On our hike, Angel-Girl has brought along one cookie, which she has tucked carefully in a plastic baggy in her coat pocket. This is a ritual of hers. She waits for the right moment to offer the Old Ones a cookie! We walk along for a while in quiet, studying the agave plants that are starting to grow, their tall, flowering stalks emerging from their center leaf. They can reach up to fourteen feet and then bloom a yellow canopy of flowers. They are special to us. I have always felt like they are protectors and I’ve often found them guarding many of the sacred places or sacred areas of power I have discovered in the wilderness. It’s like they’re tall sentinels in the high desert, watching over us.
“Daddy, look at this!” Angel-Girl says, pointing at the ground just off the trail. I walk over and look down and see a big paw print clearly outlined in the soft red soil between two small red rocks. Much bigger than the print a dog would leave.
“Wow!” I exclaim. “Good eye, my Angel!” I study the print. “You know what? I think it’s a mountain lion track!”
“Really!” she says.
“Yup. I heard they come down from the mountains once in a while.”
“Let’s follow her path a ways,” I suggest.
“We can do that?” she asks, excited.
“Oh yes, it’s how we learn about the mountain lion.” We walk slowly, examining the line of the tracks as they weave a path through green manzanita bushes with their network of bright copper branches and green leaves; they are starting to show their tiny red berries.
“Look at this, do you see how one paw drags?” I point it out to her with my finger. She studies the track closely, trying to see what I’m showing her.
“I see it! What does it mean?”
“Well, it could mean she’s hurt.”
Angel-Girl looks up at me, suddenly alarmed, “She’s hurt?”
“I’m not sure, my Angel.”
She eyes the track again, looking deeply. I feel her going very still. She gets down on her knees and places her little hand gently inside the paw print and closes her eyes. I slow my breathing to match hers. She is being her father. With a start, she snaps her eyes open, looking super-surprised.
“Daddy, remember when you told me when a picture comes into my head real fast, it might be important?”
“The occurring moment.”
“Did something come to you?” I ask.
She nods emphatically and says, “You’re right, it’s a girl lion. She is okay. I saw her walking in the woods, big trees all around her. That’s just the way she walks! She is very pretty with golden fur. Then she turned and looked at me, like she knew me. She has big eyes. I felt her heart.”
I am so proud of her. “Excellent, baby!”
Then she steps firmly on the soft soil next to the paw print, creating a deep impression of her hiking boot. She reaches in her pocket and takes out the chocolate-chip cookie and places it between her footprint and the big paw print. As she covers the cookie with her hand, closing her eyes, she says, “This is for you, little mountain lion. My daddy made them, they are very yummy! My footprint is right here next to yours so you won’t get lonely.”
“Good job, my Angel. If you honor them, they will honor you.”
“I remember, Daddy,” she says, smiling.