“It is important that we go out of our heads at least once a day.” Perhaps summer is the time when we go out of our heads for a little longer?
I “went out my head” after an incredible day on the Rio Grande, negotiating and nearly losing it into the feverish wave-tossed river in the Taos Box (Class IV and V rapids), an impressively high and fast river (4100 cubic feet per second). The journey lasting six hours, 650 feet below the plateau, for 14 miles. In those waves, I released the torment and madness going on in my head.
A few days later, I was on the other river: the Rio Chama. Its’ wide valley and canyon leads to Abiquiu Lake reservoir, cliffs and mesas rising 450-1,500 feet above the canyon floor, separated by miles instead of mere feet. The river, among the oldest in New Mexico, has been navigated for more than 10,000 years when wooly mammoths and camels roamed in these lands. Of the two main rivers in Northern New Mexico—Rio Grande and Rio Chama—the Rio Grande is known as the “river of the mind”, requiring tremendous dexterity and skill to negotiate, the Chama, “the river of the heart”. Of this I would learn more.
Because it was a Monday, after a big weekend of rafters on the rivers, there was only a friend and me, and another couple taking this journey with river and spirit guide, Orlando. Not another raft appeared on the river for the next six hours. The weather, pristine after a night scattered thunderstorms, leaving the landscape unusually fresh, verdant and rich. Gentle breezes and winds cooled under an exquisitely blue sky broken by large puffy cumulous clouds. The yellow sun warm and friendly: a day of sheer beauty and deep centering peace; a rare thing in the high desert.
After a bracing swim followed by a gentle warm up in the sun we lazily floated, as I found myself in a reverie of wonder. My heart swelling and then opening to a profound sense of gratitude and deep appreciation for life. Around me, 400 million year-old rocks and hills, a sense of timelessness and time-fullness overtook me. I wept tears of joy for the sheer freedom of being there, my heart-breaking for the unfathomable wonder of being alive. “I am grateful for this life” I uttered under my breath, concluding with “I want to remain in this life for as long as possible”; something I’ve been reluctant to say after years and years of declining health. Then a moment of sheer transcendence, when heaven and earth, time and space became recognizable as eternally one: a moment of eternal now. My weeping became a torrent of tears. I “went out my head” becoming one with the earth and sky, the sun, the galaxies and beyond, to encompass he entire universe. “Out of my head”, indeed.
Featured photograph by Mark Hall