Editor’s note: it gives me great pleasure to introduce you all to Reina Abreyava, our newest writer here at The Royal Tour. I’ve known Reina for more than a decade now. She is smart, kind, driven, and downright wonderful. She is also, as you’ll come to find out, one heck of a writer, with her screenplays garnering some amazing attention. I know you’ll enjoy her first piece about a spiritual experience in Sedona as much as I did, and that you’ll eagerly await her upcoming writing. While this is her first article, you can visit her index page by clicking here, where all of her articles will be linked.

In 2014, in a dire state of uncertainty about my future, I arrived in Israel on a solo journey. For my first Sabbath I booked a hostel in Tsfat, a northern mountain town and home of artists and the Jewish mystics since the 1600s. I roomed with a girl who mentioned Tsfat being a vortex.

“Vortex?” I asked. “Like sci-fi black hole stuff?”

She laughed, then explained, “Certain areas of the world have concentrated psychic energies. Religious people and artists are drawn to them, and they often have unusual experiences there. Tsfat is one of them, but there’s also Machu Picchu and Sedona in Arizona.”

I rolled my eyes. However, my journey to Tsfat was filled with things I couldn’t explain without sounding positively deranged. I left a very different person, with a clearer picture of my life. Although I am firm believer in science and reason, I have been strangely drawn to the concept of vortexes since, particularly in times of difficulty and confusion.

April 2022 was no exception. The last two months had been spent in burnout due to my work’s annual fundraising gala. My father’s care had become exceedingly difficult. Passover preparations weighed on my heart, missing my beloved grandmother while preparing our traditional Sephardic, or Spanish Jewish, recipes. My most recent foray into dating had been lustful, but not long-term. And despite my screenwriting finally garnering attention, it meant discussing next career steps on top of everything else.

During the pandemic, I took an amazing solo journey up the California coast, encouraged wholeheartedly by my then-pandemic boyfriend. I needed a redo, and when my cousin suggested Sedona, I knew that was the place. My co-workers waxed poetic about it, mainly the beauty and how I should take a Pink Jeep tour. They also mentioned the power of the vortexes, and if I get near one I might randomly cry, or even start shaking. I booked an AirBnb in the nearby town of Cottonwood and a Pink Jeep. But other than that, I was driving into the unknown with nothing more than my phone, a suitcase, and a whim.

With Brene Brown’s “Atlas of the Heart” on audiobook, I drove from Los Angeles down the 10 freeway as human life began to fade from the roadside. Past the Colorado River, the landscape changed with every hour: pure desert to city outskirts; forests of tall cacti reaching up to the sky followed by sprawling fields; then lush pine trees on giant mountains, before arriving at sunset.

Sunset in Cottonwood

The next morning started early, heading up State Route 89A to check in for my Pink Jeep tour. I sang along to Houndmouth’s “Sedona” as the towering red rocks came into my view. Tears came to my eyes. My body started shaking. My mind was wiped of any thoughts. I wasn’t sure if this was the power of the vortexes or just stellar nature, but in “Atlas of the Heart,” Brene talked about awe and wonder. Even just driving in, I got to test them out for myself.

By 10am, I was off-road in the Pink Jeep. Our guide was from Yorba Linda, California – located near my alma matter Cal State Fullerton. He had come to Sedona to start his new life five months before, where instead of selling cars he was indulging in his love of nature. Driving past red rocks, wild thistles, and juniper trees covered in mistletoe, he explained how no one in Sedona was really “from” there; most people visit, get a good feeling, and then find a way to make this place their home. This place called to them.

Sedona on my Pink Jeep tour

After being dropped back off in the center of town, or Uptown, I stopped by the Arizona Tourism center and picked up paper maps (they help tremendously, as cell phone service is tricky). Even walking along the main road is full of breathtaking landscapes. The shops have souvenirs, but with local twists: bohemian wear of billowing skirts and pants, Indian-made jewelry and crafts, and, of course, enough psychic shops to call third, fourth, and fifth eyes. In each was a person with a story, from a shopkeeper who responded to my awe with a knowing smile and a pamphlet to a worker who gave me a psychic reading out of the blue.

A psychic shop

After lunch, I headed into the wilderness looking for vortexes. There are four major ones – Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Airport Mesa, and Boynton Canyon – although there are rumors of more obscure ones (and if you ask certain people, it’s all hullaballoo). However, it was a Saturday, the busiest day in Sedona for tourism, and they were completely overrun; you aren’t even allowed to park at the trailheads, instead being forced to take shuttles from specific locations.

One of the locals suggested I visit the Church of the Holy Cross, a Catholic church built into the rocks near one of the vortexes. Walking up the ramp, I reached out and touched the stone. A strange, fiery energy coursed through my veins, and oddly I sensed my ex-pandemic paramour. Hearing his name shocked me to my core, so I tried to sit peacefully to figure out what it meant – an impossible feat with the numerous tourists.

Church of the Holy Cross

Instead, I visited a bright purple building called Center for a New Age. Inside, a sound played on my ears: running water. I dashed through, looking for a fountain, but finding a room above Oak Creek surrounded by angel statues. The sound brought me to tears. Perhaps it was hearing my ex’s name in the wind, this town, or how tired I was from life; all I felt was overwhelm.

I drove back to Cottonwood’s Old Town next to the Verde River, with its hip restaurants and quirky boutiques. The locals were more than happy to chat, with one suggesting a visit to Jerome, a former mining town known for both unusual shops and rumors of ghosts. The next morning, I drove there – but not before the shock of seeing my ex’s Instagram liking of my picture from Sedona.

Jerome is a windy drive up a mountainside, where boutiques, artist studios, and co-ops live alongside the town’s mining past. By 10am, the shops slowly began to open, and I started chatting people up. They shared stories of AirBnbs forcing out their neighbors (a refrain heard throughout the region) and gave recommendations. One was for a kaleidoscope shop called Nellie Bly’s, which paired stunning fractal offerings alongside steampunk shenanigans of hollow books and earrings made of butterfly wings.

Nellie Bly’s

At high noon it got crowded and hot, so I headed down to nearby Cornville. I enjoyed lunch at an unassuming yet delicious roadside joint and drove along North Page Springs Road to sample local wines, which, despite my California wine snobbery, were quite good. I had originally planned to save Sedona vortex hunting for my way out of town; however, something was compelling me to head back that afternoon.

Many of the tourists of the previous day had left, so whereas the day before I couldn’t even get close to any of the main vortexes, I was able to grab the last parking spot at Airport Mesa. There I met a couple and their dog, Penelope, who would bark loudly whenever someone new approached. The summit of the vortex is a large, steep rock. My stomach was vibrating, and I could feel something in my throat, but I arrived at the top with energy to spare.

The view alone was worth it – a 360-degree panorama of red rocks with the town below. My stomach and throat settled as I sat near the couple and their dog. As we chatted, I noticed out of the corner of my eye there was someone standing near me – someone I knew, and who definitely wasn’t supposed to be there. But there she was, my beloved grandmother, seemingly solid in the Arizona sunlight, standing tall in a white dress with circle patters.

The view from Airport Mesa

“That’s impossible,” I said softly. Penelope the dog was much louder, barking crazily in the direction I had seen my grandmother, despite no one physically standing there. Was it real? What did it all mean in this place where vortexes aligned, seeing her and hearing my ex’s name on the wind?

I wandered through town, running into a girl who also hailed from Los Angeles. She noticed how shaken I was, and I told her what happened. She asked if my grandmother and I were close, and my love for her spilled out: my Nony, who I was named after, whose maiden name I chose to write under, funny, clever, full of joy, love, and life. Not only my grandmother, but my friend, fiercest supporter, and in some ways role model.

“She’s your protector,” the girl said to me. “But why do I sense the word, ‘patience’?”

I ruminated on that word walking by Bell Rock, then through the gorgeous Tlaquepaque Village. The sun was fading walking by Oak Creek, standing on the bridge when I realized it wasn’t “patience,” but rather a word my grandmother used often to me: pacencia, the Sephardic word for, “be patient.” I was so anxious to figure out life that I didn’t realize life needed to come to me. I needed to see wonder in this moment and let everything else fall into place, to trust that the universe will catch me.

That night, I said my official goodbye to Sedona. I ate rattlesnake sausage, bison skewers, and cactus fries with prickly pear ketchup while chatting up a happy couple from Phoenix. And for the 18-mile drive back to Cottonwood, I opened the moon roof under thousands of stars, singing “Malagueña Salerosa,” laughing while reaching out my hand for the universe to hold, knowing it would take me where I needed to go.

The next morning, I drove through the Coconino Forest, weaving through trees to the I-40 and Route 66 in all its road tripping glory. It was like coming down from Tsfat all over again: stories of things I couldn’t explain, of people who opened their hearts so they could open yours, of good food and breathtaking scenery. However, there was a word too – pacencia. To enjoy it all, but also know that the real adventure is yet to come.

For another take on Sedona, click here to read TRT writer Tamara’s take on visiting with her family.

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