Daily Archives: April 11, 2011

Sacred Raptor

Reid Dickie

             As I walked up the easy incline toward the Turtle Effigy in southern Saskatchewan, overhead I heard familiar prairie music – the piercing screech of Red-Tailed Hawk. The bird had followed me from Wild Man Butte, half an hour away, or so it seemed, and would meet me again at the Herschel Petroglyphs, hundreds of miles away. As I prayed amid the stones on that serene hilltop, Red-Tailed Hawk hunted up and down the surrounding ravines.

            I have encountered this beautiful creature at sacred sites all over the prairies. The call of Red-Tailed Hawk punctuates the vast loneliness of wide-open spaces with its desperate, even crazy edge, a shrill urgency meant to frighten small timorous critters from the safety of grass nests to become hawk breakfasts. Hear it.

            To the south of Turtle Effigy, the plains roll away toward Big Muddy Lake, usually a shallow, white-rimmed affair. In a bluff down the hill, an uneven nest of sticks built near the swaying top of a huge cottonwood indicates the home of Red-Tailed Hawk. Nests like these abound from Alaska to Panama. A successful bird, Red-Tailed Hawk is the most abundant hawk in North America and the largest, the female a third bigger than the male. The bird’s size caused ancient inhabitants to call it Red Eagle.                                                                                                      

            Red-Tailed Hawk, of the genus buteo (pronounced ‘beauty-o’), comes in a striking array of colour combinations. The consistent feature is the rufous-coloured tail, redder on top, pinkish underneath.

            I have watched Red-Tailed Hawk’s skillful hunting and heard the melancholy cries at buffalo pounds, turtle effigies, burial mounds, snake pits and petroglyphs all across the southern prairies. If it is hunting in a valley, I may never see the bird but only hear its cries. Their numbers make them ubiquitous out here. Extremely rare in cities, they prefer lonesome expansive grasslands or rich marshes.

            A special encounter with sacred Red-Tailed Hawk occurred in an unlikely place. A few days before my double-bypass heart surgery in June 2002, with my prayer circle and spirit friends in place, I was taking a walk down our elm-shaded streets when I heard the distinctive sharp cry of Red-Tailed Hawk! In the middle of the city! It was clear and recognizable in the midday din.

            The sound of the hawk immediately transported me back to the sacred sites I’ve come to know over the years. I recalled the helpful local spirits at these places and realized, since I have a familiarity with them, they would be an important part of my healing.

            I don’t know what made the sound of Red-Tailed Hawk in the middle of the city – I didn’t see the bird, only heard its cry. Whatever it was, it reminded me of the places and the powers I have encountered, how they manifested in my life on the verge of surgery and how they could play a role in my healing afterwards.

            Thank you for reminding me Red-Tailed Hawk.

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Filed under Birds, Spirit

Video Shoes – DickTool Co Video

              As long as I knew Linda, she loved shoes. It was lifelong. She used to say the best thing about going to church with Mom when she was a little girl was wearing her special Sunday shoes. No surprise that Linda’s first video creation prominently featured her own shoes. She had dozens of pairs all stored in their original boxes. Here she offers a fashion show of shoes (and her great legs) while building a structure of the boxes. Intimate but shy, exploring the boundless behind a pyramid of shoes, this is a beautiful arising from Linda’s imagination.

            Aesthetically Video Shoes is structural in design and execution. A process may or may not become obvious at some point, your expectations waver, her legs look great, something is out of kilter though. Video Shoes was shot in the slant roof second floor at 729 Lorette Avenue, Winnipeg using a Sony Portapak. In 1967, Sony introduced the Sony Portapak, the first portable video recording system. Though rather heavy at 46 pounds and clunky, Portapaks were portable and worked best with a two-person crew: one on camera (the first hand-held camera made), the other operating the recorder. Portapaks used reel-to-reel ½-inch tape on 5- inch reels, had wonderful black and white contrast and quality and great sound. Portapaks opened the door to artists as an inexpensive way to create video art. No more waiting to develop film, no more expensive television studio rentals, just a camera in one hand and the VTR slung over your shoulder.

           In Video Shoes, we used an audio trick. On a small cassette recorder, we pre-recorded the sound of the whole experience then inserted it as the soundtrack after the video was recorded. The sound is mostly out of, but occasionally, in sync with the picture which is a little disorienting. This was cablecast on VPW on our show Videosphere: Realizations in Videospace in February 1978 and rerun on The DickTool Co All-Night Show. This is one of 36 DickTool Co videos on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/DickToolCo The history of DickTool Co lives at http://www.readreidread.com


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Filed under Art Actions, dicktool co, Linda, Video, video art