I don’t believe in the mystical but I do want to believe in the magical. “Magic” has a broad definition for me – it can be anything unusual, beautiful, inspiring. I want to be awed, to think about the world in a new way. I did not look at guidebooks before driving out to Sedona; I craved that pure feeling of surprise. And when I came around a bend and had my first view of Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte, I could feel it. The landscape was flat, the sky clear and blue, and in between were these two alien-looking red formations, so dramatic, my breath caught – just as I’d hoped.
Speaking of the occult, Sedona has a reputation as a new age hippie haven, with its crystals and palm readings and vortexes. The tourist rat maze of Uptown was chock-a-block with offers of palm readings and aura photography in addition to the usual t-shirt-and-magnet stores. I can handle some level of kitsch, and was there long enough to buy a beautiful smoky quartz pendant. It came with a descriptive card – I just so happened to pick a stone that is not only a “super antidote to stress” (much needed), but that also “gently dissolves negative emotions,” “neutralizes fear of failure” and “absorbs electromagnetic smog” among others. I’d certainly like to believe it.
My real spiritual moment in Sedona came about, coincidentally, near a vortex. I’d hiked up the Boynton Canyon Vista Trail, and was standing between the Kachina Woman formation – a sort of tall knobby spire – and a rounder knoll which marked the site of the vortex (as I learned only later). The view opened up over the flat forested landscape with a minimalist skyline of red cliffs and mesas. Light from the waning sun angled sharply between the cliffs behind me. I felt myself breathing a little deeper, whether guided by the swirling energy or by the view, I cannot say. As I made my way down the path, red dust reddening further in the angled sunlight, a stranger hiking up smiled at me – 60ish, tan, white haired, a disarmingly open expression on his face. Just a simple greeting, and then he held out a stone to me, a red rock heart that fit in my palm.
Magic is something unexpected. It’s been a tough year for romance, high in angst and low in resolutions. I can’t help waiting for some measure of internal balance, and I wanted badly to take this as a small sign that things, really, were pretty good. As I walked down the path, I kept spotting stones more-or-less heart-shaped propped in tree branches. I held my small perfect sandstone heart and listened as my friendly stranger played a flute melody at the top of the outcrop. It was a little mystical and a little magical and very, very peaceful.