The first time I thought about walking away was on October 17, 2017. That was the day that we received confirmation from dental records that the young woman I thought I was going to find in Phoenix was dead long before I got there. Her mother delivered the news while I was in Ajo, Arizona, and I immediately began to drive north to be with the family. Driving was interrupted only by a conversation with an FBI agent from Tucson, Arizona who the Southern Arizona Anti-Trafficking Unified Response Network, a multi-agency team that includes law Enforcement, community-based social services referred me to. He gave me the standard response, one that I’d become accustomed to , “Where is your proof?” as if, again, I were the law enforcement officer in the matter. One year later, I would learn the information I later shared with him is what led to their being a price on my head.
However, in the moment, I just wanted to get to Oak Springs and I wanted to know how it was possible to have been so wrong; me, the Navajo cop, the information I received through The Posse, and the visions of those from around the globe that tracked with mine on the ground. How was it we could have felt so clear, so determined, so focused that we were so wrong? If we were wrong about that, we were wrong about the rest and that meant I’d misinterpreted everything. Except even in my questioning in those hours on the way to North, I knew it was about something bigger, so much bigger but what was right in front of me was the murder of a beautiful soul and the pain that would reverberate through a family that had already experienced so much.
The farther I drove, the more exhaustion took over. I was certain my mind and heart could take no more. At the halfway point, I decided that I would head back to Montana after I’d spent some time with Ariel’s mother, Jaqui, and if there was a funeral, I would come back for it.
I met Jacqueline on the afternoon of September 14, hours before I arrived in the Phoenix area. I’d talked to Ariel’s sister and her mother before heading to Phoenix to ask for their blessing and trust. After she met me at the road, I went to her home to get medications she might need and things to provide comfort if she needed them. Jacqueline gave me a week’s worth of pills in their calendar box and Ariel’s grandmother’s sweater for some softness in the middle of the hardness and ugliness. When she showed me into the house, she explained her father, Ariel’s grandfather, was not keen on me being involved. Though he gave a wave hello to me, he passed by in the hallway silently and without a glance. When we stepped into the bedroom that Jacqui shared with Ariel and her youngest daughter she offered me a pair of Ariel’s earrings as a thank you. Although I had turned away any discussion of money a few days earlier when she asked, “Do I need to give you any money for this?” by suggesting that when I brought her home, I’d love some mutton stew, I didn’t feel like I could turn down the earrings. What transpired in the moment of that exchange was something I had never experienced before and only once since.
In the moments we stood together, as she handed me the beaded earrings, I felt the most intense love I have ever felt. “Can you feel that?!”, she whispered, as if our voices would diminish the wave of pure, raw love that surrounded us, that flowed slowly, like it was settling around our bodies. In that moment, all either of us could do was cry in awe and in the midst of the blessing. Any doubts I had were vanished in that. We were held in such magnificence, tactile, touchable grace that there could be no doubt.
Until there was and it came swinging like a hammer when news that Ariel’s skeleton had been recovered. I had been a Jacqui’s home one week prior. I was so overwhelmed and tired that I asked her if I could come visit for some Mama-love. It wasn’t enough to know that Ariel’s great-grandfather, Edsitty, was with me in spirit. Even though I could feel him and follow where he led, I needed to be reminded that all of it wasn’t for nothing, that someone solid was with me and could hold my hand. I was tired of constantly moving, looking, crying, watching, waiting for something that I couldn’t see or touch.
As I traveled from Phoenix to Oak Springs the first time, I watched the visions that had come the night before like previews, pop up along the highway. Stands of trees and icons from the old Highway 66 dotted the way. Jacqui and I sat outside in the evening with a bottle of cheap wine and I gave her an update, showed her something that I had been given in a vision and asked if Ariel wrote her As like that. She marveled at how I could know such a thing so we talked about my visions, how I’d been led to the Place of Fuckery, how Edsitty guided me in the waking world, and we marveled at a bird that came to visit us and how we were certain that it was Ariel talking to us. She told me about her own visions, the suspicions about the ex-boyfriend, feelings of familial desertion. Then we went to bed, sharing the same bed that she usually shared with Ariel and her youngest daughter.
Just as we were drifting off, Jacqui asked, “Do you feel that?” I’d felt that for several minutes. Beyond describing it as a particular kind of dark heaviness, there are no words that can accurately express that presence that sent the family’s dogs into a tizzy. If they weren’t leashed, they would have run to attack whatever it is we were feeling, though they would not have had anything solid to sink their teeth into.
Until that moment, I had scoffed at what others call ‘spiritual protection’. When warned to put sage in my shoes for a Sun Dance, I’d refused, thinking that going into anything afraid and that a few sweaty sage leaves would keep one safe, was daft. However, in Oak Springs, Arizona, that night I asked for protection for the first time and watched a dome of energy surround the property and saw, outside that dome, three male Navajo figures stand outside it, looking in. The dogs immediately settled and with their quiet, I eased into something less anxious. I don’t know how long it took me to slip into sleep. I remember listening to Jacqui and the little one’s breath slow and the youngster start to snore gently in the way that I do.
We didn’t talk about it in the morning. After Jacqui fixed me a warm bowl of blue corn grits, I set off back to the city. As I moved out down Highway 12, a cloud formation appeared in front of me. There were two figures in a nose-to-nose stand off. On the left a man in a hat, on the right a dragon or naga. I knew that what we’d felt the night before was real, not a figment of any imagination and that what I call ‘twisted medicine’ was in full play whether I was in the Phoenix area or on the Navajo rez. To me, that meant there was clearly communication between the potsherder and his people on and around the Gila River rez and people in Navajoland. I knew there was nothing I could do either, except to be aware and trust that those who’d gotten me into the mess, for reasons I didn’t fully understand would continue to guide me and keep me safe.
Seven days later I was back in Oak Springs for the most painful gathering I’d ever been part of. I had no words for the woman who trusted me, to whom I said I’d do my best. In the shame and confusion and grief, there was room for nothing more. I stayed the night in a hotel in Gallup, returned the next morning to the house and left. I didn’t know what to do except, by then, leaving did not feel like an option. I took a break for a couple of days in Sedona then dove back into the Fuckery, still not knowing exactly what I was doing or exactly why, but my resolve to leave had vanished. It was replaced by a deep sense of duty, a longing for the little girl with a pink flower in her hair, and the understanding that where others had walked away, I could not.
I carried on as best I could through February 2018 at which point any duty and responsibility were overwhelmed by persistent depression that led me to an episode of suicidality. Even the thought of driving back to Montana became too much. My hair was falling out like I was in chemo, another attempt to engage someone, anyone in the FBI had failed, and every time I felt like I was screaming into the void of more not-caring, I deepened into the darkness. I was certain that I could do more work while not being confined to my body, that if my voice was useless I could find another way, perhaps lead others to the information I’d received and inspire action. I also considered that if the middle aged white woman who was making so much noise just happened to die, maybe, just maybe someone would pay attention. Nonsensical, perhaps. Desperately tired, absolutely.
I laid down one night, ready to pull the plug one way or another; kill myself or drive myself back to Montana. When I closed my eyes, the vision steam began immediately and the first One through was Mother Mary. Her halo glowed as she looked at me. While her gaze bore through me, hundreds of other haloed female figures appeared behind and surrounding her, with her eyes looking into mine, she folded her hands in prayer and pleaded with me not to give up. How does one say no to Mary? And so I carried on. 1 LikeShareTweet