Tag Archives: full moon

Gathering Moonlight at Spruce Woods Park

Reid Dickie

“The moon’s a harsh mistress, it’s hard to love her well,

The moon’s a harsh mistress, the sky is made of stone,

The moon’s a harsh mistress, she’s hard to call your own.”

– Jimmy Webb

These are the buttery days of a new ancient summer. In their fluttering perfection, butterflies dot the world. Their true colours range from solid black through red, orange, yellow to iridescent blues, always stoned on some intoxicating nectar or other. Dragonflies have started to appear; mosquitoes aren’t far behind. Such was the world I entered Monday when I checked into Yurt #4 at Spruce Woods Provincial Park for a two-day stay.

Ensconced on my deck facing WNW, the temperature around 28 degree C, I have found a little Eden. The late afternoon breeze plucks music from the oaks and cottonwoods along the Assiniboine River, which I can see shining below. A dozen kinds of birds twitter in the trees, their songs striving to capture the counterpoint of the afternoon. They are successful every moment.

A huge yellow butterfly with blue trimmed wings dances above my glass of wine. Unable to resist, it lands on the rim, sips delicately and does a backward somersault off the glass into its fluttery world. My plan is to await dusk then hike out on Spirit Sands to watch the full moon rise over the dunes.

The day is cooling perfectly as I head out to Spirit Sands about 9:30. The golden sky deepens to red then crimson then purple and darker as I surmount the log ladder up the dune face. Arriving at the place on the dunes Linda and I always visited, I hear voices among the trees below. The last of the humans are clearing off the trails. I am alone.

As I await moonrise, coyotes howl in the west and are answered by others in the east. The flies and mosquitoes find me extra attractive with my coating of sweat from the hike. As a slight evening breeze cools my skin, a pale glow on the northeastern horizon heralds the full moon. It swells into view bulbous and red, and I am filled with bliss and gratitude for this witnessing.

I spend an hour watching the night deepen and the moon whiten. Hiking back during the very last moments of twilight, the shadows are flecked with occasional fireflies. After decades of gathering moonlight, the long-fallen bodies of blown-down trees shine like silver. Standing armies of wolf willow glow eerily in the moonlight.

Back at my yurt I light a fire and watch the stars come out. Hundreds of fireflies flicker on and off in the trees around my yurtyard. Fireflies are a positive sign of a healthy habitat. Crickets and choruses of frogs, the small cries of night birds, crackle of the fire and rustle of the constellations harmonize around me.

After a long sound sleep I awoke Tuesday to another perfect day! I took a drive to the nearby Criddle/Vane homestead (blog post to follow), toured the area a bit, lunched at the Robin’s Nest in Carberry where I see the temperature to be even hotter tomorrow. The Robin’s Nest is a quaint little restaurant and motel along the TCH. I recommend it for its good country food, friendly staff and it’s now licensed.

Back at Yurt #4, the drone of a bumblebee intoxicates me in the heat. A red-headed woodpecker taps out a secret message on the trunk of a gnarly old oak. The park is still and quiet today with just the warbles and sighs of the denizens. The day wears away and night captures the land. Like stars, the fireflies are continuous tonight. Everywhere I look I see them, flitting through the treetops or winking shyly from the pitch-black understory.  As I stand, a firefly zips by my face exploding like a tiny flashbulb.

Crickets and frogs keep time with the pulse of the night and, later, dozens of coyotes in all directions create an exhilarating aural experience making it sound like the whole world is composed of nothing but coyotes and their haunting theories. Another thoroughly restful sleep ensues.

Crews continue working to bring Spruce Woods Park up to its standard before last summer’s flood. Today as I was pulling out I noticed the road to Spirit Sands was cut and a large culvert was being inserted under the road. The ditch along the highway is being worked to remove some of the flood cake that still coats parts of the park. Daily horse-drawn covered wagon rides to the dunes and punch bowl begin in July and summer nature programs are scheduled. So whether you are gathering sunlight or moonlight, the park’s numerous trails await your hiking boots and your curiosity. (Take water. Do a tick check.)

Two other things to mention about Spruce Woods:

  • Turkey Vultures: from my deck I saw several large black birds soaring high on the thermals when I arrived on Monday. I took them to be ravens due to their size. Later they soared lower and I saw they were turkey vultures with their stubby necks and bright red heads.  Abandoned farm buildings around the park make excellent nesting places. I also saw turkey vultures perched on the roof of the ruins of the Lyon’s mansion just outside Carberry north of the park. The old house would be a perfect site to raise their bulky young. I will keep an eye on both locations to see where they are actually nesting. I have blogged about turkey vultures and the Lyons house before;
  • Sundance: a large sign at the Epinette Creek turnoff pointed toward a sundance being held this week in the park. Sundance is a days-long ritual of sacrifice and transcendence where prayer, piercing and offerings of flesh open the path to personal healing. The public is welcome, however, please remember, no drugs, no alcohol at sundance. A step-by-step guide to the daily ceremonies for this particular sundance are here.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Birds, Carberry, Day Tripping, Natural Places, Parks, spirit sands

Between Shark’s Teeth and Stardust – Full Moon Hike on Spirit Sands

Reid Dickie 

“Rock medicine is an act of touching the roots of the system of time and history in which we existed and from which our lives have meaning.” – Richard Grossinger

Sand is the last remnant of extinct lakes and rivers that have run themselves to exhaustion. Caught somewhere between shark’s teeth and stardust, the prairie sands exert their individuality and share the lessons they have learned. They teach us the connections between the earth body and our bodies, the cellular shifting that is the main work of all bodies. Every grain of sand holds some memory, some long-dusted-away footprint of its ancestors – the boulder, the rock, the gravel – former shapes with which wind and water have had their way. Each grain possesses faith in its masters – the shape of the dune and the curl of the breeze.

At the summit of the log ladder, Spirit Sands opens into a marvelous vista. Sweeping away in all directions are clean muscular dunes, windbuilt in high rows, furred here and there with wolf willow. The setting sun reddens the sand, shadows deepen as the long twilight slowly dismantled details of the landscape. A small bank of purple clouds builds in from the west as the reds and oranges fade. This close to the solstice it never gets completely dark.

It is easy to see why, for thousands of years, people used this place as a vision quest site. The silence, the expanse of sand and sky, the positive energy, the solitude all helped those seeking their vision.

Stars twinkle overhead as I shuck my boots and socks and feel the cool sand between my toes at the top of the highest dune. A coyote’s plaintive wail echoes across the indifferent sand; another answers. I howl my gnarled city howl, more of a strangled yelp. The sound makes me laugh. I yelp again, more like a howl. Another yelp, better, freer. A real howl tending toward wild sails from my mouth over the dunes. The response: dead silence or was that the snicker of a coyote?

A warm light breeze lifts a shiver of sand off the dune, giving it a small, barely audible voice before sending it sailing down the dune face. A red moon, two days shy of full, bulges above the horizon. Naked, I perform my shaman tai chi, dancing to coyote and sand music as my moonshadow darkens. Tendrils of aurora borealis, breath of the Great Spirit, sweep twisting across the deep blue dome.

I lie down on the cool surface of the sand, which sticks to the moist parts of my body then peels away as it dries. I nestle into the sand. Two inches below the surface, the sand is warm, the hot memory of another day’s intense baking. The wind blows a steady force of vaguely ticklish sand against my back. I fall asleep.

When I awaken, the breeze has cooled. After a short cavort I dress and, barefoot, slide down the double duneface to the trail. There is no need for a flashlight. The engorged moon lights my way.

In the forest, fireflies blink like sparks from invisible fires. The skunky odour of spruce hangs in the humid air. Reindeer moss glows eerily from shadows in the silver moonlight, which transforms a stand of wolf willow into shimmering spirit figures.

I pass through the Valley of Reptilian Deadfall, a low meadow where, years ago, a powerful storm left a swath of blown down spruce. During the day, and even more so by moonlight, the prone trees resemble glowing skeletons of bleached, multi-legged lizards.

When I reach the parking lot, empty but for my car, the sun is a hint on the eastern sky. After a few minutes of tai chi I feel ready for the two-hour drive to Winnipeg. An older van pulls in. A young couple from New Brunswick have come to hike Spirit Sands at dawn. They have heard the Sands are beautiful at sunrise. Indeed, they are.

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Filed under Earth Phenomena, Natural Places, Parks, PRAIRIES, Sacred Places, shaman, shamanism, Soul Building, spirit sands

Acorn Days

Reid Dickie

These are the acorn days of summer! The spring was wet and unpredictable, the summer hot and dry, which is the recipe for great acorns as the red squirrel that chastised me this morning at Marsh Lake for tossing a few acorns into the lake emphasized. Sitting under some old oaks, every breeze sent a few more acorns plopping into the grass. At the Cartwright Buffalo Jump on Thursday I sat under another old oak that did the same thing, occasionally dropping one on my head to keep me in the present moment. It’s been hot all week, around 30 degrees Celcius (about 85 degree F) every day, the heat’s last blast for this summer. It was a great time to travel so I covered about 800 kms of south-western Manitoba prairie in three days, visiting some new sites, shooting more video, working on several projects at once and hopefully getting some of them right! I’ll have several reports about the past few days in words and images on this blog soon.

As I sat at Marsh Lake this morning with smoke from my little fire drifting into shafts of morning sunlight filtered through oak branches, I said to myself: ‘I am doing exactly what I want to be doing at this moment. What an incredibly lucky man I am!’ I thanked Spirit for the moment and the awareness of the moment. This is a familiar occurrence as I can always find ways to be grateful, a search that becomes easier with practise.

The cool flush of change ranges in the summer prairie air tonight. The wings of geese, the chilly wind that makes my nipples stand up and my skin feel like cold paper, grandmother Nokomis rises waxing from her secret nest and Spirit waits, tapping its foot impatiently at Spirit Sands for us to return. We have returned! Time and again, alone and with friends, each visit has rejuvenated me, spurred me to dwell peacefully within myself.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Natural Places, spirit sands