Looking for Something Spiritual in a Materialistic World
A TRUE STORY
How to Find the Spiritual in a Materialistic World
by Barbara Lindsey
“ I rented a hotel room in Tucson Arizona for a three-day weekend and the second room is free. Come and join me for some fun. You need some time and space. Be my guest.” My old friend, Joan was a continuous blast of power and enthusiasm. When she gets her mind set on something she rarely lets go. Losing over 200 lbs. and keeping it off for over 10 years, Joan was a psychologist, published author and motivational speaker. She was focused now on me and was not going to take no for an answer. I could see her in my mind’s eye as she engaged me, her target. Standing up straight in her tall black athletic frame she was a Goddess Diana warrior commanding attention. Joan’s voice was deep, smooth and hypnotic. Joan together with my long time friend, Priscilla also on the other end of the phone call were both in agreement that I was going with them to Tucson. Priscilla ran a Day Care for years out of her home in Sacramento and I was her maid of honor at her wedding years back. Priscilla had short blond hair and a beautiful cherub face. Many lucky children had come through her Day Care center for all of her unconditional love and nurturing. Priscilla was the Mother Goddess herself in a large round soft package of soothing quiet gentleness and powerful strength. She always talked in a whisper. I was a little hard of hearing so I always had to have her repeat herself or constantly had to ask her to speak up. The twinkle in her baby blue eyes reminded me of Santa Claus because they were magical. “ It is time to take care of ourselves for once.” Priscilla pleaded. “We need a break and I have a free ticket for you.”
So, a few days later I was on a plane to Tucson with my generous friend. Priscilla’s next door neighbor, Corrine, whom I didn’t know at all had decided at the last minute to join us. We would meet up with Joan at the hotel.
Tucson, Arizona was all about the shopping. After about 5 hours of shopping the vast boutiques with Coco-Pele inspired trinkets, southwestern art, antiques, hand crafted Native American Indian jewelry of turquoise, coral and silver, blankets, crafts and pottery it all began to look the same to me. It was wonderful that my friends could bring back such beautiful pieces of art to enhance their homes. At each store I would hear my friends scream with delight about their new found objects. Corrine had discovered a stunning woven blanket of turquoise, red, black and yellow geometric designs. Even though she constantly complained about the coldness she had been feeling in her old breast implants and that she needed to have her silicone implants removed because they were making her sick, (more information than I needed to hear), she was fun and full of delightful energy.
I was very happy for their treasure hunting abilities, but I was already getting bored and we had two and a half more days ahead of us. Due to my financial situation, which was desperate at the time, I could only “window shop”, so my shopping experience was very different than my girl friends. I had recently had a near death experience that changed my life and I was looking for something more spiritual to fulfill my time. Don’t get me wrong shopping has its’ merits but I could only admire so much eye candy and then, “Somebody shoot me, please. I spent some time outside on the “men’s bench” waiting for the shopping to cease.
“So, where are you from?” inquired a tall slender blonde boutique salesperson behind the polished glass jewelry counter. Her name card read Veronica. She was wearing a squash blossom necklace of sterling silver and turquoise that caught my eye. “ I am from Sacramento.” I replied as I moved closer to her counter. “I love your necklace” I admiringly admitted to her. “Yes, it is special” and she explained about its uniqueness. I decided to take a risk and with hopeful enthusiasm I asked her, “Is there anything spiritual happening here?” As she stepped a few steps back from her counter she shook her head from side to side and respond with a definite, “No.” “No, I don’t think so.” Veronica seemed suddenly to have a great need to shine the glass counter top again. My friends thought my inquiry was funny.
Five more boutiques later and I would ask the same question of all the sales people in each and every store, “Is there anything spiritual happening here? The answer was always, “No.” The question became my quest and amusement and it didn’t cost me anything except for teasing and light laughter from my girlfriends. It was all in fun.
We finally stopped for lunch and I only had an ice tea because that was all that I could afford. I had to much pride to ask for my girlfriends to pay for me and I didn’t want them to know that I was broke. Joan asked me to ask the waitress my question. I did and everyone including myself laughed when I received the same answer. We shopped late into the evening until all the stores closed and returned to the hotel. Joan announced that something came up at work and that she had to leave that night.
At last back to our hotel. A big pink flamingo colored box with bronze tinted windows set in a honeycomb style stucco building. The oasis was a tropical paradise manicured in desert austerity. A quick dash from the rental car and thru the reception doors to heaven’s escape from the sweltering mid summer heat. Now, I realized why the hotel rooms and airplane tickets were two for one. A ploy to get customers to the desert.
“We are a sight for sore eyes,” Priscilla uncharacteristically shouted as she looked upon her refection in the floor to ceiling smoky mirror. We all agreed and began to laugh. Two middle aged men dressed in dusty blue jeans and black t-shirts and wearing baseball caps squeezed into the elevator with us like there wasn’t another one. On the ride, up Priscilla shyly laughingly nudge me with her package and asked, “Barbara ask them your question.” So, I did. The taller man with the camera around his shoulder turned around and looked at me rather strangely and replied, “No.” as he began to shake his head. They both jumped off the elevator on their floor but as they did the man with the handkerchief sticking out of his back pant’s pocket put his hand back into the elevator just in time to stop it and replied to all of us. “Hold the elevator for just minute. I will be right back. I think I may have something you will be interested in seeing.”
He came running back with a map in his hand and I reached out blocking the entrance to the elevator with my back against the side door keeping it from closing as my girlfriends watched wide eyed. He said his name was Ted and that he was a professional photographer. He had been coming to photograph pictures for calendars in the area for years. He handed me a map and directions that he had quickly drawn on a napkin with a black felt pen.
Ted told me on the map were directions to a very wise and holy man, Chief Geronimo, III’s home. He explained to me that to visit a holy man it was customary to bring gifts of tobacco, sage and or sweet grass. Ted said that the “something spiritual” that I that I was looking for might be found by spending time with the Chief. I hugged Ted’s neck and told him thanks. He told me that he had spent many an afternoon with Geronimo who lived just outside Saguaro National Park and that I wouldn’t be disappointed. Ted hugged me and wished me good luck on my quest and then ran back down the hall and disappeared. My girlfriends were in awe and shock as they looked at me. We rode the rest of the way up in the elevator in quiet excitement. A miracle had just happened. “Oh, my Goddess this is so cool.” I shouted on the way to our room. I then did a little football touchdown victory dance and felt fabulously lucky. My girlfriends danced around with me in the hotel corridor.
I am not a very patient person and I couldn’t wait to journey to Chief Geronimo, III. It felt like the night before Christmas full of anticipation. I was unable to sleep and tossed and turned. My girlfriends were still very much invested in the full shopping experience the next day, all day. By the final threat of my proposal to hitch hike if necessary to meet Geronimo on our third and final day in Arizona, we finally began our journey to Geronimo’s house. We got lost several times but I wouldn’t give up. The Saguaro National Monument displayed astounding beautifully austere natural landscape. Thousands of acres of Saguaro cactus of every size abounded as far as our eyes could see.
Such beauty instilled a mystery of silence and timelessness. It was as if we were visiting another planet devoid of human existence. We didn’t see anyone for miles and miles. The heat was pounding as we traveled down the asphalt road. We were in the middle of the hot desert landscape when I noticed a small mobile home with a cyclone fence around it towards the front entry to the park and slightly to the right. I had a feeling that it was the place. So, after convincing my reluctant girlfriends to take a chance, we drove off the beaten path and onto an old gravel road very slowly and quietly toward the old rust stained mobile home. On the large beat up dusty black mailbox was printed the name, “Geronimo” in capital white letters. We had finally arrived.
As we continued our drive which seemed like forever, there stood a tall and largely built man with sunned drenched tanned skin, faded denim jeans and cowboy boots with a larger than life grin on his face standing in the middle of the gravel driveway in front of his mobile home. He was shading his eyes with his hand and his long black braids hung down neatly from his shoulders. I got the feeling he had been watching we strangers circling around going this way and that way. Finally coming toward him in our not from around here rental car.
I eagerly bounded out of the car first. “Hello, young lady, I am Chief Geronimo the Third and I have been waiting for you.” “Come on in out of the heat and bring your friends.” he said. I looked back at Priscilla and Corrine and they gave me the, “Oh, my God” and “this isn’t really happening” look in their reluctant stares. There were many different kinds of cactus growing in pots well tended on a cement cracked porch with an old wooden slatted screen overhang that shaded the entrance to the front of his mobile home. Geronimo motioned for us to follow him as he opened his screen door and went inside. We followed him into the darkness. After adjusting my eyes from the sun I saw his tidy sparsely filled living room. I was beginning to make out some of the people’s faces in the many photos that hung on the wall behind his well worn brown leather Lazy Boy style chair. He brought out three folding lawn chairs and sat them directly in front of his chair. He motioned for me to sit in the middle with his hand. Directly behind him as he sat down I could now see pictures of Geronimo with President Kennedy shaking hands, dignitaries from foreign countries, old western movie stars and many other famous people.
Geronimo began to tell stories about some of the old pictures of him with President Kennedy and how friendly the President was and about his friendships with other famous people. He said that he had small parts in many western movies as a young man. We sat in silence for awhile. I offered him the fresh tobacco that I had bought at a local liquor store. Geronimo said he never smoke or drank his entire life. A promise that he had made to his Grandfather.
Geronimo showed us a picture of him as a young boy with his father and mother and two other men. He said at the time the picture was taken he did not know that he was the son of a famous chief. Geronimo said that he did not find out who his father was until he was ten years old to protect him. He told stories of which he asked us not to tell and so those stories go with me to the grave; stories about Indian battles and his family. My girlfriends were mesmerized with his stories as well and didn’t have much to say but their eyes were bright shining like the Sun with delight as we continued to listen to his tales about what it was like growing up as a young Apache brave and his ongoing fight for survival. Geronimo told us that his Grandfather advised him never to take money from the white people without earning it because you would always owe them and that was not a respectful way to live. Geronimo said that He always followed that advice and that was how he got into acting in the beginning. I told Geronimo that I thought he looked tired and he confided in us that he was very tired but that he had to wait for his replacement before he could die but that he had not come yet.
We all gave him small offerings of money in his tin can hanging next to his chair as a thank you for all of his stories and spending his valuable time with us. He did not ask for it. We felt it was customary. I loved Geronimo’s long dark braids, his brown weathered hands and his easy way of being. His humor, quick wit, teasing sense of humor and laughter filled his home. It was a bigger than life experience for us who were lucky enough to find him and spend time with him. A young nurse in a starched white uniform would check on him ever so often while we were there to make sure Geronimo was ok or if he needed anything.
Geronimo asked me directly why I was there? He said that he could feel that I was on a quest and that it was important. He explained that most people are in too big of a hurry to go out of their way to find him nowadays. I explained to him that I had a near death experience recently and that my whole way of viewing life had changed and that I was trying to make sense of everything again. I was beginning to learn about the Native American Indian ways and valued their close relationship with nature, the planet and the Cosmos. I had been trained to lead fire walking seminars and had a passion for empowering people. I had participated in many “inipi” sweat lodge ceremonies and had began to study with a Lakota Sioux Indian chief. “How could a white girl (later I found out I was Choctaw Indian heritage on my mother’s side) from California have the right to carry a drum and sing native songs during a fire walk? I asked him. I didn’t want to offend anyone, especially Native American Indians because I had so much respect for them. I felt like this calling to aid people was bigger than myself. It was my path. Geronimo looked at me with his fire filled red eyes and held both my hands. He looked me straight into my eyes and into my soul and proclaimed to me and my girlfriends that from this day forward I was officially an Apache at heart and if anyone challenged me that I had his blessings. If people were to challenge me and my methods of teaching, I was to tell them that I was Apache at heart because Chief Geronimo, III says so the challengers were invited to come straight to him and he would always have my back. I felt so much relief. My heart was pounding it filled up with just the medicine that I so very desperately needed at the beginning of my long spiritual path to come.
Chief Geronimo said that he was having his 103rd birthday next weekend and he would love to have my girlfriends and I come celebrate with him and his family. I told him I was honored but that I could not attend due to financial considerations. I told him that I had a birthday present for him. I ran to the car and grabbed my hand made drum that I had just received from a Northern American Indian tribe and handed it over to Geronimo as a birthday gift. He told me that in his tradition the birthday person actually gives the gifts away. So, He gave us each a copy of the original photograph of himself with his father, mother and four Indian men he had previously told us the story about. I asked him to sign it to Barbara but he said he couldn’t because he only knew how to write three words and they were, “ from Chief Geronimo.” His only condition upon gifting us the autographed photos were that we were never to sell them for money and to keep them in our families. We all agreed and shook hands with him.
It was way past the time to go or we would miss our flight. We raced to the car and before we pulled away Chief Geronimo was standing in the middle of the driveway right where we had first met him. He began to play his birthday drum with a bear painted on it and sing. He told me that I would always be protected by him along with my children and my children’s children for five generations. I didn’t want to leave my friend, my teacher. I felt so honored to be in his presence.
As we flew down the gravel road in our rental car with the dust flying high I began to sob uncontrollably until we got to the airport forty-five minutes later. The crying was a letting go of such grief and self doubt. As the tears subsided my heart felt lighter. My sense of being felt much relief and a lightness of being touched my soul and brightened my outlook on the future. I had found my” looking for something spiritual” after all and it was a comforting gift to bring back home.
Almost twenty years later, Geronimo’s photograph still hangs in my office. The afternoon that I was lucky enough to spend with Chief Geronimo is a treasured memory. I recently looked Geronimo up on the internet and I found an article printed in the Desert News archives that read that Grandson of Geronimo dies at 91? Published on February 15, 1995. Eva Geronimo denied Chief Geronimo’s authenticity and claimed that her father never told her of this name. Geronimo III claimed that he was 115 years old, but his driver’s license made him 91. Officially he died of heart disease.
Whether Geronimo III is or is not who he claimed to be who is to say since Native American Indians have an oral history? It doesn’t make that big of a difference to me to me Geronimo was the real thing given the opportunity to spend some time with him, I am sure you would agree. I found another article which stated that Geronimo, III who had lived just outside Saguaro National Monument In a town called Oracle had met many people like me over the years and had invited them into his small mobile home. Each and every time he listened, gave advice, told stories and helped everyone who came his way. Every lucky person who walked away from him was better for the experience. Looking back, I consider myself fortunate.
If anyone asks me, “ What is a white girl doing teaching Native American Indian ways?” My response is, “I am Choctaw by blood, Apache at heart and have a great love for Lakota Sioux traditions.” I would invite you to sit with me for awhile and we would talk. Oh, and by the way, if you are looking for something spiritual in a materialistic world expect to find it.