12 SACRED PLACES
TWO FEATHERS MEDICINE WHEEL
August 7, 1997
“Entering the awe”
Overhead a red-tailed hawk cries and soars on the updrafts, “Every moment sacred” its constant message. Here on the ground I am hatless, shirtless, my entire being brought into the moment, present once again among the sacred.
Situated on the highest hill around, about 25 km west of Leader, SK, Two Feathers Medicine Wheel rests almost exactly on the Saskatchewan/Alberta border just upstream from the confluence of Red Deer River and the South Saskatchewan River. Since I had never seen it referred to by any specific name, I called the site Two Feathers because on my first visit here in 1996, with the wind howling high, cold and fierce, I found two small feathers impossibly stuck in the grass, resisting the wind’s onslaught. Later I discovered people call it Roy Rivers Medicine Wheel because he first homesteaded here.
On the right the central cairn of Two Feathers/Roy Rivers Medicine Wheel looking west above the Red Deer River on the Saskatchewan-Alberta border
When Linda and I traveled through here in 1994, I picked up a free local tourist guide. I always take any free stuff along my journeys. It said, “Visit our medicine wheel.” Okay, where is it? I asked around, found out the present landowner’s name, contacted them for permission and directions and easily found the place first try.
What a place! The 360-degree panorama is breath taking. I can see for miles! Below the Red Deer River shines like a silver mirror, deep ravines cut the rolling prairie to the north and east, pasture and cultivated fields complete the landscape. Tiny Empress, Alberta sits below the site on the riverbank. The usual prairie flora cover the hillside; prickly pear and pincushion cacti abound making hiking boots essential. Tipi rings dot the surrounding hills.
Illustration of Two Feathers/Roy Rivers Medicine Wheel
The medicine wheel consists of a tall central cairn, over four feet high, surrounded by a single ring of stones that features a double line opening to the south. The cairn, constructed of beautiful, lichened stones, has an indent in the centre of it. My intent is to seek personal guidance on my life purpose. My heart pounds from the arduous climb to the place and the excitement of the moment.
Present and welcomed, I start my ritual. Walking the outer ring of stones singing my power song and rattling in reverent prayer, I feel higher and lighter with each cycle as I spiral toward the centre sunwise. Songs, which arise spontaneously from my lips, become mere whispers as I step inside the cairn and sit in its “nest.” Easy communing here. In a few moments, I am elated, bubbling over with laughter. The message is direct, clear and powerful. Laughing and crying with gratitude, I repeat over and over “I understand. I understand.” I feel utterly cared-for and loved, directed and encouraged.
Lying on my side in the central cairn my sobs and joyousness soon transform into perfect peace and complete humility. I hear laughing voices ripple up the hillside toward me, stone elementals chatter and in the distance, the cry of the red-tailed hawk, guardian of the sacred. All I am is a speck on the wind.
When I feel able, I slowly stand and carefully step out of the cairn. I circle the stones again, singing my power song and thanking the local spirits and the Creator for this day. I float back down the hill in a haze of mosquitoes, weeping, yet feeling ecstatic, utterly at home in myself and in the world.
I have visited Two Feathers Medicine Wheel three times and each time been given the gift of guidance and foresight. Two quotes from my notes after the visit suggest its significance: I felt as if I was “entering the awe” and, later, “blissful to tears.” My intuition says this sacred place is over 2000 years old. Though no signs of recent medicine making were visible, the place resonates with wise and ancient wisdom, born from the shaman’s drum and the humility of the vision seeker, from the howl of the wolf and the shiver of the quail, from sun, moon, wind and Spirit.
RIDING MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK/MOUNTAIN ROAD
May to October 2010
Just a 45-minute drive from my hometown of Shoal Lake, Riding Mountain National Park, otherwise “The Park,” is familiar and comfortable. I worked in Clear Lake for a couple of summers in my youth; my parents had a trailer there for a while. It is part of my history.
This summer I drove through The Park five times, always north to south and always in the morning. Untainted and beautifully preserved, despite having about a dozen new hiking trails, The Park still offers a pristine landscape that teems with wildlife. On my drives, I spotted moose, deer, coyotes and, elk.
Grayling Lake in Riding Mountain National Park, summer 2009. One of the last pictures Linda took of me.
If you start it just as you enter The Park and drive the 80 kms an hour speed limit, the first Deep Forest CD lasts all the way through the drive and ends just as you leave.
South of The Park and just past Erickson is Mountain Road, Provincial Road 357, once renowned for Philip Ruh’s magnificent Catholic Church, which burned down some years back. The highway takes you across the rolling foothills of Riding Mountain then, step by step, delivers you off the Manitoba Escarpment back onto the floodplain at Highway #5. The descent clearly features the various beach ridges of Lake Agassiz as the lake filled and receded over millennia. Finally, the last mile is a glorious chute around a gentle bend that is a thrilling finale to the ride.