Posted by: Bruce Proctor | September 13, 2010

1st Visit to Coal Mine Cyn, 2 of 3:Boundary Spirit

Just past Hopi territory I was on the lookout for any road or track cutting north. A friend who had once lived locally had marked my map here as “Coal Canyon,” and told me it was a remarkable place to photograph.

A few Navajo hogans and trailers tucked insignificantly in the margins of the rock and sand landscape.

“Now, here’s luck!” I found a graded, dirt road, headed straight north. It even had a Navajo Nation route sign.

In a few minutes the road was nothing but a sandy track, perching along a ridge with cliffs falling away to either side. The tops of  pinnacles on either side plunged a hundred feet to the desert floors. They were white–loose sandstone and chalk–streaked with a couple red and lavender-pink layers. Near the top, one thin black seam of coal ran horizontally through it all.

Mid-day, 105 degrees, no shade, a lot of sand. Just breathing in sered my nostrils. Although the scene around me was indeed remarkable, the full-bore, overhead sun washed out any hope of making photographs now. I sat on my driver’s side seat, door open, in the scant shade of my truck, munching a sandwich and wondering if I would ever return to this place.

Eight or ten yards on the ground across from me, I saw a strange phenomenon I never saw before or since. A foot above the ground, rising another two or three feet was a sort of wavering flame of air. As I ate I considered it. It seemed a natural phenomenon, but unlike any dust devil: it stayed rooted to its spot, its air was clear and clean, it was orders of magnitude too small. There seemed to be no gap or gash in the ground under it that might be emitting gases.

After finishing my lunch, and it appearing no different, like so many mysteries, I got used to it. I assumed it was harmless, and paid it no more attention.

Recently, all these years later, during a shamanic journey, which is for me entering a slightly dreamlike state of consciousness which can help me deal with my current illness, I was taken quite unexpectedly to this wavering flame of air.

When I want to know something during a shamanic journey, I ask a question just to the front of my left ear, and I always get an answer, usually crisply and without the slightest hesitation. The criteria I judge its responses by are 1) does it give insight into the matter, and 2) (a bonus) is it unexpected. In other words, am I making this up myself?

I asked what this flame of air was.

“It’s a boundary spirit.”

Well, that was unexpected, to say the least. I know now, what I did not know on this first visit to the Coal Mine Canyon area, that the boundary between the Navajo and Hopi lands here was a longstanding and ongoing dispute. So this answer made a strange sense. Not that I’d ever heard of a “boundary spirit.”

So I asked, “Oh, you mean so that the Hopi and Navajo don’t get in each others’ hair, out here?”

“No. You misunderstand me. The boundary spirit is here to diffuse the negative energy here, so that there will be no need for a boundary.”

For what it’s worth.

I also picked up on my own that the boundary spirit indeed has a kind of sentience, rather like the sentience imputed to be in certain crystals.



  1. Bruce, this is very haunting and I’ve thought about it a lot. There’s a jolt of recognition for me like I’ve seen one of these before too. Don’t know where or when, but I’ve seen one. Well, I’ve had some pretty hard dealings with these same things.

    At any rate beautiful writing, all three of these posts. They are the right length for my attention span. I’d like to read more.

    The Shamanic journey stuff sounds interesting. Martha Beck is doing work in that stuff too. Her latest book talks about it as does her blog. She’s fun to read on Facebook too. I hope you write more about that too. And hope you’re feeling better.

    One of these days I’ll start my blog, which will be far less magical I think. More about horses and land and how my wounded sense of inheritance was healed by Bruce’s mom.

    Well, that’s all I know…Love and all good things, Katie

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