Our truck lurched forward and so did our bodies.
We’d been hit by a drunk driver.
I paused for a moment after the impact. There was my hand, my leg, my voice, yes, I could still speak.
“We’re alive,” I said. “We’re okay.”
I was with my father. We were just 8 minutes away from the Four Corners Monument. There was road work ahead and we had slowed down as the signs had instructed, eventually coming to a stop at the end of a long line of cars.
We were still relaxed from the hot springs we’d left just a few hours before in Pagosa Springs, Colorado where sulfur drew out toxins and washed them out in the chilly San Juan River nearby.
Blissful hot springs to car crash — it was the most marked contrast I’d ever experienced in one day.
And that day also happened to be my birthday.
I called 911 and told them we’d been hit from behind.
My father was already outside the truck assessing things.
Before I stepped out I began to pray. “Please God, let this driver be okay. Angels please surround us and hold us in your light.”
I stepped out of the truck and began walking.
I could see the car behind us. It was several feet away and its front end was completely smashed all the way up to the windshield. Later, someone would tell us that upon impact the car’s back end went straight in the air and came crashing down.
I saw the man’s face behind the airbag. He wasn’t looking at me. He was looking through me. His eyes were vacant.
I placed my hands in prayer at my heart and bowed.
A blonde woman walked towards me. “I’m a nurse,” she said. “I just checked his vitals. He’s going to be okay.” The man with her was alongside my father inspecting the damages.
The trailer that my father had been pulling behind his new Ford Ranger was on its second cross country trip. He had spent the previous two years outfitting it with camping supplies and items for life on the road. His plan: cross country adventures to visit his daughters - my sister in Georgia and me in Arizona.
The car had totaled the trailer. The trailer then rammed into the back of the Ranger, jamming itself into the bed.
A Native American woman hurried along the side of the road, seemingly coming from nowhere. She held one hand over her mouth.
“I saw him driving so fast, swerving all over the road,” she said.
We both looked at him sitting in the car.
“Do you think he’ll be okay?” I asked again.
She nodded and disappeared though I don’t know where she went. There was no place to go — nothing but desert for miles.
A crew of workers who had been in the area to mine or dig or construct dropped whatever it was they were doing to direct traffic around us. As cars went by, I could feel myself wanting to leave. My soul wanted to leave my body. “No,” I said. “Let’s stay. Let’s feel as much of this as possible right here and now.”
One of the crew asked if I wanted to sit in her truck. I took her up on the offer; it was hot out, the sun was beating down, and the conditions were ripe for me getting heat stroke if I wasn’t careful. Once inside her truck, I put my hands on my heart and cried.
I didn’t want to go to the Four Corners. Why did I tell my father I wanted to? A twisted story came to the surface:
Whenever I want something, it turns out bad. So, I shouldn’t want anything at all.
The origins of this story may go back to my childhood and they may have started generations before. I am learning to allowing this story to dissovle into a space beyond words, otherwise known as unconditional love.
The Bureau of Indian Affiars soon arrived. Since we were on the reservation the case was under their jurisdiction. It was the kind of unfortunate thing that happened all the time. While the officiers demonstrated niceities, it was also business as usual. Alcoholism is so common on the res. When the medics arrived, I asked for the third time, “Is he going to be okay?”
“Oh, yes, he’s fine,” one said. “With that much alcohol in the body, the impact just moves right through him.”
I wrote my police report. As we waited for the tow truck to arrive, I asked the crew of workers to pose in a picture. “Do something silly,” I said. “Come on you have to, it’s my birthday.”
I don’t even know the name of the Native American man who hit us. I can see his face as I write this. I wish him peace. I pray this brings the highest good for all three of us.
Native peoples all over this earth have had lands, customs, culture denegrated and destroyed. What is left after all the tearing down? What reason does the soul have to stay?
And when the soul leaves, what fills the emptiness?
Alcohol. Alcoholism is a spirit never satisfied. It moves into the emptiness, taking over mind and body. It offers momentary escape. It offers momentary relief in exchange for destruction. The emptiness can never be filled. There's the rub.
Behind the man’s vacant stare somewhere was his soul. That’s what I had bowed to.
It’s a choice to stay in our bodies, to occupy our internal landscape and to recognize that the yearning we have for wholeness and healing is our own soul yearning to be home within oursleves, to know that we are home no matter what the external conditions are — no matter the ravaged land, the fires of destruction, the enslavement of the many by the few.
It’s been over two weeks since the accident and I’ve found myself grappling with feelings of not belonging here on planet earth.
If the trailer hadn’t been there to take the impact…
If he had swerved into us from the side …
perhaps I would’ve been hospitalized or dead.
Yet, I am here.
I am alive.
I know there were angelic forces that placed a golden light of protection around us. My birthday was (and is) a celebration of the miracle of life and recognition of its fragility.
I sometimes dance with the shadows of not belonging. At the same time and with more vigor, I dance with the angels whose mission it was (and is) to keep all three of us alive and home here on planet earth.