February 24, 2013 TOLS

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

For reasons unknown, last week’s piece titled Skepticitis drew a larger response than anything posted previously. Since the topic happens to be still front and centre in my thinking, I thought I’d look at another aspect of the same topic. This time, it involves the Glade.

I should explain that where I live, in the mountains of central Mexico, there are many trails leading up into the hills. Some are relatively safe, while some require clambering on rocks above precipices, and you don’t want to go alone on those. There are, if you know where to look, petroglyphs created on the cliffsides at unknown points in the past. When the hillside was being dug out to create a small level space for my house, pieces of preHispanic pottery showed up. Occupancy goes back at least 3,000 years, according to archeologists. This area is well-known among peyote-philes, brujos, and the assorted neo-hippies, New Age seekers and would-be mystics who come here on weekends.

The cliffs surrounding the village seem to shape-shift as the lighting changes, and while certain features remain constant, others, at times, seem like they’ve never been there before. The volcanoes began shaping this scenery 16-million years ago, and the intense annual rains continue to sculpt it.

A couple of months ago, I was on a group trek to the baptismal pool of Ce Acatl Topoltzin, better known as Quetzalcoatl. We had a marvellous day, with a good local guide to point out features along the route, nobody slipping and getting hurt, and we had the pool to ourselves for an hour or more. Year-round, it’s fed by a tiny waterfall (probably a big waterfall in rainy season, when it’s dangerous to go there), and the rocks around it lean inwards to create an extraordinary, womb-like place. Some of the inner writhings of the lava that solidified into these rocks can be seen where it has eroded away, and these just add to the air of mystery. The first time I came, six years ago, my camera refused to work when I tried to photograph them.

Anyway, at a certain point on the way back, the mutability of the landscape came up as we took a break on the hike, and several people who live in this area awkwardly said they felt things move around when nobody’s looking. I admitted I’d had the same experience, while knowing it was nonsense, since 16-million year old igneous rocks don’t shift around – it’s just a matter of perception, and changing light conditions.

But then, there’s the Glade.

To make conversation, I told people about a place that I’d visited a dozen times, not far on the other side of the village, where massive amate tree roots form a kind of chapel overhead, at one end of a cattle pasture. Nearby, two stand-alone pinnacles of rock have some smaller trees on their tops. Two trails go up into the hills, but they look rugged, and I’ve not tried climbing them.

But the last time I’d tried to go there, it had disappeared. Seriously. I’d taken the roadway up past Don Panchito’s place, and on past the house where the soap-opera actress sometimes stays. Then I’d followed the trail up to where it crosses the stream-bed, and I knew the Glade was off to the right.

Yet when I’d revisited it in December, I couldn’t find it at all. I’d found another, smaller grazing space towards the next village, and I’d stood and looked at the cliffs that mark the edge of the Chichinautzin national park, trying to figure out where the Glade must have been. But I couldn’t locate it. The one place I thought might be it, turned out to be something different, and all I got out of the effort was a couple of insect bites and a scratched arm from a thorn-bush.

In addition, no-one on the hike to Quetzalcoatl’s pool had ever seen any such place. Yes, we all knew the spot with the two leaning rocks joined together, and the cave to the side. And the trail that leads, eventually, to the small town of Tlayacapan. And the one that goes to Ocotitlan. But what I described hadn’t been seen by any of the seasoned residents.

Our discussion was about small features that shift, not entire chunks of natural real estate. Back home, I decided that perhaps it had really been one of those dreams that you remember, and don’t realise that it was only that. It insinuates itself into conscious memory, and seems like it was real – including, of course, the remembered ‘history” of going there before. So, I found myself pondering just how much invented history my life might have.

Just to be sure, though, I went up there again a week after the hike, to see if I could find the place. I recalled it hadn’t been a long way, and certainly less than a mile from the village. If I didn’t go there more often, it had been because it wasn’t a strenuous-enough walk to count as useful exercise. But once again, I couldn’t find the place, nor even a path that headed to it, and I decided it really was a fantasy.

Then, last week, I was hunting in my computer for a photo I’d taken two years ago. And while I couldn’t find what I was after, I did find two images of amate-tree roots joining in a chapel-like arrangement, and pinnacles of rock with small trees on top of them.

Just as I recalled the place.

I expect that one day, next week or next year, I’ll find the Glade again, and think, “Of course – you turn left there, not right,” or some such self-berating thought.

But I know it wasn’t hard to get to, the first dozen times. It seems just as honest to say the scenery round here shifts when no-one is looking.

Love is the law, love under will,

Edward Mason

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