Tag Archives: turtle effigy

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

Sacred Places Update – Minton Turtle Effigy July 2011

Reid Dickie

I visited Minton Turtle Effigy on July 3, a hot and breezy day in southern Saskatchewan. The dirt road up to the site had about a foot of water at its lowest point so I opted to walk rather than drive. Donning my rubber boots I slogged through the damp spots to the top of the highest hill around. The grass at the effigy site is tall and thick from the year’s abundant moisture, making the effigy difficult to find for first time visitors. But it drew me in and I felt the welcome warmth and compassion I usually experience when I come here. With my new video camera, I took a panorama of the horizon from the site.

Looking southwest from the turtle effigy, this picture shows Big Muddy Lake, usually a dry bed rimmed with white alkali, fluid and blue on the horizon this year.

The Saskatchewan government has recognized the site by erecting three explanation boards for the place.The archies are still trying to figure out what the heck this thing is!

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Local History, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, shaman, Spirit

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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12 SACRED PLACES

12 SACRED PLACES

DAY EIGHT

BANNOCK POINT PETROFORMS

August 17, 2000

“Songs spontaneously arise in me”

            The Cree call it Manito Ahbee; the tourist guides call it Bannock Point Petroforms. Whatever it’s called, this easily accessible place is ancient, alive with Spirit and a creation site. The dense forest gives way to open areas of dark, pavement-like rock. Patchy carpets of dry crackly black moss grow on the tablerock. Human, snake, turtle and other shapes are laid out on the bald tablerock of the Canadian Shield in Whiteshell Provincial Park, rocks just slightly younger than Spirit itself.

            This is where Webbed Flight, my spirit helper, lived about 1200 years ago. He is very energized every time I visit here, as he is today.

Turtle effigy at Bannock Point

         

            As I arrive, the clouds break into pieces of the sky and the day warms quickly. After smudging, I step into the fresh spruce aroma of the Whiteshell.  Immediately I am welcomed, calmed and reassured by Webbed Flight that I am protected here. I say a short prayer of gratitude and, singing my power song, walk the short path to the site. I shiver with a strong and benevolent Bear presence and with the love I feel from the local spirits.

             Creation legends say Great Spirit set the Anishinabe people down on Earth here among the rocks and trees. The energy flow from this places rushes westward. The Anishinabe followed that energy and their culture of animal symbolism diffused across the prairies. Today a reverent stillness pervades the place.

Snake effigy at Bannock Point

            I wander the site with Webbed Flight strong and available to me. He sings his short raspy song; I feel his bliss. He is home! I sense his delight when a snake effigy, short, old and big-headed, almost knocks me flat as I stand at the end of its tail, toes touching the last rock. Snakes are short power vectors that concentrate energy into intense bursts. Instead of falling, I sense flight and regain my balance immediately. Deeper in the site, the head of another snake sends me into spontaneous dancing, gesturing and singing. Movement is very important here, so much open space to inhabit with it.

              Spirits abound in all corners of the site, the edges are alive with forest elementals and at ground level there is a greenish haze from the abundant snickering lichen. Off on an enormous flat stone, a large ceremonial circle with openings at the four directions encloses trees laden with colourful cloths. Tobacco and other offering abound on the stones. How much divinity has passed through this place? How long has the human spirit communed with the Absolute here? This place has existed for but one moment – this moment!

Human effigy at Bannock Point

                    I circle it slowly, presently, rattling softly. Songs spontaneously arise in me surging out of my mouth into the warm day. My hands gesture a visual language accentuated by chest thumps. Deeply communing with Webbed Flight now, my voice becomes his, my words his meaning, my breath his wisdom. I feel balanced, a completion occurring every moment. I am ecstatic to give voice and sacred manner to the loving powerful spirit of Webbed Flight, my friend, my mentor, my guardian. I am Aspen Smoke because of him and his naming.

                Over the years, Webbed Flight has guided me on the path in my brightest moments and searched til he found me wallowing in the darkest mires. He lives again through me but never have I experienced his being with such power and clarity, such love and perfection, as I do when we share this familiar place. Here we both living the same dream.

Section of large ceremonial circle at Bannock Point. Trees hung with offering cloths

              We are the conceptualizing animal, thus able to give meaning to Nature. Here, to express the unfathomable ancientness of these exact rocks, ancestors created sacred forms and figures with pieces of old old rocks. It is impossible for us to know the lack of cynicism and trust in Spirit these people felt as they laid rock next to vulnerable rock on barren stone. It was body-to-body communing, the living earth inhabits the living body and vice versa. At the same time, Spirit rides that delicate balance, Eros and Agape, the One into the Many, the Many into the One. Other sites in this series have that same reciprocating flow.

           Rocks once touched by ecstatic shamans still pound with the power of creation, thrum with a sense of place from which creativity springs. Sometimes the safety I feel at these sacred places is almost unbearable. I am in a state of grace, liquid in the environment, welcomed, even coddled. I share this feeling with Webbed Flight and we sit together on sitting stones he first knew as a boy. As a shaman, he claims to have made petroforms here himself, imbuing them with the necessary power and symbolism.

            Roaming away from the circle, I find a small abstract design tucked under a bush. I strip off my shirt and perform my warrior tai chi around the little cluster of stones. I can’t stop smiling. Neither can Spirit.    

DAY TRIPPING

BARNEY’S MOTEL, BRANDON

August 12, 2010 

            For no discernable reason I could see, the tourist guide says Barney’s Motel was nominated as “funniest motel in Canada,” unless they meant, “But not funny, “Ha! Ha!” and you consider red ants crawling about your room hysterical fun. All rooms face the highway but there is virtually no traffic sound inside the room. A friendly park bench under the front awning offers full view and ambience of the TCH with its non-stop rush of semis, SUVs, pick-ups and sedans – my evening entertainment already in progress.

            Barney’s is the worst motel at the best location – an intersection with lights of the Trans Canada Highway and Highway 10 that runs from Flin Flon, Manitoba to Corpus Christi, Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. And I am encamped here in Room 105 for the night the weather changes.

                 I saw it coming. I was having sacrament behind Barney’s as a sharp line of darkening cloud moved slowly in from the west creating a phosphorescent orange and silver sunset. That evening the arc of summer reached its zenith, acme achieved, its first and last gasp of Orgasm. The Hinge was moving. As I stood and watched the advancing cloud, a red-tailed hawk, familiar from every sacred site I’ve ever visited, cried twice over the fields. “Every moment sacred.”

              After dark, the Hinge slowly swung, bringing rain, refreshment and a spectacular lightning and roar show when combined with the running lights of the big rigs (a ride at the Ex) and the howling of the trapped but untamed horsepower under their cabs, everything backlit by the flickering lights of the fry pits along the route. I had a front row seat for it all at Barney’s. (One anecdotal scene was the truck that usually had LIGHT SPEED in huge letters along its load had LIGHT PEED instead.)

            I watched the dark silhouette of a hitchhiker become waterlogged during the storm yet, afterwards, dance in wild circles under the eerie orange glow of the intersection lights, getting a ride into the wild prairie night surprisingly quickly.

            Barney’s Motel is a landmark in Brandon. It was there when we visited as a kid tho I don’t recall ever staying there. It always had a garish neon sign but the present endeavour is rather lame.  Once a thriving concern with a reputation, fires and futility has left Barney’s bedraggled and sad. But what a location!

 

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12 Sacred Places starts Tuesday

Season’s  Greetings,

             Over the past several Christmases, Linda and I sent out small seasonal projects celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas. These took the form of a series of daily emails ending on Christmas Day, each with a pictorial example of a Manitoba church (2005, 2006) heritage house (2007) or grand old Winnipeg school (2008) along with a small write-up. The ideas sprang from our mutual interest in Manitoba heritage.

             This year, with no Linda to inspire and celebrate with me, I have chosen something much more personal to share with you. Every day, starting Tuesday December 14 til Christmas Day, I will post a report of my personal experiences at an ancient sacred site in Manitoba or Saskatchewan. The series, called 12 Sacred Places, includes medicine wheels, animal effigies, ceremonial sites, sacred stones and vision quest sites I have visited since the mid 1990s. I returned to many of them this summer.

            People are curious about this and have urged me over the past few years to share my experiences. This series is my sharing format. My reports will feature recent and past events at various sites from a shamanic perspective. Since 1994, I have practiced neo-shamanism, which I have adapted to my daily living. Exploring non-ordinary reality using trance, power animals and spirit helpers are part of my everyday life.

            I also have a context for the reports. This past summer, purposefully and with powerful grief-healing intent, I drove the familiar process of grief over Linda’s death. This intentional processing used all the inner resources I have developed in the past 15 years, all the helpful spirits who abide at sacred places and who know me from past visits, and the enormous love of harmonic friends, organic and inorganic, fleshy and non-fleshy. All three of those elements appear in my reports. A formidable context!

             The series flows from my own experience and will include pictures along with illustrations. While past series were picture-heavy with few words, this will be the opposite. Most of the places are difficult to capture with photographs, but I have tried to use interesting shots, mostly my own.

            Since I report on inner psychic and subtle realities as well as physical reality, 12 Sacred Places will create a vast expanse of skepticism open for healthy habitation. I understand that and that’s fine. In accord, I need you to understand I am NOT trying to sell you anything, change anyone’s mind about any aspect of spirituality, encourage or discourage a specific form of being in the world. I am reporting. I am Witness.  

            If the series spurs you to visit any of these places, you will find my directions to them in the reports are purposely vague. I will gladly supply actual physical directions to them as needed. Just ask.

            Bonus! Day Tripping. From seedy motels to surprise arboretums to ghost towns, each daily report will conclude with a shorter lighter feature on a non-sacred site I encountered over the summer while putting 27,000 kms on a couple of rented Avengers. You’ll be amazed and amused at what I found.                                  

             You can find the daily reports here on my brand new blog ReadReidRead starting Tuesday, December 14, 2010. I will be posting a new one every day until and including Christmas Day. Helpful background information about shamanism and sacred places can be found in FAQ.

             In addition, every day the blog will feature one of the buildings from past years: 2005 Manitoba churches and 2007 heritage homes. One a day will be posted on the same 12-day schedule.

 Enjoy 12 Sacred Places.

Reid

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Filed under grief, Saskatchewan, shamanism, Spirit