This is the lead post in a series.
See end for a list of items in the whole series.
People visit Sedona for so many reasons—certainly to take in some of the earth’s most beautiful landscapes—but also to search for a deeper, more meaningful path in life. And to search for renewal and healing. A few years ago we were fortunate to buy a small place there, which we rent out several times a year. A few of our guests have come to recover from hard physical times, relationship times, career times, and family times. “It was the perfect place to heal a broken heart,” one guest wrote a few years ago. I have come for many of these reasons, especially after we lost our youngest son. The following is an introduction to, then excerpts from a journal I’ve kept for several years chronicling my quest to deal with loss. They also try to convey why Sedona provides such an extraordinary atmosphere for such searching and renewal. Many people have speculated on reasons why, and all of us agree on one thing for sure: Beauty, which Sedona radiates abundantly, helps us heal and experience life more fully.
For centuries climbing mountains has been a symbol of spiritual quests, and in many ways my central activity when I get to visit our place in Sedona, Arizona, is climbing one particular mountain.
It’s known as Bell Rock to everyone else. One of Sedona’s iconic formations, it’s deep red and, yes, shaped like a bell. I step out to the sidewalk several times a day just to look at it and Court House Butte looming close ahead, a little less than three miles away. As if it’s dramatic color and shape weren’t enough, it’s also—along with Machu Pichu, the Pyramids, and a very few other places—supposed to be one of the earth’s great vortex spots, a place where cosmic energies of some kind are supposed to align. During one supposedly titanic celestial alignment in the 90’s, some thought the whole top of the mountain would lift off into space! Once I saw a BBC film crew there filming an episode for a series featuring one of the stars of Dr. Who traveling to the earth’s premiere spiritual locales, and the recent film Sedona also can’t help but deal with these spiritualities.
I chuckle, and yet my well-founded skepticism can’t entirely keep me from noticing that there is something special about Bell Rock—a spectacular place with a spectacular view, of course, but a pervading spirit of well-being also. Walking the stunning Sedona mountains and canyons I often catch myself thinking, I can see why people feel spirits roaming here.
Linda and I saw Sedona for the first time in 2002. Bryan Guzman, the family’s youngest, also came along, and he begged us to stop at one scenic overlook after another so much that we thought we’d miss our plane down in Phoenix. A short time later, after I’d given a talk in Scottsdale, we returned to Sedona, arriving at the exact moment a man was selling a small condo for tens of thousands of dollars under market value. We offered him even less and, anxious to sell, he took it. The first thing Bryan and his step-brother Mike did when we gave them time off from helping us rehab the condo nearly 10 years ago was to walk to Bell Rock and climb it.
In January 2007, a little more than a month after Bryan died, we flew to Sedona to put some of his ashes under a little pine tree we had visited many times. It’s about one-third the way up the mountain. That’s why for us Bell Rock is Bryan’s Mountain. Climbing it has been one way I’ve tried to heal from losing him.
I’ve tried to come back every August to write and do upkeep chores, and I’ve kept a journal called “Climbing Bryan’s Mountain.” The links below take you to parts of it I’ll be posting from time to time.
Climbing Bryan’s Mountain
*** Links will go live when excerpts become available.***
- Excerpts from 2008 journal
- Excerpts from 2009 journal
- Excerpts from 2010 journal
- Excerpts from 2011 journal
- Excerpts from 2012 journal
- Excerpts from 2013 journal
- Excerpts from 2014 journal
- Excerpts from 2015 journal
- Excerpts from 2016 journal – Part 1 / Part 2 (VIDEO)
- Excerpts from 2017 journal
- Excerpts from 2018 journal – Part 1 / Part 2 (VIDEO)
- Excerpts from 2019 journal – Part 1 / Part 2
- Excerpts from 2020 journal
- Excerpts from 2021 journal (Video)
- Excerpts from 2022 journal
♦ Shortly after Bryan died, his oldest brother Rick and his wife Desiree founded Emmanuel House as a living memorial to Bryan. “Emmanuel”—God with us—was Bryan’s middle name. In 2016 Emmanuel House was named one of the “Top 100 Most Innovative” social change organizations in the world. After a 2018 merger with a long-time partner organization, it became The Neighbor Project.