Monday, August 21, 2006

Tales of the Bighorn Mountains II

Saturday, July 29, 2006 ~ Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming

Nine years ago, the call of the Bighorn Mountains was so strong that I felt obliged to travel each of the three highways that crisscross it. Today, now that I'm complete with the Medicine Wheel, I will travel only one more -- in order to get back to the east side of the mountains and the interstate.

For reasons I don't understand, I'm pulled south, to US-16, to make my crossing. Yet as I climb the mountain, parts of my mind question this decision. So far, at least, the route isn't nearly as scenic as the one I traveled this morning.

And then I reach the summit at Powder River Pass.

I pull into the turnout, look up and am immediately catapulted back to July 1997. I remember having been pulled out of the car at this very spot nine years ago and the unequivocal urge to hike up the rocky slope now before me. I remember, too, seeing images of dragons and hearing the sound of the rocks as they spoke to me of my origins and the origins of time.

Although that experience never left me, its location had. Until moments ago, I didn't know that this was the spot.

Then, I was in a time of powerful transformation and regenesis, on an unknowing journey from my old life in Canada to a new one in Sedona, where, within the year I would be married...within two I would be a father.

Today, less than a week before the finalization of my divorce, I am again in a similar time of change....not knowing where I'm going or why, simply trusting that the journey will carry me there as fearlessly as possible...and grateful for the spirit and energy of these rocks that, once again, support me on that journey.

Photos/Art by Mark David Gerson
#1-My drawing of the Rock Formation
#2-The rock formation at Powder River Pass

Tales of the Bighorn Mountains I

Saturday, July 29, 2006 ~ Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming

As I've traveled the highways and byways of America over the past 20 months, it's rare that I've felt called back to any of the places I visited on a similar (if much shorter) journey nine years ago.

That doesn't mean I haven't wanted to return to some of those places. When I have, it's generally been from a desire to anchor myself in the familiar. And when I have acted on that desire, the repeat experience has rarely been as potent as the original.

Today, as I leave Sheridan, Wyoming and climb US-14/14A, I know I am returning to the Medicine Wheel that sits atop Medicine Mountain in the northwestern Bighorn Mountains. What I don't know is which category this visit will fall into.

An hour or so later, as I reach the parking lot for Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark, I'm still not certain.

The hike to the actual wheel is a largely uphill mile and a half, plenty of time to reminisce about the last time I was here, when Roxy, my cocker spaniel traveling companion, dove joyfully into the welcome coolness of the snow that still covered the mountain's upper flanks.

Then, as an offering, I carried an aboriginal feather fan that had been gifted to me a few weeks earlier.

Roxy and the snows are gone and, today, I travel alone, with my voice as my only offering. Its song, a magical blend of me and the mountain, carries me up the path and into a realization that this is no nostalgia visit.

Somehow and for some reason I have been brought back.

When I reach the summit, at 9,642 feet, I am breathless. Not from the hike. Not from the altitude.

What has taken my breath away is the power of this sacred land...the presence of the 1,000-year-old stone circle...the 7,000 years of Native American worship at this site.

With great reverence, I make a slow clockwise circuit around the 28 spokes of the wheel. After my first circuit, I feel called to go around again. After the second circuit, I begin a third one.

And then I sense a presence...walking with me...holding my hand...guiding me.

Although I don't see him, I know him to be a Grandfather, an Ancient One. I know him to be part of the energy that has called me back to this place.

"At this Medicine Wheel," he tells me, "heaven and earth touch all the time and the veils between dimensions are barely present. This is a transformational portal, a gateway to personal change, a key holder of the Eternal Flame, a pilgrimage site for all Wisdom Keepers."

Wisdom Keepers, he reminds me, don't keep the wisdom they gain for themselves, but plant its seeds wherever they go, whatever they do -- by virtue of their beingness. "Whether you're conscious of it or not, you are spreading and planting those seeds," he insists.

After the third circuit, I want to go around a fourth time and a fifth...perhaps even a sixth.

"No," he says. "Three times is all. More than three times demonstrates a desire to stay stuck, to not move forward and beyond the experience of the wheel."

He then gives me the vision for a drawing of the Medicine Wheel, along with instructions on how to use that drawing as a surrogate for an experience of this physical wheel, and sends me on my way.

Before I leave the circle, I reach into my pocket for a stone from the Yellowstone River that I had planned to send to my daughter. It's shaped like the profile of a bear's head, complete with a black circle where the eye would be. I leave it on one of the wooden fence posts that surrounds the wheel as an offering.

The offering to my daughter becomes this visit, and the drawing.

Photos/Art by Mark David Gerson
#1-My drawing of the Medicine Wheel
#2-The hike up the the Medicine Wheel
#3-The Medicine Wheel atop Medicine Mountain

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Signs of the Times II

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 ~ Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

I wish I had photographed today's "sign of the times." It was posted at Inspiration Point, at the north rim of what's called the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

The heading read Shifting Ground and the text spoke of all the changes that had occurred to the canyon here as a result of a 1975 earthquake in the park. It concluded with this piece of universal wisdom:

Take a good look at the view
It won't be the same next time you're here

Not only does the view change, so does the viewer.

Photo by Mark David Gerson: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park

Signs of the Times I

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 ~ Wisdom, Montana

I'm driving south from Missoula, fully expecting to head south into Idaho, where I plan to follow the magical Salmon River Valley. I stop at Lost Trail Pass at 7,014 feet in the Bitterroot Mountains. A few yards south is Idaho and the road to Salmon. A few yards east is Montana's State Route 43, the road to Wisdom.

Figuring I can always use some extra wisdom, I let the car bear east instead of south.

Twenty-six miles later, I enter Wisdom, disappointed that no bolts of lightning have struck me with increased knowingness.

And then the knowingness does strike, with the subtlety that is often wisdom's hallmark.

Wisdom is a reminder of where I already am...when I allow myself to be in it...when I allow myself to surrender into it.

Photo by Mark David Gerson: Wisdom, Montana