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We believe Jodi. And we’re rootin’ for her all the way.

Now, Jodi had always loved the desert. Something about the heat and the raw, untouched landscape inspired her art like nowhere else she’d ever been. She loved how simultaneously fragile and rugged the cacti were. The life that bloomed and survived through the drastic temperature changes and sweeping dry winds inspired her to no end. Santa Fe didn’t work for every artist and traveler who entered her borders, but she worked for Jodi. In almost all parts of her life. Santa Fe was stunning and vibrational and glittering with people making beautiful things, but the single men, 35 to say 45, looking for a partner and a family seemed kinda nonexistent. 

This was before you could swipe one way or the other on a dating app. This was before you could easily google someone and have a tally of all of their red flags within minutes. This was both the Wild West literally and the Wild West of the dating scene. All bets were off in this cowboy-hole-filled desert. And Jodi had fallen into a few of them.

She’d dated the furniture makers and was left with a broken heart and a rocking chair. She’d dated the jewelry designers and was left with a broken heart and some beautiful turquoise. She’d dated the barrel racers and the musicians and the bookstore owner and even the town coroner who was actually the most well-adjusted man out of that entire list. She was a woman with a solid amount of hope in her heart, but she had to fight to keep the embers alive. It was across a fire, deep in the desert, during a sound bath ceremony at the base of the foothills, where she met John.

John wore long braids in his thick, black hair. His tanned skin shone, reflecting the light of the flames, and his worn-out denim shirt outlined his strong frame. He played a harmonica which was an instrument that always drew Jodi closer. It was such a fine line between sounding like a perfect harmony and a wheezing antelope taking its last breath, and John seemed to have mastered the former. She watched his full lips press against the tiny piece, almost invisible, covered by his rugged-looking hands. He must have been new to town, Jodi was certain that she would have remembered this particular man.

Jodi lay peacefully on her woven blanket, allowing her body to absorb the music. She was not a woo-woo type of girl and had initially rejected all of those activities in her new hometown. It took a year, maybe longer, for her to start accepting invitations to events like a “sound-bath ceremony,” She’d thought it sounded ridiculous. Cuz, you couldn’t bathe in sound. And if you did, you’d end up as dirty as you started. But eventually, she learned the nuances of these get-togethers. It was about being part of a group of like-minded people. It was about finding peace and stillness within yourself so the vibrations of the music could penetrate you (haha) and she really did feel the beauty of the sound bowls ringing through her skin. 

At the end of the ceremony, John walked around to each person lying peacefully around the fire, the millions of stars twinkling down upon them, and placed a small crystal in the palm of each person’s hand. When he got to Jodi, he paused. Who knows if it was his presence or his perfectly musky cologne or the fact that chicks dig musicians, but Jodi remembers feeling such a powerful presence that night when John handed her the crystal. After doing some digging around town the following week, she noted that she was not the only woman in Santa Fe who’d noticed the newcomer.

Her lady friends at the bars were all happy to whisper and laugh about the hot new guy. Plenty of rumors swirled around John. Some thought he was an Indian shaman. Some thought he was an indigenous musician. Some thought he was just a gypsy, traveling through, and would be gone in a week. Jodi wasn’t sure what to think. But she was pretty sure that she’d like to see if that feeling was real.

The next week, before the sun sank into the mountains, when the desert was the perfect temperature to enjoy her beauty, Jodi laced up her sneakers for a run. She loved this solo time in Santa Fe. She’d usually jogged a loop through Museum Hill, starting downtown and past Johnnie’s Cash Store on Don Miguel. Then she’d turn up Canyon Road, past Patrick Smith Park, then over to Camino San Acacio, past the botanical gardens, and through Arroyo Trails. There was plenty to look at. That was the thing about the desert. It was always changing.

Your running route could look completely different from one day to the next. The flowers bloomed and closed quickly, depending on the time of the day. The shadows cast over the mountainous landscape could paint a different picture from minute to minute. The clouds could roll in seconds after the first clap of thunder and you could find yourself drenched before you even realized that it was raining. Such was desert life. To love it, to thrive in it, you had to be prepared for anything. But Jodi wasn’t. And that’s why she was taken by utter surprise when she ran right into John the harmonicist. Literally. She was on East Barcelona Road, by the children's museum, when she heard another jogger’s steps behind her. Jodi turned over her left shoulder. Damn.

If she’d thought he was attractive by the campfire with the crystals, she couldn’t have imagined what he looked like running in nothing but terry Nike shorts and a bandana wrapped around his voluminous black mane. They fell into step and into as much of a conversation as either could muster in the dry, desert air. They ran through the park and down East Buena Vista. That last mile usually dragged on for Jodi. On this particular night, she could have run another ten. His gravelly voice and thoughtful questions made her feel dizzy and she was happy that she had an excuse for her sweaty palms.

That night marked the last time that Jodi was alone in her bed for the next eleven months. She was smitten, she was infatuated, she was in full-blown lust with John and his beautiful lips and hair, not to mention a few of his other body parts.

He was charming to a fault. He brought her desert flowers that he picked himself. He cooked gorgeous meals on the wood-burning stove in his yurt. He also played the guitar and sang and surprised her with watercolors in hues she had never before imagined. He’d gotten his footing in the art world by making documentary films. And that was Jodi’s dream job. She’d been freelancing as a film editor in addition to her painting and was very motivated by the idea of doing more movie-making. She couldn’t imagine a more loving or interesting person to spend her time with. He was basically the New Mexico dream guy. However, as time went on, that’s not exactly how he appeared to everyone.

Jodi had cultivated a close-knit group of friends in her five years in the dusty city. She’d gone on adventures, been consoled through broken hearts, started new jobs, and found a family in her tribe of confidants. And, none of them liked John. 

At first, they were gentle, delicate about their observations, having ice tea and margaritas on her wraparound porch watching the desert bunnies sprint across the driveway.

“Hey Jodi, have you noticed how, when we go out, John never brings his wallet?”

Jodi couldn’t imagine responding to such a silly issue. John’s mind was focused on creating beauty and art. He was a man of the Earth. So what if he forgot his cash? She could forgive that.

“Have you noticed how often he disappears for a few nights and then doesn’t even tell you where he went?”

Sure. Of course, she noticed. But he was a wild man. She certainly wasn’t going to try to tie him down. Jodi assumed that’s what the women in his past had done. And also why none of them were part of his present.

“Have you noticed how he pretends to be Native American but isn’t?”

Wait, what?

“Yeah. Kaitlin’s sister apparently went to undergrad with him at ASU and he was a total jock from Minnesota. He’s just a white guy. His brother went there too. The braids and the feathers and all that, they’re like his ‘thing,’ not his heritage.”

Jodi loved her girlfriends. She didn’t think that they were consciously jealous. She really believed that they were happy for her, and, a little worried. But that felt a little deep to question some’s roots. Especially one as beautiful and painful as a local indigenous tribe. Before she could formulate that thought, Laura, her oldest bud, piped up.

“But, he did make all those movies.”

Jodi glanced at the outdoor wicker table and picked up a framed photograph of the two of them sitting atop John’s two horses. His straw hat casts a light shadow over his face. His fringe chaps cascaded down the side of the Dapple Grey and the silver gleamed from his belt buckle. But you couldn’t see any of that because Jodi’s smile stole the picture. You could have stepped three feet back from the 5x7 frame and have still recognized the joy emanating from the pretty blonde on the handsome Palomino. This past year had been the happiest of her life - well, mostly.

Sure, John wasn’t perfect, but, who was? He often opened his flask of Whiskey before noon but, hey, he was an artist and a cowboy. Jodi ignored the drinking.

Yes, sometimes, when the whiskey was gone, he would get rageful. But it wasn’t like it was directed at her. He was often furious with either “The Man” or a more specific man. Occasionally, he got so passionate that he would break things. Sometimes glasses or furniture. But most of the time he would go out to the back of the yurt and split firewood until his rough palms bled. Now,  that was a healthy outlet for anger? Right?

And ok, there were a couple of minor issues. Jodi hated that he made his dog, Feather Fire, sleep outside, no matter the weather. But John assured her that he was actually empowering Feather Fire to connect to his ancestral roots by allowing him to be more like the wild version of himself. Jodi thought that made perfect sense…. Right?

And ok, fine, sometimes he only made himself lunch and yeah, he didn’t always smell like the Desert Marigolds but personal hygiene was challenging when one lived in a circular tent without running water.

Sure, he also seemed to get piles of mail from debt collectors and jumped from job to job and she heard him speak not particularly nicely to the bartender after last call. But Jodi could ignore all of this. She wasn’t the only one who seemed mesmerized by John’s charm. A shaman, a real shaman had contacted him. He wanted help making a documentary about his tribe. John told her about it over cocktails on the porch.

“Do you want to come with me? We’re going to shoot in the mountains.”

They were sitting outside of Jodi’s, icing her ankle after a twist at the end of their run. She jumped up anyway and reached for her backpack before he’d finished his sentence.

The Shaman was a young, brilliant man from the Blackfoot Tribe, West of Whitefish, Montana. If Jodi had felt a certain undefinable energy from John, what she felt around David Sweet Grass was much deeper. David’s gentleness transcended anything she had ever known. In the rusted-out F-150, rambling across the state, Jodi sat in the backseat of the cab and watched a certain world go by. A tightness in her stomach threatened to ruin what should have been a perfect time.

“Hey Jodi,” David glanced at her through the reflection in the cracked rearview mirror, “it’s a full moon tonight. Would you be interested in doing a vision quest?”

Jodi felt a chill run through her body. She couldn’t place its function. She’d heard of these vision quests. She’d heard they were life-changing trips, fueled by iowaska or other hallucinogenics, that could take your mind and body to places quite literally unimaginable. She didn’t want to turn down an invitation by David Sweet Grass. She felt like it was a personal offering. Maybe he sensed that she was in need of some soul-searching. Before she could answer, John piped up,

“You should definitely do it.”

For a reason Jodi couldn’t name, hearing John’s voice increased the tension in her stomach.

“I really came along to learn,” Jodi began, trying to choose her words wisely as the sun-spiked highway air rushed through the open windows, “I want to be on my game… I just, I well, I don’t really want to do any drugs.” It wasn’t that Jodi was some kind of prude in that department, it was just that she was a woman who liked to be in control. She associated any kind of recreational drug use as something to make a party more fun. And she meant what she said, she was there to work.

“No drugs,” David said with a calmness that felt like a weighted blanket. And thus, it was decided. 

That night, after a filling dinner at a local roadside taco stand, Jodi followed David and John up the mountain’s dirt and rocky path, the warm air cocooned around her by David’s large down Patagonia jacket. They hiked in silence, the trail easily illuminated by the neon moon. Jodi was to be led to a certain spot, chosen by David and his ancestors, and not leave the sand-drawn circle until dawn. No water, no sleeping bag, and, no drugs. An hour and a half up the trail, through the sagebrush, over a boulder field, they stopped in silence. Jodi was grateful, the twisted ankle was taking forever to heal. There was a circle of rocks placed thoughtfully on the ground. The moon, now directly overhead, appeared to be shining a spotlight on the beckoning circle.

“Oh yeah, this is the spot,” said John, breaking the desert quiet. 

“You will stay here,” David pointed to the circle, “enter with a question in your heart. Do not go looking for the answers. That's not the point. The point is to subtract all of the distractions and allow your natural body to find communion with the natural world. You will be protected by the spirits of those who came before you.” David placed his hands on Jodi’s shoulders and gently pushed their foreheads towards each other until they were almost touching. She nodded. David nodded back. John put his arm around her and went in for a kiss. It felt off, but Jodi didn’t realize that until after the two men turned to walk back down from where they came.

Jodi sat down in the circle, briefly wishing that she’d brought her watch and then feeling immediately grateful that she didn’t. She knew she wouldn’t sleep. She gazed up to the sky, finding the few constellations that she knew or thought she knew. There was Orion’s belt (which is kind of cheating because it’s just three stars in a straight line,) than The Big Dipper, and The Little Dipper. Although who knows if that was actually what she was looking at.

Enter with a question in your heart,  David had instructed. What was Jodi’s question? Whether to stay in Santa Fe? No, she liked it there. And Jodi had never been afraid to move. And she loved her work, her art, her editing. It inspired her, made her happy, and paid the bills. What more could she want? And then it came to her. It was a thought that she’d been ignoring for possibly years. There was something about admitting it that made her feel boring or weak. And it was… that Jodi wanted a baby. A zing zipped through her stomach. A baby. A baby with John. And a shooting star found its way towards the center of the sky. But not like any shooting star that Jodi had ever seen.

The light glowed somewhere between a white and a yellow. It was too big to be a shooting star. Too close. And it was getting closer. Jodi rubbed her eyes. She shook her head. She unzipped her jacket to a rush of the cold night air. The light got closer, bigger, somehow brighter. She pinched the palm of her hand, digging her nails into the skin until a tear escaped from her eye. Still, more light. She could make out a shape. It was clear. A large orb with a ring around it.

Oh, Jodi shook her body, trying to escape from this momentary insanity, that must be Mars. Right? The planet with the ring around it? But, it wasn’t. It was now hovering in front of the mountain range. Jodi had no clue how high up it was or how fast it was moving. Only that it was getting closer, it was doing so quickly, without a sound, and, also, that she was scared. She was scared shitless. She couldn’t keep up with the thoughts of disbelief that were just now jamming her head. 

What in the actual fuck was happening?  Jodi was now shivering, having released the warm air when she unzipped her jacket. A cold, freezing cold, sweat formed across her back and seemed to momentarily paralyze her. The light was now close, but how close? She can’t say. Maybe eight feet from her circle, maybe ten. Maybe more. All that she knows is that it abruptly came to a stop. There, it pulsated, in and out, bright then dim, like a jellyfish floating in the depths of a black ocean. And then she felt warm. A heat enveloped her body that was so immediate, so real, so comforting, it’s her first recollection when her brain reminds her of this experience. She stared into the light, feeling it beckoning her out of the circle. The circle that David had told her not to leave.

With each wave of light, brightening, and then dimming, she felt warmer, more comfortable, and the throbbing in her ankle dissipated with each passing second. 

Again. What in the fuck was going on?

In retrospect, Jodi regrets her next move. She might have felt warm, she might have even felt some unexplainable healing, but she was scared. She was terrified. And she looked straight into the light and begged it, silently, to leave. And you know what happened? It left. It fucking left. Exactly as it had arrived; slowly, floating through the valley and then swimming off into the sky. Jodi stared, frozen in space. The arid desert cold enveloped her immediately and she zipped her jacket back up quickly, stomping her feet to create some warmth. That was when she realized that her ankle was… fine? She stomped again. She felt nothing.

Now, who knows what time this all happened and who knows how much longer she had to wait for her filmmaker boyfriend and his Shaman friend to come rescue her with the rising sun. It felt like years. It felt like minutes. When she saw John leading the way up the dirt path, she saw a different man than she had known eight hours earlier.

He looked smaller, less self-assured. She squinted, watching him climb over the rocks, and saw a man less sure-footed than he boasted of himself. Jodi thought about her question, her want, her need, her secret baby. And watching John stumble over the sagebrush, she felt a wave of certainty crash over her heart. This was not her man.

She hugged both of them and walked back down the mountain in silence, which was her choice. John had plenty of questions. David, for whatever reason, did not.

Jodi didn’t tell them about her encounter with the light. She had no interest in sounding like either a crazy person or a liar. And it’s taken her twenty years to share this story. And she only tells it to a select few.

We feel honored and grateful that she decided to share this with us, over a similar campfire.

And we laughed. Because, we’ve all been so in love or lust or whatever you want to call it that we’ve ignored so, so, so many red flags. And what does it take to snap us out of it? For some, it’s a bad fight, for others, it’s finally listening to their friends or family. Sometimes, it’s a secret unearthed. And this time, it just happened to be a very real alien encounter.

Sweet Dreams

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