Tag Archives: sacred

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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Filed under Accommodations, Ancient Wisdom, Natural Places, Parks, Pioneers, Prairie People, PRAIRIES, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, Spirit, spirit sands, Video

DickToolCo Art Page Expanded

The year-by-year history of the art Linda and I created when we first got together now covers seven years. On DTC Art page, you can find our art actions from 1977 until 1983 with plenty of links to the videos we made and other DTC art attractions. Collage, performance, video, audio, fashion, design, public art – DickTool Co used multi-media to probe the world and its all documented. This picture is from June 1985 when Linda and I were married and is a screen shot from a short video of the casual reception. We were happy kids!

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Filed under BEAUTY, dicktool co, DickToolery, Family, Images, Linda, Winnipeg

Happy Birthday Johnny Depp

“France, and the whole of Europe have a great culture and an amazing history. Most important thing though is that people there know how to live! In America they’ve forgotten all about it. I’m afraid that the American culture is a disaster.”

Born in Kentucky on this day in 1963, Johnny Depp has become America’s greatest living actor, despite his admonitions about US culture. Elsewhere on Johnny’s mind: “I may have a feather duster down my pants.” and “I think everybody’s nuts.” and “I’m not sure I’m adult yet.” and “People say I make strange choices, but they’re not strange for me. My sickness is that I’m fascinated by human behavior, by what’s underneath the surface, by the worlds inside people.” Johnny also supplies today’s Words To Live By: “There are four questions of value in life: What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same: only Love.”

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Filed under Art Actions, Momentous Day, Old Souls

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

12 SACRED PLACES

12 SACRED PLACES

DAY FOUR

ST VICTOR’S PETROGLYPHS

August 13, 1995

“To carve, to celebrate, to become”

             Above and south of the tiny village of St Victor, SK a row of sandstone outcrops protrude over Sylvan Valley. The view from the place is spectacular. To the north Montague Lake is a blue dash among yellow and green fields checked with black summer fallow. To the west is Twelve Mile Lake; in the east is Willow Bunch Lake. All three of these lakes are remnants of a wide and deep spillway filled for thousands of years with torrents of glacial meltwater. Though invisible, you are perched on the Continental Divide.

            Etched into the top of one of the sandstone promontories is a variety of petroglyphs, images hand carved in the stone. Turtles, human faces, grizzly bear paws with long claws, human hands and feet, buffalo, elk and deer prints with dewclaws are carved into the horizontal sandstone surface.

St Victors Petroglyphs, on the flat stone beyond the fence, and its incredible setting along the western side of the Missouri Coteau. The sandstone carvings are now protected by the fence. The verdant  landscape attests to the amount of rain during 2010 summer.

Near the outer edge of the stone, there are carvings of two human feet aligned so the next step would be into thin air or perhaps onto the ice. It’s possible this small site was an unglaciated area during the last Ice Age and the ice abutted this cliff.

            Usually petroglyphs are carved on vertical surfaces. This site is unusual because the images are on a horizontal surface making the petroglyphs difficult to see in broad daylight, claims the pamphlet. I’ve never had any problem seeing them no matter what time of day I visit. The technique used to create the carvings begins with a pecking tool and a hammer stone to create a rough outline. Then the carvers used a stick of wood with sand and water to grind out the centre and smooth the edges.

            Access to the petroglyphs has changed radically since my last visit. Formerly you walked up the side of the cliff on a wooden staircase, 165 steps in all. Along the way, you could marvel at the beautifully eroded sandstone chiseled, hollowed and polished by the rains. One year, in a deep crevice on the way up the cliff, I saw two turkey vulture chicks. The shiny black parent circled high and eerie above me the whole visit. Today you drive up the hill at the rear, park and follow a path to the glyphs a few hundred yards away.

            Previously you could walk onto the carvings and touch them. Their delicate nature carved into sandstone meant a wire fence had to be erected to protect them from the extra wear, tear and erosion of curious tourist hands and feet. The signage and seating you see in the picture are new as well.

Shamanic carvings on a sandstone outcrop near St Victor, SK. If you half close your eyes, other images besides the big weird head will start to appear.

               Some archeologists think hunters or maybe shamans carved these images. Often at sacred places, I can see the surrounding hillsides littered with encampments, tipis and little fires. The petroglyphs are different. Although the rolling uncultivated landscape could support it, there are no tipi rings anywhere. This is a holy place. My old vision of the place is that individuals came here on personal pursuits, loners with missions, shamans on sacred journeys. They came to grind symbols into this rock to celebrate the mysteries of life, not to explain them, to evoke the spirits, not conquer them. They returned time and again to continue their Creation.

            Although the update on changes to the site is from a visit in 2010, I will report on my first visit to St Victor’s Petroglyphs on August 13, 1995. I drove in from the north in heavy wind and rain but after a short wait at the site the clouds broke and the sun peeked through. Well bundled against the persistent cold wind, I climb the stairs.

            At first sight, I see the work of shamans, the evocative emblems of their day: grizzly bear claws, diving turtles, dewclaws of deer and human visages. I sense their peril when they returned here in high winds like today to carve, to celebrate, to become. I receive more specifics as I start to leave.

            Spirit gave me an incredible gift on that day. A shaman of indiscernible origin named Broken Fingers was a major carver on this rock. He worked here over 1500 years ago. I sense gnarled fingers and hands thick with scars. In light trance, I can hear his low voice muttering away against the scraping of stone against stone. He sings a creation song as he carves. Old Broken Fingers was not the only person to carve here though his style is distinctive. The bear claws and turtles are examples of his detailed nuance.

Replicas of the petroglyph images carved at St. Victor’s. The two large grizzly bear claws and the two turtles on the left side are Broken Fingers’ work. They have a noticeable delicacy the others don’t have.

            Broken Fingers appeared as an old man when I first met him. The next time he was accompanied by a young apprentice called Crow Bear. He was an attentive student, suffered the hardships of the work gladly and promised to be an expert carver. Some of the less defined works at the petroglyphs are by Crow Bear. He died at age 25 and was among the last people to carve here. 

            For about five years after meeting Broken Fingers, he stayed close, an active and protective spirit for me when I traveled anywhere. Although less significant in my life now, Broken Fingers looms large in my shamanic mythology.

 DAY TRIPPING

 CAMP HUGHES REST STOP

May to September

            Troop training for World War 1 in Manitoba was largely done at Camp Hughes, located between Brandon and Carberry south of the Trans Canada Highway. The railway ran nearby and delivered so much cannon fodder daily that Camp Hughes, for a time, was the second largest city in the province. Today the trenches, foxholes and bomb craters have been filled in and the prairie reverted to peaceful pastures. Only a small plaque indicates the camp’s history.

             Across the TCH, Camp Hughes Rest Stop offers travelers refuge from the road, washroom and picnic facilities and a fake forest to roam in. The trees are real enough, the forest isn’t. Constructed as a make-work project during the 1930s, the rest stop’s major feature are thousands of jack pines all planted in straight symmetrical rows. The pines, mature now, have foliage on the top third of the trunks forming a dark, shadowy canopy. The red bark flakes away and on hot summer days, the air is redolent with the smell of pine. Driving past the neat rows of straight trees gives your mind a nice spinning glow. Great movie location!

            Covering several acres, the pines provide a sensual and sheltered place to stroll and stretch your legs. If you stop here, exercise caution because poison ivy is very prevalent on the forest floor. Otherwise, it’s a pleasant and unique walk.

 

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Filed under Rest Stops, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, shaman, shamanism

12 SACRED PLACES

12 SACRED PLACES

DAY 1

MEDICINE ROCK

 August 19, 2010

“I am afraid to touch it”

             I’m not sure how I first learned of Medicine Rock but I’ve been drawn to it in the past without success finding it. Four fruitless searches for the site – twice on my own, once with Linda a couple of years back, once earlier this summer – turned up nothing. I was beginning to think Medicine Rock didn’t want me to find it. That happens. But this time – aha! Fifth time is the charm. I have help this time. After four failed attempts, I find someone who actually knows where it is and can direct me.

Medicine Rock festooned with foliage and the offerings of countless generations.

            Harry Harris at the Alonsa Conservation District gives me immaculate directions to Medicine Rock, which deliver me there lickity splickly. I’m good at following good directions. East of Riding Mountain and south of St Amelie, MB I drive on good gravel that becomes not so good gravel that becomes no gravel at all, just dirt. The Mighty Avenger gets a good prairie trail workout heading into the bush then further into the bush then just a little further into the bush then a bit more bush, all the while churning up a fine black dust behind us. Next to a rough hand-painted sign leaning up against two oak trees, a path leads into the bush. Medicine Rock, at last!

            I smudge with sweetgrass in the car, get out and stand in the wonderful silence.  I wait in the warm afternoon for a slight loosening of the contraction of being we all have and can feel as tightness just behind our eyes. Until I feel the knot loosen a bit, I’m unsure if I am welcome. I wait.

            Turning, I see, 40 feet down the road I came in on, a half-grown black bear. It stops, looks at me and sits down. I say, “Holy shit, there’s Bear.” Bear is one of my power animals. Then another half-grown bear comes out of the woods, yawns, sits down and paws the air next to the first. I get into the car and wait for mama bear to show up. The two cubs eventually amble across the road and into the woods away from Medicine Rock and me. A few minutes later mama bear bounds across the road after the cubs, paying no attention to me but certainly knowing I am here.

            I am thrilled to see one of my power animals as guardian of Medicine Rock. The powers of courage and strength radiate from Bear, appropriate since many of the travelers and hunters who left offerings here over millennia sought those same powers. I wait in the car, alert, quickened by the knowledge I am not at the top of the food chain, a situation that occurs about frequently enough. In a while, I re-smudge and emerge into the afternoon to wait for the welcome. I feel a prickle down my spine and my face tightens into a big smile. I am welcome. Everything feels fine. I walk the short path to Medicine Rock singing my power song.

            Medicine Rock is a huge boulder, six feet high, ten feet across and eight feet deep, nestled in an aspen and oak glen twenty steps off the road. It is thickly garnished with verdant and wild foliage that grows from tiny cracks and narrows shelves on the rock. Encircled by dense growth, riff with elemental forest spirits and tangled in the music of aspen, oak and lark, the old stone is alive, its heart beats once every century. Content, it radiates power. Immediately I am brought fully into the moment, humbled, in awe of the ancient stone. I am afraid to touch it. I tremble.

            Walking around the stone on a recently mowed area, I hear a red-tailed hawk overhead, ever-present frequent guardian of sacred places. When I ask the old stone if I can take a few pictures, there is subtle acquiesce from Medicine Rock that escapes the grasp of language. Most inner events at sacred sites are state-specific, that is they exist only in one state and cannot be translated easily or at all into another. At this moment, my physical sensations are shivery and lightness, emotionally I feel very balanced with little bliss currents pulsing through my awareness.

            One of the on-site signs explains the Ojibway legend of the mischievous little people who inhabit both the material and spirit worlds. Medicine Rock is thought to be a gateway between realms. To keep the little spirits from becoming malevolent, tobacco offerings are left on the cracks and crevices of Medicine Rock. I leave one of my hand-made feather flyaways on a bush near the old stone, sing my power song again and thank Spirit for getting me here.

            Medicine Rock gives me a little gift. Just as I am about to get in the car to leave, I look down and there is a round piece of chert on the ground, about the size of a loonie and covered in little black polka dots. I pick it up and it’s a small scraper with evident chipping along one edge to make it sharp. It is small enough for a child’s hand, perhaps learning the life skills. I ask the scrapper to travel with me and it agrees. Thank you Medicine Rock.

             (Over the past few hours while researching and writing this report, I have wondered where the little scrapper might be. I have lost track of it. Searching for something unrelated just a few minutes ago, I accidentally picked up my briefcase by the bottom, spilling its contents all over the floor, scrapper included. Wonder spawns wonder.)

Side view of Medicine Rock

             I drive away elated and fulfilled. Since this is my first visit, I came with no intent other than to discover and explore. My experience at Medicine Rock is worth all the attempts and now becomes another useful part of my personal mythology. As a shamanic resource for me, Medicine Rock generates enormous strength, which I can now access to augment Bear’s contribution. When I need to return, alone or with a spiritual ally, Medicine Rock is an easy site to reach in dry weather, impassable when wet. The road leading into the bush just past the bush through more bush is black dirt, zero gravel.

 DAY TRIPPING

ASSINIBOINE VALLEY ARBORETUM

 July 28, 2010

            On this warm July evening along Highway 83, the wide Assiniboine Valley a few kilometers south of Miniota, MB offers its beautiful vista including several fields flooded by the river. At the south end of the valley, just off the highway, I discover the Assiniboine Riparian Forest Centre, an endeavour of Manitoba Hydro’s Forest Enhancement Program.

             Situated on the high banks of the Assiniboine and not flooded, the Centre covers several acres with dozens of varieties of trees and bushes, all well planted, mulched with straw and very healthy. Over 600 trees were planted in 2008 with more added this fall. Each variety has a written description and picture of it when mature, easily read from the winding well-maintained pathway among the flora. Along with Manitoba’s familiar coniferous and deciduous trees, the arboretum features many fruit trees, berry bushes and some hybrids.

            A maintained pathway, accessible from the arboretum, offers a pleasant stroll through the forest along the banks of the Assiniboine, a river with many secrets along its wide valley. The trail has benches and picnic tables, school and public tours are offered. The Riparian Forest’s grand opening is set for Spring 2011.

           

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Filed under Parks, Sacred Places, shaman, shamanism