her friends saw her genuine sadness and stopped teasing her and quieted down.  They looked at her frankly, ready to listen to whatever she needed to share.

“As a kid, I was always a math and science whiz and socially off.  I went to college and majored in social work and psychology not because I was good at it, but so that I could become good at it.  I figured out how to deal with people, and I thought I would be fulfilled, that some mystery was solved.  But now, I’ve been doing this job as a social worker with kids for nearly three years, but still…something is not there in my life.  I’m naturally a logical person, and that is what I’m best at: statistics, analysis, algebra, trig, anything with a formula to follow. But for me that stuff is just too easy.  It’s boring and mechanical.  There’s no…no spirit to it.”

“Since when do you care about spirit?” Kyle asked. “You were always an atheist, or at least an agnostic.  You never cared about this stuff.”

“She suspects there is something more out there, she just doesn’t want to admit it.  Don’t put too much faith into what she says,” Sarah said, winking playfully at Brooke.

But Brooke did not take this lightly, this jab from Sarah.  She thought she was on her side.   Something inside Brooke snapped.

That does it,” Brooke said, fiercely draining the last of her beer and slamming it down on the bar forcefully enough to turn a few heads.  “I’m going to Colombia, and you two are coming with me.” Sarah and Kyle exchanged glances of surprise and shock and looked at Brooke with both fear and respect.  Brooke sneered and then smiled sweetly at her friends in a way that only a drunk or slightly drunk person would.

Brooke dug into her pocket ruggedly and pulled her cell phone out of her pocket.  With her thumb, she violently punched the application button for Expedia Airlines and searched for flight from Los Angeles, California to Santa Marta, Colombia.

  “So when can you two go?” she asked her friends flatly, not looking at them.

“I…I can’t afford that anytime soon,” Kyle said, looking at her weakly.

“Well, you told me you wanted to go,” she said pointedly.  “Don’t be a hypocrite.  Live up to your word.” Kyle shrank slightly in his chair, kicking himself for teasing Brooke so much.

“Never mind the money, Kyle.  I’ll buy the tickets, you just pay me later,” Brooke said.

“But…” Sarah said.  Brooke cut her off with a commanding, chilly gaze worn by parents of disobedient children. 

“We are going.  You said you wanted to go, too.  So don’t try to back out of this one.  The only question is when we can all go.  Three weeks from now sound okay? And we will stay about 6 days.  That should give us all enough time to put notices in to work, right?” Sarah and Kyle looked at each other with some shame in their eyes, and then they both nodded sheepishly.  

“Okay it’s settled, then.  I’m buying the tickets now,” Brooke announced, removing her credit card from her wallet.  She typed in the information for the flight purchase quicker than seemed possible, her frustrated determination sobering her to complete with task efficiently. Grinning, she flashed the screen of the phone to her friends for inspection.  Purchase Confirmed, it said and all the flight information was clearly displayed.  She then paid her tab at the bar with the same credit card.  Without speaking, the three friends walked outside.  Brooke’s defiance and sternness had lightened considerably after she had purchased the tickets.  She gave her friends hugs and said good night.  They each hailed cabs and went to their homes in contemplative silence.

On the taxi ride home, Brooke pulled out her phone to listen to some music on Pandora.  An advertisement popped up, but instead of ignoring it as she would have usually done, her beer buzz made her less resistant to the ad, and she watched it.  “Are you ready for an adventure of a lifetime? Are you ready to embark on a spiritual quest that will inspire and rejuvenate you? If you answered yes, then book your trip to the lush, tropical paradise of the Sierra Nevada Mountains outside Santa Marta, Colombia and hike up to the Lost City with Magic Tours...” 

The advertisement would have continued, but Brooke instantly pressed the “BUY NOW” icon on her screen and removed her credit card.  She was so certain that this trip was her destiny that she wasn’t the least bit surprised by this advertisement or her purchasing tickets for this tour.  It seemed as normal as brushing her teeth before bed or washing her hands after using the bathroom.

Laying in her bed that night, Brooke had many magical dreams about her upcoming trip to the Lost City.  She saw many potential futures in crisp and dazzling detail.  She saw herself in scenarios she would have never imagined possible, yet she told no one of these dreams at the office.  She quietly enjoyed their memory like a child with a stolen candy in her mouth, its flavor sweeter because of its secrecy.

 

Chapter 2

Early in the morning three weeks later, the group of ten hikers met with their guide, Nicholas, in the pueblo nearest to the Lost City, called Machete.  Nicholas was a cool and confident man who had a small mustache and large hard belly.  He had done this long hike to the Lost City many times, burning millions of calories, yet he still had a sizeable paunch for which lots of beer was likely responsible.

The guide affably introduced himself, giving handshakes to all of the group members.  The guide then briefed them on the difficulties of the hike, warned them to drink enough water and wear sunblock, and other things that Brooke thought quite obvious.  Nicholas shared that the whole hike would take five days, two days to reach the Lost City and then three more to return. 

As soon as they set out on this walk, Brooke looked into the distance, hoping to be the first to spot the indigenous people, the Kogi.  Nicholas went on and on lecturing the group, about the weather patterns, the geology, the animals, the edible and poisonous plants, but Brooke hardly heard him until he started speaking about the Kogi tribe.

“The Kogi people were cut off from contemporary life for many generations

until recently, and many believe that they have messages and perspectives that we can benefit from.” Brooke nodded her head as the guide spoke, for she knew that this was true.  It had been no accident that this tribe had found their way into her life, she knew. 

“The Kogi  believe that they are the Elder Brothers, the caretakers of the Earth, who they view as a living being. Their beliefs are based on Aluna, or the great mother, who is the force behind nature. We modern people, they call the Younger Brothers.  They see the pollution and devastation we have caused immature and childlike.  Collectively, we abuse the planet that sustains us.”  

Brooke made her way to the front of the group, mouthing the word “Aluna” as though the word had been on the tip of her tongue for some time and now suddenly remembered.  Sarah and Kyle noticed how intrigued and possessed their friend had become and exchanged glances of humor.  Brooke had assumed a demeanor of enchantment, the likes of which they had never seen her express.

They both quietly mocked her fascination, Sarah nudging Kyle and arching her eyebrow. Brooke’s gaze rose and she looked into the distance at a tall mountain shrouded with clouds and laced with wisps of humidity. She looked as though she were looking at a family member estranged long ago and suddenly found. Her friends saw her frame and calves quivering with vigor and excitement. Nicholas guided the attention of the group to the mountain that Brooke was observing and pointed at it.

“That is the holy mountain of the Kogi called Gonawindua. They believe that this mountain is the heart of the world, the nexus of creation.  It is said that on top of this mountain, their spiritual leader, Kassuagi, observes the world and transmits messages to the Mamas, the other spiritual leaders throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains.  They call Kassuagi the Watcher of the the World. It is from this vantage point that he can strategize, and better counteract the destruction  fmodern humans have done.  We, the younger brothers, are not allowed up there.  No one knows what it is like up there except for the Kogi people. Many myths and stories are spoken about it.” 

As Nicholas said these words, Brooke’s body calmed and gave way to a sense of peace worn by those who have made a resolute decision. Brooke stepped back and took her place next to the others, listening to the guide’s words.

“They say that Kassuagi, the mystical father, is waiting for what they call the big movement, or the shift,” the guide said.  The group seemed amused by this mysterious open-ended statement. The only one who seemed unaffected was Brooke. Her eyelids were slightly heavy as though she had just emerged from a deep sleep that had afforded revealing dreams.

“The holy mountain Gonawindua is the center of the four quadrants, north south east and west. It is at the top of this mountain

where these quadrants intersect and form the fifth dimension, the portal to the beyond.  We, the Younger Brother, cannot go there. No westerner has.”  Nicholas fell into silence and looked again at the mountain.  Sarah and Kyle’s eyes were slowly drawn to Brooke’s. Her eyes were wet with tears, she wore a sleepy smile, and she was nodding her head over and over.

Nicholas led the group up and down steep hills, and they spoke little amongst themselves, as they were short on breath. These steep grades and the heat and humidity made them sweat and breathe harder than they were accustomed to. Brooke was the only one who seemed nearly unaffected by these grueling tropical conditions. She was sweating and breathing deeply, but something was energizing her, something that made her withstand these conditions better than the rest.  

Several miles into the hike, the large trees became sparse. A lush grass grassy land of rolling hills spread out before them. A dozen or so bulls lazed about on the earth, dozing or eating grass. The path weaved through these rolling hills and dipped down into a valley. As Brooke looked at the bottom of this valley, the clouds parted and a beam of sun shot down to the very center, a flat smooth, sandy patch where the two hills met. The sun fell upon a halo of dewed grass and it twinkled around the sandy patch.  Brooke’s gaze was glued there, spellbound. 

Her eyes remained here, even as she saw the form of a man

and a donkey emerge at the top of the hill on the other side. 

Even without looking directly at him, she knew that this was a Kogi tribe member, the first she had encountered.  She could feel his presence, his goodness, from afar.  The group all stopped and took in this epic panorama, as well as the man who inhabited and understood it. Brooke’s eyes remained on the sandy patch until the man slowly walked down the hill and stood directly upon it.  He lifted his head, and pulled back his long thick black hair and look directly at her. His long white robe flowed around him like so many pristine clouds. Surely, this was the most angelic human she had ever seen.

Even from this great distance they both knew they had made eye contact and more, and they both felt its significance. In his left hand, the man held a short stick or a cup, she couldn't tell, and the other hand was reaching into the woven bag hanging at his side. He removed something green and put it in his mouth, and then both hands held the cup or stick in his hand.

“That is a Kogi man,” Nicholas said quietly. “We must treat him with the greatest respect, as we are on his land. He is holding a poporro, a gourd containing crushed seashells. He is chewing on coca leaves, which give him energy and clarity and help him speak with Aluna, the plants, and his animal brothers. Every now and again he takes the thin stick in the gourd and places it in his mouth and back into the gourd. The sea shell powder adheres to the stick and he puts it back in his mouth. He then scrapes the wet stick gently on the edge of the gourd over and over and meditates on this, looking at the edge of the gourd and the wet marks it makes. The gourd represents the female part, the stick is the male part, and the mixture is the

creation. He looks at the wetness on the edge of the gourd, and he

receives signs, messages and omens that guide and protect him.” 

The group fell silent as they watched the Kogi man doing this. A teenage boy laughed and said, “Coca leaves….isn’t that what they make cocaine from?”

“Yes, but to make cocaine, they add lots of chemicals to the coca paste and then put it through a dark process. Those who make cocaine are very different in spirit from the Kogi. These drug dealers are motivated by money, power and ego. The Kogi use coca leaf in the opposite way. The coca helps them helps them to cooperate with Aluna, their community, and helps them serve creation in the best way.”

The group who had been training their eyes on their guide as he spoke, looked back to where the Kogi man stood, or had been standing. He had vanished, only a mist of humidity lingered where he had stood. A small breeze pushed the mist and it stretched languidly into the trees, until a stronger wind came and dissipated it all together.

A middle aged woman who seemed fatigued and bored until now, spoke. 

“Where did he go? That man…he disappeared!” Nicholas smiled and shrugged, shaking his head.

“The Kogi are like that,” he said. “They seldom interact with the Younger Brother; when they do it is for specific reasons, because Aluna told them to. The group searched the distance, looking for the retreating man, but he was nowhere to be found. A few in the group seemed uneasy by this occurrence, while others seemed delighted. Brooke seemed neither, instead wearing an expression of deep patience and understanding.

Brooke walked alongside Nicholas for the next four miles of their hike.  She asked him many questions about the Kogi way of life.  He knew some of the answers but not all of them.  As a tour guide he was able to communicate with the tribe more than most westerners, but still there were large holes in his understanding of them.  During the last mile of the walk to the cabin, they remained silent.   Only the chirping of birds, the trickle of nearby streams and the whir of cicadas punctuated the silence. At long last, the group reached their encampment. 

There they saw where they would rest tonight, an unpainted, tin-roofed wooden house on stilts. Down below, they saw a winding river studded with huge boulders. The group shared a collective relief on seeing the house. Their clothes were damp with sweat and humidity, their skin shined with moisture in the setting sun.

“We have arrived at our camp called El Paraiso where we will spend the night,”  Nicholas said triumphantly. "There is a mother and daughter who will make our meals and have prepared simple beds for us.  Before we eat supper, we can visit the pools by the waterfall and take a swim.” 

Smiles spread across their faces and the group wasted no time, quickly changing into their bathing suits and making their way to the pool. The only one who seemed unrushed was Brooke. Nicholas noted this and approached her. “You don't want to swim like the others? It will feel refreshing.”

“Maybe later, thank you,” she said. Brooke did not look at the guide as she spoke and instead gazed at a large yellow-tailed bird making a hanging nest in a nearby tree. 

“I love those birds,” Nicholas said. “They are called Oropendola. They are said to communicate with the Kogi. The Kogi call them Message Bringer. Well I'm going to swim, maybe I'll see you down there soon, OK?”  Brooke nodded her head but knew that she

would not join the group. 

 

Chapter 3 

She watched the bird making its nest, listening to its warbles as it communicated with surrounding birds. Brooke admired its intelligence and diligence and felt a kinship with the bird. Every so often the bird would look at her and she saw a burst of light glint off its shiny black eyes. Moved by some strange instinct, Brooke rose to her feet and glanced over her shoulders to see if the caretakers of the house had been watching her, but the coast was clear.

Brooke jumped off the porch and carefully walked down the steep embankment at  the side of the house. She drew closer to the tall trees where the bird was building it's huge, round hanging nest. Brooke continued until she stood directly below the nest.  She realized that this bird was a mother, and that the birds singing to her from surrounding tree branches were hopeful male suitors.  The mother bird seemed uninterested in them though, and instead trained her focus on Brooke intermittently as she worked.  But now, suddenly the bird stopped working and inserted her beak and then her entire head into the nest; she began tweeting. 

It was a bizarre and beautiful song of a tenor and melody that Brooke had never heard from a bird, or any other animal for that matter. The bird continued in this way, it's head in the nest, singing its spell until its song softened into silence. Satisfied, the bird withdrew its head and look directly down at the Brooke and released one, long, high-pitched note.  It then lifted its head and, using its long black beak, chopped the vine cords connecting the nest to the branch above. The nest plunged down with a rapid speed and would have landed directly on Brooke’s head had she not lifted her arms and caught it at the last minute.  

Brooke was shocked, for she knew how long it took for the mother bird to make this nest, how much energy and time went into it.  Why had she done this?  Holding the basketball size nest in her hands, Brooke knew that this all had been intentional, and that the mother bird had meant for the nest to land directly on her head. Brooke squeezed the nest and noticed that it was pliant and slightly elastic in make up. Brooke studied the nest before her and noticed vapor or some type of smoke was inside and puffs of it were escaping from the small holes in the nest’s fibers. Brooke suddenly was filled with a certainty: the bird wanted her to stick her head inside of this nest, and that a great deal depended upon it.  Brooke knew there was a message inside this nest for her, and the only way she would receive it is if she put her head in this huge nest.  Weeks ago she would have never considered what she now was about to do.

Taking one last cautious glance over her shoulder up at the house, Brooke lifted the nest and inserted first the crown of her head inside the hole and, stretching the nest carefully, inserted the rest of her head inside so that she was wearing the nest like a mask or a  helmet.   Inside this dark yet smoky space, Brooke saw the song that the bird had left there. The magical melody it had intoned had sculpted moving images out of what appeared to be smoke. 

As she gazed into this nebulous world she saw three and four dimensional scenes unfold before her eyes in pastel like hues that resembled the northern lights. There, she saw many visions.  There, she saw herself lying in her bed in the cabin at night. It was a bunk bed, and Kyle and Sarah slept in their bunks above her. She saw herself quietly removing the covers, standing, and then tiptoeing onto the porch, leaving all of her belongings including her shoes. She saw herself on the porch looking up at the full moon that shined down.  Just as she had earlier that day, she left the porch, descending the steep hill and walking to where the mother bird had been. 

She saw herself standing beneath the tree, standing where she was now, having these visions, and she saw someone else: an old, short indigenous women approached her. She wore a white robe as luminescent and hazy white as the glowing moon above her. She held her hand out to Brooke and as soon as she touched it she and the old woman teleported, traveling to a not-too-distant future.  Brooke saw a montage of images of both of them climbing through the trees and walking towards the holy mountain, Gonawindua. 

Here the old woman let go of Brooke’s hand and gestured to the top of the mountain, Smiling, she said one word. “Nivan-kukui”  and then the old woman turned into vapor and vanished in midair. In that instant so, too, disappeared the smoky visions within the bird nest.

The bird twigs and leaves from which the nest had been composed slowly started to come undone and fall to Brooke’s feet. She looked down and saw them melting into the soil and she felt the sensation of static electricity in the soles of her feet, climbing up her calves and spreading through her whole body. Brooke felt the sensation of dots being connected inside of her, a strange electric current being formed, of constellations being named, their characters being recorded, their songs being sung. A sense of creativity, coordination and purpose swelled inside of her, and she knew it would be difficult to pretend she was sleeping tonight.

  Brooke made her way back up the hill to the porch and saw that the other group members were starting to make their way back to their seats. They all wore looks of fatigue mixed with relief after their long hike, and most of them headed to the hammocks or their beds to rest. Brooke went to the table where her friend Sarah and Kyle were waiting. They looked at her with  concern and fatigue. Sarah was the first to speak.  

“Where of you been,” she asked, slightly angry. Kyle nodded his head agreeing with her state of annoyance. Brooke did not allow their moods to affect her own. She merely pointed to where she had been standing.  

“You've been acting really weird on this trip,” Kyle said.  “Is everything okay?” Brooke nodded her head and looked at them evenly.  They could tell that things were more than okay, and they

were more than slightly jealous because of it. Brooke had found some

mysterious verve that they lacked, some sense of direction or animation that they didn't have. 

“I think I'll take a shower now,” Brooke said.

“Okay, well it's time to eat soon,” Sarah said, “so don't take forever.” When Brooke returned from the shower the group was all seated and Nicholas was waiting for her to start speaking. She took her seat and all eyes turned to their guide. Smiling, he gestured to three plants that set before him.

“Here are three plants that have greatly influenced the history of the Sierra Nevada mountains. He raised the first leaf before the group for inspection. “This one I'm sure you all know, it is the marijuana leaf.  In the early 1970s, the socialist guerilla realized that the Sierra Nevada mountains was  the ideal climate for growing this illegal plant, so they began to remove food crops like yucca, potatoes and plantains and started planting large amounts of Marijuana. But very soon the market for marijuana declined in the demand for cocaine grew, so the socialists started growing Coca leaves all over these hills. He held up the second plant, which had smaller oval-shaped leaves. “This is the Coca plant which we talked about earlier.

Decades ago this region was completely covered by Coca and Marijuana and highly monitored by socialist soldiers who appeared to be regular soldiers of the Colombian army, but were quite the opposite. The indigenous people’s land was increasingly overtaken by these drug dealers, and the Kogi had to retreat further and further into the mountains. It may sound difficult to believe, but the Kogi had foreseen these conflicts years before they happened.”  

“This is how,” Nicholas said, raising the third plant, a white bell-shaped flower. This plant is commonly called ‘Borrachero’ in Columbia. Criminals dry the leaves and flower petals and powderize them.  They blow this powder into the faces of their victims and they instantly lose memory of what they're doing. They can ask for the bankcard and code from their victims and they will give it to them without question. Women will also do things they would never do otherwise…and have no memory of it. This plant can be used in this bad way, but this is not the only way it can be used.  The indigenous know how to use it for healing.  When the plant is

taken by a shaman who respects it and has dieted on it, then he can use it to see not only the past, but the future as well.”

“The Watcher of the World, Kassuagi, saw the socialist invasion before they arrived, and he saved the lives of thousands of families.  For this reason most of the Kogi people live in very remote locations to this day.  We are hiking to the Lost City, but it is widely known that this is not the only Lost City.  There are said to be at least a dozen other Lost Cities that are still alive and bustling with activity. Modern man simply haven’t accessed them.” Brooke seemed preoccupied, and interrupted Nicholas.  

“You always refer to the shaman as men. Are there any shaman women?”

“To my knowledge there are no female shamans in the Kogi tribe and there never have been.” Brooke seemed disturbed by this and glanced at Sarah, remembering what she had told Kyle earlier that day: In most of these tribes, women are just treated as baby-making machines.” 

The group seemed to feel Brooke’s disappointment or incredulity, and Nicholas tried to lift the mood of the group by telling a few jokes about a farting donkey, but Brooke did not smile.  She sat in silence until dinner was served. Nicholas poured glasses of a purple corn drink called Chicha for the group and proposed a toast. 

“I'd like to take a moment to honor you all for your stamina in today's journey.  Most travelers wouldn’t do what you did. I know it wasn't easy but I'm sure that sleeping tonight will be.” The group laughed and lifted their cups and clanked them together

in the middle and shared a smile before they drank.  

The heavy set mother of the home and her slender daughter quickly arrived at the table with steaming plastic plates of food.  The group was served chicken, black beans, plantains, some tomato slices, and a measly scrap of lettuce, a very typical Colombian meal. 

Everyone ate a lot, but no one he ate nearly as much as Brooke.  She went for seconds, and then thirds, and ate two handfuls of Oreo cookies. Sarah and Kyle stared at her with disbelief, but didn't say anything. 

 

Chapter 3

That night, everyone fell asleep quickly except for Brooke, for whom time passed very slowly. She knew she would leave the group, her friends, her family.   She knew she would leave civilization for a long time, and she knew how grave of a decision this was. She knew how shocked the group would be, how angered and sad and her friends would feel, and the devastation this would cause her parents. 

Brooke could nearly see the future, the police and military searches, her family being notified, her parents coming and personally searching for her in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  But they would never find her. Turning on her flashlight she started to write a brief letter to her mom and dad.  

“This is hard to write, but I have to do it.  I've decided to leave my regular life and spend about 10 years secluded in the jungle learning from the indigenous people and their plants. I know this will be very hard to read. Please know I love you and I will see you again one day.  I will love you all forever.  Yours, Brooke”

 

She folded the paper into quarters and placed it under her pillow where she knew it would be found in the morning. She closed her eyes and felt herself sinking into a trance.  She saw the vision of herself leaving her bed and jumping off the porch and entering the jungle. She heard the sound of large leaves crunching under her feet, and the light snapping of twigs as she walked.  Then she felt something prickly and wet on her hand and she opened her eyes and saw herself in the jungle at night, her fingers stroking the edge of serrated fern leaves. Her vision had fluidly and rapidly morphed into a reality that she could touch, and this psychic jump took her breath away.

She looked up and saw the moon shining down on her and saw moths and bats flying overhead.  She looked at the moon, and saw how large and full it was, filling  the cavity where the bird nest had once hung. She looked down at her feet and felt the same sizzling electricity as before in her right foot and then her left. She looked at the leaves on the jungle floor, noting how the light of the moon caught some more than others. Lifting her gaze, she noticed some illumined leaves forming a path of light that led into the unforeseeable distance.Taking a deep breath, she lifted her foot and took the first step.

 

 

Chapter 4 

Brooke had walked for several miles under the cover of night before she realized how far she had gone. As though in a dream, she had been seduced to follow the moon light’s path to this point, the river edge. On the other side stood the foot of the holy mountain Gonawindua. Brooke knew that by crossing the river she was passing a point of no return. On the other side was destiny, adventure, but also perhaps loneliness, starvation, and death. 

In order for her to cross this river, Brooke would have to wade, as

the water was nearly chest height.   This would be her baptism by the Sierra Nevada, washing her clean of her past, preparing her for the future. She walked into the stream, feeling the cold clean water rushing around her ankles and up to her knee caps, up her thighs. When she was halfway across the stream, the water was up to her sternum. She looked up at the mountain and saw the moonlight glazing the corners of the boulders and edges of the leaves.  She looked back to the path from where she had come and noticed how dark and foreboding it appeared. 

Her instinct knew that the truly dangerous path was backward, to security and routine--not up the tall mountain. She looked back at the mountain and placed both hands over her heart and then submerged her whole body and head in the water. As she walked to the other side, the mountain side of the river, she felt the water dripping down her body and the cool wind blowing against her wet skin.

The climbing was easy at first, and the boulders felt good under her bare

feet. Her enthusiasm quickly carried her up, her bare feet keenly navigating the rocks and boulders that led the way up the mountain.

She climbed for a half an hour easily but now her head was spinning and it was

becoming difficult to breathe. Her head started to feel light and she grabbed a

sapling to sturdy herself. She walk to a nearby clearing and gazed out and

saw very far in the distance some smoke rising from the tiny house

where her friends we're likely still sleeping. Still farther in the distance she

saw a gathering of dark clouds and flashes of light within. As she studied

these more, she saw that they were fast approaching.  The sound of thunder

grew and so too did her racing heartbeat until it was jackhammering in her chest.   Doubts whipped through her mind like the rain and wind against her skin.

What was I thinking? Why did I leave? Why did I listen to that old Indian

woman and that weird bird nest vision? Maybe it's not too late to go back. She saw herself again, standing on the  edge of the river, and again she saw how the trail back to the cabin appeared so dark and ominous. Brooke bit her lip and tried

climbing higher for another minute but kept slipping in the mud.  The thunder and

lightning we're making her shake with fear. She stepped on a mossy boulder and

lost her footing and almost hit her face on the rock.  It's not too late to go

back… her mind kept repeating over and over.  She stood on chicken

legs and burst into tears, waving her arms in desperation at the clouds. She 

screamed aloud,  “I've been summoned to this mountain! I've met fear and doubt and I want to go back. Send some sort of assistance! Help me please, I'm so afraid.”  She wondered then, Who am I yelling to?  There is no one there...There is no guidance, no spirits, nothing! The sound of her

crying mixed with the heavy rain that poured down. 

She stood shivering for a minute and then gave up and started to run down the mountain and as quickly as she could and kept slipping in the mud and finally collapsed on the rocks, a small gash oozing blood on her shin. The relief she felt when she reached the bottom of the mountain

gave way to terror as she noticed that the heavy rains nearly doubled the depth and width of the river.  The river current was now a raging rapids that would sweep her away if she tried to cross. She looked back at the mountain, and as she did

she noticed the thunder and lightning subsiding, and the dark clouds

starting to part. She stood there at the foot of the mountain, her doubt and bravery wrestling each other for a good ten minutes until suddenly the

large yellow tail bird flew near her and perched on a nearby tree branch.  It looked identical to the mother bird who had sung its spell into the nest and inspired her to take this journey.   The bird squaked at her, cocking its head from side to side.  It tweeted ardently and adamantly at her as though she were giving her a motivational speech. Brooke had no idea what the bird was saying but it was definitely cheering her up. But what was motivational-sounding at first soon became angry.  The bird seemed to be lecturing her for giving up so easily. Brooke felt herself flush with embarrassment, and then the bird lightened up, and cooed at her in a jovial way as though to laugh and then it flew away. 

Brooke took a deep breath and then smiled broadly, resolving herself to climb the

mountain no matter what. 

Though the path back up to the mountain was difficult climbing, her renewed optimism helped her focus better.  She knew when to take breaks and when to proceed.  She anticipated unsteady or slippery ground.  She knew where to step and how much weight to apply before doing so. 

 It didn't take long until she was back to the clearing where she had stood before and seen the storm rolling in.  Though the horizon was now clear, Brooke felt some of the doubt return, remnants of the feelings she had felt so strongly there before. She looked at the tiny house where her friends were sleeping, and she saw the sun rising far in the distance. Brooke knew that they would be waking soon and would notice her absence and would send someone searching for her.   A  search party might already be on the way, she thought.  This thought made her jolt and rapidly continue climbing, eager to reach the top of the mountain. As she went along, she saw strange species of plant life, ferns, lichens, and cactus.  She noticed something odd about them, but she couldn’t identify exactly what.  They looked like plants that were not growing in their proper ecological setting.  Some of the plants she saw looked like underwater plants that were now growing out of water.  Other plants looked like those from a Dr. Suess book or out of a science fiction movie.  It seemed that the plants were more aware of her than other plants she had seen.  They bristled and shrank when she approached, were watching her, whispering amongst themselves. 

She remembered that this mountain was one which westerners were forbidden to climb, and that these plants have perhaps never born witness to a woman such as her.  Brooke started to feel out of place, alone, and quite hungry. Looking at the insects on the ground, she knew that the jungle was hungry too and would devour her quickly if she lost strength and collapsed. The carcasses of

animals didn't last long here. There were critters eager to eat her, to sample the flavor of imported white meat. Thinking of this prospect, she rested to calm and pace herself.  Sitting on a nearby boulder, she noticed a small pool of water that had

collected in one of its depressions. Cupping her hands, she gathered a

handful of water and drank it down. Her thirst sated, her hunger for food came to mind. Her eyes scanned the lush green foliage that surrounded her. All she saw was a thousand shades of green, but as she continued to

look,  other colors started to emerge into her awareness, small white flowers

cream, maroon and salmon colored berries. The prospect of wild fruit

made her stand to attention and rush towards these new colors. These

berries were a variety that she'd never seen before though, and she was not hungry

enough to take the risk. She picked a few of them and placed them in her

pocket for an emergency snack in the future. On the way back to the trail

she saw small bush with long sharp pointed leaves that seemed familiar to her in someway.

She studied the plant for nearly a minute before she laughed out loud in

revelation. “Pineapple!” she exclaimed. She reached down and

pulled the huge brown and yellow fruit into view. 

She dug into the dry earth for a few minutes until she found a flat, sharp stone

that would work as a knife and set about industriously hacking away at the plant until the fruit cut free and rested in her open hands. It was by far the largest

pineapple she had ever held.  It was nearly twenty-four inches in height and

nearly half of that in diameter. She squeeze the fruit slightly, noting

the way that the fruit was perfectly ripe and ready to eat.  A lazy, sweet smell oozed out of the pineapple now, causing her mouth to water and her lips to smile.

After eating the entire pineapple Brook felt fortified to keep climbing. Powered

by the huge, yellow fruit she climbed so fast at first that she was nearly

running. The thinning air made her slow down and take deep, measured breaths in

order for the stars to leave the corners of her vision. She tried climbing

again but was exhausted and had to stop altogether. 

Bending over, she held herself standing by placing her hands on her thighs and she closed her eyes, envisioning the  snowy peak of the mountain. She saw a man's face in the texture of mountain, and saw that he wore a snowy white cap.  She saw a small person climbing up the contours of this man's rocky face and onto his snowy hat. She could feel the chill of that icy wind on her face now, but it didn't feel unpleasant but rather victorious and invigorating. She saw a small hut on top of the snowy

peak and then a fire inside the hut, and saw the sillouhette of a man crouching over the fire. She saw the fire glinting in his eyes and even from this great distance she knew he was looking at her, into her. The smoke from the fire trailed out of the chimney and it flowed

towards her and into her eyes and just like that the vision was gone and she was back, still bent over with her her hands on her thighs, but no longer breathing hard. 

She suddenly noticed the bush that stood before her, and saw it

emitting a pastel soft glow. She looked at the leaves and recognized them as Coca, from when their guide Nicholas had shown them the plant earlier.

She smiled at the plant as though it were an old friend, and picked a

handful of the leaves and shoved them into her mouth, chewing them slightly.

The taste was bitter and hard to enjoy, though she felt an almost instant pleasant stimulating effect.  She gathered a few more handfuls of leaves and put them in her pockets, as she knew she would need them later.

She climbed up the mountain steadily and felt no fatigue from the thin air.  She felt a sustaining nutrition entering her blood from the leaves in her mouth, as though she had just eating a satisfying meal.  The power of the coca leaf, combined with the power of the pineapple, gave her all the energy she needed to keep going.  Without complaint, she continued climbing for an hour and felt no physical need to stop. She eventually noticed vapor trailing out of her mouth when she exhaled, and noticed the plant life-changing once again in these high altitudes.  The trees were shorter, thinner, more bush-like, and less leafy.  The boulders were smaller, more like pebbles or gravel, and she saw a great series of holes leading inside the mountain which looked like little homes for chipmunks or some type of rodent.

 The grade of the mountain increased sharply and then leveled out into small meadows, terminating in a series of wall boulders that she needed to climb before reaching another section of level ground. This stair-stepping rhythm of flatland meeting steepness repeated itself five times, and Brooke started to wonder if this had been fabricated by human hands or was a natural formation of the mountain. 

The intensity of this climbing provoked beads of sweat from the temples of Brooke’s head, a fierce thirst gripped her throat.  She knew that as she ascended and approached the summit she would encounter snow which could be melted for drinking, and she knew she would make it. Brooke sat on a boulder and listened to her beating heart and her heavy breathing gradually calmed. The sounds in the background grew louder in her ears--the  tweeting of birds, the wind whistling in her ears, and what was that?  Behind it all she heard a tinkling twinkling sound of a trickling stream. Brooke’s tongue started to water in anticipation, her sweaty, sticky skin rippled with goosebumps as she imagined herself bathing in the fresh, ice cold water. She noted these sensations and then rose and approached the source of the sound. 

She climbed a scattered array of oblong, mossy boulders, hearing the sound of the rushing water growing as she closer approached the stream. Scaling a tall, angular boulder she looked down and saw the stream, electric white, reflecting in the midday sun, through the trees. She look down at the stream and saw, even in that dim reflection, that her skin had turned a few shades darker, her hair had darkened, to a near black color. 

In the short time since she had severed herself from society, Brooke had changed noticeably. She stared at her face, and was startled to realize that not only had the shade of her skin changed but the very structure of her face, too. Yes, Brooke still looked like herself...to a degree. She also looked like someone else, someone of indigenous descent. Her eyes had narrowed, appearing more almond-shaped and Asiatic, her nose had broadened, the tip was now slightly raised, her nostrils no longer invisible. Her lips had broadened and thickened, her cheekbones were more pronounced, and the overall shape of her face had become rounder. 

For most people this change would have shocked and even inspired fear, but Brooke felt a calm affection for herself to see this change.  She brought her face closer to the stream and to her delight she noticed that these facial modifications remain constant; she had not been seeing “things.” Cupping her hands together, she submerged them in the water and splashed her face, the cold water awakened her more than the coca leaf had. She kept the icy water in her hand again, and without hesitation brought it to her mouth and drank it down. The old Brooke would have never drank stream water for fear of parasites and bacteria, but her new self drank it down with relish, without hesitating. Standing, she felt younger, stronger, taller, and she started walking up the mountain with an easy grace. A gust of wind blew through the trees, the branches waving, the leaves flicking back and forth. Patches of sun splattered her skin with a strobe light effect and for a moment she felt herself in a slow-moving dream. A great series of butterflies flew out from the bushes around her, their brilliant, fire-colored wings blending with the strobing sun beams so that for a moment she couldn't tell which was which. This flashing visual stimulation caused an exuberant beating of her heart and a surge of serotonin. For the first time on her quest she felt one with the mountain; she felt at home. She climbed faster, glee raising her lips into a joyous, victorious smile and then just as suddenly as this came, it left.

The butterflies disappeared and so, too, did her happiness and her sense of being at home. Brooke felt another gust of wind push her, a harsher, cooler, more ominous wind. A chilly raindrops fell, feeling heavy on her skin. More drops fell and these were sharper, icier, and she identified them as sleet or hail. They pummeled down on her head and she tried to take refuge under a tall pine tree. Though its branches grew thick with pine needles, it did not shelter her from the hail, and she felt painful marks forming on the crown of her head and neck where they pelted her. She felt her chin lowering and her throat tightening, tears forming in her eyes. She looked down at her feet, her bare feet, stupidly standing on the cold ground. Once again, she doubted herself and a sense of alienation overtook her. She would have cried had she not seen them: jaguar paw prints. 

 

Chapter 5 

 

One of these terrifying beasts had been here not long ago. The paw prints were heavy, the beast had pressed deep in the soil.  Her eyelids trembled with horror as she followed the tracks as they trailed off and up the mountain, in the direction she intended to go. She felt a horror overtake her and she felt short of breath.  She grasped the evergreen tree next to her to support her teetering frame. She looked at the trees bark, saw the deep, savage grooves in the tree, slash marks left by the Jaguar who had been using it as a scratching post not long ago. With a shaky hand she ran her fingers along the deep jagged grooves. 

If it rips so easily through this hardwood, think of what it could do to my skin... she thought.  With her right hand she felt the grooves on the tree, with her left she felt the softness of the skin on her neck. She felt the pounding of her heart, and once again she felt the urge to run down the mountain, and just as she thought of this an acrid, foul odor wafted out from under her shirt and she knew that this was the scent of fear. Her eyes closed, and she felt the cold wind against her face and in her mind's eye she saw the jaguar’s nose, its nostrils flexing as it inhaled her delicious smell of fear. She saw the jaguar lick its lips hungrily. Standing, it started to walk towards her. Brooke opened her eyes, her pupils dilating as she considered her options. She knew that retreating, giving in, would only make her release more of this odor of fear, inspiring more hunger in the jaguar. It was surely faster than she.  If she remained and continued climbing in the direction of the jaguar, she knew that this odor would stop. 

The jaguar would no longer smell her fear and she would become invisible to it. Her will united with her courage and she found herself not surprised that she was hiking back up the mountain in the direction of the jaguar, the direction of her fear. At first she avoided stepping on the paw prints, but then, noticing herself doing this and wondering why, she stepped onto the the paw prints, her shoe prints covering the jaguar’s. As she walk she noticed the smell of fear was no longer with her and this realization made her walk faster, shoulders back, spine lifted. The hail continued to fall on and off,  but these weather conditions didn't affect her pace in the least. As she continued she thought about what the guide Nicholas had said earlier. “The word Kogi means jaguar.  This tribe feels united to and empowered by the spirit of this animal. They are not afraid of it.” Brooke knew she was assimilating with the Kogi, and that hiking this mountain and dealing with the jaguar were parts of the process, her rites of passage. Breathing became more difficult again and she had to rest along the way and chew on more coca leaves. 

As she felt the energizing effect of the leaves her spirits were lifted once again.  She had the feeling that the spirit of the mountain approved of her bravery, and she felt that it would reward her for it. The sun was starting to set behind the mountains now and she realized how quickly the day had passed and how night would soon fall. The wind blew gently through the pines, and this cold cut into her.  

For the first time on her head she caught a whiff of the scent of snow. The summit of the mountain could not be too far away. Nicholas had said that this was the center point, the heart of the world, where the four quadrants intersected, and where the fifth opened.   This was where the leader of the mamas lived, Kassuagi, the Watcher of the World.  He was up there, monitoring the affairs of the world and helping to keep the world in balance. Brooke was beyond excited to reach this holy nexus point, to meet the spiritual leader, Kassuagi.  She was excited, and part of her wanted to run up the mountain in the dark of night, eager like a child that wants to rip open Christmas presents days before December 25th. But the larger part of her knew that it was best to wait, to resist the urge to rush.  The leader of the mamas had been up there for ages, and he would not be leaving any time soon.  He was infinitely patient, and she could meet him in his calm state.  He would not appreciate being rushed, surprised by an eager Westerner. Brooke recalled again that she was breaking a grave taboo by being here at all; no westerners were allowed up this mountain, and to her knowledge none had ever ascended it. She was the first. An unsettling prospect flashed through her mind just then: what if the leader would be disturbed or upset by her arrival? What if he tried to shoot arrows at her or chase her down the mountain with spear and hand? This thought went through her mind but did not stick, it had no adhesive quality, and she knew there was no truth to it. As she imagined what his response to her would be, she found the opposite to be much more probable; the leader would have affinity for her, and he would see the challenges she had met and overcome.  He would admire the ways in which she had changed and evolved throughout the course of this journey. She suspected this to be the more likely possibility and if they were to have a positive relationship she wanted to initiate it in a ceremonious way, with calm, with patience and maturity. This resolution reached, Brooke decided that she would reach the summit in the morning when the day was dawning. As for this night Brooke would have to find a place to sleep. At this elevation at night it would be getting cold soon. Brooke had long sleeves but no coat or blanket. Her body was tired now, and she felt it unnecessary to have a sleeping bag or mattress. As long as she had a roof and walls to shield the wind and potential rains she was sure that she would sleep like a baby. Brooke searched inside of her fanny pack for the small aluminum flashlight she had packed. Her fingers dug around in the contents until they encountered its grooved surface. Brooke pressed the rubber button and the light beam shot out and cut through the darkness. She followed the beam to the first place that it contacted: a series of jagged teeth-like rocks and boulders that twinkled like powdered glass or sugar crystals. She studied these rocks more and noticed that they were set back within the mouth of a cave. She peered further back into the cave and saw smooth spikes which hung down from the cave ceiling and others that jutted up from the cave floor. Stalagtites and stalagmites, and they were crusted with pastel orange colored crystals. Brooke found this cave instantly after turning on her flashlight, and she knew right away that this was where she would sleep the night, it required no searching to find. Brooke enter the cave slowly, the beam of her flashlights scanning the stalagmites and stalactites and the crystals that were braided throughout the surface of the rock. Drawing closer, she let her hand run along the surface and when they touch the smooth glassy surface of the crystals they slowed down and touched them again, more slowly. She felt as though she could feel some distinct, intelligence emitting from the crystals. Her facial expression shifted as she touched the crystals as though they were some sort of Braille or coded writing that she were reading. One of the crystals she touched jostled a bit in its place when she touched it, like a loose tooth in gums. With index and thumb finger she grabbed the crystals and removed it from the rock. As it withdrew, a pinkish peach colored dust followed it and hung in the air.  She held this crystal before her and knew suddenly that it was a tangerine quartz which she had studied in her geology class years before. She recalled various scientific psychological properties it had--it was a  silicon oxygen tetrahedron, six sided pyramid--but these scientific details were less important than some of the metaphysical information that she was now intuiting. 

Brooke had always been a logic-leaning person and never very fascinated by new age rambling about crystals, auras, or anything else like that. But, for whatever reason, she found herself suddenly quite interested in the information that she was receiving now. She suddenly became confident about a few qualities of the tangerine quartz which kept reasserting themselves in her mind: The tangerine quartz gives one a sense of calm and detachment, a willingness to consider and learn new information which would have been previously too strange or bizarre to consider.  This crystal also is connected with welcoming etheric or spiritual vision, and also it aided one to invite, promote, and sustain new relationships. Lastly she knew this crystal was strongly connected with creativity,  pro-creativity, and sexual energy. She held this crystal in front of her and felt herself forming and developing a relationship with the crystal. She knew that, not only was this cave full of these crystals, but that the whole mountain was. It was also filled with hematite, a magnetic mineral that had been partially responsible for attracting her to where she stood now. Brooke put this tangerine quartz crystal in her fanny pack and suddenly felt a sense of grounding and completeness and knew that it was now possible to sleep, and sleep deeply. Brooke lay down on the rock floor of the cave and found it surprisingly comfortable as her body was absolutely exhuasted. The last thing she recalled before sleeping was a sensation of warmth radiating in her stomach area, where the fanny pack rested. 

She slept dreamlessly and deeply and woke up to the sound of birds tweeting in the trees in the early morning dawn. It was still dark inside the cave, though. All she could see were polygonal shards of light where the light of dawn glazed the facets of the crystals. The scattered shards of light above her reminded her of so many star systems as seen when gazing through a telescope in outer space. She stared at this for several minutes, lost in an early-morning daze, and then suddenly she found herself rising and sitting up. She glanced over her shoulder and looked into the dark, unknown depths of the cave, noting the points of light from the tangerine quartz sprinkling the cave walls and receding into the distance until they faded to darkness. Brooke thought about turning on the flashlight and getting a better look into the cave, but the thought was interrupted by a terrifying sight. 

As she stared into the darkness, admiring the small points of light, she noticed that two of them were moving in concert. From the way that the light slid over the ovals, she knew that they were eyes, animal eyes. She felt a choking sensation, a shortness of breath, and a wave of heat followed by a wave of iciness as she realized that she was eye to eye with a full-grown jaguar. She didn't need to turn on her flashlight to see it. The beast was most certainly here, and close enough to pounce on and devour her. Suddenly Brooke recalled a friend telling her that jaguars are the only large predators that don't kill their prey by biting their neck but instead bite directly into the skull with their huge fangs, killing the victim instantly. Brooke felt her body freeze up as though paralyzed and she smelled that same disgusting acrid smell waft out of her, the smell of fear.  The jaguar smelled it at the same time that she did. It narrowed its eyes at her and lowered its head into a leaping position. Once again, Brooke knew that the best move would be to not be afraid, to not brace herself, to do whatever to stop sending off this odor of fear. Suddenly, the realization sprang into her mind that this jaguar had been here with her for some time now; it had likely slept in the cave with her the previous night. It could have eaten her the whole time, yet chose not to. Only now that she was becoming afraid and releasing the scent of fear was it getting hungry for her. Brooke smiled after coming to terms with all of this and she felt her adrenaline stop pumping, her pulse normalizing, and the horrid smell vanishing.

 

 

Chapter 7

 

She did not flinch as the jaguar approached her, but maintained her eye contact. The two shiny points that were its eyes grew larger as the beast approached, and though Brooke did not look away, she noticed a set of similar yet smaller eyes in her peripheral vision.  There were two jaguars in this cave, maybe more.  Brooke had to act, and do so wisely.  She knew that she could not fall victim to either extreme, fight or flight, or she would surely lose. These predators were stronger than her, and faster.   Brooke must do something unexpected and brave, something to let the jaguar know she had some power or control that they did not have. 

With the calm and fluidity of a gambler reaching for a hidden ace up her sleeve, she removed a pack of matches from her shirt pocket. Sliding it open soundlessly with her thumb and middle finger, she grabbed one of the wooden matches and struck it, holding the flame before the bedazzled and wide-eyed jaguar. The jaguar did not appear threatened by the flame, but seemed to know it could not dominate or scare one who boldly controlled flame like this. As the jaguar backed away and sat down Brooke scanned the surroundings that the light of the flame had revealed.  Huge formations of rock jutted out from the cave ceiling and floor, some of which were encrusted with clusters of tangerine quartz crystals. The light cast by the match in her hand played about the surfaces of the crystals, and they twinkled back at her. 

Hiding behind a stalagtite rock formation that had broken off and lay on the caves floor, she saw the small furry head of a baby jaguar. It had been trying to hide from her but now had been caught.  It seemed aware that it had been seen and it knew the futility of playing this charade, and so now it walked slowly into view. 

Brooke couldn't help but to giggle at the enormity of its head and  paws in relation to its scrawny body. Though its body was out of proportion and ungainly, it walked with a elegant grace and then sat to its mother side. Noticing that its mother was submissively sitting before the flame bearing girl, it had no fear. Both jaguars looked at each other for a moment as though exchanging some type of psychic message, and then they both turned to look at Brooke and stared at her, as though awaiting orders of some sort. Brooke’s match extinguished itself of its own accord and when she lit another she saw that the mother jaguar was holding the baby by the scruff of its neck, seemingly not to protect it but to offer it in some way to the girl. Brooke quickly realized that she was being offered some of the essence or spirit of these jaguars. 

As soon as she realized this, strange things started to happen.  Brooke saw the dark spots on the jaguar kitten coat start to glow with a waxy luminescence, the same glow which had illumined the mysterious old woman who had led her to the foot of the mountain in her vision. The spots on the both of their coats seemed to lift off of their fur and began floating a foot or two outside of their bodies like a miniature belt of meteors. These spots floated further from their bodies until Brooke felt like she could reach out and pluck them out of midair.  These spots floated near her, as though magnetized to Brooke’s body, until they made contact with her skin, each emitting a small puff of smoke or vapor when they did.  One by one,  all of these spots traveled to her and melted into her body like raindrops falling on a sandy shore. Every one that struck her skin entered inside her blood, her being. 

At this moment, Brooke felt and intimately knew the care this mother had for its young.  In the same instance she felt the spirit of youth, potential and growth emanating from the baby jaguar. The kitten shimmered with light as though it were water with pebbles cast into it, and waves of energy cast off of it and entered Brooke’s stomach, her womb.  Empowered by the love, the protection, and wisdom of the mother, as well as the youth, playfulness, and potential of her baby, Brooke knew it was time to leave.  She had received their gifts.

Brooke turned and left the cave, not fleeing with fear, but driven on, galvanized with intent and purpose. The light of the dawn struck her face as she left the cave and she stood before an enormous evergreen tree. Her head craned back and she saw that this tree rose above all the others, and she noticed that the top of the tree was adjacent to what appeared to be the top of the mountain.  She had nearly ascended Gonawindua, the Kogi’s holy mountain, the heart of the world.  Awaiting her was the Watcher of the World, the fifth dimension, and many magical things she had seen and half remembered in her dreams.  Her head lowered and she looked at the texture of the tree with respect and her lips mouthed a prayer of blessing and gratitude, a practice she had never done.  She had to climb it.  

She put her hands on the tree that had been slashed with claw marks of the jaguar, the same she had touched with terror not long before; yet this time she touched the tree with the bravery, she touched it with the same power and confidence that the jaguar had felt when it made these marks. She knew its power and wisdom, as though she had made these marks herself. 

With superhuman strength and avid animism she leapt up in this tree and begin to scale it, not chased by fear of the jaguars but inspired by the dynamism of them.  Brooke leapt from branch to branch without looking down or entertaining the danger or risk of such heights and acrobatics. Though her fingernails were short, she employed them as though they were large and they helped her maintain stability as she climbed.  

She scaled fifty feet in less than a minute, and the final seventy in less than two minutes. She stood on the final branch upon which a huge condor nest had been built long ago.  She looked at the nest and saw it falling apart, the wind pulling down scraps of bark and sticks and she watched them fall far, far below. She followed these debris with her eyes to the base of the tree where she saw the mother jaguar and her kitten. 

They stared up at her, and though they were small and nearly indistinguishable from their surroundings, she could sense their respect for her. For a split second Brooke didn't know if she was herself looking down at the jaguars or if were the jaguars looking up at the human woman, nor did she feel that it mattered. A cold wind brushed her face and her awareness snapped back to being on the branch of the tree. She rose her eyes to look where she was: nearly to the top of the mountain.  

 

Chapter 6 

 

The blinding whiteness of the snow that had settled here made it hard for her to see much in the distance, but by squinting her eyes she saw there was a building, likely the structure where the shaman lived, the one she had seen in her vision before.  If she walked to the end of this branch and jumped, she would be there, completing one chapter of her journey and beginning another. But she felt that walking wouldn't work, she would have to run and jump to clear the gap. 

Closing her eyes, she summoned all the courage she had, plus that new found courage she had been given by the jaguars. Without hesitation, she opened her eyes and hurtled over the condor nest and landed back on the branch, springing off of it as though it were a trampoline.  She flew through the air, entering a timeless and nearly motionless state halfway between terror and triumph as she sailed over the perilous divide between the branch and the mountains edge. It seems that she had been suspended there for minutes or hours or ages, and only the loud crunching thump of her feet smacking against the frosty mountain when she landed pulled her out of this snow globe, slow-mo reverie. 

After so much concentrated intensity and action, she now found herself motionless, her lungs devouring the cold air and causing her whole body to heave as though she were in labor. She crouched there, staring down at the pristine, freshly fallen snow, its whiteness dimmed by her own shadow. Despite the cold of this high mountain air, her body was radiating enough intense heat for sweat to gather at her temples, falling in fat droplets to the snow. Brooke remained there until her breath calmed and her pulse steadied. 

 

Lifting her head, she now saw clearly the round, thatched hut she had seen in her visions, the home of the famous shaman, Kassuagi, Watcher of the World. Squinting her eyes to see through the brightness of the snow, she looked at the doorway of the hut and saw the man’s sillouhette, bent over and busying himself in tending the fire. I saw this before, I saw all of this before, Brooke thought.  Brooke noticed him noticing her and their gazes locked. 

He saw her, but he saw more than her; he saw the spiritual and physical strength she had accumulated during her challenging climb to the top of this mountain. He saw the spiritual powers that the jaguars had given her, and he admired these powers greatly. He knew that Brooke was more advanced in many ways than most Younger Brothers.  

She knew he was attracted to and admired her.  In confirmation of this fact he stood to his feet and approached her now. He walked in a slow, steady, and solid gate and it appeared that no mountain wind, however fierce, could blow him down. She could tell from how he walked that he had weathered many a snow and thunder storm, and would likely weather many, many more. The keenness of his gaze suggested that he could catch rabbits with his bare hands, break the spines of bears over his thigh, and powder granite rocks between his two palms. He looked both young and old at once, and she found it impossible to guess his age. From the grave tone with which people spoke of his legendary person, she guessed he was at least 60.  He must have been taking mineral potions, bone broths, and plant medicines to preserve his youthful vigor as well as the appearance of it. 

He drew close enough to her and his shadow fell upon her and then for the first time she felt the chill of the mountain air. He looked down at her and she up at him. 

She noticed that his skin was a few shades darker than the other Kogi she had seen along the trail.  Living on top of this mountain, he was closer to the sun.  The blanket of snow magnified the sun’s power, explaining his near African skin tone. Darker still was his thick, jet-black hair which had grown down to his waist.  In contrast, the robe he wore was as immaculate white as the snow around him, perfectly blending him into the background so that only his shadow and an occasional wrinkle in the fabric of his garment made his body distinguishable.  She saw his dark hands, wrists, and forearms, his dark neck and face floating above the snowy ground.  These seemed to be levitating independent of the body to which they were connected.  On the crown of his head, the shaman wore a snow-white pointed hat that had been made out of wool.  She had seen no other Kogi wearing such a hat down below, and she knew that it symbolized great wisdom and awareness, that to which only those who lived close to the clouds and snowy peaks could attain.  In one hand, he held the Popporo gourd and its accompanying stick, the same as all Kogi men carried.  His popporo was different though in that it had been painted with some sort of white dye and was etched with strange rune-like designs. The shaman wore a hand woven bag similar to those of the other Kogi in shape and size, but once again the dyes and zig zag patterns were distinctly unlike those of other tribe men. The man's hand entered his bag and removed coca leaves and put them in his mouth, then put the stick in the gourd in his mouth.  He removed it, scraping the edge of the stick against the edge of the gourd, studying it contemplatively. Every so often he glanced at Brooke and then look back at the gourd with the same razor sharp focus and astuteness worn by a medical doctor looking at a patient’s x-ray. 

Brooke wondered what he was reading about her on the side of the gourd. It was said that this meditative process revealed telling omens about one's future, and it appeared that he was now receiving a very clear insights about her life to come, judging by the expressions he was making. 

 

He gazed at her, into her, but she could tell by his studied inhalations that he was garnering much more information by his sense of smell than he was by his sight.  He appeared a stoic man, but now she saw some of his seriousness breaking and emotions of delight and desire play about his chiseled features. He uttered a few words that she didn't understand. “Hába Enkuáne-ne-nulang” . She registered the tone behind these words and they were kind and invitational. 

He extended his open hand and she grabbed it without hesitation. He pulled Brooke to her feet with ease and led her to the circular, thatched-roof building that she guessed he had built. Standing next to him, she realized that he was not nearly as tall as his presence had made him seem. Indeed they shared nearly an equal height by the metric system, but still she felt very small next to him. 

They entered the candle-lit hut which was warmer and cozier than she could have imagined.  The round room had fur-lined floors and a blazing fire crackling in the center of the room. She gazed up at the circular thatched roof, marveling at the artistry with which the structure had been made, reminding her of an inverted, three-dimensional dream catcher. There were no chairs or beds, though at the far end of the room she did see what appeared to be an altar space made of wood supported by stones. In the dimness of the room she could not tell what was on this altar, but she thought she saw candles, feathers and stone figurines of some sort. He gestured for her to sit down by the fire and uttered a series of gruff words that she thought kind, though the rugged tones made them sound anything but. Brooke sank into a cross-legged position by the fire.  Her eyes followed the man as he went to the mysterious altar at the far end of the room and removed something from a small wooden box and then returned and sat next to her. 

Between his thumb and index finger he was pinching something resembling a ball of wax or chewing gum. It seemed to become more pliant and stretchy the more that he played with it until it split in half, part sticking to either finger and thin strings forming between them. For a moment he appeared the same as a child playing with chewing gum, but she knew he was performing some operation which was anything but juvenile. At a certain moment he froze, his thumb and forefinger four inches apart.  Hair-thin filaments of the stuff ran between his two fingers. He raised this gooey network on his hand and carefully blew air at it, causing nodes to form on the strings and they started to branch out and reconnect, making a spider web-like mesh material. He took some of this mesh with his other hand and pressed it into his ear holes until they were covered to satisfaction. He then reached over and was about to do the same to Brooke’s ears, but she recoiled and wore a distrustful and disgusted face. He looked at her with a sour face, like she was an over-dramatic child.  He smiled then and pointed to his own ears, reminding her that he had just done this to himself only moments before. Now it was her turn to laugh at him, for she had clearly seen him do this and she felt like he obviously knew that. After she stopped laughing, her resistance lightened and she shrugged and leaned close and let him do this strange act.

 It was not wet and slimy as she had expected but rather dry and slightly itchy in her ears at first but in moments its presence all but disappeared and she wondered if it had fallen out or got inside of her head. The shaman gave her a familiar grin for the first time, as though he had known her for years and just recognized her as an old friend. 

“Now you can understand the words I breathe,” he said, or rather she heard him say. Just like a movie dubbed from a foreign language, she saw him mouth the words he spoke in his native Kogi tongue, but what she heard was English. The disgusting dry gummy spiderweb which she had put in her ear had proven itself to be a sophisticated translation device. She decided to try out the powers that this device had on the opposite end, and she spoke.  

“What did you put in my ear? It is an amazing thing that lets me know what your words mean,’ she said.   He nodded enthusiasticaly, all the while wearing his large smile. 

“But what is it? What is it made of?” she asked. His smile vanished and he looked down at his fingers. “I don't think you need to know that right now,” he said. “We have other more important things to talk about,” he said with a laugh as he rose to his feet.  “First, I need to show you where to pee on this Mountaintop so you don't cause an avalanche,” he said. “This is one place where peeing can be a suicidal act.” They both laughed at this for a moment but then Brooke stopped abruptly when she realized that he was serious. He led her outside and went around to the back of the hut and followed a trail around the back of the mountaintop. He led her to a small with dark stones lining a hole that led deep, deep down, resembling a very narrow well. “Here,” he said. “This is where you do it,” he said.   There was a moment of silence as they looked at each other. He then squatted as though he were a woman peeing and laughed loudly. The sound of his laughing echoed all around them.  Standing up, he sniffed the air and turned his head, pointing to the sky at the grey clouds forming and quickly rolling over them. “Snow storm comes in soon,” he said, grabbing her forearm and tugging it to suggest they were to return to the hut. They found their way back to their seats by the fire.  They were only seated for a few minutes before a visitor arrived.

 

Chapter 7

 

Without a knock of warning, the door swung open forcefully, an aggressive gust of snow pushed itself inside the hut. An old, short, stockily built woman entered, several inches of snow piled on her shoulders, her sleeves, and on top of her head. She was holding a loosely woven mesh bag, containing tubers, yucca, or potatoes. In the other hand she held a fat, limp, recently killed chicken. 

“She has arrived, I see,” she said in a rich, dry voice. “So I thought she would. I led her to the base of the mountain in the dreaming space.  I could tell she had a strong spirit. I could  tell she could reach the mountaintop. I admired her right away.”

 “She hears all that you say, mother,” her son said.  “Do not make her too prideful. She has the sap of Ghlotskuhk in her ears. I will put it in your ears, too, so that you might understand all that she says.”  He gave the goo to his mom and she placed it in her ears and then looked squarely at Brooke. Her wrinkled face had all of the determination and surety of a woman half her age. 

“Do you remember me, younger sister?”

 Brooke looked at her and nodded with a smile. The old woman in her dreams was clearly the shaman’s mother, and she had been climbing the mountain behind her, perhaps she had been watching her the whole hike. 

“Surely she is hungry after such a hike. She only ate fruits, I'm guessing. A pineapple perhaps,” she said, winking at Brooke. “She will need to eat much and have lots of vitamins to prepare her for what will come to pass,” she said gravely to her son. “Did you see the same thing in your Popporro gourd as I did in the reflection of the stream?” The man nodded, dipping the stick in the Poporro and withdrawing it, now covered with seashell powder. He put it back in his mouth. He scraped the wet stick against the side of the gourd and stared at it. Neither mother nor son spoke for several minutes and instead listened to the crackle of the fire. “Yes,” he said. “I saw that.  I saw many other things, too.  Yes, I saw...I saw that the shift will come through her,” he said.  They both looked at Brooke and then at each other.  “I also saw that I will bring her below, into the palace of the Mountain, into the heart of the world. Brooke looked at his mother and for the first time she expressed emotion.  Her face looked surprised.  “I saw also something I still can hardly believe,” he said, shaking his head.  He went silent, staring into the fire.  His mother touched his forearm, urging him to go on, and then he did.  “Grandfather said I was never to leave the mountain, but he also said that the shift would change everything. I saw that I would descend the mountain and that we would share the shift with the world to help mend it.” 

“You can do both,” his mother said. “Part of you will always remain up here,” his mother said simply. “Part of you will always watch the world. But if your body and part of your awareness needs to descend, well, you can go when the time is right. But part of you will always remain here.” The old woman glanced down at the chicken, studying it with appreciation. “If ever we need a plump chicken for dinner well tonite is the night.” 

She began plucking the feathers from the chicken deftly, as would one who had done this a few thousand times before. All feathers removed, she uttered a short prayer under her breath and then dug her hand inside the chicken, ripping out its organs and gutting it in one fell swoop. She tore the chicken into tender size pieces and arranged them on the end of the stick that rested on a rock near the fire. She handed this to Brooke to cook over the fire and then pulled the potatoes from the sack at her side. She removed a wedge-shaped rock from her bag and then another that was longer and had a sharp point. With the two of these rocks and a flurry of movements later, the potatoes had been chopped into pieces and arranged on the end of another stick. Brooke and the old woman sat there for nearly an hour in silence, roasting the potatoes and chicken. They arranged the crude, simple feast upon a slab of wood and held hands in the circle. The shaman and his mother shared a prayer, some of which was sung, some was whispered, and some was said in silence. 

“Aluna, Inti, thank you for bringing us this woman who calls herself Brooke, the one through whom will come the shift.  We have waited for this day for hundreds of years. We share the food which you have shared with us, to empower us to turn physical energy into spiritual, and spiritual to physical.  Please help us know when to act and when to let you work through us. Keep us humble, patient, and grateful as all wise Elders have taught us to be. Thank you for this feast which you have shared with us. Thank you for allowing us to sacrifice the lives of this chicken and these potatoes, let them find new life in our good deeds. We know this may be our last meal for sometime, let us cherish it as though it were our last. Mukhuxao.”

 This prayer uttered, the group sat in silence until mother and son turned to Brooke. They served her food first in a wooden bowl, and then served themselves. Brooke ate the chicken tenders and potato wedges bare-handed as they did, and never had she known a meal so humble to taste so delicious.  They chewed and tasted eat bite fully, and they ate every morsel of what they had prepared.  

The mother went to the far end of the room and grabbed a fur blanket and offered it to Brooke. As soon as she put it on her lap she felt compelled to lay on her side by the fire. In less than a minute the warmth of the food in her stomach, the warmth of the fire, and the hospitality of her friends lulled her into a deep and satisfying sleep. 

In her dreams she saw herself sleeping in her bed in Los Angeles.   She flew inside of her head and in that dream within a dream she saw that she was dreaming of herself on top of the mountain in the hut with the shaman and her mother, sleeping peacefully after a big meal. She was dreaming of herself dreaming of herself and realized that she had seen herself on this mountaintop sleeping alongside them many times.  But she always forgot the dream as soon as she rose from her bed. Realizing that she had seen the future in her dreams before, Brooke wondered if it was possible to do this now.  

Just as she wondered this, she saw a gigantic snowflake falling from the sky.  It melted upon her nose, only to be replaced by a sphere of water. This water droplet appeared identical to a fortune teller crystal ball, though it was too close to her face to be in focus and she could see nothing distinctly. But suddenly she found that though she was unable to not look into the crystal sphere, she could look through it.  

And there, she saw herself soaring through a vortex of golden strings that appeared before her. Each golden cord seem to be fraying, splitting and then reassembling into complex arabesque geometric shapes.  They seemed to be painted upon curved walls, tunnels within temples. As her eyes followed these lines, she realized that she was both observing these designs and also drawing them with her mind’s eye, she felt as though she were enjoying another's creation, but also that another was enjoying her creation at the same time exact moment. 

She knew that the shaman was soaring next to her and she did not need to look over to know that he was there, his mind running in tandem with her own. She did not know if they were falling up or falling down.   Her heart skipped a beat.  The words “falling” and “failing” started to repeat themselves in her mind over and over and the gold colors vanished and she saw herself in a darker world. The lines of the designs now became a scarlet red color, their forms sharp and threatening like a barbed wire fences and edges of broken glass bottles.  She saw drops of blood oozing from the sharp edges and some vicious fright took her breath away and her heart froze in her chest and she looked over to the shaman for help but he had turned into a rabid dog with foam dripping from his mangled jaw. 

She shrieked and saw more terrifying images appear of goblins and maggots eating pigs, of spiders climbing on baby faces, of a drug addict searching for one last, lost pill in a dark alleyway, and many other scary images.   Amid all of this, she saw the jaguar mother she had seen in the cave looking at her with disappointment and hunger as though it were going to eat her out of anger and frustration. The jaguar had come here lured by the horrible scent of fear that now wafted off of Brooke’s body.  Then she remembered.  

She remembered how she had handled the jaguar before with bravery.  Not by fighting or fleeing from it, but by showing the jaguar her confidence. This was how she had stopped the scent of fear and was able to be free.  Once again, she had been a victim to the theatrics, the drama of her own story.   She had indulged in her fear and the stickiness of her negativity, but now she wasn’t.  Now she was aware of it.  She stood outside of it.  Just as she had stepped back from and became a witness to her fear in the cave with the jaguar she could do that again she could do that now; she was doing it, she just did it, and just like that she was free, soaring high above the holy mountain, Gonawindua.  

 

She was flying in and out of bright white cloud upon golden wings. She looked at Kassuagi and saw that he had transformed into a winged jaguar with golden fur instead of yellow, and one of its spots appeared to be a tunnel into a different star strewn galaxy. 

She saw the hut on top of the mountains, and then her awareness was pulled further back and she saw the mountain in its entirety, and then suddenly she saw something more. Her eyes seemed to grow larger or fuller somehow and some type of energy poured out of her pupils. The mountain became less opaque as though it had been painted with light colors upon a dark canvas, as though it were made out of gases that appeared solid only from a distance and on closer speculation were anything but. She saw inside of the mountain with some type x-ray vision. 

She continued looking at the mountain and could see that the hut on top of the mountain was actually just the tip of a much larger, castle-like structure that had been built or buried inside the mountain long, long ago. She now saw this lower part within the mountain.  The moment she saw this she knew that it was her destiny to go inside, below, into this hidden world. Before this, she knew she must return to her body and consult the shaman and her mother.

She looked down at the hut as they flew over it and saw silver rings of light rippling out from the antenna on top of the hut’s roof.  Around her, she felt the presence of thousands of other metaphysical beings being drawn to this signal point, shrinking down into atoms and vapors and entering the antenna, entering the hut, and entering the dreaming consciousness of those inside the hut. As though splashed with warm water, mother, son and Brooke gasped and sat up, finally awake from this detailed, demonic and divine dream that they had all shared.  They looked at each other in silence and nodded, not needing to speak to confirm that they had all been to the same place.

 

Chapter 8 

Not long after they all came to, Kassuagi stood and walked to the door.  Grabbing his bow and arrow and his woven bag, he left.  Maua and Brooke sat in silence, coming to terms with the implications of the dream.  At the same moment they looked at each other in the eyes and Maua spoke. 

“You are destined to go to the heart of the world,” she said, looking at Brooke dead in her eyes.   As she spoke, Ma was weaving one of the typical bags worn by all Kogi men and children which usually held coca leaves.  Brooke wondered how many bags like this she had made in her life.  Five hundred? A thousand? More?

 Brooke recalled the guide Nicholas telling her how the women’s knitting was a contemplative act that served the same purpose as the men scrapping their popporo gourds as they chewed coca leaves.  The knitting and poporro scrapping process opened doors in the mind for the Kogi, allowing them to recall dreams, interpret hidden symbols, intuit weather conditions, anticipate crop watering and seed planting calendars, and foresee challenges within the tribe before they arose and help them know what measures to take to prevent problems from developing.

Whereas the men looked down and studied the edge of their poporro gourds as they scrapped their sticks, the women seldom looked down as they weaved their bags, so practiced they had become that they could have nearly made these bags with their eyes closed.  Yet the women usually kept their eyes open, staring off into the foliage, the clouds, the mountainside.  But they were not only looking at but through these forms, their gazing like the knitting itself, so much more than it appeared.  Instead of looking at the landscape, Maua was looking inside Brooke, gathering pertinent information about her past and visualizing her quest to come.  Brooke admired the old woman’s focus, the all but automatic creative process of weaving taking place before her eyes.  Brooke stared at Maua’s fingers, bending and working with the same mechanical efficiency as pistons under the hood of a car.  This intense weaving halted all of a sudden and Maua opened her mouth to speak.  

“Before you leave with my son and pass through the portal, I want you to come with me and pick coca leaves.  Only the women in our tribe pick these, and only the men chew them.  It is a tradition.”  As honored as Brooke felt by this offer, she noticed some discontent arise in her in regard to the strict gender roles that had been ascribed to the picking and use of this plant.  Maua saw this and found it amusing.  She smiled to herself as she grabbed two empty weaved bags, handing one to Brooke and hanging the other over her shoulder.

“Come,” she said, standing to her full height, which was only half of Brooke’s.  As they walked, the old woman continued to weave, her head risen and her eyes on the path.  Brooke was stunned by this, recalling how Leonardo Di Vinci was said to be able to write and paint at the same time, so advanced was his mind.  “You have already broken many taboos in our tribe,” the old woman said, not with anger but with a degree of pleasure.  “No outsider is supposed to come here, but I beckoned you to come.  And no woman in our tribe is to eat coca leaves.”

“But...I am not of your tribe,” Brooke protested.  

“You are becoming one of us more and more all the time,” the woman said. Maua smiled again.  “You know that I was following you as you climbed our holy mountain.  I saw you look at the stream and noticed yourself changing, looking more like one of us.” 

Brooke had nearly forgotten.  Her hands rose quickly to her face and she touched her cheeks and nose.  

“What...what is happening?” she asked, a tremor of fear glazing her voice. 

“These are temporary external changes that will go away when you descend the mountain. Gonawindua only feels comfortable when you look like this, like one of us.  The spirit of the mountain changed you.  This new appearance is also a protection.  The animals and insects that would kill you before now do not even notice you.  These changes will vanish when you return, but the internal change you undergo with stay with you forever.”  Brooke nodded, knowing this was true.  

They had arrived to a garden of coca leaf bushes that had been planted on a bluff outcropping on the eastern side of the mountain.  The dozen or so bushes were surrounded by ten rock piles that were as tall as Maua.  These rock piles seemed to be monitoring or protecting the coca bushes somehow.  Ma noticed Brooke studying these.  

“If any beings try to do any harm to my garden of coca these rocks will turn into soldiers and stop them. They look peaceful now, but if they need to defend...they will do so ruthlessly.”  Brooke looked at them with humbled eyes and then looked at the coca leaves, their leaves waving in the breeze appeared both fragile and invincible.  They slowly approached the bushes with the same care and reverence as one who is approaching the casket of a deceased family elder. Maua set her half weaved bag on the boulder and stretched out her arms, interlacing her fingers and cracking them.  She shook out her hands as though they were wet, and she reached into a small pouch she wore around her neck, and producing a small brown stick which Brooke identified as a cigarette. Clearly this tobacco was from the jungle mountains and appeared nothing like a conventional cigarette.  

“Before we pick the leaves we must ask permission and put protections on them in the form of smoke.”  Maua pulled out a small crystal from her black leather pouch and held it up to the sun.  The sunbeams passed through the crystal and were magnified and soon ignited the cigarette.  She waved the cigarette in slow circles over her head and then pointed it at the coca bushes and waved her hand in larger circles.

She took a puff of the tobacco and blew the smoke on her chest, on her heart.  She then approached the bushes and blew the smoke on the coca leafs.  She walked around the group of bushes, making sure that each bush had received a blessing from her.  She then looked at Brooke and handed her the cigarette, instructing her to blow the smoke on her own heart.  This done, the two women began to pick the leaves, placing them into the bags they had brought.  The old woman began singing as she did this, and Brooke was stunned at the youthful, mellifluous quality of her voice.  Maua usually spoke in a rough, raspy tenor, but singing now she sounded as sweet as the yellow-tailed bird who--Brooke’s thoughts stopped dead in her head.  She looked at Maua in a new way.  Could it be?  Brooke wondered.  Was the yellow-tailed bird whose song visions had inspired her climb Gonawindua...was this bird one and the same with Maua?  She had heard Nicholas say that Kogi elders can shapeshift into animals at will, but she had dismissed the idea as soon as she had heard it.  But now it came back to her, its plausibility becoming more solid in her mind.  

The song Maua sang was one of nurturing, joy and love, was the same sort Brooke’s mother had sung to her as an infant, bathing her  in the sink.  As they picked the coca, a great series of once faint memories from her infancy returned to her in complete clarity.  She saw herself clearly...Hiding in the kitchen cupboard from her dad, the smell of her favorite fruity sugary cereal, the sound of sand grinding under her feet as she walked on the beach, the jingle of the ice cream truck on its poor quality speaker system, the smell of sweat mixed with leaves after she was done raking with her mom, and countless other sensations came to her now, and she new these had been triggered by Maua’s song.  She lost track of time as she picked these coca leaves, the old woman’s song softly swimming through her head.  Before she knew it she had picked a bag full of coca leaves, and Maua’s brusque, normal rough voice interrupted the silence.

“Now we leave.  We will send our gratitude to the garden now.”  Maua closed her eyes and lowered her head, speaking a series of reverent words which the sap in Brooke’s ear did not translate, and their significance remained obscure to her.  Ma stood and started to hike back to the hut, her chin raised, and her shoulders back.  When they entered, Kassuagi was nowhere to be seen. 

Maua added logs to the fire and blew on the smoldering coals until it blazed forth, then took her seat next to the fire, staring at it intently. Brooke noticed something different about her though, she was sitting a good meter back from the fire. The three of them usually sat on the furry white sheep skin closest to the fire but for whatever reason it looked like she was choosing deliberately to not sit on the white skin.  

As Brooke contemplated this, Kassuagi entered the room and silently took his place next to his mother on the white skin, keeping equal distance from the fire. Brooke felt compelled to join them and they all sat in silence there, the only voice was the snapping of the fire. They sat here peacefully for a long stretch until suddenly one of the burning logs cracked loudly and split in two, sending out a fiery shower of sparks.  On reflex, all three of them shut their eyes. 

When Brooke opened her eyes, she noticed that that one of the sparks had burned a hole in her pants, and the tangerine quartz crystal that was in her pocket was now poking out. The crystal protruded out of this hole, the torn fabric of her jeans gripping the sides of it snugly. If she moved much the blue fabric would surely tear more. Kassuagi’s eyes followed the path of her own, and they joined her in viewing this odd coincidence. The dwindling flames of the fire played about on the surfaces of the crystal. Brooke saw moving pictures on the facets of the crystal, each its own world--as though the flat surfaces were miniature movie screens. Brooke was dumbfounded by this and could hardly believe her own eyes. Reaching down, she grabbed the end of this crystal with her thumb and index finger and pulled it out of the hole in her pants.  

Kassuagi glanced at her as she did this and she saw a flash of desire in his eyes, but she hardly noticed this. Her fascination was fixed on the crystal windows. Just as she brought the crystal close to her face to study it, the fire light  went out. But the room did not fall into darkness. 

The warm orange glow that the fire had shared with them was now in her hand. A soft glow emanated from the crystal and all of their eyes gazed at it as though magnetized. The crystal seemed infinitely special to Brooke and she felt its weight decrease in her hand until it seemed as light as air. No longer needing to support its weight, her hand and the crystal both floated up into the air. All three of them raised their heads to look at the crystal in silence. Brooke noticed the crystal starting to accumulate its original heaviness again and then surpass it, pulling her arm down. The crystal seem to take on a life of its own, pulling this way and then that like a fishing pole with a determined shark at the end of the line. Brooke watched the crystal pull her hand down and then right and left.  This unknown force pulled the crystal down so that it rested on top of white fur mat, its sharp end puncturing the sheep skin.  The force led her hand to start cutting through the white fur mat, the crystal slicing as efficiently as a freshly sharpened knife.  As though performing surgery, Brooke cut a three foot incision, and then this force brought her arm back to the point where she had originally started cutting.  From here, she made another perpendicular cut so that a triangular shape had been etched into the mat.  Maua and Kassuagi saw her do this with satisfied delight in their eyes, as though they had been waiting a long time for this moment.  Mother and son dug their hands into triangular incision lines and together they pulled open this portal, revealing a dark space inside which was dotted with stars and flecked with cosmic dust.  

Brooke held out the crystal and looked at it with deep respect and awe.  Kassuagi looked at it, and then looked into her eyes.  He placed his hand on top of the crystal in the palm  of her hand.  Their fingers interlaced and the crystal grew warm between their hands.  They both closed their eyes for a minute; they both opened them at the same time and looked down at the triangular shaped portal, its door flap held open by Maua who seemed infinitely patient. Closing their eyes, they inhaled deeply once before jumping inside of the portal and vanishing into the abyss. 

 

Chapter 9

They fell and fell, the intense downward pull of gravity quickly morphed into an upward pull of levity, and there they were, now floating and flying together. Just as gravity had become levity, outer space around them became interspace inside of them and they saw themselves blasting past macroscopic forms turned microscopic. Where they had been blasting past star systems and planets, now they saw themselves soaring past red and white blood cells, flying through arteries and veins, past nuerons and molecules.  They could feel thunder throbbing around them as they approached some space which felt like some sort of center, nexus, or heart.  The heart of the world, this is it, Brooke thought.  They had arrived.

Suddenly all of this rapidly blasting through closed spaces ended, and they found themselves inside of a huge space which appeared an amplitheater or a temple,  its dimensions much larger than a football stadium. Brooke looked up, seeing the ceiling was composed of huge triangular and polygonal sheets of peach hued glass that looked like the top of the crystal that they had held in their hands. And just as Brooke realized this similarity, she looked though the plates of orange glass and saw the texture of gigantic fingers and palms pressing against the glass. When Brooke and Kassuagi shifted their hands they saw above them the same, the grooved skin pressing against glass ceiling, moving in exactly the same fashion as their hands. They looked at each other, both realizing in the same instant what they knew they had already known: they were inside of the crystal that was inside their hands. 

They knew that this crystal represented their connection, their love, and also contained a tiny place.  In this tiny place was the shift,  the shift that the Mama priests in the tribe had long awaited. Brooke closed her eyes and saw the yellow-tailed bird again, saw a black puma, and saw, for the first time, Kexensi, Kassuagi’s father, who had been long-deceased but was now alive in spirit form. Brooke then saw her own face, and saw superimposed on it as a reflection water the face of the mother jaguar. She again saw the jaguar baby now, too,  and felt the powers they had both given her. She saw her own face mixed with Kassuagi’s, and caught a flashing glimpse of the child that they would soon have together.   A strobe light-like flashing began and she saw a succession of images, of future events that would come to pass. 

She saw the child's birth, saw the Kogi tribe coming to have a ceremony and celebration, a dozen or so Mama priests having long meetings and studying the baby closely as they scraped their poporro gourds and meditated. She saw that the child being recognized and appointed an important position, going through the preparatory stages to become a shaman, a female shaman--the first of the Kogi lineage.  The child would be a girl. 

Brooke saw that this child was destined live in a cave for a long time, from the ages of three to twelve, cultivating her psychic skills and building something inside of herself--the tiny place in the heart.  She would have to go through difficult, disciplined processes, just as her father had before her.  Brooke saw how onerous this process would be, and also she saw how her daughter would meet and overcome these challenges with little if any complaints.  This whole process would be challenging for the daughter, but extremely difficult for Brooke. 

This long waiting for her daughter to emerge from the cave would be endured, and made more managable through the invaluable support of Maua.  She saw Maua helping her to learn the names of all of the plants in the mountains, the names of the animals and their calls, as well as more arcane arts such as communicating with etheric, alien entities and and the spirits of those who had died long ago.   Maua would teach her her how to work with them, how to transmute their negative energy to positive. During this whole strobe light procession of revelations she saw herself in the present moment, too.  

She was holding Kassuagi’s hand, pulling him close, pressing her lips to his, feeling their sexual energies meet, commingle and procreate.  Deep inside, she saw her egg receive his seed willingly, glowing with energy as its tail slipped inside.  And then all went dark.

 

They were laying together in a deep deep sleep.  Brooke woke to the sound of bird calls outside the hut. It was the yellow-tailed bird, and it's song was jubilant yet peaceful and it filled her with a profound sense of love and safety.  The crystal was laying on top of her stomach, her womb, and Kassuagi’s hand rested on top of both.  She placed her hand on top of his and fell back asleep. When she woke the second time he was gone.  

Brooke was filled with a sense of dread and abandonment. But she saw Maua close to her and she felt better instantly. The old woman’s eyes were smiling at her now as she crouched over the fire, adding more kindling to the blaze, helping a ceramic pot come to a boil.  She dipped two ceramic cups into the water and passed one steaming cup to Brooke. 

“Don't drink so soon. It's too hot,” she said.  Brooke, sitting up now, set the cup in the dirt before her, it's vapor rising up to her nose. She breathed in deeply, its full, flowery aroma filling her nose. “This is a medicinal tea made from a very special flower petals called Nugaxalda.  It helps fertility.   It's a medicine that will help the child inside of you receive all the nutrients from the food you eat.” 

Oddly, Brooke was not shocked by the reminder that she was pregnant, nor by the fact that Maua knew this. Her mind darted once again to the absence of Kassuagi, but Maua interrupted the negative mental chatter that was starting in Brooke’s head. 

“My son has not left you. On the contrary, he is out hunting, bringing back food so that you might eat well. Kassuagi will take very good care of you and your child, as I did him. Your only concern should be in resting well now. Any anxiety will be felt by the baby growing inside of you.” Brooke placed her hand on her stomach and, though it was the same size, it felt different to her fingers. Microscopic though it was, she could feel the presence of a new life inside of her, and she had very good feelings for it.

 

 

Chapter 10

 

Time passed very slowly during the next weeks, months, and years.  It was not because life up here was unpleasant for Brooke.  On the contrary, she found it exquisitely beautiful, and she wanted to learn from and savor every moment to the utmost.  Living on top of the holy mountain, Gonawindua, Brooke found her mind more clear and keen than it had been since she was a child.  With no cell phones, advertisements, traffic, or chemical additives in her food, her mind and body were restored to their full functioning ability.

Maua taught Brooke everything she had learned from her own mother decades before.  How to make and spin yard, how to weave shoulder bags, how to identify poisonous berries from edible ones, how to find edible tubers and wild potatoes, and much more.  She collected coca leaves with Maua every month and sang with her as they dried the leaves with heated stones, rolling them around in special woven bags.  Brooke was shown how pay reverence and say prayers to the food she ate before preparing it, weather it was plant or animal.  Maua showed her how to cut and clean and prepare the animals that Kassuagi had hunted, a gruesome task that disgusted Brooke at first, but with time she learned to appreciate it and even look forward to it. 

Brooke loved most to rise early in the morning and bath in the dawning light.  At this time she often would meet the animals and their spirits, and with Maua’s help she learned their names and their calls.  The animal spirits visited her again nightly in her dreams, and she started to understand how to use the powers that they loaned her--the stealth of a jaguar, the eyes of an eagle, the ears of a fox, the nose of a coyote, and the patience and wisdom of an owl.  She also learned how to identify and speak with animals not of this world, what most would call mythological or alien.  The gestures and sounds she made while speaking to them would have appeared outlandish to any of the Younger Brothers, but made perfect sense to Kassuagi and his mother.  

During the months that past, she was not thinking about the past or the future, but fully living in the moment for the first time since her childhood.  She grew acutely aware of the smells in the air, the direction of the wind, the formations of clouds, the chirping of birds and howling of wolves and what they were trying to tell her.  

As the months passed she noticed her stomach growing larger, and felt the baby kicking every now and then, but she registered all of this with peripheral awareness.  She was deeply connected with the baby inside of her but knew that the best way for her to care for her was not concentrating on the baby, and what it would look like, and what she would do with her once she was born.  Brooke would not let herself be swept up by these distracting future thoughts.  She knew that the best way to care for the baby inside her now was to stay attuned to the environment around her, listening and learning from it deeply.  In this way she would be better able to raise her daughter when she was born, for she would be carrying the deep peace and wisdom of Gonawindua.

Every now and then the difficult thought crossed her mind:  Her child would only be with her for a few years before leaving and going to live in the cave to begin her life as a shaman, the first female shaman of the lineage.  This all had been seen long ago, and it was as set as spring following winter, as sunrise following sunset.  

Brooke had crazy ideas every now and then--about running down the mountain, robbing the child from her life in the cave, but this frantic thinking was so weak and remote in her own mind, it did not even furrow her brow or tighten her shoulders.  She blew the thought away as though it were a fly on her nose.  Brooke knew she must be strong and release the child when the time came.

Maua and Kassuagi had explained to her that most Kogi shamans enter the cave at the age of 3 and emerge at the age of ten, but their child would stay an additional two years.  This extra time was necessary because many shifts would take place within the mountain as it prepared her for her great assignment in the Younger Brothers world.  The girl would emerge at the age of 12, and at this time descend the mountain with her mother and father.  

 

 

Brooke woke up early, and could feel a tension between something good and something bad.   These opposing forces were grinding against each other, somewhere deep inside of her, and she could feel the sparks shooting out and singing her insides.  She shot out of her bed, her heart pounding and her head reeling.  Maua saw her jump up like this, and was alarmed.  But the old woman did not follow suit and act surprised, for she knew that this would only add fuel to the fire of Brooke’s distress. 
Brooke walked outside and looked up at the sky, the light of a full moon shown down upon her.  That bright pure light felt good on her face and shoulders as she closed her eyes.  She almost forgot about the bad feeling that she had felt intermingled with the good one a minute before.  Even through closed eyelids she could see the moonlight dimming as thick grey clouds eclipsed half of the moon.  She opened her eyes to see that these were not just clouds but thunderclouds.  She had never seen this combination, of gentle snow falling and lightning.  She knew that it was an omen.  This was connected to the feeling she had when waking up.

Brooke looked over her shoulder and saw Maua standing at the doorway, motionless as she eyed her calmly.  The old woman walked slowly towards Brooke, a white shawl wrapped around her.  She stood next to Brooke and did not speak for some time, the occasional flashing of the lighting filling the crevices of her wrinkles which usually remained dark.  

“They are coming for you,” Maua said.  “You are being hunted, and they mean to bring you back to the Younger Brother’s world before your time has come.”

“Who is coming?” Brooke said, feeling a knot of fear twisting in her stomach which she knew was unhealthy for the baby who now kicked angrily at the walls of her womb.

“The ones your parents sent her.  It is a group of men.  Soldiers from the Younger Brother’s army or police.  They will be here soon.”  Brooke looked over at Maua and noticed that the old woman was not scared by this prospect and she was not panicking.  

“What...what will we do,” Brooke asked, her eyes looking at the clouds.  

“It is easier than you think, this time,” the old woman said.  Brooke noticed a smile curling the edges of Maua’s lips.

  “Come,” she said leading Brooke by her arm to the south side of the mountain where they always went to urinate.  They proceeded further and looked over the edge of the mountain and they could see far below men in neon yellow clothing ascending the mountain. 
“They look like some sort of search and rescue team,” Brooke said.  “They are coming for me...and they will be here soon.”  She said these things to herself as she glared down at them and hardly noticed what Maua was doing.  

Brooke glanced over and saw that the old woman was squatting, her robe lifted slightly.  She was urinating in the exact place that Kassuagi said never to pee for fear of causing an avalanche.  Brooke heard the sound of a urine stream cutting into the snow and ice.  Brooke looked at the old woman’s toothless cackling face as she relieved herself here. 

The ground beneath them started to shake and then it stopped.She looked at Brooke and pointed to her pants. 
“Your turn now.  Piss them off!”  she said.

“But what if I fall, too,” Brooke said.  “It could kill us both.  This could be suicide.”

“If you are scared I will get a rope then and come back if you are afraid,” Maua said.  She ran as fast as her old legs would carry her.   Soon she was back and tied a rope around Brooke’s waist and then walked several yards back closer to the hut and then pointed to Brooke insistingly and stamped her feet.

“Go!  Now!” the old woman said.  Brooke squatted and followed orders and as soon as her pee hit the snow the whole snowy mountainside started to shake and she knew it was going to fall.  Brooke darted back to the hut and turned around just in time to see a huge chunk of snow and ice fall.  

“Those men...I hope they aren’t hurt,” Brooke said.

“No, they won’t be...this avalanche is just enough to block the path and slow them down,” Maua said.  “It won’t stop them forever, they will push past it.  They have never done this...come up here.  This mountain is not open to Younger Brothers.  Outsiders never come up here.  But searching for you has given them the right to break all the agreements they made with our tribe.  They know you are up here,” she said.

Brooke’s heart started pounding just as the baby inside her started kicking and the combined turbulence followed her as she walked back to the hut.  She knew that Kassuagi would know what to do.


The mountain continued to rumble after the ice and snow had fallen below, as though another avalanche was inevitable.  But soon Brooke realized that this was not the shaking of the mountain but the tremble of the child inside of her wanting to get out.  As soon as she realized this she knew that Kassuagi and Maua had also become aware of this, and they smiled at her with understanding.

Kassuagi walked towards Brooke and embraced her gently, the baby bump shaking between them.  They closed their eyes and kissed.  When Brooke opened them she saw that Maua had opened the triangular flap that led into the world below, to the heart of the mountain. 
“There is no way to tell how long that avalanche will block them,” she said.  “There is also no way to tell how long you will be in labor.  They will be here soon enough, and we don’t want you worrying about them.  You must go below to have your child.”  Brooke nodded her head in agreement and walked towards the white carpet.  She looked down into the triangular hole that had been cut by the crystal long ago and saw that there was a stairway made of stars or bright white dots, the outlines of which were composed of white bands of light.  This constellation-like stairway spiraled down and faded away into a pinkish, hazy light, much like that of a sunset clouds over an ocean.  Without hesitation, she grabbed Kassuagi’s hand and started to descend.  They walked slowly down and down and Ma closed the flap above them.

Brooke could feel all the sensations of walking down a stairway, the weight of her feet pressing on stone stairs as she descended, and she also felt Kassuagi’s hand in her own, leading her downward.  But her viewpoint remained above, alongside Ma in the hut who was watching it all in her weaving.  As they continued to walk down Brooke saw herself walking down a stairway in her own mouth and throat and continue until she was in her womb and inside of the baby inside of her.  Here she felt an intense pressure and then a release every time the child exhaled, and she felt the growing strength of the child and the eagerness it had to leave her belly and explore the world outside.   Brooke glanced at Ma gazing down alongside her and saw that she was guiding her breathing pattern to a style that would help the child emerge with greater ease, and Brooke found herself doing the same.  Brooke was pleased to see that this was working, relieving the pressure.  Soon the child would come out, would be in her arms, and it would be over with, all with far less pain than she ever imagined possible. 
In one moment Brooke’s eyes were open, the next they were closed, and in the next, when she reopened them, she saw, between her spread legs, Kassuagi holding their newborn child, his face expressing a tenderness that Brooke had never seen on him.  

He placed the child on her heart and the baby clutched to its mother and nestling in the softness of her protective arms.  Brooke felt a sense of fullness, completeness, and satisfaction that she had only felt when she was a baby and was laying on the chest of her own mother, some twenty-seven years ago.  

Brooke looked at Kassuagi with a deep sense of love and appreciation, and then noted over his shoulder something frightening.  She saw up there some sort of reddish vapor floating behind him, just above his left shoulder.  She noticed further back, sharp, foreboding greenish forms that resembled skeleton faces and bony hands, and other forms she could not identify but knew were horrid in aspect.  She clung to the child a little tighter and looked back at Kassuagi.  Brooke saw in his eyes that he sensed the presence of these negative energies and was not frightened by them.  His focus remained on his wife and their new child.  He left his concentration  on beauty, love, and protection, and in this way these things remained and grew.  

They could have remained in this place for days or months, it didn’t really matter.  For Brooke, the sense of time left her mind and seemed as remote and elusive as one of the moons of Neptune.  She hovered in that space between sleep and wakefulness and only left this state when she felt Kassuagi lifting and carrying her, she still holding the child in her arms.   All three of them climbed the stairs and returned  to the triangular door from whence they came. 

 

Chapter 11

 

Maua was waiting patiently for them when they returned, but it was clear that her calmness was a guise.  She was eager to see her granddaughter for the first time.  Unable to hold herself back, the old woman leapt up from her chair with surprising ease and youth, and she rushed to the child and took her from Brooke.  The old woman brought the child to the large wooden bowl and poured warm water into it from the ceramic pot.  She bathed the child slowly and gently, using a piece of small white fabric that she had reserved for this task.  It was clear that Maua had been waiting for them for some time.

“The men searching for you came and left some time ago.  They looked everywhere for you and could not find you.  They will not be back.  You can be with your child in peace now...your daughter.  She is beautiful and already very strong for a baby I can see.  What will you name her?”

“Brooke glanced at Kassuagi and they shared a smile, knowing that the same name had entered their minds simultaneously. 

“Yuluka,” Brooke said, the word felt right in her mouth, like water after a long walk.  Brooke knew the word meant balanced movement, yet she had no idea how she knew this.  In knowing this she knew that there were many, many other Kogi words that she knew, and was not aware how she had learned them.  As astonishing as this was the sight of her child quickly distracted her, and she rushed over to Yuluka.  Maua and Brooke bathed the child together, and both began singing some of the sweet songs that they always sang while picking coca leaves in Maua’s garden.  Kassuagi smiled as he heard them.  He rose and put on his poncho and warm hat, grabbing his net and spear.  

“I go now to hunt and fish.  I will return with food for my family,” he said with pride.

“Come back with three fish and a whole deer just for your wife. She needs it now more than ever.  She put much goodness and energy into this child here, and all of that needs to be replenished.”  Kassuagi nodded and waved and lifting the white fabric door covering, he left outside.

 

Chapter 12

Many days and months passed in familial bliss, and Brooke ate a lot of food, this energy transforming to the milk with which she nursed her child.  Brooke relished these moments which she knew would be among the easiest, and that these would not remain for long.

As Yuluka grew, all three of them could see that she was an old soul, wise beyond her years.  Before she turned one, she spent most of her time near either Brooke or Maua.  She was similar to other children in staying close to the females, but just after her first birthday something changed.

She seemed bored by the comforts of home, and crawled as far from the comforts of the hut as possible, taking every opportunity to crawl away, leaving the cave to go outside.  Once she was in the fresh air, she would crawl as far from the hut as she could, picking, sniffing and tasting every plant, rock and insect that she found.  She seemed like a miniature scientist, doing detailed research of the environment.  Brooke had to fight the urge to chase after her and distrust her, as she knew her parents had done.  She knew that this culture allowed children more room to roam and explore, trusting them more than westerners trust their children.  She knew that the result of this was higher self esteem in the children.  This made them more confident and generally closer to their parents for giving them that freedom and space at such a young age.

By the age of two, Yuluka was still interested in exploring the outdoors but started to venture further and further from the hut.  Sometimes Brooke would find her standing on the edge of a dangerous cliff, and if she went any further the child would fall to her death.  But Brooke knew better than to interfere and try to rescue Yuluka, she focused on staying calm and present and not letting the restrictive way she was brought up pass over to her daughter.  

And then suddenly, as she approached the age of three, her daughter stopped leaving, stopped venturing out to explore and started to spend more time in the hut.  She often closed her eyes in some trance-like way and stared up at the ceiling of the hut, studying the thatched roof and thinking of who knows what.  

She took to weaving before her third birthday and though her stubby fingers were clumsy, she was able to make a few bags much better than any of them expected.  As she weaved she looked much like Maua, staring off into a dreamy distance, lost in thoughts, dreams, and visions. 
Brooke and Maua watched her doing this often, and both found it amusing.

One day, all three of them were knitting and the little girl stopped and stood up, walking to the door.  She grabbed her father’s walking stick and tapped it twice on the earth floor.  Maua and Brooke looked at her and also stopped knitting.

“She is showing us she is ready, and it is in perfect time. Her third birthday is very soon.  She is ready to go to the cave and start her training with Kassuagi and the spirits of all of his forefathers.  We must tell him.”

Brooke felt a mixture of elation and dread at this.  She knew this would happen.  She knew that this day would come and that is was a good thing.  But she did not want to see her baby go.  But, in looking at Yuluka, she could see that she was not a baby any more, far from it.  The girl, tiny though she was, stood with a stance of a warrior, eager to go to that other world in the darkness.  She was ready to develop the tiny place of the heart.

Kassuagi soon entered the hut with a few birds he had hunted with his blow-darts.  It was clear that he did not need to be told that his daughter was ready.  He could feel it, and was very pleased.  He stood before Yuluka and put his hand on the top of the staff that the girl held.  They both held the stick and looked at each other.  

“Prepare her things, Mother.  The time has come,” he said.  Maua stood, her knees and joints snapping as she moved about the room, collected the girls clothes, blanket, a few plants, rocks, and wooden bowls that she would need for the long time she would be gone.

Brooke stood and walked near her husband and her daughter.  She wanted to cry more than ever, wanted to rip her daughter away and take her with her back to the city, and she knew that this moment was the ultimate test.  She noticed the tremendous energy that rumbled  in her chest, and she acknowledged its power.  Left to its own devices it would morph into self pity and woe, programs that had been instilled in her by society long ago.  But Brooke then felt helping spirits enter into her and aid her.  The spirit of Kassuagi’s father, the spirit of the jaguar mother, the spirit of coca leaf and other plants came and sent electric energy to her hands.  

A pair of etheric hands raised from her own and started to mold the intense energy in her chest as though molding a piece of clay.  The ball of wildness in her heart was turning into a beautiful pot, and in that pot was being poured some type of turquoise colored water.  This water, she saw, stood still in the pot, not a ripple waved on its surface.  

She felt a deep rootedness, a deep sense of peace sink into her, and she knew that she would be able to endure this time apart from her daughter, would not loathe it but use it to develop herself in ways she never dreamed possible.  She was grateful for this time she would have, and she bowed her head to all of those who had made this possible. All of this.

 

Chapter 13

 

When her daughter left, Brooke did not feel as alone as she thought she would.  Surely, not being able to physically touch her daughter’s hair, feel her in her arms when she hugged her, feel her weight when she sat on her lap--she certainly missed these things.  But Brooke felt that even when she had gone there was some connection they shared.  Her mind was linked with her daughter’s, as real and tangible as though there was a string tying their minds together.  One day while weaving, Brooke asked Maua about this.

“Yes,” the old woman said.  “There is a cord connecting you two together, but this is not so rare.  In the Kogi tribe, there are strings connecting the minds of all of us together.  We can feel each other’s thoughts, both good and bad.  We can sense when something has gone wrong or right.  There are black strings connecting us all of us mortals, and there are golden strings connecting us to Aluna and the spirits.  Sometimes, if the light is right, you can even see these strings.  Just look up, but not directly. Look with the corner of your eye, and they will often appear.”

 Brooke felt much better at knowing this, and felt that her daughter would be with her the whole time that she stayed in the cave; they would not be entirely apart.

 

When different events occurred in Yuluka’s training, Brooke could sense them, through the vibrations in these cords.  She could tell, depending on the intensity, elasticity and duration of the cords tugging, what was happening with her daughter, like some type of morse code or hidden communication system.  

As the months and years passed, Brooke could feel these cord vibrations while gathering fruit, nuts, and medicinal plants, and she was keenly aware when her daughter had passed or failed a test posed by her father or by one of the plant or spirit teachers.  She could feel when her daughter had encountered something that was psychically troubling or helpful, something gruesome or gorgeous.  

At times, her mother felt these sensations with such clarity it seemed that she herself were in the cave going through these trials, and her daughter was up in the hut helping Maua with daily tasks.  They were so connected that sometimes they traded places.

The communication through these cords was ongoing, whether Brooke was awake or asleep, in waking consciousness or dreaming.  So, too, at times the cords did not speak for long periods of time, and Brooke wondered if her daughter had died, or fallen sick.  Yet the reports given every few days by Kassuagi when he came back confirmed that her daughter was doing very well, and that there was no need to worry about her.

“Do not visualize Yuluka in trouble or pain. This is very important,” he said.  “The more you see bad things, the more likely that they will happen. Your mind is very powerful, Brooke. Especially in relation to your daughter.  I urge you to be deliberate with your thoughts.  You will always have bad ideas pass you by, but be careful not to let yourself be carried away by them.”  Kassuagi only needed to tell her this once, and she took it to heart.  

Brooke became very good at seeing her daughter doing well, even when she received troublesome vibrations in the cord connecting them.  She saw her daughter advancing, growing taller, becoming more spiritually advanced, and closer approaching the day when she would leave and share her message with the world.

As closely connected as she was to her daughter in this way, she found it easier and easier to almost forget her as the months and years passed.  Rather than being uncaring and ignorant, Brooke knew that this was a good sign.  Brooke took care of the family with Maua, but she also took care of herself and was always learning a new skill.  

She learned how to make blow-dart guns, bows and arrows, and go hunting with her husband.  She learned how to turn tree fibers into rope, and how to turn this rope into fabric and make clothes.  She learned how to turn plants into medicines, how to grind bones and rocks into tonics, and she developed her intuition until she was  making healing medicines that even Maua had never tried.  Brooke also took to drawing with charcoal upon sheets of birch bark and upon boulders.  She made a collection of different animal and creature drawings that she had seen while staring into the clouds. 

In educating and occupying herself in these ways, the time passed quicker than she would have ever supposed, she was shocked one day to see that more than eight years had passed, and her daughter was nearly ready to come out of the cave.

 

Chapter 14

 

One day, Brooke had a feeling that she did not know or understand her husband as well as she wished.  They had met and united so quickly that she wondered if she knew him very well at all.  So many legends were spoken about him as the Watcher of the World, but what did this mean?  Would he tell her?  He was often gone, but when she looked at him at times with eyes of a stranger, and this made her uncomfortable.  One day, near the fire, she mustered up the courage to ask him.

 

“Kassuagi… I know that you are very busy, hunting and teaching our daughter.  This does not give us much time together.  I have been wondering about you, and I want to know more.  They speak about you down below.  They call you Watcher of the World,” Brooke said. “What does that mean? What do you do up here? They say you keep the world in balance, that you care for it.” Kassuagi held his hand up, his gentle smile giving way to any even gentler laugh. 

“I was waiting for you to ask.  Come, I will show you,” he said grabbing Brooke’s hand and leading her out of the hut, and heading to the north ridge of the mountain, where a huge boulder stood. Carved in the side of this massive rock, by either the hand of nature or the hand of man, was a series of notched stairs that spiral up the boulder. 

“This is my lookout point where I watch the world. It is called Nuhue.  It is the highest point of the Sierra Nevada mountains. My mother never comes up here, nor anyone. Only my father, and his father, and his father's father--only the men of my lineage have ever been up here.”  

A rare warm mountain breeze curled around them, whisking their hair around their shoulders. Brooke looked at Ta who lifted his chin and stared intently into the clouds. He seemed to be listening to a consultation from afar.  “I'm being called to do something I have never done before--invite a woman up to stand upon this highest place.” 

He let go of her and started to climb the boulder and as he did so the clouds overhead parted and the sun fell upon their shoulders. A few steps up, he turned and reached out an open hand, inviting Brooke to climb with him. As they reached the top, a spectacular panorama spread out before them, the likes of which Brooke had never beheld. She felt something ugly or impatient dissolved inside of her as she took in the grandeur. She sighed as though she were removing a heavy backpack from her shoulders. Here, they embraced once again, staring out and out where they could see the hills, the snaking, glittering streams, the black dots that were birds arcing over the treetops and the mountains rising above them. Further, much further in the distance she saw the ocean, hazy beneath the humidity that blanketed it. 

 Off to the left, she saw the cluster of buildings with smog above, which was Santa Marta, the nearest city. In seeing the sign of modern civilization she thought of hundreds of thousands of other cities around the world, forever growing and encroaching upon the green of nature. She felt a heaviness in her heart, and also detected that Kassuagi did not share her dark feelings.  Something wise protected his heart from what others felt about the city and all its waste and worry.

“From up here we see the overview. We see that which most cannot. My other Elder Brothers, the other Kogi, they see much from their hill tops and smaller mountain. But they cannot see what I can from here, what you will be able to see soon. They see beauty, yes, but they also see the pollution, distraction and abuse of Younger Brothers, and they're awareness gets stuck here.  They worry too much about the fate of the world.”   Brooke looked at him like a lost child looking at her father. 

“Yes I do see that evil, but I see much more.  No, I don't worry, and I will show you why. He will,” Todd said, gesturing to a medium-sized coconut shell bowl that was waiting for them on a round white stone.  This bowl was filled with dried chips that looked like moldy tortillas. 

“He?” said looking over her shoulder, suddenly afraid. “Huachuma. San Pedro. This medicine helps the eyes to see further, to see more than before. The combination of this plant with this view will allow you to see what I have seen, and what I choose to keep my focus on. With this plants help you will see why I do not worry and why I am at peace.”

  Like his mother had done before, he removed a small cigarette from a leather pouch along with a light-magnifying crystal. 

He lit the cigarette and blew the smoke at the contents of the bowl, chanting a series of prayers and blessings to the medicine, requesting permission to share its powers and vision. He held one hand over the bowl and Brooke was drawn to do the same and they sat there quietly with eyes closed. At last, Ta grabbed her hand and turned it over so that her palm could accept the chips that he put in her hand. He then scooped out a much larger handful for himself and held it up to the sun, Brooke did the same. 

He opened his mouth, letting the sun fall upon his tongue and Brooke did the same. And then, in concert, both of them brought the medicine to their mouths and chewed it until it was liquid in their mouths. They swallowed the bitter gluey plant matter, and Brooke nearly gagged but looking at the stolid Kassuagi she managed to keep a straight face. The visionary plant went down their throats and into their stomachs.  They closed their eyes.

They remained here on this lookout point for nearly twelve hours.  No weather conditions, external or internal, could interrupt them or cause them to retreat. Hail, rain, snow, or cold wind--none of it distracted them nor prevented them from receiving the visions. Brooke left Nuhue a new person. 

 

Chapter 15

 

When they returned to the hut, Brook could feel that she was a changed person. She could see why Ta was the way he was, tranquil to the core.  She knew that many changes were taking place, and that the plant she had taken on the lookout point had better prepared her for these changes.  She would see her daughter soon.  She would return to the modern world soon.  She would have to deal with the news and interviewers, see her friends and her family.  

The dark crazy paranoia tried to send her mind reeling as it had before, but now she had the ability to observe those fears from a more detached space, like a scientist or journalist. She did not deny the fears, push them away or treat them aggressively as she knew they wanted her to. She saw them, give them space, and observed them as one observes still life art exhibit.  

She sent her fears love and then noticed them leave when they were ready. She knew that in order for her to preserve her state of peace she would have to do work, observational exercises of meditation. She would not always have the medicine to put her perspective into the Watcher view, she knew. She would have to maintain her viewpoint with daily exercises. 

Maua instantly perceived the profound change that Brooke had underwent and she did not pop up and get excited or praise Brooke about it. In her own subtle way she showed that she knew. 

“The child is ready to leave the cave tomorrow,” Maua said casually. “Her preparation to go into Younger Brothers world is complete,” Brooke could not help but to jump hearing this. She had not seen her daughter for nearly nine years. She had no idea what she would look like, act like, feel like in her arms when she hugged her. 

Her mind raced as she thought of the changes that would take place.  What would it be like in the city?  How would the world respond to her disappearance and reemergence, nearly ten years older with an indigenous husband and their child.  How would they take the messages her child would share with the world?  Her family and friends, the media, the world--what would they think? Her mind raced round and round in circles, yet with the perspective of the Watcher she stood in the center of this spinning, resting in the eye of the storm.  For brief moments she was swept up in the currents of concern yet she always could pull herself back to that place of peace, that oasis of the observer. 

 

Chapter 16 

All three of them awoke early the following day.  They did not eat breakfast or have tea, nor speak.  They simply got up and walked in a single file towards the cave.  Brooke had never gone here, was not allowed to--and even if she wanted to she didn’t know where it was.  

The path they followed down the mountain seemed increasingly familiar to Brooke as they proceeded.  She knew she had been here before, in person or in a dream.  Swallowed up in this deja vu, she lost track of time and space, nearly hitting her head on branches and tripping over roots and rocks. Kassuagi and Maua laughed playfully at her dazed lack of coordination and her husband went so far as to teasingly hand her a stick to use as a cane.  Brooke laughed with them, a giddy excitement rising in her sternum as she realized again that very soon she would see, hug and kiss her daughter.  

And, as though splashed with water, she snapped out of her reverie and saw that she was now standing before the garden where she had been before collecting coca leaves with Ma.  They walked around to the back of the bluff and stood on the edge of a cliff looking down into a rivene with a river far below.  Crouching, Kassuagi pulled out a long vine that he had hidden under rocks and moss. He grabbed this and wrapped it around his forearm and then started to scale down the steep mountainside.  

Nearly twenty feet below he placed his feet upon a long, flat rock that jutted out the edge of the mountain.  Once here, he whistled and waved at them, jiggling the vine in his hand.  Ma grabbed the vine and pulled it to the top and handed it to Brooke who did the same as Ta.  She had no fear as she went down the perilous mountainside and was soon standing alongside her husband. She saw that they stood at the mouth of a cave and it took everything in her to not run inside and  search for her daughter.  She could feel her presence inside.  It seemed to take an eternity for them to wait for Maua to descend the mountainside, and Brooke was frustrated and then laughed at her frustration.  She felt she would be as old as Maua was by the time the old woman made it to bottom. At long last all three of them stood next to each other.  

“Only I can enter this cave,” Kassuagi said.  “My father told me this.  I will get Yuluka and be back soon.”  Brooke was about to protest but, knowing that she had already done so many things that other women in the tribe had not, but she paused.  She knew it was better this way, to wait for her here, to be reunited with her daughter in the light of morning. 

Kassuagi gathered a handful of dried brush and twisted it together and then removed his crystal that he used to light his tobacco with.  He lit the brush in his hand and held this torch before him as he made his way into the cave.  He was not gone long, but once again this seemed to take forever for Brooke.  After what felt like ages she saw two shadows wavering in the light of the torch that Kassuagi carried.  She had returned.  

Even in that dim light, Brooke saw that her daughter walked with the same slow solidity and surety as her father. She carried the same wisdom in her stride.  She was no taller than Maua, yet her dignified posture made her seem much taller.  They walked into the light of morning, her daughter’s eyes squinting so tightly in the light they were nearly closed. Though she could barely see, Yuluka spread her arms in search of her mother.  Brooke hugged her tightly and could feel their hearts pounding in unison as they clutched each other close.  

She hugged her daughter tightly, and lifted her off her feet.  She kissed her daughter’s cheeks a thousand times until Yuluka started to giggle and Kassuagi released a deep belly laugh, and Maua just grinned her near toothless smile.  Brooke set her daughter down and looked at her in the eyes which remained nearly closed.  

“She isn’t used to daylight,” Maua said.  “And she won’t be for several hours.  When we return to the hut I will put some drops from different plants in her eyes, and she will see as good as you or I.”

“Better,” Kassuagi said with pride.  “Much better.”

Once they were back in the hut, Brooke had to restrain herself from asking her daughter a million questions about the cave and what had happened there.

Maua and Kassuagi could see her eager curiosity, but before she could speak Maua did.

“It is best that we leave this place soon, before Yuluka gets used to this mountaintop and the energy of Gonawindua.”

“Yes, Kassuagi agreed. “If we don’t go soon she will never want to leave.”

Brooke only half heard his words as she stared wistfully at her daughter.  Maua was busily mashing up leaves and roots she had collected on their walk back, preparing the medicine to restore Yuluka’s vision.  When it was finished, she put her hand on the near-blind girl’s shoulders and pressed her gently so that she laid down.  Maua whispered some words over the medicine in the bowl and then, using a twig that had been skinned clean, she dipped it into the green solution and lifted it over the girl’s closed eyes.  Raising her fingers, the old woman tapped the stick and a single drop fell in the corner of the girl’s right eyelid.  Maua repeated this process over the other eye and then whispered some words into the girl’s ear.  On this prompting, Yuluka opened her eyes and the medicine touched her eyeballs.  The girl’s body tensed turbulently and then she took in a deep breath and regained control.  Brooke’s own eyes seared afire for a moment, vicariously in tune with the great pain that her daughter underwent during this process.

After several minutes of silence, except for Yuluka’s deep breathing, Brooke bore the pain in her eyes.  And then, suddenly, the girl sat up bolt upright and copious amounts of tears and mucous poured out of her eyes.  

“What’s happening to her?” Brooke demanded, starting to stand. Ta put his hand on her shoulder to prevent her from moving. 

“Her eye weakness is leaving her.  The water in her eye developed in the darkness of the cave.  It helped her to see in the dim light, but she no longer needs it.  Soon she will be able to see in the light of day.  When she is ready we will leave to go to the city.  To Santa Marta.  As you know, people have been searching for you, and when we return they will be waiting to see and listen what we have to share.  What she has to share.” They both looked at their daughter in silence.  

Part of Brooke knew this, but hearing it now, so clearly and concisely, caused pins and needles to run up and down her spine.  

“This will give you the confidence to encounter them,” Kassuagi said.  He reached deep inside of his woven bag and removed what appeared to be a coca leaf but was much larger and slightly purple in color.  She noted that his fingers trembled slightly as he held it, as though it were either very hot or very cold.  

Brooke eyed the purple coca leaf with both wonder and fright.  He handed it to her but it did not make her hands shake as her husband’s had.  

“Save that to chew just before we enter the city,” Kassuagi said.  “You will have no shock or fatigue.”  Unconsciously, her hand rose to her ear and she recalled the sap that had been put in her ear and allowed her to understand the Kogi language. Brooke was about to speak but Kassuagi rose his hand, seeming to know what she was going to say.

“The sap I put in your ears dissolved long ago.  It dissolved slowly and you gradually learned our language. You may not be able to speak it, but you do understand it now. I have put the same sap in Yuluka’s ears, and that is why she understands your words.”   This seemed too preposterous to believe and Brooke laughed outright as though he had been lying openly.  But she saw now smile on either his face or his mother’s, and she knew that he had been telling the truth.  Kassuagi stood and left the hut, grabbing a bundle of something as he left.  Brooke sighed and threw up her hands.  She felt like her astonishment circuit had burnt out and that now nothing could shock her. 

Without warning her daughter stood up and cocked her head, looking at her mother.  She no longer squinted and Brooke could tell that she saw her clearly.  

“I’m ready to go now, mother. I have a message to share with the Younger Brothers. Aluna wants me to go now.  Are you ready mother?”  Brooke giggled as though she was a girl again and she ran to her daughter and hugged her close, stroking her long, thick, jet black hair and kissing the top of her head.  

“Yes, my daughter. Yes.  I am ready to go now,” she said.

“You cannot go wearing that dirty rag,” Ma said, pointing to the girl’s dark robe with a sour face.  

“What will they think of our tribe?  You both will have to wear these now, new robes I made for you. Kassuagi already has his.”

They both turned their heads quickly to face Kassuagi who had reentered.  They were delighted by the refreshing sight of him wearing a snow-white, brand-new gown.  While his gown was fresh and new, Brooke noticed his face seemed older than the first time she had met him.  No...not older. He was more mature or wiser somehow, this wisdom not detracting but adding to his handsome bearing.  Standing there, the Watcher of the World seemed to have become a more evolved version of himself, and Brooke loved him now more than ever.

Mother and daugher bathed together in the nearest pool, the ice cold water making them laugh and jump up and down.  They returned to the hut clean and revitalized.  There, they saw their bags had been packed by Maua and they were all but ready to leave. The three of them stood side by side, clad in their snow-white robes and looked at Maua. 

Seldom displaying emotion, the old woman now was clearly fighting back tears, and she lost the fight.  Kassuagi put his hand on his mother’s shoulder which caused the dam to break.  Waterfalls of tears fell as the old woman cried and the whole family drew close to her and hugged as one.  This connection, this union, helped the old woman calm and she stepped back and her face grew serious and tough again as she wiped her tears.  

“If you are going to go, go now,” Maua said.  “I will be waiting for you come back.  Someone must stay here, with Gonawindua.”  They did not protest and nodded in understanding. 

 

Chapter 16

It was a bit hard to leave Maua up on that mountain alone, her tears still drying upon her cheeks, but they knew that they must go, and also that they would return.  Old as she was, Maua was hardy and would take care of herself just fine, and in no time the family would be reunited.  Approaching the western edge of the mountain, the side that had the trail leading downward, they turned to face Maua, and waved goodbye.  

Once they started heading down they had to walk slowly, as the ice, wet stones and moss were very slippery, but soon they descended to where the walking was easier.  It was clear that this was the same trail that Brooke had hiked up some twelve years before, and besides some of the trees and plants appearing larger, it was much the same.  

They went down and down and all along the way Brooke saw many things that she had seen long ago when she hiked up.  She saw the cave where she had slept with the jaguars, she saw the tree with the claw marks on it, she saw the boulders near the stream where she had drank water.  They hiked down the steep rocks that leveled out into plains, and then dropped again and leveled out, and this rhythm repeated itself.  

In this place, Kassuagi stopped and fell to his knees, lowering his head and whispering some prayers under his voice.  In this way, Brooke knew that this was a holy spot of some sort, but she did not ask him about it.  As they went along she saw the coca leaf bushes that she had picked before, but she knew that they did not need it.  Kassuagi had plenty of coca leaf with him now, and besides Brooke did not feel right picking it without Maua, without doing a ceremony with tobacco first requesting permission to use the plants.

They continued down and they found the place that Brooke had found her pineapple, and in a nearly identical spot she found another one.  This time she did not eat it all herself, but shared it with her husband and her daughter.  Whether because it was shared or because it was more ripe, the flavor was sweeter.  

After two hours or so they reached the place that Brooke had stood and witnessed the storm, the place where she met doubt, and fled in fear to the river below.  She stood here for a moment, standing apart from her daughter and husband.  She looked into the distance at the house on stilts and at the sky overhead.  She remembered how she had felt here, but now, with all that she had experienced and learned, she felt quite the opposite.  She felt a strong sense of inner faith and spiritual strength, and she knew that those around her would feel it too when she returned to the city.  

The three of them were nearing the bottom of the mountain and they all knew it.  For the last stretch they ran down the hill that led to the river, and laughing like children they all dove into the water, splashing each other and wrestling like children.  Brooke and Kassuagi took turns throwing their daughter in the water, and both at once realized that they were still wearing their white robes, and they knew how infuriated Maua would be if they saw them.  With some guilt, they all left the water and went to the grassy embankment.  The sun shone down and quickly dried their robes as they laid in the grass and looked up at the clouds and blue skies.

They all rose at the same moment to leave,  without needing to say a word.  They all knew that they were ready to go. They walked toward the bird’s nest near the house that Brooke had left so many years ago under cover of night.  She knew that she would see many things, feel many feelings, and uncover many memories she had not experienced for a long time.  

A sense of panic started to creep in and she felt her heart start to thud erratically in her chest.  Kassuagi, whether he heard this or sensed, told her to eat the special purple coca leaf that he had given her days before.

“Chew on that until we reach the city of Santa Marta.   This will help you to stay calm and prepare you to face all of the people who will be waiting to hear from us.  Waiting to hear from her.”  They looked at their daughter and smiled with pride.  

Brooke did as he suggested and instantly felt a sense of confidence and relief.  Deep inside she knew that everything was and would be well, and that there was no reason to be afraid.  Being afraid would only make matters worse--would literally materialize worse matters.  

Their noses told them they were getting closer.  They could smell the exhaust from the approaching cars, the fried and grilled food being cooked, the smoke of fires and cigarettes.  First it was their noses that told them, and then their ears.  They heard the rumble of cars, the thumping of bass from loud music in the distance.  They heard laughter, and children screaming as they played somewhere.  They kept walking and before them they saw a place where the trees stopped, where the gray smooth texture of concrete shone through between the leaves on the other side.  They had arrived.

Chapter 15

 

As they walked along the road they did not speak.  Cars rushed by them, filling their ears with dust and noise that they would become more used to in the coming days.  As for now these things were very distracting to the family.  Several of the cars that passed them were taxis and they tried to slow down and offer them rides, but it was clear that the family had no money.  They walked all the way to Santa Marta, mostly in silence.

When they arrived they received lots of stares from the people who saw them.  The people in Santa Marta had seen plenty of Kogi men through the years, and many of them looked like Kassuagi, except for the darkness of his skin.  But they had never seen a white woman dressed as one of the Kogi tribe.  Brooke stuck out like a sore thumb.  Their eyes went from studying her in wonder to their child.  Yuluka, was clearly half caucasion and half indigenous, a mixture that the people of Santa Marta had never seen.  
The people laughed and whispered among themselves.  Some drew closer to the family, and then more people did the same until there was a circle of people assembled around the three of them.  The people gazing at them looked amongst themselves at times, wondering who would be the first to speak, who would ask them first where they came from.  They knew that generally the Kogi’s were averse to mixing with outsiders.  Why had an exception been made this time.

And then, out of the back of the crowd, a wrinkly african-latino man marched to the front of the group.  He studied the family as though he knew them, looking the longest at Brooke.  A look of epiphany crossed his face and then victory, and he called out over his back to a few of his friends to come and see.

“You are the girl!  You are the girl who disappeared so long ago,” he said in spanish.  “That was all over the news...they sent out the police, the army, everyone looking for you.  You must have been gone more than ten years.  Why have you come back now?”

“It was over twelve years ago.  I have been living with my husband and we have made a family.  It is a good and peaceful life, and I would not have come back except our daughter just finished her apprenticeship.  She has been in seclusion for many years, learning from my husband and his lineage.  She has a message for the world,” she said.  Though she had not practiced in many years, Brooke saw that her spanish was still quite fluent.  

“Twelve years,” a woman next to the african man said. “Gone for so long...Your family and friends, they all thought that you were dead.  And now here you stand before us with a husband and daughter.”

As the crowd grew larger around the family they saw among the latinos various members of the Kogi tribe who had come into town to buy materials or tools that they didn’t have in the mountains.  They regarded the family with critical and distrusting eyes, and they studied Kassuagi the longest, trying to place who he was.  They whispered amongst themselves and then one of them said, “It is he, the Watcher of the World.  He has come down from Gonawindua.  They said he never would and he has.  He has come!”

From the African man and his friends the identity of the woman spread around and soon the whole crowd was abuzz with chatter and excitement.  This buzz climaxed when the mayor of the town, or some important-looking politician came and stood before the group.  

“Now now!  Silence, silence!” he said, waving his big hands in authority.  “We know that this is a surprise, seeing this North American woman return with this Kogi man and their child!  We know that everyone here wants to hear them speak, if they will do so publicly.  But this is not the place to do so.  We must go to city hall in the square of Santa Marta.  There is an appropriate spot to hear their story.”  The man looked gruffly at the crowd as though they were disobedient children and then looked at Brooke and Kassuagi.  In a more subdued and polite voice he addressed them. “Will you speak?  Publicly.  The people want to know where she has been and why she has chosen to return.  Why she is with this Kogi man and with child.”

“I will act as a translator,” Brooke said simply.  “The person who has something to share with you all is my daughter, Yuluka,” she said.  “She is the one who has been summoned to come here and share with you all, not me.  But she does not speak spanish, so I will help her speak,” Brooke said.  The politician seemed a bit disappointed by this response, but seeing how eager the crowd and news reporters were to hear them speak, he was willing to take whatever type of sharing they would be willing to give. 
“Very well, the girl can speak then,” the man said.  

“She will,” said Brooke, “but not here, and not now.  The message she has to share must be heard by many people and will be delivered in Bogota, in a larger setting and I request that it be filmed and broadcast live for the world to see.”

The man seemed to be peeved by this request, knowing that his city would lose some of its notoriety and sensationalism of this story by their going to Bogota, but he knew he must cooperate with whatever requests that Brooke made, and so he silently and slightly sullenly nodded his head.  

“Very well, we will leave at once,” he said.

Soon a black car arrived, one that seemed associated with the government.  The family entered the car and they were driven to the airport.  They boarded a private plane and in less than an hour they were in Bogota. 

When they got off the plane they saw that the airports windows were plastered with faces who were trying to get a glimpse of the family, newsmen and women snapping whatever pictures they could get, and nearly a hundred police in line, creating a bubble in which the family could safely walk through the airport without being harassed by the people.  They were soon in another black government car and swiftly brought to a large convention center that was absolutely jam-packed with people eager to hear what the little girl had to say.

Brooke requested a quiet place where the family could rest in silence before they spoke to the world, and this was granted.  They sat together on the carpet in that austere room, the three of them, hand in hand.  They closed their eyes, and focused on the love that they shared, the love that they intended to share with the world.  

After several minutes they all opened their eyes in unison.  Mother and father looked at the girl and she looked at the door.  She was ready to pass through it and address the world. All three of them rose to their feet at once and went to the door.  Yuluka opened the door and passed through, her mother behind, and her father behind her.  They climbed the stairs and the intense lights of the stage hit them, and they squinted.  It reminded Brooke of being on the top of Gonawindua, that intense brightness that made your eyes squint to slits.  With great confidence, the girl went to the microphone.  She saw that some platform had been put there so that by climbing it she would be able to reach the microphone.  Her father stood to her left and her mother stood to her right. 
“Good evening to you all,” the girl said in Kogi, bowing to the unseen throngs. Brooke translated each of the sentences that her daughter said, sharing the microphone intermittently with her.   “I have been waiting many years to speak with you all.  My name is Yuluka, and this is my father Kassuagi, and this is my mother Brooke. We live upon a holy mountain named Gonawindua.  It is also called the heart of the world.  My grandmother is there now, keeping watch over it.”  The girl paused a moment and thought what she was going to say next, or so it appeared.  Really she was listening to what Aluna was telling her to say, and she paid close attention. 

“My mother left your world, the Younger Brother’s world, many years ago, and met my father.  They fell in love instantly and I was born less than a year afterward.  It was seen by all of the priests of my tribe that I would be the first female shaman, and that I would need to study longer than all of the rest in order to be ready.  I went into a cave from the ages of three until twelve, and in the dark of this cave I learned and saw many things that many of you have seen already, but only in your dreams--the most obscure ones, the one’s that are the hardest for you to remember.  I saw these mysterious dreams with full clarity and spent great time there steeped in these mysteries until they became more clear.  Alliances were made, spirits were introduced, energies were sorted, adopted or transmuted.  I cannot tell you hardly anything about those nine years, but I can tell you a few things that the spirits told me to share with the Younger Brothers.”

The girl paused again and took a deep breath and looked at her mother.  Brooke had strength and approval in her eyes, and loved her daughter now more than ever.  She nodded at Yuluka, and she continued.

“We know there are many people who are worried about the world.  The pollution, the overpopulation, the violence, the depression, and many other ugly things get trapped in the minds of many.  We know that even other Kogi tribe members who we call the Elder Brothers have emerged through the years and shared their fears with the world.  Members of our own tribe have come out to say how bad the world is becoming.”  The girl paused again and noticed a few of the men in the crowd were Kogi’s and they seemed to glare at her with a glint of intensity.

“We are not telling them to stop. It is good that there are some people to point out the ills of the world, to show where the weeds are growing in the gardens.  But there are many jobs in the garden, not just pulling weeds.  We have seen that there are too many people pointing at and pulling weeds, and not enough people planting and watering flowers.  There are not enough people picking fruit and carrying it.  There is still much fruit in the world, but everyone talks of the weeds.” 

 

“I have come with this message, so please listen to me closely. I will say it slowly and clearly, so even a child such as myself or younger could understand.  This is my message:  By and large, the world is mostly beautiful. People are generally loving and want to be loved. There is more peace and kindness on the whole than in many thousands of years. There is less racism, less sexism, less ageism, less homophobia, less meanness and more freedom. The newspapers will not show you this often.  Just look around and you will see it for yourself.  We are headed in a good direction.  There are infinite reasons to be joyful and grateful.”  The crowd bristled and murmured amongst themselves, some seemed pleased to hear her say this, other seemed frustrated or even angered.

“Please let me continue,” she said.  “There are many of you who would say that this is not true.  You would say I am a liar, that I am saying the opposite of the truth.  Those who would say this would be excited  and impassioned when saying these fighting words.  We would see the animation that this accusation gives you.  We know that this pessimistic energy charges you up for a short period of time, like a drug, and then leaves you drained afterward.  So I urge you, before you do this, let me finish, and then consider what I have to say.”

 

 

 

“My father stands by my side now.  He is often called the Watcher of the World.  He sits upon the holy mountain, Gonawindua, and from this great height he is able to see more than most.  He can not only see far out but far in, he can see what is happening all over the world, and what is happening in the hearts and spirits of people.  When I was in the cave he taught me to do the same.  And with my mother and Huachuma he did the same.”

 

After she spoke she looked at the audience.  She could hardly see their faces in the glare of the spotlight, but she could feel their response.  Many of them were confused, other inspired but most of them were angered.  A mix of boos and cheers flew out from their mouths, and the girl stood as steadily as she had before, as though she had heard none of them.

“To those of you who are upset by what I have said, I do not speak to you.  I do not attempt to change your minds or convince you of anything you are not ready to hear.  I speak to those who are open to my message.  To those of you who are ready to hear what I have to say.  Those who are inspired now were already inspired, and perhaps my words have only added fuel to the fire of that good warmth.  In closing, I send out an invitation to those few.  For the first time in history, we will be opening our mountain to receive those who want to learn to be Watchers.  We will further help to open your eyes so that you may focus upon the goodness of the world.  We believe that what you concentrate upon grows.  Your thoughts turn into things.  We will be allowing one person every month to come up with us and spend some time in the cave where I learned so much, and upon the lookout point where my mother saw so much.  We will open the portal to the heart of the world, so that you may better share your heart with the world.  

If you are interested in coming you can speak to my mother who will come to Santa Marta on the first of every month and speak with those who are sincere.  Thank you for sharing your ears and minds with us today.”  And with that, the girl bowed her head and grabbed her parents hands and led them off the stage.  They went to the quiet room they had sat in before and turned off the lights, sitting together in silence.

 

In the months and years that were to follow twelve people came to spend time with them on the top of Gonawindua.  Brooke took special plants and spent time in seclusion to help her choose these people wisely. Most of the people she chose were already leaders, politicians, lawyers, doctors, and spiritual leaders from around the world.  She knew that if they teached these people, the knowledge of her lineage would trickle down and better spread throughout the world 

Her parents and friends visited her during these rare visits to the city, and while they never really understood her choice, they could see that she was living vibrantly.  They tried to bring her back to the United States, but they did not try very hard.  They could see that her mind and heart were resolved to do this work with the Kogi tribe.  She lived a vibrant life of purpose and they could see this clearly, as they knew what she looked like before.  She had changed for the better.

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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