Tag Archives: wolf willow

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

Three Days in Eastend – Chocolate Peak

Reid Dickie

Day Two

Day Two in Eastend finds me standing before this pretty house. Author Wallace Stegner lived in 20 places in eight states and Canada, one of them being Eastend when he was a child. His little house, well-maintained and loved, is now a local tourist attraction and houses resident artists. Stegner’s autobiography, Wolf Willow, is the seminal work about the prairies, much of it youthful remembrances from the Eastend area. A worthy and honest read. In 1972 Wallace won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with Angle of Repose. Here’s an excerpt from Wolf Willow about how the prairies feel. 

“There was never a country that in its good moments was more beautiful. Even in drought or dust storm or blizzard, it is the reverse of monotonous, once you have submitted to it with all the senses. You don’t get out of the wind, but learn to lean and squint against it. You don’t escape sky and sun but wear them in your eyeballs and on your back. You become acutely aware of yourself. The world is very large, the sky even larger, and you are very small. But also the world is flat, empty, nearly abstract, and in its flatness you are a challenging upright thing, as sudden as an exclamation mark, as enigmatic as a question mark.”

The SW Quest for Art & History is a self-guided tour of various historic and artistic places in southwest Saskatchewan, the Stegner house one of its stops. Their website gives you the entire tour.

On Day Two, Today Eastend offers us some recent and geological history wrapped into the same site, Chocolate Peak, situated just outside of town. I won’t spoil the sweet treat. Find out what I mean by watching my short video report.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Local History, Natural Places, PRAIRIES, Saskatchewan

The Blue Dome

Beauty before me, with it I wander

 Beauty behind me, with it I wander

Beauty below me, with it I wander

 Beauty above me, with it I wander.

         Navajo Prayer

Manitoba Sky

           After several days alone and exploring the summer prairie, the hugeness of the sky, the openness of the space and the eternity it suggests conspire to affect me. The vast available quantity of the colour blue above me, around me, inside me has an influence on my body and thoughts. I watch for this. It is the subtlety of the Plains talking to me. I become still and experience its delightful eloquence.

            Here’s a sample of the eloquence it inspired in Wallace Stegner from his classic, Wolf Willow: “There was never a country that in its good moments was more beautiful. Even in drought or dust storm or blizzard, it is the reverse of monotonous, once you have submitted to it with all the senses. You don’t get out of the wind, but learn to lean and squint against it. You don’t escape sky and sun but wear them in your eyeballs and on your back. You become acutely aware of yourself. The world is very large, the sky even larger, and you are very small. But also the world is flat, empty, nearly abstract, and in its flatness you are a challenging upright thing, as sudden as an exclamation mark, as enigmatic as a question mark.”

 

Saskatchewan Sky

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, PRAIRIES, Saskatchewan

Today is Yurt Day

           You may remember from my year-end review that I stayed in a yurt for the first time last fall at Spruce Woods Provincial Park. Though rainy and cool, it was a fine experience giving me the idea for this summer’s yurting.

             Kiche Manitou Campground, where the yurts are located, is near the Spirit Sands. Back in the 1990s, I used to hike the Sands at night during the full moon, spending the whole night atop the dunes, dancing naked and free then hiking back at dawn. No flashlight necessary. Fireflies flashed everywhere, the silver wolf willow glowed in the moonlight and a beautiful moon rose so close you could reach out and touch it. I was always exhausted by morning and wanted to rest but had the 2-hour drive home ahead. My yurt plan solves that dilemma.

Yurt #4 round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel.

             I wanted to book a yurt for the full moons in May, June, July and August then I could crash there after the all-nighters on the dunes. This morning at 7:30, Manitoba Provincial Parks opened up their reservation system to book yurts for the season. They have a call centre and an online booking system. I had my username and password all ready, opened the system and five minutes later I had booked all eight nights exactly as I wanted online! Paid with MasterCard and had my reservation confirmations by email five minutes later. It worked like a charm!

             Last year I stayed in Yurt #4, which had several features. It was above the Assiniboine River so you can see the river below. Plus it has a broad view of the night sky from the deck, great for star gazing. I got #4 for every one of my nights. You have to book two nights in a row with yurts but it’s a bargain at $54 a night, all in. The parks reservation system is easy to navigate. The yurts are very roomy so I will bring a friend this year.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Parks, Sacred Places, spirit sands