MY STORY is a long story. It’s a story about perservance. About determination. About grit. My story is a story about rising up. About starting over. And over. And over. My story is a story about starting. My story is a story about never giving up. It’s a story of belief. It’s a story of hope. It’s a story of faith. My story is the story of David and Goliath. It’s the story of Odysseus. It is the story of The Road. It is the story of the road less travelled. It’s the story of following the road until you don’t know where it ends. My story is a story of imagination. And dreams. And science. And truth. My story is a storm. My story is the storm abated. My story has no beginning, and no end. My story is about being timeless, and running out of time. My story is about questions and answers and mystery and grace and beauty and love. About innovation, and enchantment. My story is ancient. My story is brand new.
My story is a long story. My story is a true story. My story is a love story. For the whole world. This is a chapter in my long beautiful story. Listen.
IT wasn’t long before I left for Las Vegas. There I was, home again at the ranch, for a moment. I was excited about going to Las Vegas for SEMA, but just as excited to be home for a visit. After driving around all day with Neil - he was reassuring me that I shouldn’t be nervous about being on display at SEMA - I was back in the car barn again, that old familiar place. I was happy. I talked and talked and talked with my other car friends in the car barn and when they all fell off to sleep I eagerly picked myself up, dusted myself off and rolled out onto those familiar roads of home once more.
I drove out to a part of the ranch I hadn’t been to in a long time, the top of the hill where I can see the ocean, and where I first met Mother Moonstone, so long ago. I half expected to see her there when I rolled out of the woods and turned the corner to head up the hill. I looked ahead. Was I imagining things, or was there an unusual glow up there? I sped up. When I got to the top of the hill, I saw that I had not been imagining anything.
Standing there with her arms raised to the moon and facing the ocean was not Mother Moonstone, but surely some sacred sister. She looked like some kind of mystical queen! She was silver, and then gold, and then silver again, in the moonlight. I thought to turn myself off so I wouldn’t disturb her, but she had already heard me. As she turned to look at me it felt as if it had been the other way around … As if the entire Earth had turned to her, presenting me to her as a gift. Or as a question. I wasn’t sure. Let’s just say it definitely felt like she had things at her command. She raised her right arm straight out ahead of her, her long fingers, unadorned, pointing to me, and then, beckoning me forward. I began to move toward her without thinking, until I was so close to her I could touch her with my bumper (but I didn’t). She put her hand on my hood and I thought I was going to explode, her hand felt like it was on fire. She looked at me carefully, and disappeared. What?!
Astounded I realized I was close to the edge of the cliff - a very high place that drops off - that drops way way off - into the ocean. Instinctively I tried to back up, but there was something behind me. It was the most spectacular bird - I guess you’d call it that - that I had ever seen. It was much much larger than my friend The Great Blue Heron, and it looked like it had every color of the rainbow in its feathers. It had a long long tail, and it looked wise, and ancient. As I stared and stared at it in my rearview mirror, slowly, very very slowly, it spread its magnificent wings. It sounded like a giant sailboat catching a mighty wind on the open sea! Its wings of every color spanned the entire cliff like a sunrise. And then the bird began to sing. A most beautiful song. I was mesmerized. I didn’t realize it was slowly flapping its wings, blowing me forward, toward the edge of the cliff. And when I did realize, I didn’t care. I was bewitched. Whatever this bird was, I was under its spell. I rolled right off the cliff, and started to fall, down down down. The Phoenix picked me up before I hit the ocean, and off we went. It took us all night to travel 5,000 miles, and five hundred years - into Peru, and into the past.
We landed in Peru around the year 1535, in the middle of their Festival of Color. Color everywhere! So much color you could get lost in it. And the Incas! I couldn’t believe it!I was there, in the middle of it all, The Great Civilization of the Past! One of the greatest civilizations of all time. Even though I was a 1959 Lincoln Continental from the future, the Incas didn’t bat an eye. They just moved over and made room as I made my way up and down the streets, built with their bare hands, following my new friend The Phoenix. I watched as the Incas went about their business, but mostly as they worshipped The Sun. There were many different ceremonies and, it seems, sacrifices going on in the town square but everything stopped the minute The Sun would disappear behind a cloud, or begin to set at dusk. Then the Incas would stop what they were doing and make a show of great reverence, raising their hands toward The Sun and bowing down, worshipping it with the deepest humility. It was impressive. And moving. And powerful, in a way I couldn’t exactly explain. I felt it, though. I felt the power. The pull. The need.
Especially when the two who had become my guides, along with The Phoenix, did their mystical dance. A man and a woman, maybe they were the Inca King and Queen, I don’t know, for they didn’t say, had become my guides there. They reminded me of my friends The Hitchhiker and The Girl, they looked very much like them, they even sounded like them, but of course it couldn’t be them, because this was 500 years ago. There was something so familiar to me about them, though, and something so familiar about how they related to each other. They were always together, and always touching in some way - their hands, their eyes - they seemed very connected, moving very closely together, and they moved in their dance as one, when they were dancing it was almost impossible to even tell them apart. To the admiring eyes of everyone in the village, the sun rose each morning and set each evening to their beautiful, mystical, wondrous dance, which was explosive, and intimate, a shout and a whisper at the same time, a scream and shhh. This went on for nine days.
On the ninth day, when the festival was over, the Incas brought out hand ploughs and started breaking up the land. My guides explained to me that it was believed that until the Incas broke the Earth, the Earth could not, would not, produce anywhere. The Incas took their role very seriously, this was the most serious of the ceremonies I had witnessed. Slowly and methodically, they went about with their hand ploughs, turning the soil. Ancient rivers began to boil. I watched in silence, thinking about The Earth, and oddly, how maybe I should have brought a present.
It was then that she began to speak to me, this girl, this woman, this Inca Queen who had come to be my friend.
“Ah! But you are the present, LV,” she said, mysteriously.
“What?” I said, trying to sound more curious car than stupid girl.
“LV, have you been wondering why you were brought here? Have you been wondering what is going to befall you here, with the Incas?” she asked, more seriously than I would have liked.
“LV,” she said. “It’s time.” She smiled, but I felt a change in the air. Something was about to happen. As if on cue, with a great swish of its wings, The Phoenix flew up and landed on the edge of my windshield, a perfect perch because my top was down. Whooooooosh. I liked the way it felt having The Phoenix right there, right there with me, on my shoulder, so to speak.
The Inca Man, this Inca Queen’s constant companion, was sitting in my driver’s seat. When had he gotten there? Things were moving fast now.
The woman - whom I had begun calling The Inca Queen in my mind - hopped into my passenger seat and we started driving down that old Inca Trail. Or rather, up. It was tough navigating, the road was narrow and winding. Up and up we went, and around and around. We were winding and winding around a mountain, on our way to the top. I was getting dizzy. But I didn’t let on … I didn’t want them to think me weak. I wanted to please them, desperately wanted to please them. I would have done anything for them. I would still. The Inca Man patted my dashboard as if he had read my thoughts. It startled me. I glanced into my rearview mirror to try to read his face - he was looking into the mirror, and trying to tell me something with his eyes, eyes that were so familiar. I felt like he was telling me to steel myself. To be brave. To be strong. Don’t ask me how I could read that in his eyes, but I could. And turns out, I was probably right. For I was about to encounter my most difficult trial yet. I was about to go from the frying pan to the fire. Talk about this wheel’s on fire! You haven’t heard anything yet.
We reached the top of the mountain. At once, my passengers disembarked and fell to their knees, their faces turned up to the sun. The Phoenix hovered high over their heads, moving out of sight closer to the sun and then back again, seemingly following some kind of invisible and mystical pattern. I watched, amazed, as the man and woman’s mouths began to move, as if in conversation with … Who? The Sun? There was no sound, but they were clearly talking to someone high above them. I strained to hear, but although I was close enough to touch them, I heard not a sound. The Phoenix began to sing, and then - the most miraculous thing. The Sun began to turn in the sky, slowly at first, and then faster and faster and faster, until I didn’t know if it was spinning or if I was spinning or if the world was spinning. I didn’t know what was happening, but something was either very very right or very very wrong. I felt … wonderful. Strangely wonderful. Memories of stories I had heard as a new car, from the first family who owned me, about the town of Medjugorje, in old Yugoslavia, came back to me … Tales of the sun spinning, and it being indicative of the presence of Mary, the Blessed Mother, on this Earth, in that place, filled my brain and managed to both confuse and comfort me. Before I drove myself completely mad (cars are always driving themselves somewhere), everything stopped. The Sun stopped spinning, the man and the woman stood up, and The Phoenix landed back on my windshield. Whew. We all stood there for a minute, catching our breath. The Inca Queen opened her mouth to speak. This time, there was a sound.
“LV, you are on a journey, yes?” I didn’t think she really wanted me to elaborate, so I just nodded.
“Your journey has brought you many adventures,” she said, and the man and the womand smiled at each other. He moved closer to her now.
“LV, you are what we refer to as a huaca, do you know what this is?”
I admitted that I didn’t.
“A huaca is a sacred, mystical object. A portent. A portal.” She emphasized the word portal and I thought for a minute they were going to be delivering the very sketchy news that I was going to be going into outerspace. I mean, don’t get me wrong, that would be fascinating, and all, but I kind of had my heart set on this mission on Planet Earth with Neil.
The man and the woman began to laugh out loud. Reading my mind again? Oh brother.
“We are not sending you into outerspace, LV,” the Inca Queen said, good naturedly. The Man - why did I keep wanting to call him The Hitchhiker? - stepped close to me now and put his hand on my driver’s side door. Just like Neil always does! It made me feel safe. The Inca Queen continued.
“LV, you are the color of the moon … Do you remember that you have moonstones in your paint?” Of course I remembered that! “Good,” she said. She went on.
“You have met with Mother Moonstone and The Mistress of Dreams,” her voice trailed off. “Let me start again,” she said.
“LV. You are a huaca. You can accomplish great things. You will. But first - You must embrace the four elements of the universe before your powers are fully realized. You must embrace and embody Air. Earth. Water. Fire.” She paused.
I thought that sounded like a lot of work. I might have sighed out loud.
“You are already well on your way, LV” she said in a semi-disgusted tone. The Incas were hard workers, they were a gracious people but they had no time for lazy. Note to self, I thought. I’ll keep my sighs and lazy, selfish thoughts to myself.
“Good,” she said, only slightly less disgusted with me. She went on.
“LV. You carry the young White Buffalo in your back seat. You have understood and embraced your role as The White Buffalo of a new age. This is your communion with The Earth. The EARTH element is the element that grounds us, the element of common sense. The element that tells us to put our heads down, face into the storm, and go.” I looked. Sure enough! Baby Medicine Wheel, asleep on my back seat, under his Indian blanket of many colors which looked very at home here in the World of the Incas.
“WATER is the element of intuition and knowing. The element of belief. The element of flow. You had a journey with The Blue Heron, a very close cousin of our Phoenix - “ We all looked to him and he kind of flapped his wings, preening a little -“under the river. You have made your communion with Water. Down by the river.” I nodded.
“AIR is the element of thinking, and communication, and trust. Your relationship with Mother Moonstone and the Mistress of Dreams is your embodiment of Air.” She paused for a moment, and then said, with great celebration in her voice, “LV! You have completed your trials with three of the four elements. You have passed with flying colors!” At this she began to dance there on the mountaintop, her body moving in such perfect rhythm to the song of The Phoenix that it somehow looked at once like the earth and the air and the water she had been talking about. Stretching her arms wide to the sky all around us, enormous lengths of colored satin ribbon flowed from her fingers to the wind, landing all over me when the wind died down.
I was feeling pretty good about myself at this point.
“LV, there is one element, one trial, left, before your powers as a huaca on this planet can be fully realized.”
“Fire.” I said.
“Yes.” She said.
We looked at each other up there on the mountain top for a long time. I thought about all my journeys to this point. I hadn’t realized they were trials. I knew somehow that I had passed them though. I was stronger because of them. Each of my adventures had made my mission more clear to me. Somehow, I knew what was coming next. And it wasn’t going to be easy.
“Yes, this trial will be your most difficult. Your most dangerous.” It was the man, speaking to me, his hand still on my driver’s side door. I looked into his eyes. They were still saying “Have courage! Be brave!” to me. I felt his love, his strong love. It overwhelmed me for a second. I collected myself and looked back to the Inca Queen. She was back on her knees, talking to - I knew now it had to be The Sun. Because I heard it now. I heard The Sun, talking. And it was talking to me.
I can’t tell you exactly what The Sun said, because it was in another language. Some kind of ancient language that, at the time, there in the land of the Incas, 500 years ago, I understood. But I’ll give you the gist of it.
The Sun reminded me that the Incas identified themselves with it, that they saw themselves as living descendants of The Sun, as the Sun’s representatives on Earth. I knew this, I said, beginning to chat, as I do, and then … I stopped. The Sun did not like being talked back to. It burned hotter. I stayed quiet. The Sun explained that the FIRE element in the universe was its responsibility, and that the element of fire was the source of all action, all life, all change. The element of birth, rebirth, baptism. He explained that being able to complete this last trial would mean that I had completed the embodiment of all the elements I needed to release my power as a huaca in the universe, but that this last trial was to be my most difficult. This last trial was, well, a trial by fire, and it was a test of my commitment. Of my devotion. Of my desire. Of my will. Strangely, I wasn’t afraid. Not one bit. I was ready.
The second I thought “I am ready” to myself, The Sun reached down and pulled me into its very heart. It was hot as hell, I am not going to lie to you. I thought I would never come out. What’s more, I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to. I went places in my mind I’ve never been before - but that’s a whole other story, for another day. When The Sun finally put me back down on the ground (and I resisted this, it should be said, I didn’t want to leave the inside of The Heart of The Sun), I looked the way I do now. Pretty burned out. Pretty black. Pretty bare. I wasn’t even really there. But … so many feelings took my place. I was euphoric! I was destroyed. I was electrified! I was shocked. When I began to come to, and I saw myself, I thought I was ruined. I thought I had failed. I blacked out.
When I came to, The Inca Queen and The Man and The Phoenix had all climbed right inside of my empty self, and sat cross-legged on my floor. Well, The Phoenix perched above my back seat, or what was left of it. They soothed me with mysterious balms and leaves until I felt good again, using cool, gentle hands and soft voices. The man and the woman each wore the sacred Inca Cross, or Chakana around their necks. The Chakana is the sacred three stepped cross that symbolizes, among other things, the route that a shaman journeyed in trance to the lower plane or underworld and the higher levels inhabited by the superior gods to enquire into the causes of misfortune on the Earth plane.
I noticed now that they held their crosses in their hands and were rubbing them all over me, leaving a most spectacular trail of silver wherever they touched me with them. The Phoenix sang softly, night and day, until I was fully conscious again.
Finally, I was able to speak.
“Did I f-f-fail?” I asked.
“Shh, shhh,” said the Inca Queen.
“No. You passed,” said The Man. There was a smile in his voice. He sounded almost proud.
I was elated. But still. I was concerned about how I looked. And what it all meant.
The Inca Queen began. “LV, you have now completed your trials. Now you are ready to fully realize your powers as a huaca on Earth. LV - remember that the Earth cannot produce, cannot grow, until the Inca breaks ground?”
“Yes … ” I said, confused.
“You have had a communion with The Sun. LV - You are the Inca now,” the Inca Queen said quietly. “You are the ground breaker now. The beginning of change, and growth for the Earth, in your civilization.”
I was floored. I was supposed to be The Inca?! The ground breaker. The huaca. I was beginning to understand! I was honored. And terrified. Speechless. (For once.)
“But I … But where … Where have you gone - your entire civilization has disappeared … ” I began
“Ah - but no - we have become one with that which we worship - Our Sun ,” she said.
I thought about this, and began to feel weak, and dizzy, as it dawned on me . . . The Incas had become the Sun … The Earth cannot produce , the Earth cannot grow, unless the Inca broke it first … The Sun is warming the Earth …The Sun is breaking the Earth …
“Yes, LV. We are here to sound the warning bell. We are The Sun. Global warming is the warning bell but not every one can hear it. Not everyone is listening. You need to be our representative on Earth, now LV. You need to be The Inca, breaking ground, turning the soil, so that things can grow, and change. Raise your voice , and ring the bell LV ! Ring the bell ! Sound the alarm. The Incas have come ! The Inca Queen has come. Break out the ploughs, turn the earth and begin again … Grow! Change! Rise up ! Raise your hopeful voice.”
“The Inca Queen has come … But why haven’t you … . Why hasn’t the Inca Queen come to tell us? To help us? Why do you need me?”
“Every civilization needs a voice it can hear, LV. A voice it can understand. The Inca Queen has come to your time. The Inca Queen … The Inca Queen is you now, LV. The Inca Queen is you.” And then they were gone, it was just me and The Phoenix sitting there looking at each other. He stopped singing, and I began to cry. He reached out with his giant wing and dried my tears, which was one of the weirdest and most exotic sensations of my life to date, I have to say.
The Phoenix wrapped me up in his giant wings and carried me home. As we flew home, I heard the Sun telling me to just let go. Just let go! I did. I let go of it all. Worry, fear, doubt, hesitation. It’s all a curse. I let go and let myself feel the air running over my new body. I was completely and utterly in the moment, and I was free. I felt completely naked, like a baby being born.
I was surprised to find that when I woke up, back in the car barn, I looked just like my old self. I wasn’t burned at all! I was elated! But then … I understood. What had happened to me the night before, in Peru, five hundred years ago, with the Incas, was a foreshadowing. A portent. A preparation. My trial was still ahead of me. I sighed. I stopped myself, hearing the Inca Queen’s tone of disgust at my own self absorbed ways. And it was my voice I heard now, for I am the Inca Queen! I wondered where Neil was. The minute I wondered, he walked in the door. That’s the way things work with us.
As Neil walked in, there was a great whooshing sound and flashing of silvery light. Neil ducked coming in the barn door and said What the ?! He walked back outside and looked up at the sky, shielding his eyes from the sun. When he came back in there was a cloud settling on his face. I noticed he was holding something in his hand, he kept rubbing his thumb back and forth over it, whatever it was.
“LV … .What … Who was that?”
“I think it was The Phoenix,” I said.
He nodded, as if he had thought as much. He walked over to me and put his hand on my driver’s side door for a while, as he does. Then he got in, and sat in the driver’s seat for a long, long time. He surprised me by staying with me all night. He didn’t say anything. He was just there. Thinking. I wondered what he knew. If he knew. When morning came and it was time for him to go, he paused at the barn door, looking back at me for a while. Suddenly he said “No one else can do the things you do, LV.” I looked at him. “I know, Neil,” I said.
“It’s all happening, Neil.”
“I know, LV,” he said.
“Everything’s still ahead of us,” I said.
“Yes,” he said, but he sounded thoughtful.
“You have to trust me, N.” I said. ”Do you trust me? I can handle this.” I didn’t want him to worry.
He looked at me for a long time, and then he said,
“Yes, LV. Yes, I trust you.” He sounded reassured. Happy. He smiled at me, and then he was on his way.
He paused again outside the barn door and reached down to the ground to pick something up. He held it up to the light - It was a long, long beautiful feather of many colors - Was it?! It was! The tailfeather of The Phoenix! Neil stood there for a long time looking at that feather. It looked like he was wondering what to do with it. Then he did the strangest thing. He began to walk backward, up the hill, dragging the feather on the ground as he walked, watching the mark it left in the dirt. I followed his eyes. I saw what he saw. As he dragged that Phoenix feather through the dust, it was leaving a trail of pure silver, sparkling in the sun. If I had a mouth it would have dropped open. I looked up from that trail of silver to Neil’s face. He was looking at me. He stood there looking at me for a long, long time. Then his eyes began to smile the way they do, and the whole world started to spin - there was silver falling from the sky. I blinked my headlights once, twice, memories of the spinning sun and Blessed Virgin Mother and Peru and the Incas reeling in my head now. When I looked again, everything was normal out there, the birds were singing, and Neil was still walking up the hill, forward now, the Phoenix feather still in his hand, though now held carefully away from and horizontal to the ground. I watched him until I couldn’t see him anymore, as I always do.
I looked at myself, wondering about it all. I lowered my headlights again to remember the feeling of entering the sun. The newly naked feeling when I emerged. The perfect feeling of flying back here with The Phoenix, a baby being born. I raised my headlights and wondered why. I looked around. I was glad to be home.
Suddenly I realized that whatever had been in Neil’s hand was lying there on my front seat … I looked closely. I could already see the silver growing underneath it. It was the ancient Inca Cross! The Chakana. Where had he gotten that? I looked out the barn door once more to see if I could still see him. There he was, at the top of the hill, as if he knew I would be looking for him. I laughed to myself. Another wonder. I felt full, like the moon.
You know … I still have that Inca cross. It survived the fire. And so did I.