I was out there in that vastness earlier on a hike. The clouds hadn’t rolled in yet with their dragging rain, and I’d taken a different route down this time. Almost right away I spied someone jogging up the trail from the gorge. I hate meeting people on the trail, of course. Number one, they’re in my church, and number two, it feels talking to strangers on the phone at dinner time. But someone jogging against gravity deserves respect, so I stood up straight, relaxed, and prepared to greet whoever it was when he came within earshot.
There was something odd about the figure that approached me—the way he pumped his arms, perhaps, more in front of his chest than at his sides. As we drew closer, I could see he was short and stocky, about fifty, with a dark complexion and black hair combed straight back over his head. I thought he might be Greek or Italian. No hat, no sunglasses, no water bottle. He was wearing a kind of yellow satin jacket I’d never seen before. The edge of a salmon-pink shirt poked out a little from underneath. His pants were black, a light fleece material open at the bottom. He was running smoothly at a good clip and wasn’t out of breath or sweating. As we met, we shared a glance, exchanged hellos, and I could see that he was wearing flip-flops… Frankly, this astonished me. He passed smoothly by, in no alarm or obvious distress, running almost silently. I turned to stare at his retreating form and wondered what I’d seen.
When these things happen, I always remember where I am. A raven can be a shaman on a lark or mission. Brujos and brujas love to play tricks on kids and old dead hippies. Shape-shifters can be anywhere—if you hold this in your thoughts, you’ll notice more! What I saw today could be as simple as a foreign tourist who forgot to lock his car, or as wacko as an alien spy from outer space who didn’t get the mind control quite right.
It was a glorious walk, however. The kind of sunny but cool and dry affair where if you sweat, you never know it. For most of the three-and-a-half miles, I was completely alone. There are bright green tufts of grass appearing on the mesa, and I found bright red flowers in a protected arroyo. A solitary piñon jay startled me by squawking as it shot out from a juniper—I guess it was confused—and by then I’d already forgotten the funny guy in flip-flops and just assumed it was a bird.