The Adventures of Thunderbird Man: Canyon de Chelly
Updated: May 25
The sun began to fall on the horizon. Thunderbird Man had been watching its transit all day as his camp traveled further into the ancient canyon. Evening was coming, and he was becoming more anxious now. They often stopped to look at various petroglyphs and carvings along the canyon walls, which were interesting enough, but he was on a more personal mission. Their hike had been a long one, but after two days, they were finally at the sacred place of the Immortals. They stopped to set up camp. Thunderbird Man and his companions, Marcos and Craig, sat humbly in front of the chief as he bestowed his blessings. The elders and other Native guides helped to cleanse the travelers, reciting their Navajo prayers. Then the chief used a hawks feather to waft smoke into their palms. The aroma of the incense danced in their nostrils, and his rhythmic voice ensnared their senses. After the blessing, the chief gave the group some instructions in his native tongue. Thunderbird Man listened with a stern expression, nodding occasionally. This would be a whole lot easier if I understood Navajo, he thought to himself. But nevertheless, he sat in silent reverence, watching the old man speak. His leathery skin was a testament to his days out here in the hot canyon, communing with the spirits. His clothes were sun-washed, faded appropriately for a well-traveled leader, but his headdress was perfectly pristine. Then, after his final words, one of the elders stood up. “Are there any questions?” he asked in English. Oh, great! Thunderbird Man thought to himself, and he seized the opportunity he’d been waiting on for two days. His hand shot straight into the air. “Hey, uh… I was just wondering, when are we going to meet the Immortals?” he asked with a nervous chuckle. The chief and the elders talked amongst themselves in their own language. He couldn’t understand a thing they were saying, and had to assume they were discussing if he was worthy or not. So the Thunderbird straightened himself up and tried to look as reverent as he could. After their deliberation, the chief leaned in close to the Thunderbird Man and his companions. “Just go to the White House,” he said in English, and then he walked away quickly. The trio looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Where the president lives? Later on in the night, after they unpacked their supplies and had their dinner, they sat around the campfire. The travelers listened to traditional tales of the Navajo people under a blanket of stars. Just after midnight, people started retiring to their tents for the night, exhausted after the days hike. Pretty soon their numbers dwindled to four guides, Marcos, Craig and the Thunderbird Man. One of the men had retrieved a cooler of beers from his tent and cracked one open. Then he looked at the others with a wry smile. He wore his long hair back in a ponytail and had a feathered earring in his right ear. Thunderbird Man knew something was brewing in his mind. “Alright, it’s just us now. You guys wanna see what the White House is about?” “Yes! let’s do it,” the trio chorused. Thunderbird Man shot out of his seat, already ready to go.
This is the real deal…what I’ve been waiting for, he thought. But little did he know that what he had in mind and what he would soon experience, were two separate affairs. The group hiked a short distance to the ruins, whooping and skipping the whole way there. They were going to meet the Immortals! As they approached the cliff side they could see various little houses carved right from the rock in tiers. They stood about four feet high. It seemed as though they were made for children, or very small people. The vacant windows sat silently, and the moonlight reflected off of the tiny city in a wonderfully foreboding way. “The White House is the one at the very top,” said the ringleader, pointing to the single house on top of the city. It was distinctly paler than the others, even in the dark. The travelers dared not get any closer to the structure, as they felt they were intruding enough. They watched from a distance. “So what now?” Thunderbird man asked. He thought maybe someone would call the Immortals, or perhaps say a prayer or something. “We wait.” And so the group watched and waited. Perhaps the immortals would be coming back home from a day in the canyon, and they would glimpse them in their return. Thunderbird Man got comfortable on a nearby rock. “Look right over there. Do you see it?” one of the guides said, pointing to the White House. Everyone else turned to see where he was pointing. “See what?” Thunderbird Man said, craning his neck. “Right over there,” said another guide. “I see it, too.” “I don’t see anything,” Thunderbird Man said dismally. “You have to put your mind in the right place to see them. Don’t expect to see them," the ringleader advised. "Allow yourself to see them.” And so Thunderbird Man relaxed his racing mind and took in the scenery, completely un-judging. There was the tiny city, shining in the moonlight, and the shrubs dotting the canyon floor. Near the base of the city there were a couple of fruit trees that he hadn’t noticed before. He turned his attention to the White House again, and there it was – a bright, glowing form of a person walking out of the house. Then there was another, wearing a green hat and sitting on the ground. It stood up and walked into the White House. Then all of a sudden the whole house lit up with beings. They were all different shapes and colors, walking in and out of a red door the Thunderbird Man hadn’t seen before. They looked like heat-wave people; there was just no real way to describe them. “I see them,” Thunderbird Man said in awe. “Where? I don’t see anything,” said Marcos frantically. He was afraid whatever it was would leave before he could glimpse it. “They’re there,” Thunderbird Man said, slowly, pointing at the house. Some were right in front of it, dancing in the night. “This is a completely different universe, Marcos. You have to put your mind in that universe.” And then Craig gasped. He could see it, too. Thunderbird Man got an idea. If he could send an energetic greeting to them, then maybe they would approach. So he raised his hands, palms facing forward, and sent his energy to the White House. Then Marcos didn’t have to worry about putting his mind in that universe, because the two worlds collided. The entire city lit up. A very tall, green being spilled out of one of the tiny houses and sat right in front of them. It’s jutted shoulders and oblong head were perfectly congruent with the petroglyphs they saw along the canyon walls. Suddenly he realized that those ancestors weren’t terrible artists – they were drawing exactly what they saw, true to the very last detail. Then another form materialized. It looked like a letter T rising out of the ground. It turned into a bubble, which opened up to let a 15 or 20 foot tall being emerge. The travelers couldn’t process what they were seeing, yet they looked around, taking in this new place. “Hey, lets go check out the Talking Mountain,” the ringleader said, ushering them excitedly toward another part of the canyon. Everywhere they walked, the path lit up to reveal the lifeforms that dwelled there. The travelers could see ant people crawling in and out of a crack along the face of a mountain. These insectoids moved purposefully – perfectly in sync – in neat little lines. “Why isn’t anyone looking at this one?” Craig suddenly yelled, pointing into a cave. Everyone turned to see that the cave had lit up into a palace. Swiss cheese crevices in the cave wall were illuminated by orbs – living beings, who lived there. The travelers were awestruck. Thunderbird Man wasn’t quite sure how he made it miles through the canyon to the Talking Mountain. His body moved on its own as his mind took in the wonders. Once there, he could see why it was named so. There was a huge face jutting out of the side of it, and it was looking at them. Startled, the trio took a few steps back. “Don’t back away now, Thunderbird Man. This is what you came here for,” the ringleader teased. “Maybe the Talking Mountain will tell you something you need to hear.” Thunderbird Man cut his eyes to the guide, then looked back at the mountain. He was right, Thunderbird Man came to speak with the Immortals. So he took a step forward. Then, not knowing how to address the spirit, he figured he'd err on the side of formality. “Great Immortal Spirit of the Mountain, I come to you for guidance on the Red Road. I seek to serve humanity in the greatest way possible,” he said, bowing deeply to the mountain. He felt rather silly doing this in front of the others, but he wouldn’t miss this opportunity for anything. Everyone held their breath as they sat in silence, waiting for the Mountain to speak. But the silent seconds turned to silent minutes. “Maybe it’s because you’re an outsider,” one of the guides said. “We should go.” And they turned to get back to camp. But then the wind picked up. And then a voice. “Nobody is an outsider,” it said. Thunderbird Man turned back around and looked to see if it was, in fact, the mountain that had spoken. It’s watching face was still. He waited to see if it would speak again. “To be an outsider would indicate separateness, and that is an illusion. There are no outsiders. We are all one,” the mountain said to a thoroughly struck Thunderbird Man. “Thank you, Spirit of the Mountain,” Thunderbird Man said nervously. “And could you tell me.. I mean, I’d like to know, how can I help to heal the world?” “The world does not need healing, Thunderbird Man. Everything is as it should be. Continue on the Red Path and you have done your duty to the world,” it said. “But what about all the evil in the world?” he said incredulously. “Government corruption, pollution, war?” “This will not be your reality if you do not wish it. Continue to anchor light into the world and your reality will follow,” said the mountain. “But other people will continue to tear this world apart-” he began. But the mountain cut him off. “Just as you have seen into my world, you must see that there are infinite others as well. If others choose to destroy their own worlds, so be it,” it said. “But it’s my world that they’re destroying, too,” he said, trying not to be argumentative with the mountain. “Then it is time you create you own…” the Spirit of the Mountain said with a final gust of wind. And then the canyon was quiet again.