The Charlie Bravo Story

Crestone Part 2

Unless you count old Kung Fu episodes from back in the day, my exposure to Buddhism while growing up was severely limited. But on a very superficial level, I was always attracted to the architecture of the temples and the stupas. On a somewhat deeper level, it seemed to be a belief system based on turning the other cheek until cheek-turning time was officially finished, and a religion that didn’t seem to spend a lot of time and effort telling others how theirs was wrong.
Or something like that; I am most assuredly not a theologian, but I have been a Christian all my life. Some might tell me that I can’t appreciate the tenets of one belief system without making me a heretic to another: I’ll let the pontificators postulate over that while I sneak downstairs for potluck. But if nothing else, I do appreciate what I perceive Buddhism to be about, and I REALLY like the vibe; the temples up in Himalayas, the multi-colored prayer flags, the peacefulness of meditation that have never been able to get my mind around all leave me with a feeling that just feels, well, good.
So when I heard about the town of Crestone and all of it’s connection to the various religions, I was intrigued. And the fact that it was located in the very valley that that Duff and I were already planning to visit due to plethora of supposed UFO activity, well, an extended stop here was a no brainer.
But there was little “vibe” to be experienced in Crestone that day, as there were waaay too many visitors in the tiny town, all cramming their high-dollar camping rigs into every nook and cranny imaginable. Not what we were looking for, so I snagged a hand-written map of the locations of some of the temples and shrines and went climbing.
On the motorcycle sidecar, of course. She’s a Honda, so of course she’s indestructible, but not so well suited as one might hope to scrambling up a dirt road into the Sangre de Christos. We passed numerous temples and monasteries located further up the mountainsides, but nowhere that seemed very canine inclusive, so we kept climbing.
I finally said “no mas” and we decided to cut our losses before I broke something on the bike that I couldn’t fix. I was securing all of the gear that had came unstowed in preparation for the long miles to up Monarch Pass when an SUV appeared from nowhere.
No, it was not the Dalia Lama or anything like that, as I doubt His Holiness tools around the mountains in a Toyota. But while not wearing saffron robes, this driver was pretty unique in his own right; he also was a sidecar pilot, but for a very different reason. He had been involved years earlier in an automobile accident, and as a result, was left a paraplegic. But if you thought that he was the type to let the slow him down, well, you would be wrong. He had converted the inside of his SUV into a mini-camper, and nothing was slowing this guy down.
For privacy’s sake, I’ll call him “K”, in kase he sees this and decides to kall. While by his own definition not a practicing Buddhist, he was on an eight day retreat at one of the temples; no judgement here, as we all need another outlook from time to time. As I was unwilling to take the side hack any further up the mountainside, he volunteered to take Duff and I up to the largest stupa in his truck. I left the Honda sitting forlornly on the side of side of the road and Duff immediately made himself at home.
So, there we were, a “handicapped” man enabling the ascent of a relatively-able and his dog up to a Buddhist shrine; I think that I should henceforth describe his condition not handicapped but decidely handiUNcapped or maybe handiuncorked. Or maybe him and those like him as “handi-able”; I don’t know, but I spend waaay to much time swelling on such matters.
Anyway… The road diminished upwards to double-track as we bounced up and over the hardened clay ruts, and Tibetan prayer flags denoting stream-side places of meditation began to blossom in the trees.
Then there it was, a massive white stupa contrasting against a crystal Colorado sky. There were so many facets of the construction contained in the shrine that I would not even attempt to describe it as I couldn’t begin to do it justice. The cremains of a holy man, along with scrolls, artifacts, miniature stupas and many other treasure are sealed up inside.
I was taking pictures of an informational booth on the premises when one of the photos of the monks gave me a start when it appeared to move. Of course it didn’t; it was my reflection in the protective glass, but the size and shape of the shadow on the glass was eerily similar to the one contained in the frame. Maybe it was a bit of light-headedness from lack of oxygen, maybe a bit of something else; who knows? I’m just along for the ride.
Then K mentioned for me to look back towards the stupa; MacDuff was posing on the steps as perfectly centered as if he had been placed there by a portrait photographer. Yikes; isn’t that sacrilegious or something? But then he went from regal to decidedly un-regal, plopping his hairy butt down like he was transferring his persona from one of royalty to just another scruffy dog.
Even though I don’t think that I would have admitted to myself, I was waiting on just this type of sign. How to transition from Charlie to MacDuff, or at least how to allow him to have a voice without prematurely squashing her’s, had been heavy on my mind for some time; and this was the first long trip west that Her Highness had not made the journey.
But, in that moment at least, it all made sense. Charlie would be fine in her new role, MacDuff would go on to fulfill his.
And me? I just get to keep piloting the motorcycle, a canine chauffeur for two(or more) mouthy dogs.

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