“Don’t give up…please don’t give up on us.”
In Mother Mary and Walking Away, I shared why I did not kill myself in February 2018 in my desperate exhaustion after six months steeped in The Fuckery. It was not the first time she had appeared in my world but it was one of the more striking. It was not like a personal moment of sitting on a kitchen floor with me as I sat in overwhelming grief. The plea was delivered by her but those with her made the point that any effort to spur me on was a collective, as holy ones appeared with her en masse.
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 before I got there. Her mother delivered the news while I was in Ajo, Arizona, and I immediately drove north to be with the family. The drive interrupted by deep confusion and a conversation with an FBI agent from Tucson, Arizona who the Southern Arizona Anti-Trafficking Unified Response Network had referred me to. He gave me the standard response “Where is your proof?” as if, again, I were the law enforcement officer in the matter. I tuned him out as soon as he suggested I email him what I had. One year later, I would learn the information I later shared with him is what led to the price on my head
To fully understand why I did not leave the desert after Ariel had been found dead requires understanding that I had come to know this journey had begun long before September 6. Diving into the underworld of sex trafficking in Phoenix connected me to experiences that began three years prior, during the summer of 2014, when my relationship with Navajoland began though I’m certain this relationship with truly began long before I can remember, long before this lifetime.
I don’t know the how of it all, or the when or it, or if there was more than one when but my being woven back into it in this lifetime happened in the summer of 2014 when, trekking along Interstate 10 making my way to California. The call North was clear, unmistakeable and undeniable, though I knew I didn’t need to change course in the moment. Like others, this call was clear: “Come home.”
Weeks later in Las Vegas, I met a beautiful red-headed woman. In an individual healing session with her, one where we were introduced to the Hindu goddess Manasa (the first diety I’d met beyond who we call God), I interrupted proceedings and asked, “Who is the Native American presence?” She said, “Oh, that’s my ex-husband.” My response was, “Nope. This is not him. He’s very, very big and he is very much not breathing.” “Oh, that’s his guardian, Joe.” Oh. Indeed.
“I think we need to meet.”
“That’s what he said.”
“Is he Navajo?”. The answer?
Like other “Oh, shit!” moments, this one exchange changed the trajectory of my life. Again.
Scheduled to leave Vegas within a day, I could not meet with her ex-husband then. Because it felt like time was of the essence, I drove back to Virginia, got a check for dog sitting and with it, bought a round-trip airline ticket from Washington, DC, back to Vegas without even a conversation with the ex-husband but, unlike other ‘calls’ that came with maps and street names, this came with an inner propulsion and drive that was something far deeper than I had ever experienced. In the days that the trip was morphing from a mere idea to solid action, I finally talked to this 40 year old man. I don’t recall the details of the first conversation I had with him, but it was brief and was one of those calls I describe as an Ancestral party line as Beings from long ago made themselves known. (For those of you who do not know, a party line is an old multi-party landline telephone service used primarily in rural areas. Multiple parties shared the same telephone line but had individual ring tones. Ms. Smith might have two short rings and the Henrys might have three long ones. In theory, folks did not pick up other people’s phone calls and listen in. In reality, I watched my grandmother pick up other’s calls and listen in all the time!)
Five days before I was due to fly to Vegas, I had no idea how I was going to get from McCarren to where we needed to go. Then a client shared that he would pay for two sessions up front–just enough to cover the expense of a rental car.
Two weeks after I’d left Vegas I was back, sitting in a friend’s living room and, there, had my second conversation with Glen. “I’ve have gone by many names over many lifetimes.This time my name is Ingrid and I’ve come to take you home.” And, bless him, he said, “Okay” and the next day we were on our way to Navajoland. He did not know for certain what I was going to say but had been prepared to quit his job if that had been necessary.
For this trip, I didn’t need a map. Before Glen told me where he had been born and ‘adopted’ from, I knew we were heading to Tuba City, AZ, and I knew that we were not going alone. We would be the only two breathing Beings on the trip but this man, this gifted, powerful and angry grown man, had been held close for forty years by more than the single guardian who’d introduced himself during the ex-wife’s healing session.
As I drove with an angry chatty-cathy and the entourage traveling with him, I wondered how wrong I could possibly be because this was either on-the-spot right or so far off base that I might as well be on the moon. In my heart, there was no doubt but pieces of my brain snuck in to remind me that “This is nuts. This cannot be happening.” Yet, there we were. The closer we got to the reservation, I began a repeated prayer. Silently and, finally aloud, I said, “See me. Recognize me. Welcome me. Support me.” As the wheels turned, the words came–again and again.
When we finally stopped in Tuba City and found a place to stay, hangry and tired of being the driver and the decision-maker, I pushed Glen to make a decision about dinner. I was fed up but needed to be fed. I cannot describe adequately what I began experiencing while standing in line to purchase fried chicken and gnarly instant mashed potatoes at Kentucky Fried Chicken. What came was a flood of something entirely unfamiliar, with an intensity that frightened Glen and could knock me off my feet–they were both individuated and a collective with a force of nature I could not speak. I could only shake as I tried to find my own ground or center, I stumbled into the parking lot and began looking for the cause or the causes.
Trying to maintain my footing and find breath, I looked up. What was roiling toward me with purpose was a large bank of dark clouds. I did not have the vocabulary then that I do now and I remain uncertain if those who I felt were thunderbirds riding in or representations of the darkness that was to become a part of my world three years later. But whoever they were, they were beings of pure power–with a solidity and ferocity that belied the rules of physics and gravity. The weight and ferociousness they carried made me feel as if lightning would jump from me to meet them in the sky.
When I walked back into the restaurant, returning to the normality of cold fried chicken and those damned fake potatoes and Glen’s look of concern, the only thing I could say was, “We’ve definitely been seen.”
Over breakfast and blessedly good coffee at Denny’s, I watched Glen’s eyes widen as he leaned in and whispered, “Ingrid, it’s like family is touching me.” Yes. They were and they continued to as they led us to three conversations with two groups of women selling jewelry on the side of the road. As I held the steering wheel, Glen directed: Stop. Go back. Turn here. “I don’t know how I know to go here.” Yet we went. We went to meet women who would direct us to hiss birth mother within thirty-six hours. They also led us to his guardian’s home. We dropped him off at what is now the Navajo National Monument and others peeled off from him, reuniting with their own bit of ground as Glen narrated the departures.
While we waited to connect with Glen’s birth mother, the client whose two-session payment allowed for the car rental joined us in the desert. We accepted the invitation to join he and friends in El Rito, New Mexico. The drive there brought clear messages that I would also be returning to Navajoland in November along with other, more immediate direction, to Posi-ouinge, an old Tewa space above Ojo-Caliente Hot Springs but, at the time, there was no context, only an insistence.
It was there, at Posi-ouinge, where, while Glen waited with the telephone to hear back from the woman who would identify herself as his mother, I walked in circles, singing and crying. I don’t know the words that came from me, they were not mine. Nor were the tears but each flowed as they were meant to. While I walked and sang beings to sleep or to awaken them, Glen received the phone call that sent us flying back to Tuba City where a family reunion ensued. Celebratory and investigative, it was as awkward and amazing as one might imagine.
Forty-three years and four months after he’d been ‘adopted’ by a Mormon family, he was returned home. A lost, angry, powerful and purposefully-made man returned not just to a Mother but a Nation who’s line saw fit to watch over him from the time he was taken until the time he returned home.
Between the summer and winter visits to Dinetah, I traveled more–criss-crossing the country, eventually returning to Virginia for another dog sitting job and, at the invitation to move to a retreat center by the California client’s friends with whom we stayed, got rid of everything that could not fit my Mini Cooper, and headed to Sonoma with a stop for ceremony in Montana.
Living at the retreat center devolved as quickly as the invitation had been offered. While in Sonoma, though, I had the fourth integration experience and a few days after it, during an impromptu spiritual journey that began during a phone call, Naayéé neizghání, the Navajo Creation Story’s Monster Slayer, showed himself and directed me back to the Navajo Nation. Although he did not give a specific map, he showed roads and areas that I was already familiar with and had, those three months prior, circled on the Rand-McNally without understanding why.
In this vision-journey, Naayéé neizghání, showed me as a white horse flying to lift a large darkness off the Nation. He didn’t say or show what the darkness was or how to do it what I was being asked to do; I was just to go. There was not compulsion to go like there was with returning Glen home. This was an order, one that I did not fully understand but knew that I could not, must not, say no to and within days, with the car being packed with only what I needed for time in the high-desert winter, I returned to Dinetah.
On November 17, I was following where the car and spirit led. Westbound from Shiprock, I turned left and soon right, off the paved road onto a dirt track. Within minutes, I was stopped by three people, clearly deceased and separated from their bodies (although I knew they were near). Standing in the middle of that road, waiting as if they had known I was coming, I instantaneously knew there were three of them; two young women, one older than the other, and one young man; none of whom had enough time to live a full life.
I also knew that there had been at least one sexual assault involved, if not three; that they had each been murdered, either at the same time or close to it and within proximity of where I felt them, and by the same person or group of people.
I sat in the car and tried to listen to them, but hearing nothing and repeating, “Show me,” I drove on as they stepped aside. I followed the track, allowing the car to take the lead, turning immediately left again. Laying next to the road was a mattress and a computer game player or data storage unit. Not just garbage that had fallen off a truck on the way to the dump, but thrown intentionally to be rid of and directly associated with three murdered young people. From the top of a bluff where I had hoped to see more broadly visually and energetically, I found a house with a man and a dog, the latter wanting to lick me to death and the former, taciturn but friendly, neither offering an answer to my call there or, seemingly, connected to the three dead.
I went back down the road, spoke to the mattress and computer piece, along with the three and said I would find help. Doing what any self-respecting former officer of the court would do, I headed to the police station at Shiprock. There I met a female lieutenant who, in so many unsaid words, told me to fuck off with a tone that exuded “Mind your own business, white lady.” So, I left, disgusted and angry.
The drive through fog and elk going back to El Rito, New Mexico, where I was staying was filled with rage, grief, guilt and a despair that was both mine and that of others. Days later, after losing sleep to those emotions, I changed tack and headed back to the reservation, this time with the Crownpoint police department in my sights, determined to find help for those who had been waiting for justice and to be brought home. There, I was met with an openness and all the help I needed from command and staff until I was told “that’s not our jurisdiction, you have to go back to Shiprock.” A young cop I now call Joe, who in September 2017 was instrumental in getting me back to the desert, walked me to the car and began a conversation that was to last years. This time, driving was fueled by determination and what felt like movement in the form of assistance. Once there, I was met by an officer who repeated the same words I had used with the murdered three: “Show me”, he said. My lack of faith in law enforcement at that point, though, led me to feel that he was bending over a little too far backwards for the white psychic lady.
It did not fade when he and another officer pulled from patrol followed me to where I’d been days prior and did their best ‘Indian tracker’ imitation near where I had initially felt the Three and where they ignored the significance of the now burned-to-nothing-but-coils mattress and melted cold puddle of plastic computer equipment–a fact not lost on me. Particularly since the only person I’d told about it happened to be that female lieutenant. It was clear to me that someone had gone back to burn whatever evidence those two things had contained. Disheartened and filled with contempt for those of the law that I had a long considered kin, I left to spend Thanksgiving in the San Luis Valley, thinking I would take a break. There was no break. Again, another who had been murdered reached out and, again, circumstances outside my control prevented action. Asked to bleed into the floor of what is now called Penitente Canyon, I spun myself into the sand instead and let the tears falls for those who needed it, including myself.
Unable to leave what I’d discovered in the heart of Navajoland and homeless again, I chose to go back. This time, I drove west across the familiarity of a highway I had not been on in at least ten years. When I breached the peak of Wolf Creek Pass, Mt. Hesperus touched my heart in a way that it had never experienced before. Overcome with the intensity of ‘you’re home, welcome home’, I had to pull over. While I sobbed through the grief of being homeless and being offered the same by a mountain I didn’t know that I knew, she wrapped herself around my heart and still hasn’t let go. Never far, no matter where I am, it doesn’t take long for me to feel her and to know when she pulls me back.
That trip, though, took me to desert roads I’d not discovered and places that had been circled on the map for months. Though I had hands on the wheel, I let someone else drive to forgotten spaces where the wind stood still or cut through the skin with blades of blowing sand. The desert took back stones that were born there, took me to a place where a cow had been driven off a cliff to die alone, injured and wanting home. Standing in hot sand, confused and angry at the lack of clarity, hope or direction, I sought help and from one trading post I was sent to a post office, I was led to a woman in Sanostee who, when I first met her, said (through her son who translated), “I see all those within you and all those around you.” That night, as I sat with she and her daughters in the hogan, she directed me to walk around the fire four times, had me touch her tools and spoke, “We would like to offer you the gift of healing with water. Will you accept?” I did. I did not know what it meant in the moment (and still don’t) but knew that I would know when it was time.
I answered the next call in April 2016, after I was led back to Joe, the young police officer who’d walked me to my car in Crownpoint two years prior. This time, I headed to Alamo, New Mexico, where I met his wife and son, and as we spent time together, my idea that I was there to ‘bring him through’, into the medicine like others I’d been sent to, vanished. The second or third morning I was there, immediately after he said, “Hey, listen to this song“, I had a clear call to a mesa. The two of us scoured satellite maps and Google images, looking for that one mesa in a sea of mesas that was calling loudly, insistently. Nothing we found connected and, in frustration, I stalked away from the kitchen table and opened the curtains that kept the heat of the day out of the house. Right there in front of me? The mesa.
I filled my bag with snacks, sunblock, water and drove as close to the base of the as I could get. I stood there, already baking in the desert sun, listening for something or someone to come in on the wind. There was no wind, no whispered ‘to do’ or ‘how to’. What there was was a raven, hollering. I couldn’t tell if he was pissed off because I’d invaded his space or giving me direction. Two hours later I saw that if I’d followed through with the latter idea and followed him, I’d have saved myself some skin-scorching and knee scraping because he was, indeed showing me the way, the short cut in fact..
Because I didn’t listen to him, I walked from the north side, the longer way around until I found a pile of dried horse manure. That I paid attention to and followed, horse poop and hoof prints in the sand, along the western wall where he may have been shaded in his jaunt. When I reached a place where I had to scramble on loose stone to get to the top, I realized that horse had no way to get down once he got up.
As my head came over the cliff edge, I was greeted with a bouquet of bright red Indian paint brush and the bleached skeleton of the horse who had taken her last breath and, like the cow two winters before, alone and wanting to go home. So I sat. I cried and talked to the skeleton and the sky and asked why we’d been led there. And the instructions came, up from the ground, through the sparse roots that held sand and stone together, from the circling raven I’d previously ignored (apparently glad this stupid human finally figured it out), and the bones that contained, even still, life.
I no longer recall the song I sang as I walked four times around the mesa, stopping at the east, the south and the west, leaving tobacco, finding my breath and moving on. As the song rose out of me and merged with all things above, below, around and through me, the rotation around the top of the mesa spiraled closer to it’s center where, at the end of things, I sat with a creosote bush root twisted by the winds into a stump of an eagle in flight. With him, I sat and sang, a gentle breeze singing with me and taking the song to all the places it needed to go.
When it was clear I was done, I began the trek back down, taking a piece of the horse into my heart and in my bag to return her home. I followed the steps back that had led to her death so that I might, somehow, bring renewed life to something, somewhere.
A year later, four months after leaving Standing Rock, I was back in the desert with Joe. Again, why wasn’t exactly clear but when he and I were called together, something always seemed to come of it. I knew this trip had as much to do with me and my work as it did him coming into his own gifted way. And I had maps, in the form of two paintings poured by Jayme who bridged the gap between my guides and I.
I stayed a few days with the family, and then headed north to wait for Joe to figure some things out. Frustrated and angry that I had to spend my birthday in a funky-smelling hotel room in a city I don’t like, I falteringly practiced patience with him and with myself. Knowing that he needed to go to Chaco with me, I went alone first while waiting. What began as a trip to get the lay of the land ended up being the trip to return another Being home. I don’t know what he was called when he was first created or shown to humans but he came from the stars and through me to reemerge again here. In the language white folks have today, he’s called the Blue Kachina. As I sat and sang, the body trembled and he broke through the portal to return. I gave my usual thank you, dusted off my pants and headed back to Farmington and a smelly hotel room, grateful I did not have to sleep in the car.
Two days later, Joe joined me to do the same for the One he was instructed to bring home. We sat, we breathed, he did and I returned to Montana.
It was this same Joe who contacted me five months later, on September 6, 2017, with a missing person’s flyer and asked, “What do you feel from this?”
That one question, like others that have come through, changed my world and brought me into The Fuckery, the dark blanket that Naayéé neizghání sent me to lift away three years prior.
Whether you believe or not in the realities of mythology and the medicine way, think about what it means that the Monster Slayer, from as far back as the Navajo Creation Story—from The Creation—, sees and knows and has sent the white horse to eradicate the plague-infected blanket that is the institutionalization of the intentional disappearance of young people for sexual exploitation. In 2017, this is what I could not leave: I remembered the three, their plea and my impotence and the accompanying lack of justice, truth and law. By the time I learned of Ariel’s death, these things lingered under the exhaustion and confusion. That and the steady awareness that a god had given me a job to do. Was I angry? Absolutely! Doubting? You betcha. But I still believed there had to be a larger truth, a bigger picture.
There had to be a reason as I was leaving Canada in the week prior to Joe’s note, a dead youngster came through with a heartbreaking, “Don’t give up…please don’t give up on us.” I could not see or feel, despite the manipulation, that the collective of victims that chose to come through would lie about this:
We are the many. We are the many harmed and dead and dying. We wish for Ingrid’s help. We have no answers. We offer love and gratitude. We wish to help but we have no answers. Please convey our gratitude and support. They still live. There are many who need her help. She needs to remain safe so that her work continues. We love her. (From Missy the medium: I feel a collective grief that is smashing my chest..)
In addition, I was not the only person in this, not alone in my seeing and knowing and none of us, so many of us who had felt, heard and seen so much could not have been so wrong. Each involved along with me felt manipulated by forces outside of us, doubted our own sanity—even though none of us had been in it alone. There was a reason for it. I could not see it clearly yet but it would become less ambiguous as the weeks unfolded.