Category Archives: Saskatchewan

Two Sticks – Fiction

Reid Dickie

The day I met Montana & Lyle whorls of dry, black dust spun past me down the dirt road, dancing to the overhead music of cottonwoods. The breeze died, asphyxiating the dance. Silence and stillness returned to the Saskatchewan prairie. The swelter rose. Morning sagged in the heat.

Wearing just cut-offs and runners in the heat, my bare back pressed against the gnarled, ghostly trunk of an old cottonwood, our auras commingling.  To my left the dirt road disappeared into a spruce and aspen bluff. On my right, the road ran down the flat distance and away. Heat shimmer obliterated the horizon.

Behind me was the house that my friend, Skylark, was visiting. His ailing cousin lived there. Skylark’s blue Buick sat in the grassless yard next to his cousin’s beat-up half-ton. Deep in the truck shade lay an ancient yellow Lab, prone, pregnant and panting in the 110-degree heat. It was the eighth day in a row the temperature had cracked a hundred.

I could hear Skylark’s rattle and soft chant wafting through an open window, a shaman at work. I closed my eyes. The cottonwood and I sent a plume of positive energy toward my friend and his cousin.

Before me, the prairie spread a carpet of dun August grass dotted with clumps of chokecherry bushes, wolf willow and distant majestic cottonwoods. The most prominent feature of the landscape was a huge boulder that bulged on the horizon half a mile away, a granite erratic left by some vanishing glacier. When I fixed my gaze on the boulder and crossed my eyes, a swirl of energy spun up and away, purple against the faint green aura of the place.

Slowed by the heat yet defying evaporation, a drop of sweat fell from my chin onto my chest. A curled cottonwood leaf drifted languidly to the ground settling delicately between three pale blades of gamma grass. The morning came to a standstill.

Cued by something in my peripheral vision I glanced down the black road that stretched away into the wavering heat haze. Slowly, starting a few feet away, the heatshimmer parted. A stunning clarity replaced the obscurity as the opening rolled away from me like a spool in a tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, just this side of the vanishing point, two black sticks, poked in the ground, stitched land and sky together. Though barely discernable, the sticks tugged at my attention. They appeared to move but dissolved as the curtain of shimmer fell.

Overhead a red-tailed hawk, adrift on the updrafts, cried in the heat. A breeze stirred more dust devils from the hot black dirt. My attention kept being drawn to the two sticks.

Through the haze, I glimpsed them moving closer. Skylark’s rattle ticked yonder. My skin and cottonwood skin melded in the heat. Lexicon intact, the tree and I shared primal thoughts – tree to man to tree. I felt whittled.

Borne in this sizzling, August cauldron, the vague and formless sticks shape-shifted into human form. As they neared, I made out two men in lively conversation walking side by side, their voices distant, arms expressive. Nearer now, I recognized the stomp-and-sway gait of young aboriginal men. It’s a side-to-side rocking of the body that accompanies each step, made more obvious by long hair. Urban aboriginals seldom stomp-and-sway. Concrete causes the forgetting of uneven ground; the forgetting of tactile and kinetic responses to earth energies over and through which we pass; the forgetting by the body-memory of how to be where we are; the forgetting of the meaning of shadows; all gone, paved over.

As if passing through a screen of vertical shimmer, two teenagers emerged – six feet tall, muscular berry-brown bodies in cut-offs and runners. Black eyes shining, long black hair swaying, they walked toward me smiling. Their faces were bright, clear, open. And identical! Twins! Not a crazy-from-the-heat prairie mirage of twins, but actual twins!

I stood as they approached; both shook hands with a double clench. I introduced myself.

“Ahh, Aspen Smoke. You are Skylark’s friend. That’s his Buick,” one said. “We hear about you.”

“I’ll bet. What are your names?” I asked.

“I’m Montana.”

“I’m Lyle.”

“Montana and Lyle. Identical twins. Rare.” I said.

“Magical. One egg, two boys,” said Montana. “We were born right over there,” indicating the big erratic in the open meadow.

“How old are you?”

“We’re eighteen,” voices identical, echoes.

Resemblance this close created a pleasant eeriness. The cell-to-cell similarity in skin tone, limb angles, bone shape and musculature seemed sculpted by two winds with a single intent; dark-lipped mouths speaking as one; casting identical shadows – this only begins to define their twinness. As we talked they stood in mirrored poses.

I asked where they were headed on a hot day.

“There’s a little lake in those trees,” said Montana pointing down the road. “We’re going for a swim. Wanna come?”

We headed down the road.

I left a thought at the cottonwood for Skylark so he could find me. He always finds me whether I do this or not. I glanced back at his Buick, now bright purple in the shivering sun.

We walked three abreast and I immediately adopted the stomp-and-sway, kicking up small clouds of dust. Grasshoppers stuttered crazily before us. We were an intent trio, mostly silent, yet in touch. I sensed a powerful bond between the twins, boundless and fluid. This quickened me.  My intuition became prime source. I shared their thought experiences, wondering ‘who’s doing this – they or I?’ I felt they were allowing me this awareness.

When we rested under a grizzled, old oak, I sat across from the pair, genetic dittos defying difference, everything in duplicate. Their skin twitched from bugs in the same pattern; cuticles, areolas, eyelashes, finger joints, laughter – identical. Sometimes belly buttons can be the only point of distinction between idents. Not here.

As we entered the trees, the heat became oppressive. The trail was easy to follow and soon we arrived at the lake. The path skirted the shore under cottonwoods and aspens. A sharp decline and we arrived at a clear pool indented into large flat rocks and shaded by three huge, laconic cottonwoods. We were alone.

“Here’s the swimmin’ hole,” said Lyle.

I knew it was Lyle because there was one small but distinctive feature that set them apart. Lyle had something Montana did not: a thin half-inch scar on his forehead above his right eye, a pale blemish on his dark skin. I surmised some sort of accident but, when I asked, Lyle said he was born with it.

A scar from another lifetime? A cosmic safeguard against rascalism? A mark of distinction inflicted by his brother during womb time? Whatever the cause, a borderline of some kind existed in the scar, expressing the only degree of separation between the two.

I slipped out of my runners and cut-offs and waded naked into the shady pool. The twins did the same. The water felt cool and healing against our crackly skin. I ducked under and broke surface laughing. I heard the ringing, echoey laughter of the twins across the water. We were brothers now in this flickering amniotic pond, coddled by the Great Mother, enlivened by Great Spirit. Our cavorting and splashing sent cool wet sprays into the heat, making the local spirits blissful. We expressed our gratitude aloud. We imitated otters.

Floating on my back, staring at the cottonwoods that towered over the water, I saw speckles of the sky dance in the quivering leaves. I watched the shadow of a curious eagle dodge branches and make a figure eight over the surface of the water. I heard the shy, delicate whispers of the willow. In slow pulses morning became afternoon.

In the pool, we were fishes, lungless, coy and oblivious to the existence of water, happy for no reason. Time passed unnoticed.

Prune-skinned we climbed out of the pond onto the flat, shaded rocks. Something resonated as we emerged from the water with glistening primal skin; a sudden remembering repressed for millennia burst into light and sound. We sang the song the stone taught us. The pool breathed below, the cottonwoods above.

From the eagle’s aerie, we were dabs of fat smeared on a rock. At ground level we were laughing, crying flesh singing the truth song of stone.

When I stood to stretch, the twins laughed at my tan line. They had none.

“White man’s burden,” I said cracking them up. “I’m still evolving.” They clutched their sides in glee.

I looked into their faces. Mystery danced in their eyes, their lithe bodies writhed as they laughed. Again I was struck by their twinness.

Linked from the moment of conception, born on a full moon during a meteor shower, Montana and Lyle had been reared in a place where magic played a significant role. Raised for their specialness, their wisdom, and for the role they were destined to play, the twins were watched closely by everyone they met, watched for some sign, some sacred posture or sound, a warning, a blip. They were watched for hope.

Montana and Lyle’s young parents had tried to conceive for almost five years without success. One day in early fall their mother, Fawnheart, was walking in the sparse forest that covered about one-third of the reservation. She encountered Old Smoke, an elder who still remembered the traditional ways and the old, old songs. He was a kindly, energetic man, related by blood to Fawnheart’s partner, Fire Hawk. Old Smoke sat with Fawnheart on two sitting stones in a shady part of the forest. The old man listened quietly as Fawnheart told her story.

She spoke of the deep, precious love she shared with Fire Hawk, how they endeavoured to love all creation, hoping to conceive a child out of that love. It hadn’t happened and Fire Hawk was feeling disheartened and inadequate.

“I am feeling the same way,” she cried. “We don’t know what to do now. Is Great Spirit punishing us?”

Comforting the young woman, Old Smoke put his right arm around her shoulders. Instructing her to breathe deeply and slowly, he placed his open left palm on the woman’s abdomen and held it there for a few minutes, his eyes tightly shut.

“I can help you,” he said suddenly, breaking the silence. “You know the buffalo rub stone?”

Everyone knew the buffalo rub stone, the big erratic in the meadow.

“In three days it is full moon. That night you and Fire Hawk meet me at the big stone.”

“Yes, I will tell Fire Hawk. We’ll be there.”

“Tell no on else about this,” Old Smoke cautioned. “No one.”

On full moon night, the trio arrived at the big stone, a solid slab of granite over seven feet high surrounded on all sides by short prairie grass. Flat-topped with sides smooth from the rubbing of countless animals, it seemed to float above the ground in the moonlight. The stone was ringed by a grassless, dry moat, hewn from the hardpan by millions of hooves tramping the circle seeking the satisfaction of the stone. Much of the pleasure the stone gave was returned to it by all the creatures it soothed. Not just buffalo but white-tailed deer, pronghorns, elk, mastodons, wooly mammoths all sought the stone’s relief. Even the odd coyote rubbed a flea-bitten haunch against a corner.

A vast reservoir of itches relieved, scabs removed, horns shucked, molting fur and antler velvet rubbed off, hot bug bites quelled and countless unknown pleasures abided within the buffalo rub stone. The pus from infections broken onto the stone from time to time attracted a certain kind of sand wasp with a huge pink thorax, transparent yellow abdomen and a shiny blue head. If you were quiet, you could hear the tiny three-note tune the wasps sang as they sipped. Everyone knew all this.

“Here’s something you don’t know about this stone,” said Old Smoke standing with his right hand pressed against the smooth rock. “This is a Spirit Dancing Stone. Sometimes – only the Mystery knows when – you will see this stone alive with ecstatic dancing spirits. Their laughter crackles in the night. I have seen them myself.

“When I was younger than you I was riding my pony here one evening past sunset. A spinning bluish light encircled the stone. It made a whirring noise. On top of the stone danced two spirits tall as people. They pulsed together like northern lights, a throbbing dance, commingling in mid-air, their faces painted with bliss. I watched them til my eyes had to look away.

“Since then I’ve wondered why I was chosen to see that. When you told me your story Fawnheart, I knew why I’d seen the Spirit Dancers. Here’s what we’re going to do tonight.”

Old Smoke explained the ritual to the eager young couple. They agreed to proceed.

He lit a sage and sweetgrass twist and smudged himself with a soft song on his old lips. He made a slow circle around the stone along the path of the moat; smudging the stone, the young couple and a buffalo robe he’d brought along. While Old Smoke spread the robe over the top of the stone and took a few items from his medicine bundle, Fawnheart and Fire Hawk stripped naked and climbed on top of the stone. They sat cross-legged on the soft robe facing each other, hands resting on the other’s knees.

“Breath deep and slow now,” the shaman told the pair. “Look into each others eyes and do not look away. Let your souls travel the path of your gaze. Know and experience each other this way. Be generous. Share yourself. Be creative. Be love. Create! Great Spirit is with you.”

Old Smoke danced a halting path around the stone. Moving to his rattle in a sunwise direction, he sang a welcoming song to the spirits. The path soon began to fill with glowing spirits dancing alongside the old man. An ecstatic whirlwind began to form around the stone; it funneled upward into the blue-black night toward the tumescent moon.

“Make love now!” Old Smoke shouted to the young couple as he stepped out of the whirlwind into the calm prairie beyond. A spinning cocoon of light enveloped the stone. Inside, the couple looked like vague coupling embryos, dark motes pulsing inside a wild shimmer.

Burning in ecstasy under a full-eyed moon Fawnheart conceived. The Great Spirit smiled and her egg split in two.

That was the full moon in September. Montana and Lyle were born on the same buffalo robe on top of the same rock under the same full moon in June. Perfectly healthy, identical twins. At birth, glowing red lanugo covered their little bodies. Aches and Pains, Old Smoke’s wife, gently scrapped the red fuzz from their new skin with her wizened old fingers. She saved it in a moleskin pouch that she buried until the twins were one year old. Then it was safe to dispose of the fuzz but only by burning it after dark. Overhead meteors streaked the sky as Montana and Lyle entered the world.

The shade had moved off the rocks as we basked in the late afternoon sun.

Suddenly from nearby I heard a shout. “I COO COO AAA! I COO COO AA!”

I recognized Skylark’s voice full of humour and lightness. Montana and Lyle didn’t hear a human voice. They heard a too-close-for-comfort timber wolf howl. Such is the nature of Skylark’s magic. The twins, alert and tense in the presence of a wolf, couldn’t understand why I was laughing. Their bright faces filled with confusion.

“I COO COO AAAA!” Skylark’s laughter, then came a brown streak that vanished in a huge splash of sparkling water. Skylark’s head bobbed up spraying water in our direction, no longer wolfen, now an embodied human in cool relief.

Montana and Lyle relaxed at the same moment, synchronized change of posture followed by easy smiles and laughter, identical.

“Come on in. It’s Indian soup!” shouted Skylark.

We all jumped into the pond, energized by the sudden coolness.

“Hey there’s a white guy in the soup!” yelled Montana.

“This ain’t no tan line soup,” laughed Lyle. “Get him.”

I was beset.

“Let’s throw white meat up to Great Spirit. Let Him decide if he should be in the soup or not,” suggested wise Skylark. Of course, the twins thought it a great idea.

Floating on my back, they lifted me out of the water with gentle strong hands and tossed up toward the low branches of the cottonwoods. It felt like I would crash into the trees but stopped short, seeming to hover before falling. The water barely settled over my belly before I was lifted and tossed skyward again, nearly crashing, hovering, falling. Lifted, falling again and again.

My body recalled a vivid sense-memory from childhood: six years old, being wheeled back to my ward after appendix surgery in Brandon General Hospital. Delirious, nauseous, struggling out of ether-induced sleep, wailing in terror I felt myself rise rapidly from my bed as if lifted, sailing out of control toward the ceiling. Just before crashing I stopped, hovered and descended back down gently to my crib-like bed. I was lifted over and over, almost crashing each time. Each time I thought I was dying and God was pulling me up to heaven. My soul was fleeing the scene of the infection.

Under cottonwood trees, my body translated that memory of early terror into a feeling of comfortable abandon, wiser now, context clear. My soul sailed on wings of laughter and faith, finding safety in this moment among friends, already in heaven.

“Nine times and Great Spirit didn’t take him. Welcome to the soup,” said Skylark. The twins, their long black hair plastered wet and shiny to their shoulders and heads like helmets, laughed as I sank below the surface. No hands sent me flying this time.

As we splashed about, the afternoon grew old. Skylark said he and I were due back at his cousin’s for an evening meal. We dressed and departed after handshakes.

“I count you among my friends,” I told the twins as we left.

“Friends forever,” they both said, their faces lit with beatific smiles.

As Skylark and I walked down the narrow path through the trees, I turned and glanced back at the two men standing at the water’s edge. Almost imperceptibly, they nodded my way.

On the walk back Skylark told me about the twins’ conception and their birth.

“They are special. Great Spirit has important work for them. Did they sing for you by any chance? Skylark asked.

“We sang together. With the stone. The stone made the song. We sang along.”

Skylark stopped in his tracks, and turned slowly towards me. “You sang with them?” He was stunned.

“Yes,” I replied. “It was prairie planxty. Earth music. It felt and sounded, well, indescribable.”

After a silence Skylark said, “You are very lucky. Montana and Lyle share songs only with ones who have lived the Mystery. Do you remember the song?”

I did. Still do. The crux of the melody is a subtle tune with a hint of melancholy. Or is it a relaxed certainty? Serenity, perhaps? The song stays with me, at times welling up from my heart, seeking expression, sometimes in the light of day, other times on clear moonless nights.

Later that night when we left Skylark’s family after hours of food, music and laughter, I found a crumpled paper bag on the hood of the blue Buick. The bag had my name written on it. Inside were two short round pieces of wood with smooth black bark, slightly speckled. The sticks were from the same branch, each about four inches long, flat ends, as big around as a nickel. On the cut end of one stick, carefully carved was the letter ‘M’, on the other, ‘L’.

With the sticks was a hand-written note: “When a person forgets their earth/sky connection, these will help them remember. Be well. M & L”

“Do you know what those are?” asked Skylark, a smug grin on his face because he knew what I’d say.

“Haven’t a clue.” I was puzzled.

“Memory sticks. For between the toes,” Skylark said. “Grandfather had a pair. I believe he was given them when he was a young man by twins, like you. They were female twins. His sticks were dark and speckled, like yours.

“Grandfather carried them in his medicine bundle right up to the time of his death. A few days before he passed on Grandfather called me to his tent. He was alone, sitting on a stone. He had the two sticks clasped between his hands when I entered. He was chanting a prayer of gratitude to the sticks, thanking them and the Creator for all the healing they’d done together. He told the sticks it was time for them to be transformed, just like him. After smudging himself, the sticks and me with sweet cedar, he motioned me to open my palms. He gently placed the sticks on my hands. Still covering them with his hands, he told me to take the sticks to the nearby stream to a certain spot we both knew. I was to push them into the ground where the earth was soft but not muddy with the initials facing up. I don’t remember the women’s names but the initials were M & L, just like yours.”

That familiar tingle of synchronicity blossomed in me.

“The next spring,” Skylark went on, “where I’d pushed the sticks in, bright green shoots sprang up even before the snow was gone, as early as crocuses. They grew rapidly into a willowy tree with dark red branches, bright shiny leaves and supple limbs. It still grows there. I’ll take you sometime.”

“Your Grandfather continues to teach us even to this day,” I said. “Now I know my responsibility to these sticks if I use them for healing.”

“He is very generous,” said Skylark wistfully. “And now we know the reason for Montana and Lyle’s visit: to give you the memory sticks. Everything is a circle.”

“How long have the twins been dead?” I asked.

After a pause, Skylark said Montana and Lyle died over fifty years ago in a car accident just down the road from his cousin’s place, not far from where I’d met them.

That night back at our campsite I smudged the sticks and said prayers of gratitude for them and my new spirit friends. Then I added the sticks to my medicine bundle.

Since then, I’ve used the sticks many times: to help people sailing on a balloon of depression, to help women conceive, in cases of Ancestral Calling and as tools to help me remember my humble place in the universe. Each time I use them I sense Spirit contained in the sticks and I am reminded of that perfect summer day, the day I met Montana and Lyle.

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A La Mode – New Fiction

Reid Dickie

Deep twilight I pull into a truck stop outside Maple Creek, Saskatchewan for a leak and a go-joe. A man sitting in a booth writes furiously in a journal; untouched raisin pie and coffee arrayed before him; maple walnut ice cream melting into slow brown rivers forming a small glacial lake. A mammoth fork leans in the cold goo.

His attention is utterly focused on the language. I recognize his state immediately. Pausing in the scribble to re-read a previous entry, he is oblivious to me, the restaurant, the world. He sets-to again, pen slipping through the black muddle, finding sense, the thrill of the hunt, losing sense, recaptured, triumph of abstractions.

“Language is a tailor’s shop where nothing fits,” Rumi said.

I stand at the counter for a few minutes, styro-coffee in hand, sipping, watching him shop for clothes. He never moves his eyes from the journal, not even to glance away during pauses.

I wonder what it is he writes so passionately? Is it poetry? Is it great creeping sadness fiction? Is it pioneer gestures and a town is born? Wisdom or gloss? I weigh my need to know against my personal embarrassment if he should tell me FO or find some physical way of saying it. Interrupted reveries have unpredictable ripples.

I sit on a red vinyl stool watching him in the mirror behind of the counter. He fits nicely between the shakemaker with its three swirling talons that torture milk and a showcase of inverted pies. It goes Talons-Writer-Pies in an even row.

I look away when the waitress offers me a refill. We exchange pleasantries, a moment later when she departs and reveals the writer, his coffee cup is being emptied; his pie plate holds a loose brown smear and a warm fork, nothing more.

I turn on my stool to watch him. Our eyes meet for the briefest moment before his fall back to the gaping hungry pages. His hand works the cup handle, rattling sometimes. The sound of the clacking ceramic cup seems to bring him into the here and now and he stops for a while.

His hand snakes, his spoon and saucer do a lively highland fling, a calm settled moment, cup resting quietly in saucer. He grabs the cup by the lip and pounds it into the saucer, which shatters and falls off the table. The waitress approaches reluctantly.

“Are you okay?”

He looks at her, smiling, and says, “Whatever happens next is what I will write.”

The waitress picks up the saucer shards, pallid against the dark stained carpet. The writer watches her with extreme intent finding a word for every nuance, every gesture, thought, flex and aura; consuming her, clothing her in language to take away her nakedness, to save her from wildness, wilderness.

An ominous shiver shimmies up my spine as I realize I am in grave danger of becoming part of “whatever happens next.” Should I flee now? Get up and walk back to the rental car, disappear into the vanishing point? Or stay and become included in some bristling mind’s embattled journey?

It was at that moment I knew “whatever happens next.”

As the glass door zizzes shut behind me, I hear someone clapping. In the parking lot I glance back to see the writer standing, applauding, chasing me with his eyes, the happiest laughter on his face. He bows ever so slightly just before I look away, forever.

August 5, 2002

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Filed under Eateries, Fiction, Saskatchewan

Rare Footage – Ice Surge at Codette Reservoir

This was shot on May 1, 2013 by Saskatchewan Water Security Agency personal while doing river recon. An ice surge, the leading edge rising to about ten feet high, is a rare occurrence and even rarer to catch such great documentation of it. This happened on Codette Reservoir on the Saskatchewan River near Nipawin. Click the pic.

Ice-Surge---Codette

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It’s Grasslands National Park Day on ReadReidRead

Reid Dickie

For the second year in a row, February 1st is Grassland National Park Day on my blog. This year I’m offering two new videos, one of prairie dogs in GNP and a video tour of The Convent Bed & Breakfast in Val Marie, SK on the edge of the park.

Grasslands National Park is an enchanting place. Features of the park include its recent designation as a Dark Sky Preserve, in fact, the darkest Dark Sky Preserve in Canada. Critterwise, GNP is celebrating its first wild-born black-footed ferrets. The park reintroduced black-footed ferrets without much success until last year when, for the first time in 70 years, a wild black-footed ferret was born in Canada. Watch a park video of the ferrets.  

Another reintroduction to Grasslands National Park is plains bison. For the first time in 150 years, a herd of plains bison now numbering about 250 head are part of the prairie ecosystem. Adaptable and comfortable, the plains bison population is increasing quickly with about 75 calves expected to be born in spring 2012. The herd has increased from the 70 bison first released in 2005.

Read posts from last year’s Grasslands National Park Day.

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Filed under Critters, grasslands national park, Heritage Buildings, Natural Places, Saskatchewan

The Convent B&B, Val Marie, SK

Reid Dickie

I’ve spent more glorious nights at The Convent Bed & Breakfast than any other lodging on my prairie travels. Its appeal is powerful and pleasant, relaxing yet stimulating at the same time. The combination of a serene old building and the caring owners creates a peaceful and rare experience. The picture above is The Convent’s charming dining room overlooking Grasslands National Park.

Val Marie (pop. about 130) is located at the western end of Grasslands National Park and features the park office and visitor centre. It’s about an hour south of Swift Current off the Trans Canada Highway. Few accommodations for travelers exist in the little village making The Convent even more precious. An actual convent used as a teaching facility into the late 1960s, the Ducans converted it into a bed and breakfast in the late 1990s. They retained many of the features, such as blackboards, chapel including confessional and woodwork from the original building. Take a video tour of The Convent inside and out with me by clicking on the pic below.

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Filed under Accommodations, grasslands national park, Heritage Buildings, Old Souls, Saskatchewan, Spirit

Prairie Dogtown in Grasslands National Park

Reid Dickie

For sheer cuteness and adorability it’s hard to find a rodent more fitting than the black-tailed prairie dog. Largely extirpated from most of their habitat which extends down into Texas, the prairie dogs in Canada are safely preserved in Grasslands National Park. Several easily accessible dogtowns dot the park and you won’t be disappointed with the shenanigans of these cute critters.

Prairie dogs are a keystone species, meaning they are often the main course for several other species in their habitat. In GNP prairie dogs are preyed upon by newly-reintroduced black-footed ferrets, prairie rattlesnakes, swift foxes, ferruginous hawks,  golden eagles, badgers and coyotes. Burrowing owls nest in old prairie dog burrows. It’s a cozy relationship. Click the pic and spend two minutes in dogtown.

You can find more information on prairie dogs elsewhere on my blog like here and here

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Filed under Critters, grasslands national park, Parks, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan

121 Years Ago Today – Repost

SITTING BULL AND DANCING HORSE

Reid Dickie

December 15, 1890

Sitting Bull’s Camp

Grand River, South Dakota

Commotion was his cue, his spur, his trigger. Gunfire, whoops, whistles and yells! Dancing Horse needed no other prompting. He began to perform his repertoire of tricks; the seven Bill Cody taught him and the two he learned by watching other horses. He was a smart horse who learned easily.

Though it was the middle of a cold night and the years had slowed his gait, it all came back to Dancing Horse. As the air filled with noise and bullets whizzed around him, the horse pranced and danced, sat on his haunches and raised his front legs, waving, whinnying and shaking his mane. He cantered in a circle, stopped, backed up and cantered on, a curtsy, a bow and, his finale, a high wild buck accompanied by snorts and a long careening whinny. Then he started again.

The horse was born to the circus. Bill Cody had gelded him himself and taught him tricks. Dancing Horse was the gift Buffalo Bill Cody gave Sitting Bull when Bull retired from the Wild West Show. He’d spent recent years on the quiet prairie with Sitting Bull, far from the cheering crowds.

At the door of Sitting Bull’s log shack, melee built into frenzy. The holy man, now 60 summers old, lay propped half-naked against the doorframe, dying; his blood, loosened by two wounds, soaked into the snow. Sitting Bull’s spirit soared over the scene, its grief brief for the hard and desperate life just lived, now elated by the familiarity of death and the antics of Dancing Horse, moving like a white ghost in the snow below.

Long after the fighting ended, as the prairie filled with mournful keening, Dancing Horse continued to perform, repeating his act over and over. The horse had danced through the mayhem without a single bullet hitting him.

He did not perform for the incredulous and spooked Sioux who stared in awe. Dancing Horse had an audience of one. His old friend Sitting Bull watched long in delight, solely entertained by the horse’s show, then he turned and his spirit embraced The Light.

As the first rays of dawn swept over the frozen land, Dancing Horse collapsed into the snow, exhausted. A little boy dressed in buckskin advanced toward him, extending a handful of sweetgrass.

MESSENGER

Reid Dickie

December 15, 1890

Central Plains

Overhead Orion paused in mid hunt; half a moon lit the prairie snows. The Spirit, its message clear and urgent, rose from the shabby encampment on Grand River, the scene of the crime.

Wearing only paint on his body, riding a horse with arrows and lightning bolts painted on its white flanks, the ghostly Messenger held a human skull on a stick. Half his face was red, half white, his heart was painted with a blue starburst and his body had wavy yellow lines running from foot to throat.

Sailing through the clear cold air the Messenger traveled north over the rolling hills of Standing Rock Reservation to Cannonball River, the end of Hunkpapa land. Every tiny cluster of tipis with warm dreamers inside in the camps of Thunderhawk and John Grass got the news as they slept. Some awoke keening in grief.

The Messenger turned south, crossed over the Grand River in a single bound and headed toward Cheyenne River Reservation, home to the Minneconjou. In his dream, Yellow Bird, the medicine man received the news with a jolt, grabbed his rattle and woke the camp. It was nearing dawn but still dark and cold as Kicking Bear, the high priest of the Ghost Dance, his wife Woodpecker Woman, and all the Minneconjou were informed. Further on, the camps of White Swan, Bear Eagle and Hump were next to be grief stricken. Off the reservation, the camps of Touch the Clouds and Red Shirt received word.

The ghost Messenger leapt the Cheyenne River and flew southwest toward Pine Ridge Reservation. Passing over Bad River, through the eerie Badlands past Castle Butte and a leap over White River got him to Pine Ridge and the camps at the headwaters of White River. Black Elk, the mystical shaman of the tribe, received the news and told the Oglala chiefs Red Cloud and American Horse. Ghost Dance priest Good Thunder immediately began to beat a hide drum and chant.

Spirit Messenger turned eastward just as dawn was blemishing the blackness. A leap over Pass Creek, through coulees and around buttes and Two Strike’s camp was informed; the ghost dancers Short Bull, Mash-The-Kettle and Plenty Horses began to paint their bodies with grieving symbols.

By the time the sun rose, the Great Plains was lit with grief. As far west as Tongue River Reservation in Montana, Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, and as far south as the Kiowa Reservation in central Oklahoma – they all knew what had happened. Even the people of Walker River Reservation in western Nevada, home to visionary Wovoka who brought the Ghost Dance to the people, knew.

Except Orion, no one saw the ghostly figure riding the strange awkward horse but they all reported his message with sad accuracy:

“Sitting Bull is dead.”

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Sacred Places and Consciousness Part 3

Reid Dickie

Part Three

“During shamanic flight the soul doesn’t fly. We expand our limits to include aspects not usually part of our being.” – Hans Peter Duerr

             Before you begin reading this, if you haven’t already done so, please read Part One and Part Two in the series and study the Map of Consciousness supplied in both parts and below. Checking out my FAQ page will help as well.

            One purpose of this final part in the series is to share some of the specific inner experiences that occur at each stage of super-consciousness. Extraordinary experiences need extraordinary and uncommon language to describe them. Shamanic experiences are often stage-specific, that is, they have meaning only at certain stages of consciousness which is not easily transferred or even described in another state. However, being the naming animal, we have discovered certain language that describes rare stages of mind and exceptional access to consciousness. I have Ken Wilber to thank for bringing forth some practical terminology during his 30 years of meditation practice and philosophical explorations. His terms were invaluable filling in the blanks on the Map of Consciousness.  

            For example, Wilber uses the term bliss currents to describe an extremely subtle sensation of loving happiness pulsing slowly through your awareness. When I first read it, I knew exactly what he meant. I’d experienced it many times but never had words to describe it. Still, sweet and descriptive as it tries to be, the term is lame when compared to the actual experience!                       

            When I embarked on my spiritual journey my most basic intent was to become less culture bound and more inner directed, that is, live more from inside myself than from what is applied to me from the outside. Shamanism created the path for me to do this inner work I needed to do. 

            Now, once the drumming begins, I can feel my restive rational mind settle and focus on the steady beat. A wonderful moment of calmness and freedom ensues when I transcend reason and open up to exploring the parts of my consciousness that lie beyond. My first expansion lands me in the Psychic (F7) realm, immersed in Nature mysticism. Some typical experiences in the Psychic realm include:

  • Preliminary meditative states – familiar from my meditation practice,
  • Shamanic visions & voyages – induced through drumming as on-going practice,
  • Identification with aspects of nature up to identification with all Nature – Nature and me are the same stuff,
  • Arousal of kundalini energy – my early meditative experiences included repeatedly arousing these energies. See below for more details,
  • Disclosure of psychic anatomy of subtle channels, energies & essences – this occurs once I began expanding my awareness to include more and more information from new sources,
  • Overwhelming feeling of the mystical – that glorious shivery web of the unknown,
  • Spontaneous spiritual awakenings – important understandings and knowledge suddenly arise in my awareness, sometimes answering intent of journey and/or adding further details and new information,
  • Reliving of deep past traumas, possibly birth trauma – with consent and intent, Mom and I relived my birth about three years after I started my shamanic practice.  

            Not all these experiences occur every time I access the Psychic realm but all of them have arisen at some point during my years of shamanic journeying. Most frequently, I experience the first seven items. A preliminary meditative state is always part of my intent, which, with the help of the sonic driver, sustains the shamanic journey. The outcome of the journey is mitigated by its particular intent, which varies from journey to journey. Much of Psychic is an adaptation for me. 

            My early meditative practice focused on awakening kundalini energies and bringing them to full expression. Kundalini energy lies coiled three and a half times at the base of the spine. Arousing it releases an exhilarating and dramatic array of experiences, many of them physical expressions of inner directives. Teacher Christina Grof and her husband, psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, did invaluable research on kundalini energy. They list some of the effects awakening can have:

  • Dramatic physical and psychological manifestations called “kriyas” most striking of which are sensations of heat and energy streaming up your spine,
  • Possible tremors, spasms, violent shaking, complex twisting movements,
  • Involuntary laughing or crying,
  • Chanting mantras or songs,
  • Speaking in tongues, emitting vocal noises and animal sounds,
  • Assuming spontaneous yogic gestures mudras and postures asanas,
  • Seeing geometric patterns, radiant lights, visions of saints, deities, demons, and entire mythological sequences,
  • Emotional range: ecstasy, orgasmic rapture and incredible peace to waves of depression, anxiety & agitation. 

            Since I am familiar with kundalini energy and open to it from my early practice, my visits to sacred places often arouse this energy to varying degrees. You may recognize some of my experience at Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel in Part One as kundalini awakening. The most intense kundalini occurrences happened to me at the Thunderbird Nest as described in detail on the Sacred Places page. Releasing kundalini energy at that site provided an avenue of expression for my spirit helper Webbed Flight and let him “live again.”  Hope you read my FAQs. 

            The next stage is the Subtle (F8) realm where processes well beyond my gross waking consciousness begin to manifest. Subtle experiences arise solely from within me and require special attention and quietude to perceive and appreciate. More depth is required of me now. Spirit helpers, power animals and the Divine are most potent in the Subtle and are accompanied by inner illuminations and patterns and by blissful states of love and compassion. Peace and serenity settle into my awareness. Experiences in the Subtle realm include:

  • Interior luminosities and sounds – slow pulses of dim lights that slowly change colour or create a pulse, a vague beat, everything is calm,
  • Archetypal forms and patterns emerge – the spirits come out to help me,
  • Extremely subtle bliss currents and cognitions – rivers of delight flow through me, small explosions of happiness abound and persist, gratitude builds,
  • Expansive affective states of love and compassion – unfathomable caring arises,
  • Direct spirit communication – the spirits dance with me,
  • Face to face with the Divine – glimpses of The Light is what I get, just glimpses,
  • Pathology: kosmic terror, kosmic evil, kosmic horror – seldom do I encounter negativity in my journeys. When I do I can deal with it effectively and quickly. This comes from years of inner work.     

      In Subtle abides enormous peace and serenity where quiet forces become evident via gentle perceptions, where love and compassion feel like the only possibilities. Brief flashes of the Divine shimmer through my awareness evoking bliss and unbound gratitude. Access to Subtle for me is generally plateau but adaptation when spirits and helpers are involved, that is I can readily call them if needed in any state of consciousness. Bliss currents and inner luminosities are plateau experiences for me so far. 

      Approaching the Source occurs in the Causal (F9) realm. All I experience is an unbound sense of freedom, freedom to create, to be, to do, an ancient flicker in the heart of Emptiness, a shadow on a cave wall. Being and Doing happily coalesce in me. I recognize myself as Emptiness and blissfully watch the arising world come and go through that awareness. Experiences in the Causal include:

  • Scene of freedom – detached and free from all the lesser woes of lesser worlds,
  • Source of creativity – sense of release from and release to be and do, all creation arises in my awareness,
  • I am an opening, a clearing, an Emptiness through which objects pass. 

      My access to the Causal is through peak experiences as needed although this summer I had several extended plateaus floating in Causal. Often, if I am writing and can’t come up with an idea, a phrase, even a word, I’ll sit back on my chair, close my eyes and send a flare to the source of creativity. The reply is usually instant and substantive. 

            The three stages of consciousness I just described are conduits for the content, information and messages that Spirit wants to convey to me. They are the means, not the end, the method, not the result. Shamanism opens up the conduits so Spirit can flow! Spirit doesn’t just exist when we need or want it to; it exists all the time, which is incorrect since it exists completely outside of time which for us is “all the time.” Clear? I digress. 

            Another purpose of this essay is to shine more light on the stages of consciousness used in shamanism where spirits (animal powers, helpers, nature spirits) manifest themselves in our consciousness and help us. We are always surrounded by spirits but most people haven’t developed the inner technology to perceive them and, using intent (shaman’s secret), put them to work for you. That’s Spirit pole at Buffalo Effigyrather crass because the spirits are in charge and do what they need to do. Shamanism is a process of dropping assumptions we hold about the nature of reality. Instead of assuming limitations, shamans assume the opposite – unbound, freedom, creativity – and, using those eyes plus intent, find out what’s there. Astonishing things are there…and everywhere! 

            Spirits offer benevolence to everyone. Not everyone has the training to use their own inner technology to contact spirits for help. That’s what shamans do. I don’t think there is exclusivity to being a shaman. At a shamanism workshop last fall, everyone there, eighteen people, easily went into drumming-induced non-ordinary reality the first time they tried it. Fifteen of them got power animals on their second journey that day. We are hardwired for this access but few persist at it, few hear the calling or see the use. Shamanism is complicated, scary, ecstatic, boring, exhilarating, life-like and needs a certain kind of cat to dance with. Even though I searched for 45 years, I still feel it found me more than I found it. It’s like coming home. 

            Even if we don’t, can’t or won’t feel attuned to the spirits, they are attuned to us, watching over us. Spirits want to help everyone. A big human discovery was some people found a way to ask spirits for their help and get it. My relationship with Webbed Flight, my old friend and spirit helper (he is the spirit of a shaman who lived in eastern Manitoba about 1200 years ago), has matured in the 12 years we have known each other. Relationship? Webbed Flight tells me to cross the street sometimes if he doesn’t like who is coming toward us (Linda came to appreciate this after initially being unsettled by it), warns me about deer on the road, even dead ones, supports and protects me when I am in trance. I am way past being attuned to him; he is a living part of me. Ever protective, kind and curious, contact with Webbed Flight went from being an occasional peak experience to being able to contact him for longer periods, plateauing. Then he became an adaptation, a benevolent spirit that abides with me. That three-step process – peak, plateau, adaptation – took about 18 months with Webbed Flight. This is sounding so technical! Timely aside: What would the spirit of a 1200 year old shaman, when allowed to live again in 2011, find most amazing? TV? Cellphones? Uh-uh. The two things that blow Webbed Flight’s old mind are glass and indoor showers. Ha! 

            I met Maug (rhymes with blog) about nine months after I started my shamanic practice. She is a fascinating and energetic tree spirit and helper. When I first met her, we went through the three-step process in about 20 minutes and she’s been with me ever since. On my About page, in a piece called The Day Before Yesterday which recounts my ten most recent incarnations, you will find the details about Maug.             

            From Ken Wilber’s map in Part One you are familiar with the evolution of your consciousness. You are not alone on this journey. It is shared by all humanity. Nor is this journey new to any of us. For hundreds of thousands of years each of us has evolved through these same stages, following the same subliminal basic moral imperative: to preserve the greatest depth with the greatest span (Wilber). We have discovered ways of being in the world and intuited maps and techniques to guide the way to fulfilling our imperative. We have found methods of moving Spirit out of Emptiness, from inner space to materialization in a mound, a circle cast in stone, an image of an animal, the language of the soul writ on the land. There we commune lovingly, peacefully. 

            Imbued with Spirit, sacred places become custodians of the Divine, keepers of our very essence, but not hoarders. Sacred sites are open and expressive, appealing to our awareness, usually somewhere in the Psychic-Subtle-Causal realms. Each level allows greater access to deeper and fuller parts of my being, more intense experiences and contact with Spirit. The depth of my experience at these places is relative to how developed each of those realms is in me, how adequate I am to accessing them. Shamanism taught me the process, Ken Wilber expanded my understanding and now I proceed into the mystic at will, confident, experienced and some day, if I am very, very lucky, I may figure out how it works on my own. 

            Meanwhile, I will continue to visit sacred places and perform rituals based on my inner directives. I will continue to journey with my power animals and spirit helpers to imaginal worlds to fulfill healing intents. When Spirit draws me close to absolute awareness, the site of peace and compassion, I will recognize myself as Emptiness.

ADDENDUM 

            Over the summer of 2011 I was lucky enough to travel to more than a dozen sacred places in Manitoba and Saskatchewan recording reports on my little camcorder at most of them. While Spirit manifests at every site, there was one in particular where the message Spirit needed to convey was clear, reportable and captured on video. Please read my original post called Shining a Light Into Hidden Places and watch the video called Three Stones at Pine Cree Park which details my encounter with Spirit on the night I camped in the park.     

 

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, shaman, shamanism, Soul Building, Spirit

Pictures of an Amazing Year

Reid Dickie

This is a sample of my first batch of 2011 travel pictures. Taken in the Big Muddy in southern Saskatchewan, an enduring symbol of hard pioneer life still stands atop a rise surrounded by crop.

I have uploaded the first 56 pictures from my various travels over the spring and summer onto the DickToolCo page on Flickr. They include shots of Vancouver in the spring, a series of cityscapes of downtown Winnipeg taken from the rooftop of the Fort Garry Hotel in mid-May, flood pictures of Brandon, Melita and the flood protest rally held at the Manitoba Legislature in June. During Doors Open I took a series of pictures of the Ukrainian Labour Temple in north Winnipeg. I always snapped pictures during my many trips to Souris covering the flood. Plus several shots from my July travels in Saskatchewan. Some of the pictures are along the right hand sidebar on my blog. All my pictures are here. Enjoy!

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Filed under Art Actions, Blog Life, Day Tripping, Flood, Heritage Buildings, Linda, Manitoba Heritage, Pioneers, Roadside Attractions, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg

How To Tell Cake from Cow Shit

IMPORTANT INFORMATION EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW

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Castle Butte Video Report

Reid Dickie

I have written about Castle Butte in the Sacred Places series and felt it required a video homage. My short report tries to capture the uniqueness of the butte.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Earth Phenomena, Natural Places, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, Spirit

Journeys of the Heart, Journeys of the Soul

Reid Dickie

“Do not think you will necessarily be aware
of your own enlightenment.” – Dogen

My new life purpose has been revealed to me with great clarity during my travels this summer. In a few words, one part of my current life purpose is to learn and be hurled into new experiences then to report what happened with honesty, without proselytization. That is what this blog aims to achieve.

Another part is helping other Old Souls find their clarity, their purpose. Spirit has given me three incredible Old Souls whom I am honoured to assist with their life work. All men, of various ages spanning two decades, my “suns” as I have come to call them, bring vast richness, comfort and energy into my life. I thrive on that and I am grateful everyday for their presence in my purpose.

Wind and rain sculpt the soft sandstone of Castle Butte in southern Saskatchewan

Most Old Souls spend much of their life soul building; for some, life is only about soul building. This is another part of my current purpose. The long trips into the Saskatchewan hinterland have given me the stimulus, the space and the solitude necessary to reclaim my humanity, to proceed with my personal evolution in a world dead set on stealing my humanity from me. Since shamanism begins at Nature mysticism and moves outward from there, my time surrounded by raw Nature enchants my soul, quickens my evolution and drives my purpose. I get healed! I get happy!

People I encountered this summer have surprised me with their understanding and  acceptance of my spiritual needs. I think of octogenarian tour guide from Coronach, SK, Tillie Duncan, who told me she meets people all the time who do ritual at these places so “you’re not the only one, Reid.” I was heartened to know that bit of information and humbled by her gracious silence while I did my small rituals.

At Jack’s Cafe in Eastend, SK, over a long breakfast as I scribbled in my journal, I noticed a 30ish local couple across the aisle eying me repeatedly. When they rose to leave, she came over and said to me, “Are you a cop?” I smiled and said I wasn’t. “Well, you got something, some kinda power.” Her husband stood behind her, nodding and smiling strangely. “Do I make you nervous?” I asked. They agreed I didn’t. She sputtered a bit and said, “You make me feel…” She was grasping for the word and surprised herself it was so simple. “You make me feel happy!” We all laughed and I told them it makes me happy to make them happy and to have the best day they’d had in a long time today. I’m sure they did. He kissed her as they were leaving, giving the old town codgers gathered in Jack’s for their morning coffee something else to gossip about.

Weathered farm house built about 1905 in Big Muddy area of southern Saskatchewan

I get enormous satisfaction knowing that I have incited several people to travel to sacred places this summer, to personally explore themselves within the context of ancient aboriginal holy sites. For some, it has been life-changing. I hope to get permission to share a few of their stories with you on my blog.

I plan to keep the mighty Avenger for a few more weeks as I have a long list places to visit and record around Manitoba. Thank you for watching my videos and being my passenger on some of my travels. Many more miles ahead, the curious and the arcane await us. Stay tuned! Be happy!

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Marshall Family Cemetery

Reid Dickie

Halfway up the side of wind-swept Big Muddy Valley in extreme southern Saskatchewan sits the Marshall family cemetery. Forty-one people, all related to James Marshall, are buried there. He was a member of the North West Mounted Police and, later, one of the first large ranchers in the Big Muddy district. The view from the cemetery is marvellous as the valley stretches for miles in both directions. Join me there on video.

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Three Days in Eastend – Crazy Horse Camp

Reid Dickie

Day Three 

On Day Three, I have breakfast of eggs easy, rye toast and coffee after coffee at Jack’s Cafe on Eastend’s main drag. Lots of elbow room out here in southwestern Saskatchewan. Eastend‘s main street is wide and roomy yet still takes up just one-eighth of the sky. I thank Sharon Butala for reminding me about the sky thing. The red man and the white man clashed and co-operated around here and the places still sing their history. Sitting Bull and his people camped near Eastend, Chimney Coulee holds deep local mysteries that history barely touches and the spirit of Crazy Horse haunts a flat area on the valley floor. Watch is my short video report on Crazy Horse Camp.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, grief, Local History, Natural Places, Old Souls, Prairie People, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, Spirit

Three Days in Eastend – Chocolate Peak

Reid Dickie

Day Two

Day Two in Eastend finds me standing before this pretty house. Author Wallace Stegner lived in 20 places in eight states and Canada, one of them being Eastend when he was a child. His little house, well-maintained and loved, is now a local tourist attraction and houses resident artists. Stegner’s autobiography, Wolf Willow, is the seminal work about the prairies, much of it youthful remembrances from the Eastend area. A worthy and honest read. In 1972 Wallace won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with Angle of Repose. Here’s an excerpt from Wolf Willow about how the prairies feel. 

“There was never a country that in its good moments was more beautiful. Even in drought or dust storm or blizzard, it is the reverse of monotonous, once you have submitted to it with all the senses. You don’t get out of the wind, but learn to lean and squint against it. You don’t escape sky and sun but wear them in your eyeballs and on your back. You become acutely aware of yourself. The world is very large, the sky even larger, and you are very small. But also the world is flat, empty, nearly abstract, and in its flatness you are a challenging upright thing, as sudden as an exclamation mark, as enigmatic as a question mark.”

The SW Quest for Art & History is a self-guided tour of various historic and artistic places in southwest Saskatchewan, the Stegner house one of its stops. Their website gives you the entire tour.

On Day Two, Today Eastend offers us some recent and geological history wrapped into the same site, Chocolate Peak, situated just outside of town. I won’t spoil the sweet treat. Find out what I mean by watching my short video report.

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Three Days in Eastend – T. Rex Discovery Centre

Reid Dickie

Day One

It’s Day One of my three-day stay in Eastend. The little town of Eastend, SK is located in the eastern foothills of the Cypress Hills, tucked into the wide and beautiful Frenchman River Valley. Eastend has a vast history which they have traced back to the dinosaurs with the local discovery of a T. Rex skeleton back in the 1990s. What sets Eastend apart is how they have developed their extensive and varied history into a blossoming tourist industry. Glacial landscapes, aboriginals and settlers, historic events and recent discoveries have been put into perspective, developed and now bring new interest and tourists to the town despite its out-of-the-way location.

 Actually, Eastend has two very good highways serving it: Hwy #37 from Gull Lake and Hwy #13 from Shaunavon. Eastend is less than a hour off the Trans Canada Highway, south of Gull Lake. I have visited Eastend regularily since the mid-1990s and watched them create an international image. The T. Rex Discovery Centre, an amazing building set right into the valley wall, opened a few years ago and offers state-of-the-art museum technology and methods to demonstrate the significance of the finding of the T. Rex skeleton. It’s a little bit of heaven for dinosaur lovers. To give you an idea how thoroughly Eastend has adopted the T. Rex as its power animal, there is a street leading to the Discovery Centre called T. Rex Drive. Next to the Centre and halfway up the valley wall (location, location, location) a new housing development is underway called T. Rex Heights! Though I didn’t shoot inside the Centre, here is my video report on the building and its spectacular location.

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Dusk in Val Marie, Saskatchewan

The Antonioni cottonwoods (watch Blow-Up!) nuzzle the prairie breezes leaving symphonic rustles hanging in the late afternoon air. Nuance consumes nuance. I am mostly naked, cooled by the day as I am heated by the wine. The second floor balcony of The Convent is close to heaven. Linda occurs! I am a blessed being, lucky times infinity, living that same dream in the middle of now here, an exclamation point on the endless prairie! This is what dusk in Val Marie looked like that night.

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Filed under Accommodations, BEAUTY, Heritage Buildings, Linda, Prairie People, Saskatchewan

Bull Snake

Reid Dickie

Out on the Saskatchewan prairie on a ridge above the Big Muddy Valley, I encountered a bull snake. Huge but not venomous, it was coiled and formed into the S-shape of more dangerous snakes. Enough to give me a good heart-pounding fright and bring me thoroughly into the moment, as I report in this brief video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcxXjY15T54&feature=player_profilepage

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Filed under Critters, Day Tripping, Natural Places, PRAIRIES, Saskatchewan

Eastend’s Reclining Man in Landscape

Reid Dickie

Ed, who is one of the owners of the Riverside Motel in Eastend, SK, pointed out this peculiar land formation to me last year. This year I captured some pictures of it. A section of the Frenchman River valley forms the shape of a reclining man. See if you can find it in the first picture below. Click pics to enlarge.

Did you see it? The second picture gives some guidance as to its location.

Thanks to Indy for pointing it out to me again.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Earth Phenomena, Humour, Local History, Natural Places, Saskatchewan

Out There It’s Summertime

Reid Dickie

I’m just back from a eight-day ramble on the prairies, mostly in the Missouri Coteau and Cypress Hills areas of southern Saskatchewan. I visited half a dozen new sites, revisited some familiar ones, shot almost 2 hours of video (expect plenty of reports from afar as a result), met wonderful new people and spent time with some old favourites. My intuition quickened, Spirit whispered through the trees in Pine Cree Park and Old Souls aided and abetted me along the way. My reward for the 2800 kms and ensuing events is serenity, a renewed sense of purpose and a bolstering of my humanity. You get what you intend.

The trip began with a perfect Saturday at the Regina Folk Festival with Linda’s cousin, Mike Panko and his beautiful partner, Brenda. Mike’s an Old Soul and a ton of fun. Here’s Mike and me at the fest.

A day of great music culminated with an energetic set from k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang closing the evening concert which also featured Taj Mahal. k.d. is in fine form these days with a new band, high energy, great new songs from her Sing It Loud CD (buy it if you haven’t already) and a back catalogue that would be the envy of any singer with perfect pitch. The show began with the lead-off track from the CD called I Confess, to my ears a Roy Orbison homage of high order. (That was one of the Tunes of the Tour as was Moonglow because Wendy Thomson performed it beautifully with the moon rising above her on the second floor balcony at The Convent in Val Marie. Both tunes sift through the inattentive spaces in my mind as the miles go by.) k.d. covers two songs on the CD and performed both of them: Heaven “by that great country band, Talking Heads,” as she introduced it, led eerily, perfectly into a new arrangement of Hallelujah; and she swung the Little River Band hit Reminiscing. She sang Miss Chatelaine, Western Skies, ending the show with a rockin’ version of her now-evergreen Constant Craving. To end the encores and evening she sang Neil Young’s Helpless.

After a restful night on Mike’s futon and a long, leisurely breakfast with him and Brenda, I was westbound onto the Missouri Coteau. The Coteau stretches from the northwest in central Saskatchewan south between Moose Jaw and Swift Current into South Dakota. It’s the next step up on the prairies after the Manitoba Escarpment and features lots of hills and gullies, some of Saskatchewan’s best scenery and worst highways, friendly people and endlessly changing vistas that surprise and enchant the curious seeker. It’s one of my favourite places to drive. The highways are lonesome and long, the sky runs ahead of me just as far as it extends behind me and there’s enough room to think, to evolve, to expand my awareness and discover what’s there. I head south from Moose Jaw to Assiniboia then west toward Pine Cree Park, my camping destination for the night.

Located in the foothills to the Cypress Hills between Shaunavon and Eastend, over the years Pine Cree Park has sheltered my little tent more than any other campground on the praires. This is a shot of the South Fork of Swift Current Creek, which runs right through Pine Cree Park; its pleasant burble can be heard from most campsites in the park.

Set in a deep mysterious coulee on a Continental Divide, Pine Cree Park is a truly rustic camping experience. There is no other like it in southern Saskatchewan. Soft-shell camping is encouraged, the park is non-electric, the width of the road and bridges prevents any unit longer than 28 feet from using the park and weight restrictions on the bridges apply. It gets extremely dark. Great for stargazing. Here’s another shot of the little stream through the park.

The little park has custodians this year, something new. Joan Hodgins and her nephew Darcy tend the park and live in two trailers just at the entrance. Both wonderful helpful people. I bought a generous tailgate load of firewood for $5 delivered. Joan offers outdoor programs at the park and both her and the lad demonstrated a great love for and understanding of this sacred place. Joan helped me understand the significance of a gift Spirit gave me just after I arrived in the park. I will have a video report on the gift soon.

The next night I moved from soft shell camping to luxury on the prairie, staying at The Convent Country Inn in Val Marie. A former convent saved from demolition by Robert and Mette Ducan about 15 years ago, this is my favourite bed and breakfast out there.  Other guests included Wendy and Eldon Thomson from Saskatoon who’d also attended the Regina Folk Festival and were out for a drive on the Coteau. Up on the second floor balcony, Wendy serenaded us with her lovely singing and guitar playing until way past dark. The balcony affords a wide view of the Frenchman River valley, Grasslands National Park beyond and the star-filled night sky. The Convent is for sale, a bargain at $525,000. Video coming soon. UPDATE: Watch my video tour. Here is a picture of me in front of The Convent.

Two more shots of The Convent: the first floor breakfast room and the second floor sitting room.

The next day I took the eco-driving tour of Grasslands National Park. There is some development occurring in the park. A small, primitive campground has been set up at the Belza Place which has a vast view of the Frenchman River valley, and closer to the prairie dog Dogtown, another development is being built. Spend a couple of minutes with the prairie dogs in GNP. Here’s a shot of the vista from the Belza campsite.

After a night at the Stage Coach Motel in Willow Bunch, I took a private tour of the Big Muddy Badlands offered through Coronach Tourism. Tillie Duncan, who’d lived in the area her whole life and knew it like the back of her hand, was my guide. She took me through the Sam Kelly Caves where outlaws like Dutch Henry and Butch Cassidy hid the horses and cattle they rustled back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We also visited two sacred sites that were new to me: a ceremonial circle and a turtle effigy, both high atop a butte on the Giles Ranch which is private property and accessible only through guided tours. Though elderly, Tillie was spry and full of vigour, offering countless entertaining anecdotes about the area. She still farms 13 quarters, growing durum and lentils this year! I recommend her highly for the Big Muddy tour. Here’s a shot of me taken near the turtle effigy.

A night in the Country Boy Motel then I re-explored a couple of the accessible sites Tillie had shown me, like the 1902 Big Muddy North West Mounted Police barracks and the family cemetery of an early pioneer, James Marshall, all with magnificent vistas of the huge Big Muddy valley. I revisited Castle Butte and took some great video of the place. Again coming soon to a blog near you. The only rain of my eight-day journey occurred Friday morning when I awoke in Weyburn. By the time I got to Manitoba, the sun was shining again. I was thrilled to discover Hwy #5 through Spruce Woods Park is now open and the park is slowly getting back on its feet. This is my report on the park’s current status.

I arrived home feeling rejuvenated and fully in touch with my humanity. The mighty Avenger and I will travel the prairies for another month. There is always room in the virtual passenger seat for you. Hope you are up to the drive all the way “out there” and back. Come on along.

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