A few years ago on a trail running circuit I do up Rattlesnake Gulch in Millcreek Canyon, I discovered a big rock that looked like a coffin. It was tipped a little sideways, not flat, right next to a part of the trail that snaked horizontally along the inner curve of a drainage. There was orangey lichen on the rock. It appeared friendly. Familiar. So I adopted it.
I’d recently completed a thirteen-day rites of passage ceremony in Death Valley. The Great Ballcourt Initiation Fast, a “practice of living and dying” offered by The School of Lost Borders (the lineage in which I’ve been trained) was the fourth wilderness fast I’d done since 2007 and rounded out a larger pattern of spiritual and psychological maturity in me that I only became aware of in retrospect. During this fast, I met my own death. What I discovered is that my death is something sweet and beautifully intimate and with me all the time. It’s a process, a journey, a change that is deeply magic and profound. I say “is” because this death, my death, feels alive in me now. And I can love it now.
So of course my attention would be caught by a rock that looks like a coffin after this experience.
I note that my coffin rock is somehow dynamic . . . I can’t sit on it without tucking a leg up to keep myself from sliding off it — because it’s not flat. That makes me smile, for some reason.
I most often will stop and sit on this rock when I do my morning runs. I’ve mused there through three falls and two winters and springs. I’ll sink into what matters most — questions I have, guidance I seek, gratitude for what I am learning in this particular human experience. I bless the wonder and mystery of it all.
This coming March, I am looking forward to serving as one of two apprentices on the Great Ballcourt Initiation Fast. I will have the privilege to help hold the container for those who will be diving into the other world, to dance with the lords and ladies of Death. For me, it is a precious opportunity to spend some time in the real world!
I have no idea if anyone else notices that rock, let alone thinks “wow, that looks like a coffin.” I don’t know if anyone else sits and muses on it. So to me, it feels private and hidden and sweet, even though it is always there in plains sight.
Just like death.