Week 9 - 'Portal Lane'
Monumental grandeur demands.
The soul resonates."
Sharla R. Hicks, 2016
I felt a dull pressure in the middle of my forehead, right between my eyebrows, as soon as we turned onto the highway to Sedona. It only lasted a moment, but it was enough for me to notice. I’d been expecting to feel it again at some point along the way but was admittedly surprised to feel it so soon into our journey. Having been to Sedona twice before, I was familiar with this sensation. I took it to be an indicator that I was in the presence of concentrated earth energy; a vortex, as it is commonly known.
On this particular visit to Arizona, my husband and I were visiting our friends in a beautiful home in Verrado. In search of portals, specifically hoping to capture evidence of a vortex, we’d left our 'base-camp' for an overnight visit to Sedona.
Sedona is a haven for artists, yoga practitioners, metaphysical enthusiasts, spiritualists, recreation-seekers, and outdoor adventurers. As a spiritually-aware, nature-loving, curious, creative, recently retired and continuously developing empath, Sedona is one of the most unique and mystical meccas a person like me could visit. I am awe-struck by the rugged landscape there: multi-coloured layers of stone that abruptly spring up from the desert floor; red rock towers, spires, domes and mesas; arid, yet lush, desert vistas filled with cacti and other succulents that thrive in a harsh environment; glowing sunsets that cast such a strong, warm light that it causes the geological wonderland to change dramatically every few minutes; the clearest and bluest of blue skies that I have ever seen; all levels of hiking trails in the national forests that surround it… I could go on, but I risk sounding like a travel brochure. It is easy to understand why Sedona was considered by Native Americans to be a place of great inspiration and a sacred location for spiritual renewal and healing. It could also explain why I was so excited to be going on this quest for portals.
It was suggested by a friend, who is a fellow Reiki practitioner, to have specific questions or intentions in mind when visiting a vortex. It is thought that the energy around a vortex can bring clarity, insight, momentum, or a sense of unexplainable peace about situations that a person may be dealing with in life. My intention was to capture some images of the twisted juniper trees that populate that area, which are thought to grow in a spiral pattern in response to the vortex of energy emanating from the earth. This is beautiful evidence, in a physical form, of the invisible forces at play and is, in my opinion, a type of portal. Although I had no specific questions in mind, I did wonder if I’d feel anything unusual or enlightening. Maybe I’d even have a transcendent experience, as others have described having while hiking near a vortex – anything beyond simply feeling that pressure in my head.
I was also curious about whether my husband, Rob, would feel anything unusual. He is my opposite in many ways, and is extremely skeptical about things to which he cannot attach a logical, reasonable, scientific or common-sense explanation. I, on the other hand, expect the unexpected to happen. I am open minded about the possible explanations behind unusual events, but it can also make me more gullible. Rob and I balance each other out in this way, challenging each other in our interpretations, but in a mutually respectful way. (Perhaps that’s one factor contributing to how we’ve managed to stay married for 30 years).
We headed to Bell Rock, one of the popular vortex sites with hiking trails. Even though we only had a short amount of time to spend here, I was certain I’d get enough reference material to create a painting.
As we gained elevation on our hike, we passed by a group of people who were sitting in a circle, just off the trail. One person appeared to be instructing the group, but we couldn’t quite hear what was being said. Suddenly, they began chanting. The effect on me was immediate, as I felt shivers run up and down my spine when the syllables bounced off the red rocks and echoed all around us. Rob turned around, looked toward the group, but carried on hiking up the hill. I knew what he was likely thinking just by the look on his face, but we continued to walk in silence. We stepped aside to allow a few people who were walking down the hill to pass by us. After they’d walked by, I overheard one of them say, in a tone dripping with disdain, “Oh great, will you look at that? It’s a witch’s circle down there.”
Hmmm…This altered my mood! In a split second, a litany of questions ran through my head: "Why are people so judgemental, harsh, and negative? Why can’t we all just co-exist without labels? Why did I react the way I did when they started chanting? Oh my God, am I a witch? What’s that got to do with anything? Why is Rob smiling? What does he think about what they are doing down there, chanting away? At another time or place, without Rob around, I could be in that group of chanters. Or drummers. Or meditators. Or Reiki practitioners. Or artists… Is he feeling the magic of this place, or is it all just bouncing off him? Does he believe there is a vortex of energy here, or does he think this search for portals is whacko? What does it matter what anyone else thinks, believes or feels? I’m only responsible for my own thoughts, feelings and beliefs… Sigh…that is the truth of it. I am.”
As quickly as I’d become angry, I was also filled with a serene sense of calm, peaceful acceptance again. I can’t recall a time when my emotions cycled through such an intense loop before, and so fast! Later, in reading about the effects of a vortex on humans, I learned that the swirling earth energy can magnify or intensify whatever is going on inside us.
I was surprised that I only felt the pressure in my head once more that day, near the end of the hike as we passed between Bell Rock and the Courthouse Butte. It was brief, but intense. It felt like the hat I was wearing suddenly got two sizes too small in a halo around my forehead, but the feeling was gone as soon as I reached up to remove my hat. It was enough to cause me to stop in my tracks though. I looked down at that precise moment: I saw a stick shaped like the letter Y and felt compelled to pick it up. A few steps later I saw an S-shaped stick and picked that up as well. Rob did not question me as I tucked them into the backpack because I am always gathering stones, shells and sticks wherever we go.
Later, as we watched the sunset, we reflected on our day. It was obvious Rob did not experience the vortex energy in the same way as I did on the hike. He said he felt nothing out of the ordinary, other than being awestruck by the scenery. He also appreciated that we'd had such beautiful weather for our hike. Scenery and weather - such concrete things to observe compared to my 'extraordinary' experiences. I wondered then, if he thought our mission to find portals was successful? Maybe he thought there were other explanations for the twisted tree trunks, the pressure I'd experienced in my head, or the other sensations I'd experienced? I wondered why our experiences and interpretations of the same events are often so vastly different? Would he ever be able to understand what I was trying to describe to him as I prattled on about 'feeling' the energy?
As we talked, my toe kicked at a rock and flipped it over. I picked it up and stared at it for a moment in disbelief. I pulled the sticks out of my backpack and placed the rock between them. All the questions and doubts swirling about in my head subsided. Here was the answer. In a very concrete way, I was reminded that, no matter what our questions are, the universe always provides! Even Rob could not deny the magic of that!