There’s something about the red rocks in Sedona that just shake and swirl up emotions, really forcing you to look inward.

The pit in my stomach started to lessen as I drove over the pavement to see the red/orange landscape displayed perfectly through my windshield. I’d searched ‘best breakfast spots in Sedona’ before I backed out of my driveway, so I didn’t have to re-map anything when I got into town; Secret Garden Cafe landed at the top of Yelp’s list, so I made the quaint restaurant my first destination. I turned into the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village; it greeted me with earthy tones, plenty of greenery, and colonial like structures… the release of my stress was palpable as I felt a smile form on my face for the first time in days.

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I walked passed a running water fountain through the cobbled stone, into the small venue that smelled of eggs and espresso.

“Good morning! First time in?” the 20-something shaggy haired brunette looked my way with his charming smile as he poured a frothy beverage into a mug.

“Hey there! Yep. First time… how could you tell?” I smiled back with ease.

“Eh, we have a lot of tourists, so I assumed. Just you?” he handed the man next to me his steamy drink.

I nodded and grabbed the laminated menu he handed me; he told me to sit wherever I liked, so naturally, I opted for a seat outside.

I took in the view around me before answering a call from my sister; she tends to have a lot of drama in her life — this time was no different — I let her whine about her annoying boss, and the fact that she was sitting in a parking lot, having to pee, waiting to get tested for COVID.

After that transaction ended, I decided I would not allow another phone call during my trip; moments later, my food arrived and I savored every bite.

I connected with another woman visiting from Tucson — she told me about the passing of her husband — about becoming a Reiki master, and about her experience the day before with a Shaman. We bid each other adieu before I plodded back over the cobble stones and window shopped the boutiques in the Tlaquepaque Village.

Once I officially walked by every shop, ogled at the beautiful art sculptures, and jumped back at the sight of a massive gecko, I decided to make my way into Sedona’s down town, suppressing the urge to turn into every crystal shop I saw, knowing there would be plenty where I was headed.

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The drive took less than five minutes, even with the construction. I parked in a lot and trudged up the surprisingly steep hill towards the strip of restaurants, shops, and salons. I scooped up some crystals — snowflake obsidian, blue lace agate, and howlite, then purchased a pair of vintage cutoff Levi’s from Blackbird before sitting in the courtyard for a moment, just to let the sun sink into my pores.

The locals, whether shop owners or employees, were just the right kind of friendly — not the fabricated, high pitched kind, where you know they’re just concerned about getting off work so they can go meet their friends at Starbucks. Side note — how does Starbucks not carry oat milk?!

It was an easy 85 degrees and the breeze in the air was welcomed; in fact, if I was in a Sims game and had to select the perfect temperature, it would’ve been close to what I felt in Sedona. I decided to follow my intuition and trot up the stairs to the healing center; a woman with short brown hair stood behind the glass counter organizing what appeared to be DVDs — likely discounting them because everyone streams content now. She was probably in her mid 50’s and something about her was familiar but I couldn’t place it.

I told her I was looking for a healing — that I’d lost a close friend and I couldn’t quite shake the visual of him drowning. I didn’t know what to expect, as I’d only done one Reiki session with a trusted individual back in 2012. I wouldn’t be able to summarize the experience into one word, because the 30 minutes was full of different emotions — anxious, calm, suspicious, loving — and for moments throughout, I struggled for breath. At conclusion, she asked if she could offer some of her thoughts — of course, I agreed… what am I going to say? No… please don’t tell me what you read about my aura? That would be absurd.

Penny grasped onto a rose quartz and smiled as she spoke softly, handing me water with her other hand, before telling me I needed to continue down my creative path — that I would be teaching a large audience some day. We spoke for another five minutes, which would leave me feeling at least three times better than when I walked in.

Okay, now it was officially time for lunch — as much as the smell of hot dogs tugged at me, I couldn’t be swayed; this is a town of healing — a town where so many restaurants source from local farmers, using only organic products. So, I forged through the minimal construction, went through too many roundabouts, and pulled into the dirt parking lot of ChocolaTree — I ordered some avocado sandwich from Jai, who looked so oddly refreshed, I had to ask his age — 49 — if not for the gray, I would’ve believed early 30’s.

“You have to go out and experience the garden oasis while you eat. And your server will bring fresh mineral water,” he tilted his head and grinned, signaling to the new arrivals, ‘one minute.’

He was right — their outdoor dining area was a sanctuary; I couldn’t help the feeling of peace that washed over me as I read about the owners, and the fresh food did not disappoint.

It was 2:30 when I got back in my car and I decided it was time to check in to the hotel, unpack, and do some writing.

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The words flew out of me — words to my boyfriend of 7 years — about my needs — no holding back. I pressed send, jumped in the shower and got myself ready for dinner, though I didn’t know where I’d be going yet. I scoured through Yelp again (what a great source, right?) and stumbled upon a cute wine spot with the best selection of charcuterie. Honestly, if I had to pick a “meal” to eat for the rest of time, goat cheese + salami would probably be it.

And Vino Di Sedona did not disappoint one bit.

“I hope you’re hungry,” my server, Jill, responded as I ordered the goat cheese, sheep’s cheese, truffle salami, and prosciutto. She had dark hair, small legs, and a belt with fake bullet casings… it may have seemed odd for this peaceful town, but she fit in perfectly.

“Oh, there’s no way I’ll be able to eat everything, but there’s no way I can’t try it all… plus, there’s a fridge in my room, so I’ll take it with me and snack on it before my hike tomorrow,” I offered.

I had a lot to box even after staying there for almost three hours, listening to D.L. sing grounded renditions of Gimme Shelter, Hallelujah, and Creep. I chatted with the locals and solidified the hike I would take the next morning — Devil’s Bridge.

My only mistake with Devil’s Bridge, which was a big one, was not having enough water… I ran out less than half way through and it wasn’t as if I could ask someone to share theirs. Hello… COVID…

“Am I close?” I kept asking the hikers on their way back.

“No, you still have a ways to go, but it’s worth it!” the couple with matching hiking outfits retorted, laughing because they said it at the same time.

I stopped to breathe as the path ahead was steep and daunting. I self motivated and told myself my two friends (Dustin & Robert) were holding my hand from above… I’m actually not sure I believe in God, but the thought comforted me as I trudged ahead. In through my nose, out through my mouth.

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You know… I’m not sure if they were right — I’m not sure if it was worth it. Did I feel accomplished once I got back to my car? Yes, I sure as hell did… but was that walk back easy? No. It felt never ending — I needed a piggyback ride but no one was offering them. The blisters on the upper part of my heel were rubbing harder with each step and I was ready for breakfast… not the leftover cheeses either — a real breakfast.

Now, breakfast was worth the wait. I didn’t order anything too special — an egg burrito with spinach, goat cheese and bacon… but DAMN was every single bite like tasting heaven. It seems Sedona’s magic expands to all of their food as well.

I went to a few more crystal shops where locals recommend I do The Hudson for dinner, so I put that on the list before going to The Gateway Cottage; I sat in the lobby while this beautiful red head, Karen, seemingly explained everything about Sedona to an over-curious soon to be visitor. I felt for her and actually started laughing when she started explaining all the different trails and vortexes — as if the caller couldn’t find all of this information online.

Once she wrapped, fifteen minutes later, she had to go stand out in the sun — I don’t blame her — that amount of energy takes a lot out of a person.

She came back and we walked downstairs; I told her I needed clarity in respect to my relationship with my boyfriend. Karen had a meditative like voice; I wondered if she’d learned that during her five years in Asia, training to be an intuitive.

“You like lists and are a heavy planner, aren’t you?” she asked.

I told her I was and allowed her to continue into her visions…

At one point I would’ve laughed if someone told me they went to see an energy healer or intuitive, but after the Reiki session I had which aided in my trauma back in 2012, I decided to fully subscribe to spiritual work.

Once we concluded, I pressed down on my phone to stop the recording; she recommended I run over to the local juicery, which I did. I was the most calm I could remember ever being on the drive over; I can’t say I gleaned the clarity I was looking for, but I knew for certain, everything would be 100% okay, and I knew for certain the direction my life was headed.

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The Hudson had a great view, except I didn’t get to experience it — the wait was about an hour, and there was an open seat at the bar that I opted for. A man came in shortly after and plopped down on the bar stool next to me without asking if the seat was taken. I found it amusing and engaged with him right away. Gray hair — early 50's… I asked if he was a local and he told me he was. He said he moved to Sedona after living in LA for years and years, running his visual effects company; a few anecdotes were shared and he reminded me of three different people I knew. Before he left, he opened a little container on his key-chain which held a packet of white substance. Uhh, cocaine?

“What? Are you about to do a line right here on this counter?” I looked at him as if to say ‘you’re crazy.’

“No, oh, no no, it’s just frog poison,” he said casually, as if people often carried around frog poison.

“Okay, I’ll pretend that’s not strange then… what are you doing with it?”

“I use it for healing. I burn it into my arms,” he pulled up his left sleeve and showed me the circular marks which did not lure me into wanting to try this form of spiritual growth.

The next day, I hiked Faye Canyon and I wrote as I looked out across the magnificent landscape. The wind breezed across my face with ease and my fingers tapped over the keyboard without thought.

I thanked the universe for helping me, closed my laptop, and said goodbye to the magical vortex that is Sedona.

Inspirations: Mindy Kaling, Issa Rae, Lena Dunham. Trying to manifest some combination of them all + Vince Vaughn’s wit. BLACK LIVES MATTER

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