Bighorn Mountain Medicine Wheel
The clouds in Wyoming are wild horses, churning up dust,
their proud noses pointing west.
We exit the van amid excited chatter.
The road upward is long, but wide,
and we must walk from here.
I take a breath, slowing my heartbeat,
separating from the bustle around me.
In silence, I turn inwards.
I carry my village with me,
all those I know and love.
I see their faces before me as I walk;
I feel the weight of their needs.
To my left, a sliver of rainbow on the face of a cloud,
a sideways burst of color, shimmering.
Grandfather is blessing our journey.
Farther upslope, a tiny creature barks a greeting from the rocks.
It’s a pika, little rabbit-relative with round ears and no tail,
that I collected once, on a postage stamp.
He delivers his message imperiously, then
scampers down and away, disappearing into a cleft in the rock.
We crest the hill.
The Medicine Wheel spreads out before us.
Twenty-eight stone spokes reach outward from a center cairn,
like the rays of the sun,
stretching to touch an outer circle, eighty feet across.
The outer ring is encircled again by wooden poles strung with rope,
on which flutter prayer ties and prayer flags in the colors of the Directions,
the colors of all peoples, the colors of earth and sky.
Eight hundred years old, the Wheel is still holding prayers.
Six outer cairns entice us with their mystery.
We walk sun-wise around the Wheel, adding our own ties, our own prayers,
the needs of our loved ones, to the hoop,
trusting in this power that surpasses generations.
Little Jemma throws her pacifier into the circle, a gift for the “baby ghosts,”
then cries when she can’t duck under the rope to get it back.
Don gathers us together and sings a Lakhota prayer to the Four Directions.
Everyone around the Wheel joins us, moving to face each direction in turn,
seekers and tourists alike,
honoring the old ways.
Outside the Wheel, I find a tiny, tiny stone, amid thousands of pebbles,
drop it, and it comes to hand again, so I know it is the one.
When no one is looking,
I slip it into my pocket to send to Uncle Manny.
Maybe this tiny touch of the Wheel will cure his small-cell cancer.
He knows the power of Stone People medicine.
I turn back toward the Wheel alone,
a sudden breeze lifting my hair,
and the Wheel turns.
I drop back in time,
no fences, no signs,
no chatter of crowds.
I feel the power of the Wheel, the presence of the Ancestors.
I can almost see them, moving on the paths.
A hawk scrills overhead, its voice crossing the centuries.
Someone calls my name, and I return.
We head back down the mountain
Even now, I hold this journey in my heart.
-- Jane Sadowsky