Reid in Jamaica 1986
Monthly Archives: February 2011
Winnipeg’s Civic Treasure film visionary Guy Maddin said, “Those are my goals, you know. To be smart, tasteless and feeling. Something to shoot for.” and “Rage-thought to live by: in The General, Buster gets so annoyed at his girlfriend’s stupidity for stoking the engine with tiny pieces of wood, he facetiously gives her little toothpicks – which she dutifully feeds into the fire. He then stares at her in disbelief, then delights in her anyway and leaps at her with a kiss. Sweet axiom!” and “Sadness is just happiness turned on its ass—it’s all showbiz!” Roger Ebert named “My Winnipeg” as one of the ten best films of the first decade of the century. Guy turns 55 years old today.
July 26, 1998
“The petroglyph grabbed me as soon as I approached.”
A red-tailed hawk cries over Coal Mine Ravine as it sails on the warm July updrafts on my first visit here. Standing next to a large carved stone, I recognize this as a dreaming place and a teaching place, a place to seek inner wisdom and outer knowledge. A powerful and majestic Buffalo spirit pervades the site.
Jutting three feet out of the ground is a huge well-lichened boulder coming to a rounded point with a flat side facing the rising sun. Carved on the flat surface is an elaborate design of cups and grooves. A deep vertical groove divides the surface with branches running to each side. Two circles divided by a line and the pocks offer an enigmatic message. Walking slowly around the stone, from a vantage point behind and to the right of the stone, a magical thing occurs: the stone takes on the shape of a buffalo charging out of the ground. The image is so clear it stops me in my tracks. I notice later as I leave, the image becomes clearer the further away you are from the stone! Plains creation legends say the buffalo arose out of the ground and was made of stones.
The little gully where the stone rests since dropped by a glacier offers a vista of rolling prairie, farmland and mixed pasture. Below is Eagle Creek Valley, an old run-off channel. Around the stone the usual Saskatchewan flora abounds – prickly pear and pincushion cactus, sagebrush, foxtail, reindeer moss, wild rose, wolf willow and an array of yellow, white and purple wildflowers. Tiny white mushrooms grow on the abundant cow plop, the empty shells of dry purple puffballs crackled in the breeze.
Around the edge of the gully, a large well-used buffalo rub stone looms, its aura one of physical relief and extreme pleasure, the earth around it packed hard by centuries of hooves. I climb on top of the rub stone and sit, open and communing with the place. I hear satisfied snorts and bellows announcing an unknown buffalo communication.
Both stones invite physical contact. I sit and lean my back against the carved stone and immediately feel safe and protected. All seems possible here. Those who came to seek their visions here felt this same safety, the same potential. This is an ancient place, which hosted shamans and vision questers; lonely people searching for the comfort of Spirit found it here. As do I. In light trance next to the stone, I feel the wind blow through me and hear ancient buffalo hides flap against tipi poles. The familiar bliss courses through me.
A large portion of the stone is underground. Based on the digging the archies did around the stone, they estimate the carvings to be at least 1500 years old. In front of the stone was a foot of post-contact offerings, under which a six-foot round cobblestone circle sat. Beneath that, layers of pre-contact offering were found. Nearby there are two other carved petroglyphs, neither as obvious as the petroglyph stone. As a ceremonial site this place harbours a very deep past.
Its ceremonial use isn’t surprising when you consider Eagle Creek Valley has offered up plenty of strong evidence of long usage. Tipi rings, fire pits, buffalo jumps, petroglyphs, effigies and possibly a medicine wheel dot the valley and surrounding hills. On the approach to the buffalo stone, there is a series of seven tipi rings in a row going up the side of a small incline. These are pre-horse rings when they were set in lines to advantage the breezes that blew up the ravine. Post-horse tipi rings are in a circle to create a horse corral.
Fewer than 50 people live in the village of Herschel. SK making their large and well organized Ancient Echoes Interpretive Centre and Tea Room even more impressive. Tours to the petroglyphs are organized solely through the museum because it is on private property, a fact I didn’t know on my first visit. (By the way, I highly recommend the saskatoon pie at the tearoom!)
How does the centre interpret the legacy carved into a rock on a lonesome wind-swept hill in the Bad Hills of central Saskatchewan? One explanation suggests it is a ribstone of a buffalo with the long central groove representing the spine, the branches are ribs and the divided circle symbols are cloven hooves. Another pair of carved hooves were unearthed lower on the rock. The cups represent many or plenty buffalo. That is the hunting magic spin.
The stone and the site have been used as a teaching place. Along the crown of the petroglyph stone are a series of carved indentations representing the moon phases, one of them connected to central groove. The seven stages of life may have been taught here, according to the interpretative centre.
Plenty of things to see and do for history buffs in the Herschel area
Many signs of recent medicine making dot the site. Coloured offering cloths hang from nearby bushes. At numerous places around the pasture, sticks with red, yellow, blue and white ribbons accompanied by a large flat stone with a line drawing of a human being are stuck in the dry earth. Some have bones and sage bundles as well. I later find out these are markers for teaching tribal children from a nearby summer camp about their culture.
I bask in the peaceful warmth of the big carved stone on a Saskatchewan hill, settled and happy. I find Spirit here. I am home, again.
Currently I am working on a three-part series of articles called Sacred Places and Consciousness. The series examines the changes in consciousness that occur at sacred sites and how to access sacred consciousness. I hope to have the series done in the next three weeks. Sacred Places is the most viewed and most revisited page on my blog. Thank you for sharing my journey. Humbly, Reid.
We’ll take the gravel road out of town and find ourselves at the top of another lonesome wind-swept hill in western Saskatchewan. Join me there. The next Sacred Place report posts at 12:05 AM Sunday Feb. 27.
“God gives us each a song.”
“Speak the truth in humility to all people. Only then can you be a true man.”
“Walk lightly in the spring; Mother Earth is pregnant.”
“The smarter a man is the more he needs Great Spiritod to protect him from thinking he knows everything.”
“Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”
Quick definition of pop song: any popular song from any era regardless of musical genre.
The criteria for getting to be Reid’s Pop Song of the Month is simple: I have to love the tune. It has to dye me, heal, console and inspire me, teach, enlarge and challenge me, contribute to my personal evolution, resonate through my lifetime and be a wonder-filled marriage of music and lyrics. Each tune has to have “seen me through” somehow. Not much to ask of a pop song, is it?
There are certainly elements of “trying to tell a stranger about rock and roll” when writing intimately about something utterly subjective like your favourite songs. With every song in this series, it might take a few listens to hear what I hear but if you never hear it, that’s fine too. Ear of the beholder. Besides, it’s only a pop song.
Lest we fall into a pop culture miasma of foolishness and desire and lose track of our balance, I suggest you click on the Culture is not your friend link on my blogroll and let Terence McKenna fill you in. He makes a very clear distinction between art and culture, a distinction that is mostly invisible today.
REID’S POP SONG OF THE MONTH IS
And Your Bird Can Sing
This time Reid’s Pop Song of the Month is my favourite all-time Beatles song, which comes from my all-time favourite Beatles album. Not one of their better-known tunes, And Your Bird Can Sing appeared on the 1966 album, Revolver, the UK edition. Click on the cover and give it a listen.
The Beatles and the development of most of their songs have been well-documented and fully-exploited, giving us audial delights and candid peeks into their creative process. And Your Bird Can Sing evolved noticeably from the rough idea Lennon brought to the studio. In this age of instant retrieval, I found two earlier versions of the song. Working backwards, the version before the final has a distinct Byrds feel to it, appropriate to the tune’s content. The chiming guitars and sweet harmonies suggest Lennon’s fascination with the Byrds and his wonderful ability to mimic other musicians. The second and third verses are switched for the album version. By the time the final version appears, it has evolved from being a song influenced by the Byrds to being very much a Beatles song. Hear the middle version by clicking on the Lennons.
Previous to that, we have an earlier, almost demo version very much at the kibitzing stage of development – stoned young Beatles having fun in the studio. Bass, tambourine, lyrics in progress, laughter and whistling at the end are all being developed but George’s guitar riff in the break and at the end is nearly complete. Later the riff becomes the solid fuming basis used throughout the final cut. Click on the Remco Beatles dolls to give this earliest version a listen.
What makes And Your Bird Can Sing sound so great to my ears?
Let’s start with its context. The British version of Revolver is as the Beatles planned it with three songs the North American version lacked, one of them And Your Bird Can Sing. In addition to being my fave Beatles album, Revolver is also my Number One favourite album of all-time. A pristine moment in pop history, something utterly ephemeral passed through these four men and the surrounding crew and environment resulting in this Divine creation. The distance in sophistication and creative ease between Revolver and Beatlemania, recorded just 30 months earlier, is a quantum leap. Tracing Revolver’s musical evolution: Ticket To Ride, Rubber Soul, We Can Work It Out, Nowhere Man, Paperback Writer, Rain.
This is how I interpret the whole album. After they get the taxes and death songs (Taxman and Eleanor Rigby) out of the way, the dream that is Revolver begins in earnest with I’m Only Sleeping. Every subsequent track takes us deeper and deeper that by track nine, And Your Bird Can Sing, we are lucid dreaming along with the lads. Here the dream takes flight.
A perfect Lennon tune, oblique, lively and cutting, everyone comes through here. The searing break from the earliest version becomes the foundation for the whole song. Raw, harsh and rousing, George’s riff sounds like it’s been playing for five minutes before the song starts, creating immediate tension. The urgency of the riff reinforces and maintains the tension and the vitriolic tone of Lennon’s lyrics, a putdown of a woman who owns everything except Lennon. In British slang, a bird meant a girl, putting another spin on the lyric.
McCartney comes through with yet another inventive bass line; his subdominant chord at the end releases the song’s tautness in a flutter. Muted (he sounds like he’s playing a cardboard box) but solid, Ringo’s masterful backbeat is complemented by his trippy high-hat work.
The four guitar waves and McCartney’s exuberant harmony that accompany the line “You tell me that you’ve heard every sound there is” at 1:20 in the final version represent, to these humble ears, the three most stunning, thrilling and expansive seconds of pop music ever created, a fleeting gem of magic in a strikingly unusual setting, an astonishing musical moment in a career loaded with astonishing moments. The guitars in those subtly diminishing waves quintessentially define for me Chuck Berry’s description of Johnny B. Goode, “He could play guitar just like ringing a bell.”
Though Rubber Soul has its moments, Revolver is the Beatles’ first cohesive challenge to fans, to other musicians, to the world. It directs us to look inside, to seek our true nature, to experiment with our consciousness, not in the blatant druggy Sgt Pepper fashion like a year later, but in a subtle, kind and innocent way that suggests creative play and a love for the world and all its problems. It made the world’s teenagers think about death and transcendence! For those reasons this music matured as I did, growing along with me, guiding me in some way, its message becoming clearer as I changed, yet changing with me. At the same time, Revolver has always been a comfortable reliable place to return to, to retreat from the world and dream along. I’m very grateful to have this album to accompany me through my life. It truly has dyed me. Thanks Fabs!
The Final Tally for And Your Bird Can Sing
On the ascending scale of sweetness according to The Beatles song Savoy Truffle:
Nice apple tart
Cool cherry cream
Ginger sling with a pineapple heart
Number of teeth you’ll need to pull (out of 32): 1
Compared to glucose/fructose, the likelihood of getting diabetes from listening to this tune repeatedly is: 2%
Though Lennon often gets the credit as brightest Beatle, George had the real wisdom. The Spiritual Beatle devoted large portions of his life and fortune to inner pursuits and, going by the clarity in his eyes as he aged, he found Spirit, touched the Source. Let’s get into George’s head with a few of his thoughts: “As long as you hate, there will be people to hate.” “Gossip is the Devil’s radio.” “The biggest break in my career was getting into the Beatles in 1962. The second biggest break since then is getting out of them.” “The Beatles saved the world from boredom.” “The world used us as an excuse to go mad.” and “The Beatles will exist without us.” George was born on this day in 1943. Frank Sinatra said, “Something is the greatest love song ever written.” George wrote Something. Hear Frank sing it. Not Dead/Dead since November 29, 2001.
BONO, LEAD SINGER FOR ROCK BAND U2, IS FAMOUS THROUGHOUT THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY FOR BEING MORE THAN JUST A LITTLE SELF-RIGHTEOUS.
AT A RECENT U2 CONCERT IN GLASGOW, SCOTLAND, HE ASKED THE AUDIENCE FOR TOTAL QUIET.
THEN, IN THE SILENCE, HE BEGAN TO CLAP HIS HANDS SLOWLY, ONCE EVERY FEW SECONDS. HOLDING THE AUDIENCE IN TOTAL SILENCE HE SAID INTO THE MICROPHONE, “EVERY TIME I CLAP MY HANDS, A CHILD IN AFRICA DIES.”
FROM THE FRONT ROW OF THE CROWD A VOICE WITH A BROAD SCOTTISH ACCENT PIERCED THE QUIET…
“WELL, FUCKIN STOP DOIN IT THEN, YE EVIL BASTARD.”
- prairie plus three incorrect spellings prarie, paiirie, praire
- lakota nitros oxide
- they met each other the day before yesterday
- sludge caves
- gas mask
- dong co
- tom waits coffee mugs
- jazz in sacred places video
- an Arabic word
- scholl of ancient wisdom
I assume most of these actually, somehow, connected the seeker to my blog. Some are mildly explicable, most utterly obscure. I’m glad to know you search me out and usually find me. Thank you.
Influential Spanish filmmaker Bunuel, in 1928, collaborated with fellow Surrealist Salvador Dali on the film un chien andalou. It, along with Bunuel’s 1930 film L’Age d’Or, influenced hundreds of subsequent directors including David Lynch, David Cronenberg and Guy Maddin. To get inside his head, here’s some quotes from Luis Bunuel: “Fortunately, somewhere between chance and mystery lies imagination, the only thing that protects our freedom, despite the fact that people keep trying to reduce it or kill it off altogether.” “In the name of Hippocrates, doctors have invented the most exquisite form of torture ever known to man: survival.” and “Frankly, despite my horror of the press, I’d love to rise from the grave every ten years or so and go buy a few newspapers.” Bunuel was born on this day in 1900. Click on his portrait painted by Dali and he’ll show you un chien andalou. It’s only 16 minutes. Be brave. Not dead/Dead since July 29, 1983
“The true wealth that North America offered, wealth that
could turn exploitation into residency, greed into harmony,
was to come from one thing – the cultivation and achievement
of local knowledge. It was in the pursuit of local knowledge
alone that one could comprehend the notion of a home and
its attendant responsibilities.”
– Barry Lopez
from The Rediscovery of North America
“We have not yet discovered America.”
– John Hay
from A Beginner’s Faith in Things Unseen
“A place we know calls for the beloved to awaken and come home.”
– Christopher Scholl
Many times, I stood next to Castle Butte in southern Saskatchewan and gazed down the wide Big Muddy Valley, its stratified walls burnished by afternoon sun. Since the valley has filled up over the past 8,000 years, I imagined it five times deeper, engorged with torrents of cold glacial runaway meltwater, carving a new language in a system of channels across the land, its syllables the unstoppable will of gravity driving fresh water toward a warm and welcoming sea. The same water chiseled Castle Butte’s precious shape.
Castle Butte, a quarter of a mile around and over 200 feet high, is a huge, ever-eroding sandstone monolith that stands like a sentinel over the vast distance of the valley, a prominent landmark for millennia. I have stopped there many times and seldom have my visits been solitary. Castle Butte attracts an array of humanity. Spelunkers explore the narrow shallow caves cut by water through the guts of the butte. The curious seek out Castle Butte, usually tourists lured by travel brochures. Most prevalent visitors in my experience are returnees, people whose early lives began on this same prairie under an enormous sun.
Yes, here they are again, returnees, often trailing disinterested families. Enticed back, fulfilling an unspoken responsibility, the returnees stare up at the sultry muscular shape of the butte against the blue dome, dreamily remembering some event or epiphany the butte shared with them. Each brings with them their eroded piece of the rock, their memories and their own worn shapes against the sky.
Local knowledge lives in Castle Butte. Across decades, a magnetic force attracts people made wise by the butte in their formative years. Its changing form looms large in their definition of home. Terry Tempest Williams asserted, “Home is the range of your instincts.” To which I add that pairing instinct with local knowledge gives us the certainty, not the mere potential, but the certainty of adaptation and survival, not only here but anywhere we call home.
Part of the responsibility of calling Castle Butte home is to return, like pilgrims, to be present once more, to “show” new family the place then realize Castle Butte’s meaning is so ineffable, so sublime that neither your words nor their presence here will interest them. Unlike you, they are inadequate to the local knowledge; their instincts are out of kilter here.
Local knowledge doesn’t only exist in the sparsely populated rural landscape. It feeds urban dwellers in a more intense version which, coupled with a pantheon of human-induced rules, provides the necessary adaptation tools for most of us to survive in cities. Yet we blankly walk through this local knowledge, unaware of it or any of its manifestations. Instinct is keenest when we are mindful. Try this: for one day, every time you walk into a shadow, notice what building or tree or whatever caused the shadow. Suddenly you’ll know where you are.
Every acre of virgin prairie from Vita in southern Manitoba to Grasslands National Park in western Saskatchewan possesses the original voice of the land, the local knowledge. The winds that blow over the land are given voice by the buffalo rub stones and wallows that are the anomalies and the vocal cords that produce the true language of the prairie. Undisturbed tracts of vitality, uninterrupted evolution, the barks of the prairie dogs, the rattle and hiss of the rattlesnake and the silent spinning of the wolf spider still echo in our ears gone deaf from listening only to our own cleverness.
We are trapped in the process of naming, which both connects us to and separates us from the world. Our naming is merely a way of talking, a doing where not-doing is required. Because it makes us comfortable we confuse the name with that named, identify with the thought not the thought-about. The reliance on identifying and defending this word magic is amplified in the volumes that fill libraries and bookstores, words scrawled on blog walls and our own fear of silence and solitude.
Ancient shimmering places, like Castle Butte, cannot make reason or ego feel safe. They can only slake the soul, making it feel at home. Beyond our clamorous superficial culture lives the real depth of soul, of growth and evolution, of discovering America. After a few days in the wilderness, your dreams change from urban scurrying to a more peaceful pace. Accompanied by dramatic increases in quantity, vividness and context, your wild soulful dreams convey caring concern for all beings. This led ecologist Robert Greenway to suggest our culture is only four days deep. Or four days shallow.
We have discovered its coal, oil, water and forests but the North America that lives invincibly inside us still calls for discovery and understanding. North America is an inner space. If we seek the sacredness it promises, inner work is essential. North America will sustain us if we listen for its wisdom by being patiently quiet. Be still long enough and the wisdom wells up into your consciousness. Then you’ve truly begun to discover home, like the returnees with their local knowledge of Castle Butte.
Robert Altman directed 89 movies and TV series including Gosford Park, Nashville, The Player, Three Women, The Long Goodbye, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Popeye, Streamers, MASH, and Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson. He grew up in Kansas City listening to swing and in 1997 Great Performances asked him to produce a documentary about his youth. This is an excerpt from his Jazz ’34. He was born on this day in 1925. Not dead/Dead since November 20, 2006