Tag Archives: solstice

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

12 SACRED PLACES

12 SACRED PLACES

DAY SIX

 BOISSEVAIN DANCING GROUND

 June 21, 2010

“The ensouled sunrise and the ecstasy”

            Outside of Boissevain, MB the Lorna Smith Nature Centre sits atop a rise above the Boissevain Reservoir. This is actually a dancing ground or ceremonial site that was used for centuries. Though there are no stone designs laid out on the ground, this site is the hub of a medicine wheel, an astrological observation point based on seasonal time.

            I have visited here at various times of year and day and always felt a strong urge to experience it on summer solstice sunrise ever since I found out about this site from local historian James Ritchie in 2003. This year it happened and what better way to experience it than on a five-day sacred journey with my young spiritual ally Chris in the passenger seat. We camped the night before at William Lake Campground just east of Turtle Mountain, making our trip to the dancing ground for sunrise about a 30-minute drive. Our campground and the ceremonial site are both located on the 100th meridian, “where the Great Plains begin.”

Spirit moves through the perfection of the morning

           From this site, it is possible to see stone cairns or circles laid out across the land aligned to the sunrise and sunset of the winter and summer solstices. To the SE in the distance there is a mound with a farmhouse on it and to the SW there is a cairn of white (painted with limestone paste by aboriginals) rocks. These two points mark the sunrise (128 degrees) and sunset (232 degrees) of the winter solstice, the shortest day.

             To the NE of the dancing ground there is a pile of white stones across the reservoir and to the NW, there are a line of burial mounds. These two points mark the sunrises (52 degrees) and sunset (308 degrees) of the summer solstice, the longest day. From this one spot it is possible to tell the exact times of the solstices. This site expanded my definition of the term “medicine wheel” to include not just a stone circle with lines radiating from it but the whole general area and prominent points nearby.

            Though the sky is mainly cloudy as we drive to the dancing ground on solstice morning, a clear gap in the eastern sky hintsat a new day. The opening in the clouds persists until well after sunrise then the gap closed and the rain started just as we were leaving.

            Chris and I smudged with sweetgrass in the car and brought our awarenesses firmly into the moment making sure not to approach the site “in neutral.” This is a rule I learned when visiting ancient places where thousands of beings, organic and inorganic, have paused over the millennia. Be present and alert, engage your spirit helpers for protection and discover the site in your own way.

 

Overlooking Boissevain Reservior, the hub of the medicine wheel

         Places and times as significant as this require some guidance for their power, needing an intent or purpose. I am at the stage where I need to shed or integrate the final harrowing gasps of remorse and regret that have haunted me badly since early April. With them, the depression arose. Although I have developed useful personal resources to deal with depression, when its sources are regret and guilt coated in grief, I am much less effective. Diluting my depression is another part of my intent.

            Chris and I are the only people here. In the east, a small purple bruise is starting to appear against the late blue night. Out of the car and into the fresh cool night turning into day, I am in one of those in-between places where shamans can express themselves fully. It feels comfortable and good but I must be welcomed. I quietly sing my power song then state my intent for the visit.  I wait for a subtle relaxation of the contraction of being. Until I feel the knot loosen a bit, I’m unsure if I am welcome. Having visited the site several times over the past few years, this morning I am welcomed as the local spirits recognize my power song. I smile with gratitude.

            A promise of gold gleams on the eastern horizon. I feel Webbed Flight pass through me laterally, his way of refraining from the day. I don’t feel him again that morning. Linda gets my eyes. She sees with delight the burgeoning day.

Solstice extremes for Boissevain, MB (lat: 49 degrees 10 feet)

             The tall grass is wet with sweet dew as I kneel and face the east. I pray quietly, sing my power song in gratitude and re-intend, re-intend. Crimson hues streak the emerging gold. I am directed to a stone in one corner of the fenced meadow. As soon as I find it in the long grass, I sit there. I feel reaped of heavy remorse, guilt peels away from me and I am re-emerging, becoming, evolving. Some regret shifts away from me to the stone. I find another stone in the opposite corner and sit there. More remorse, more depression leaves me. The stones in the other two corners each liberate me more, drawing the processed grief out of me. Though drenched in dew, I feel new lightness haunt me, Linda’s voice whispers in my head, “Be happy, be happy,” always the same message. The east is almost alive with morning.  

            Chris’ experience at powerful sacred places like this one is not as broad as mine. I catch his glance across the waving grass to see him smiling, glowing in the morning. Chris is fine, well prepared for this. The thought reassures me and frees me.

            At that moment, the first rays of day reach us. In the pure love of the dawn I am ecstatic, the purview of the shaman. Light pours through me and I dance soaked with dew, laughing, flying, being. I gather the special energy of this new day in my body through my hands, eyes and face. I turn toward Chris and see he too is dipped in gold, awake, aware, alive. Behind him, the sky is grey with imminent rain and across it, a perfect, vivid rainbow. Always a sign of hope and endurance in my life, the rainbow reinforces the healing of the stones, the ensouled sunrise and the ecstasy in which I am immersed. It is impossible not to laugh in sheer joy, feeling loved and alive.

DAY TRIPPING

SATTERTHWAITE HOMESTEAD

August 19, 2010

            On Highway #5 along the east side of Riding Mountain National Park six kms south of McCreary a little roadside stop has given respite to weary travelers for over 115 years. Known as the Satterthwaite Homestead, the site contains several historic relics from the region’s early settlement.

              If Highway #5 had flashbacks, it could easily recall being the Burrows Trail, which moved thousands of pioneers into the area around Dauphin. Before that, natives used the trail for its ease, as did untold herds of bison and other wildlife. The physical origin of the trail began when the last Ice Age ended. As one of the beaches of old Lake Agassiz – cold, deep and filled with glacial meltwater – the Arden Ridge, as it is known, stayed clear of overgrowth and become a convenient path, the only high ground between two lowlands.

            Jane and Thomas Satterthwaite’s house sat right on the Burrows Trail. Built in 1895 from logs with a sod roof, it became a stopping house along the Trail. Whenever a traveling preacher came through, the house became a church. The Satterthwaite’s even built a large wood frame Eaton’s Catalogue house straddling the trail.

             What’s left of the original log house tumbles down in the corner of the yard. An approximation of it has been built on the site. A section of the original Burrow Trail with ruts cut by Red River carts and wagons is fenced off and protected. A mature garden of local flora with signage and an information sign about the Burrows and other trails through the area give the stop extra interest.

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