WhiteCrow Walking

My solo walk across America began in Maine. I walked for nearly 3 years carrying a backpack and facing countless dangers, as well as met wonderful people I could have never made it without. From bullets to bears I moved through mountains of snow and across burning desert country. The end result will be a book, and the fruition of a childhood dream. This is a blog from the field with rough stories about my steps along the way.

11 September 2007

Where The Eagles Land

It is called Medicine Wheel now, but these are new words for a place that pre-dates the wheel and all that invention has driven us to. A day ago I walked this long gravel road to the sacred circle of stones and the circular rope fence of ribbons and bundles, feathers,bone and flint. A loud man and woman were talking and measuring into recorders as their cameras bit pieces and angles with all the worth of a dog biting air. Nothing more than their words was landing all around me so I left feeling more choked than revived, more frustrated than restored. This morning I discovered my wallet had slipped out somewhere in my recent travels. Although I believe I'll never see the wallet again, it's lose is the ticket back, an excuse back to the Crow Reservation, and to walk Medicine Wheel for the second time. Even with a small amount of money gone, veteran identification gone, license gone, bank debit card gone, and surely a few forgotten forms of information lost it is all worth it to be going back; to be seeing things again for the first time.
The feathers I have been handed by years of road, my hand carved pipe hawk of steel and hickory dotted with brass tacks, heart wood cedar flute, and several tools of travel are wrapped in red wood and tucked under my arm. It is a cold morning making the gravel sound louder under foot. Pregnant grey clouds are huddled above the mountains trying to stay warm as the wind holds a hand on my chest. Betty wishes me well and drives away to begin a telephone counsel with a long distance client. This is Basecamp Betty's last visit. From Livingston Montana where I was picked up days ago I will be returned and for the last time Betty will drive away with my seasonal gear exchanged for winter trappings. We rarely talk about it but it is there between us. The walk is nearing final states, final steps.
Again I begin walking the gravel mile and a half incline to the Where The Eagles Land. Along the walk I try to set down ego and worry I have carried from the car. Along the walk I try to come down and become still, to step away from this rabbit heart that beats too fast. When I get to the circle of fence on the mountain top a ranger from the park service is standing on the dirt road looking cold and hunched into his green coat. I am a layer of sweat, feeling fluid as the morning chill rubs off into a crocked squint. We nod hello's like gunfighters as I break left to round the circle of timeless stones. Once. Twice. I know what I am hear for. I approach the ranger to ask him to unlock the gate. Posted, "Only be opened by permit." We are reduced to words and another dry look. The gate is opened as if he has been waiting for me, or he is about to hand me a safe deposit box. The ranger's voice becomes far away. I hear the park radio talking about this man that has come to pray in the wheel and that sound too falls away. Sage,cedar, sweet grass and native tobacco are poured out of the red pouch I have carried every step of the walk. It is a small bundle that is the bed of the ten front bear claws from the black bear I de-clawed in Jersey from a pouched bear. The cold spark I strike is weak. It is minutes before I can smell peace, memory, a sense of home and a belonging to all the fires that came before me. The cold steel hawk swirls under a ribbon of scent, chokes and then offers up blue smoke for me to lean into as it combs over my hair.
Now I am in the center of the circle facing east; toward all of the miles I have traveled. I make a spark into flame again knowing only that it has grown cold. I am an even warmth although I have neglected to carry a coat. My fingers are careful with the honed edge of the hawk. The hawk edge tasted my blood years ago when I fit the handle to the steel head and it sank painlessly into my left thigh. Looking down at my leg I glance at the pale trace the gash left behind. So many stories.
When I unroll the red cloth to release the flute I am finally free of me, free of the skuff of the gravel road, the sound of cold hands busy getting warm in nylon pockets back far behind me on the path, and shadowed under the crowding of clouds above. The well traveled wood of the flute is dry and familiar on my lips. The bear fat I rubbed into it over a year ago is far from taste. It is warm rum to hear the the voice of the wood come out into the wind without being lost or stolen in the growing wind but this is not it's nature. As soon as I lift the musical pipe sleet begins to rattle on the stones, peppering my back, surrounding the notes of the flute with a sweet screening sound of a rain stick turning over and over in the sky above my head. Lifting the notes from bass to pipe, from highs to a tremble of warm blood rushing through viens the ice dances in round diminutive gravel all around me. Setting the flute down the sleet instantly ceases. Lifting my head I work my grin into sun bleached grass and ancient stone. Feathers, finger brush straight, are placed into the crevices around me, journeys remembered. Roads yet to be walked are prayed smooth. I move stones until the center tail feather from a golden eagle is an arrowhead lodged in the center stones of the circle. It is done. When I begin to play the flute again the sleet awakens instantly and pours little pebbles of ice from the buoyant clouds above. When the red cedar flute is set once again on the wool and thoughts of leaving begin to enter in the sleet abruptly stops again. Slowly I stand, waiting to feel my legs agree to walk. Careful to step on nothing I walk with my eyes on the ground. My feet step around tobacco bundles, past sweet grass braids and twists of black hair. I move over old particles of flags, dog tags and leather fringe bundles until I am at the gate and stepping through. The park ranger is the same man but nearly unrecognizable. A joyous child has stepped into his face. He rushes toward me. "Thank-you, thank you for the weather." His light voice shines from a bright expression. "People think I would love it up here all the time but there is nothing here to take in after a while when the weather is all sun and blue skies. This was magical. This is why I want to be up here." He is beautiful and younger than morning. I take his offered hand and say thank you to him.
I know better than to bang a rock with a stick and take credit for the water. Walking slowly down the mountain from the land of white rough stones, I am thankful, thankful that I was allowed to be where I was guided to be; knowing that something was waiting to be found, and something worried over being lost didn't matter at all.