MONTENEGRO, May 9, 2008 - After a couple of minutes, I found myself at the familiar spot, next to the famous bridge over Djurdjevic Tara with my mountain in the background. I had been there twice before, in 1990 and in 1994, both times arriving from two different directions from the way I got there now. I was overwhelmed with joy. I looked at my watch. It was exactly noon. It has taken 4.5 hours from the coast to get here. My ancestors probably didn't even know there was a coastline. Thoughts like that were buzzing through my head. The chatter was terrible. I practiced my deep yoga breathing to get recentered.
I took my time slowly walking across the bridge, and snapping pictures of "my mountain" and "my river" from different angles. Their beauty and power were simply unbelievable. I also took some pictures of it with my cell phone camera and sent them to some my closest friends and family. Some of them later agreed. "It's beautiful," they said.
I crossed onto the other side of the bridge to take a picture of the view to the west. It was just as spectacular. In the distance, you could see the Mt. Durmitor peaks (left). "They are siblings or cousins," I thought as I realized how close Mt. Durmitor and the Djurdjevic Mtn. are. I also took some more shots of the Djurdjevic Tara looking straight down from the bridge ("Rijeka" in the sign to the right means "river" in Serbian).
I also noticed with delight for the first time that the high vertical cliffs, as well as the dirt and other visible rocks on the Djurdjevic Mtn were the same color of red as Camelback Mtn, my new "home mountain" in Arizona. There were also large slabs of black rock interwoven with the red.
"Huh!" I exclaimed out loud. "That makes sense. Now I understand why I have always been attracted to red (and black) mountains. Like Camelback or those in Sedona." I have also recently learned that red and black are also my birthstone colors. "Interesting," I muttered to myself.
As I crossed the bridge, I made a mental note of the sign pointing to a 15th century monastery (left). I was also scouting the slopes of my mountain for a possible site for a shamanic ceremony that I wanted to perform. I figured I'd better do it as high up as I can, away from the main road, the bridge and all signs of modern life. After all, when my ancestors settled here after the Battle of Kosovo in late 14th century (1389), there was nothing here but the mountains and the river. I went back across the bridge to get my car, and then headed up the hill along this dirt road (middle left). Soon I came across this lonely homestead that looks out straight at the mountain peaks (two right shots). There was nobody home so I could not find out who these people were.
So I carried on, pointing my little Getz (the Hyundai rental car brand) farther up the slope, much to its disgust. It was grunting and groaning as in went over the ruts and rocks. Just to give you an idea how high that was, take a look at the leftmost shot of the bridge. That picture was taken from about a half-way point to the eventual spot that I picked for my ceremony. You can also judge the height by how "low" my mountain peak has suddenly become (the second shot). As you can see, it was almost level with where I stood. Which was exactly my intent.
Those of you who know me intimately enough to be understand the spiritual path I have been on, also know that I have had a relationship not just with mountains but also birds (see "Lord of the Mountain: Return to Camelback," and "Hiking McDowell's," for example, for some recent examples - password protected stories, write to me if you don't have one and would like to read them).
Well, what happened next on the Djurdjevic Mtn. was no less miraculous than the Camelback and McDowell Mtn. incidents. Just as I had picked a tree under which I was about to perform my ceremony, out of nowhere a pretty large bird appeared, with large patches of blue on its wings. Up until then, I saw no birds the entire time I was walking. I could hear small birds chirping around me, but saw none. And yet this bird just flew in front of me as if trying to attract my attention.
By now, I was no longer surprised by such things. "Okay bluebird. Show me the tree you want me to do it under." And the bird did. He fluttered from tree to tree for about 50 yards until it settle on the on the branch of one in the rightmost shot. "So that's the one, huh?" I said.
And then as I looked to see where I was, I felt goose bumps all over my skin and tingles down my spine (I just felt them again as I wrote this). From this tree, for the first time ever, I caught a glimpse of that ancient 15th century monastery whose sign we had just seen. It lies due west of the spot I was standing on, deep down in the Djurdjevic Tara river canyon (left shot). Later on this afternoon, I will discover to my utter amazement that not only was the monastery probably the place where my ancestors worshipped 600 years ago, but maybe they even originally built it (it is still called Djurdjevic Tara Monastery).
And looking to the east, one can see the two peaks of the Djurdjevic Mountain at about the same level with where I was standing when I took the picture.
In other words, the tree my bluebird picked for my shamanic ceremony lies at the exact spot where it can triangulate the power of the mountain and that of the prayer. The connection to the spirit world from on high up in the clouds and from down low by the river is assured. I was awestruck. I realized that I was not alone. I have never been alone. I just didn't know it until recently...
And now, to see and find out about the rest of what happened during the shamanic ceremony, I am afraid you'll have to be one of my close friends or family members. Just click on the following title to go there...
Welcome back, for those of you who attended the ceremony with me.
On my way down, I took a picture of the bridge (left), The I drove up to the top of the mountain again, but to that long flat plateau that I first glimpsed coming down from Mt. Durmitor. I took a picture from there looking toward Mt. Durmitor (middle). But the rain clouds were already gathering and the visibility was getting poorer by the minute. As I stood there, I realized that by chance (if there is such a thing), I was standing at exactly the same spot where my girls and I had our picture taken 18 years ago (see Preparation...). I also took one more shot of the Djurdjevic Mtn peaks from atop the ridge (right). Someone had started to build here a cute log cabin. But there was no activity going on when I was there.
Visiting the Djurdjevic Tara Monastery
I then decided to drive down to that ancient 15th century monastery and see what that's about. Little did I know what a delightful surprise that would be.
First, on my way down there, I passed this old and decrepit looking cottage. "The erstwhile Djurdjevic homestead?", I remember joking, as I took these pictures. Hey, anything's possible, including that, I later thought when I learned some new things at the monastery.
The road to the monastery was full of ruts and rocks. It was interesting that you can still see clearly the Djurdjevic Mtn (left) even from way down close to the river (triangulation again, the 15th century style?). As I caught my first glimpse of the monastery through its gates (middle left), I remember registering the first surprise - at how "new" it looked (middle right).
A young man, who said his name was Vitomir, walked toward me and greeted me warmly. He seemed happy to see me and glad of company. Given how isolated the monastery is, i can certainly understand it. We spent about half an hour talking about the history of the monastery. It is called St. Michael the Archangel of Djurdjevic Tara. There are two monks that live there besides Vitomir, but they weren't there at the moment.
Vitomir explained that the original structure had been destroyed several times, but the foundations are original (middle left). You can see the charred stones from the fires that had destroyed the monastery in the past in the middle left shot. The latest renovation and reconstruction was done in 2000-2002. That's why the church looks so new.
I left a small donation for the monastery, which Vitomir duly wrote in their book of donations. He also asked me to write down the names of all of my family members so they can be mentioned during the Sunday prayers and church service.
Then Vitomir gave me some candles to light, in the top part of the sand bin for the living, and in the bottom for the dead, as is customary in Orthodox Christian churches (middle right). As I was doing it, I realized that the sun had just come out again. It had been so gloomy most of the afternoon, and looked like it might rain when we walked into the church. Yet the church was basking in sunshine now (right). it was as if heavenly floodlights were suddenly turned on, signaling another nod of approval for what has been going on this afternoon (first with water, at the end of Shamanic Ceremony, and now with light). Indeed, after a few minutes, the sun had disappeared never to be seen again the rest of the day.
Vitomir offered to make me a coffee which I accepted, figuring he was thirsting for human contact and a conversation. While he was doing it, I walked down to the river, about a 300-yard downhill trek. There was a cute little beach there, made up of the silt the river had deposited. I filled an empty Knjaz Milos bottle, that I took from the monastery, with the Djurdjevic Tara water so i could take it home. I also found a beautiful rock at the bottom of the river that I will also take home, along with other rocks for my "mesa" I had collected earlier on the Djurdjevic Mtn (right).
The sights and sound of the rapidly streaming river were beautiful. But don't take my word for it. Check out the video I recorded right there on the river banks:
Sights & sounds of Djurdjevic Tara river (1 min)
I climbed back up to the monastery to find Vitomir waiting for me not just with coffee but also with an orange juice drink. We chatted for a while, and then I thanked him for everything and got ready to leave. He wrote in the information about himself and the other two monks on a piece of paper, and gave me a thank you card, too (two left photos).
Saying Goodbye to My Mountain
By now, it was getting late in the afternoon. I had spent nearly four hours communing with my mountain. I felt it was time to say goodbye. For that, I went back to the bridge. And this is what I said:
Saying goodbye to Djurdjevic Mtn (1:14 mins)
The sound you've heard in the video when I crossed the bridge to face the west is a strong wind that was coming from that direction. I had not realized myself how strong it was until I saw the video.
No sooner had I said my goodbye and walked to my car, the rain that had been threatening all afternoon, started to fall in earnest.
And that's all she wrote on the afternoon I spent communing with my mountain.