Blog Entry - 12.01.14




Pictured above: (1) Cross of Cairns. (2) St. Benedict's Cairn. (3) The Flame of Love Cairn.

The Stones Begin to Speak
Part II - Cross of Cairns

Set up signposts, raise landmarks; mark the road well, the way by which you went. Come home, virgin of Israel, come home to these towns of yours. How long will you hesitate, disloyal daughter? For Yahweh is creating something new on earth; the Woman sets out to find her Husband again.
-- Jeremiah 31:21-22

As intended, I returned to Hidden Canyon many times over the subsequent years following my first visit.

St. Patrick's Cairn rose to about six feet, only to be knocked down on several occasions. Each time I found it flattened, I simply rebuilt it, endeavoring to use a little more care to fortify it with better construction. Sometimes I was really irritated by the destructive behavior of people. Other times I didn't let myself get bothered at all.

I would also run into desert tortoises on two other occasions, a repeated signal grace that followed on journeys of deep sorrow and repentance for my sinfulness. The second time it was a pair of tortoises in the wash of Hidden Canyon. The third time I ran into a tortoise at about 1,500 feet on the mountain just to the north of Hidden Canyon. God is so good to us.

I began construction of St. Benedict's Cairn a couple of years ago, in gratitude for the prayers from a friend I met over at The Pelianito Journal Blog. She was in the process of joining the Benedictine Oblates and I felt it was the least I could do. She was so delighted that she forwarded a picture of the cairn to her Benedictine house in Ireland and shared with me that they would be pleased to have the prayers of some guy half way across the world from a Hidden Canyon in the Arizona desert. Heck, I can't imagine how often and powerfully I've benefited over the years from the prayers of religious hidden away in the convents and monasteries of the world.

Maybe it was just such a prayer that got the whole ball rolling the first time I visited the canyon.

I built a third cairn on the other side of the arroyo and dedicated that one to The Flame of Love, which I was also introduced to on Pelianito's Blog. You can read more about that devotion at

The fourth cairn was dedicated to St. Regina, inspired by the story and sufferings of another of the Pelianito family, but also everyone else in that same territory of souls.

In the end, the four cairns formed a simple cross spanning the wash. That wasn't really the intention, but not surprisingly just the way things turned out.

I took my children out on different excursions to the spot so they could also pitch in. The long hike in and out always provided a great opportunity for me to share the faith, answer questions and help build them up. Funny how often I seemed to learn more from them than I imparted.

I also took some holy water up one day and blessed all the cairns with a liberal dousing and no one has flattened the cairns since to this day.

I noticed various little cairns (two or more rocks piled up) popping up along the rough route to mark the trail up to the cairns. Apparently, other hikers are starting to find the site. I haven't encountered any, but I always wonder what they must think when they come upon the site. Hopefully, they're running into tortoise as well.

I've also seen an increase in horse tracks and can tell from the sandy wash that they've spent some time pausing at the site with their riders. That's good.

On one trip with my daughter, we finally explored the cave in the rock face above the cairns. You can read an account of that story in this entry: 10.20.13.

On a subsequent visit we were working on St. Regina's Cairn when we found an interesting gray rock that formed almost a perfect square and was about an inch thick. It looked like the perfect tablet rock, so I decided to chissel a little map of the Cross of Cairns on it, indicating the arroyo cutting through the middle. We added the year and our initials and decided to place it up in the cave on a small eagle's perch.

In addition to my wife and kids, I started taking friends up to the site when I could talk them into a strenuous hike in the desert. It can be like pulling teeth because some folks aren't much for the outdoors and exercise, but they have all felt rewarded by the trek to the cairns.

Next Blog Entry »