Monday, August 21, 2006

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


#4 said...

Hi Mark David,
I wanted to read your latest posting before I go to the woods and meditate this evening. I'm feeling very much in the void and need to connect to me.....the God
in me.
So thank you for the Medicine
Wheel drawing....I will focus on it
while I'm sitting among the trees and raccoons.

I look forward to your return to
Wisconsin. #4

mark David Gerson said...

Dear Sandra,

Thanks for honoring me and the drawing by carrying the Medicine Wheel with you into the woods. It's to make the Wheel more accessible to more people that I was called to create the drawing.

If you have any particular experiences with it, I'd love for you to share them.

Mark David