I set up my writing materials on the picnic table at Abó, one of New Mexico’s more obscure Pueblo ruins.
This had been my Sunday ritual for a year or more. I was both seduced and inspired by the crumbling red rocks of the former Spanish Mission church. The rocks that are as red as dried blood; as red as the passion of a savior.
I’d been so enthralled by the tumbling rocks, in fact, that I wandered well off the path several times and was caught, reprimanded, and placed on probation by Officer Lopez, who was protector of the sacred Indian ruins.
It was a humorously embarrassing moment. He wanted to restrict my presence there; I fought for compromise. Eventually we agreed that I must check in with him at the Visitor’s Center each Sunday before entering the grounds.
I wanted a solitary place to pray and seek peace. He wanted to enforce justice. We coexisted for a few weeks with the tension of warriors. But I softened one day and decided to attempt a truce of faith.
As he was making his rounds one Sunday morning, I inwardly willed Officer Lopez to come to the picnic area and talk with me.
I gathered up all the juju and prayer power I could, placed it in a mental bouquet, then set to work typing. Within thirty minutes, I heard him call out, “Hello Jayni!”
He waved. Asked how I was. Faltered a bit. I coaxed him on with conversation.
We talked for nearly half an hour.
I learned that he was a marine for five years. Officer Lopez stated that when he was in the Marines, he and his buddies wanted to go to war…wanted to kill.
I have never met anyone who actually wanted to kill people. Someone who was excited and eager to not just exercise his military training – but wanted to kill. His body vibrated as he spoke those words. His face animated.
I am awed.
I crave to crawl behind this man’s militant majesty and find out how it feels to want to kill.
What animal instinct inspires a person to be excited about killing?
What is the thrill within the kill?
Why am I intrigued enough to pursue the conversation further?
Why do I want to learn about raw emotion at this coarse level?
Because it is pure – clean – honest. Untangled from the bullshit psycho-spiritual labyrinth I’ve walked my entire life.
This man knows who he is, what he likes, what he wants, and takes it without apology.
I’ve spent a lifetime apologizing for myself and trying to understand why I exist.
Of course his surefootedness grabs me.
It’s simple and solid.
It offers stability and a point to rebel against. And rebellion has always empowered me. I was my father’s little anti-soldier.
But now I want to be neutral and understand the operations of my former enemies.
I don’t want enemy lines drawn. I want lines erased. But I also want my own truth to emerge.
I listened to Officer Lopez speak with such strong conviction.
I wonder if I will ever be able to stand even half as self-assured and state my beliefs.
I may not agree with his faith, but I admire and envy his rootedness.
His rootedness reminds me of rocks. Of the rocks he protects. Of the rock I want to be protected by. Of some rocks I’ve known and wanted to live under or on the edge of.
He’ll live long in my memory . . . as I keep practicing the art of crawling into the light and exposing my lies and my truth.