Monday, August 4, 2008
Medicine Wheel in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming
It will be hard to write about the Medicine Wheel without talking about my sister Patti Massell. She died in the prime of life, unexpectedly taken from her family and all who also loved her.
She was a pejutawin, a medicine woman. She was given a powerful healing ceremony and she made it available to anyone who asked. I personally know people whose doctors had told them to get their affairs in order - modern medicine could do no more for them. Most of them were dying from a combination of cancer and chemo treatments. They came to Patti at death's door, but today almost all are alive and healthy.
Leonard McKinney first introduced Patti and I at the Veteran's powwow in Wichita, Kansas. Some months later, we met again and it was as if we had known one another our entire lives. We quite casually became instant best friends.
Several years went by before we realized she was born at the summer solstice, and I was born at the winter solstice. It was only one intriguing synchronicity of many in our lives. Patti once said "It's as if our lives have been on parallel paths, and then our paths crossed." She adopted me as her sister, an old Native American way of honoring someone. Aside from my children, it meant more to me than any other thing in my entire life at the time.
Writing about Patti is a book in itself. Much of what could be written is too sacred for the internet. I respectfully and humbly share that I had the honor to have been part of a ceremony with Patti June 20, 2001 at the Medicine Wheel. Her youngest son, my son, and another friend were there, too. Patti's elderly uncle stayed at the ranger station, waiting for us to come down from the Medicine Wheel.
I went up there as my old self and came down changed. Spirit dealt forcefully with me that day. I still do not understand all that happened, all that Spirit was trying to show me. It was a transformation that will take the rest of my life to unfold.
The Medicine Wheel figured in my life long before I knew Patti Massell. It was in the early spring of 1994 when I took my son and daughter on our first genuine family vacation. We went to Yellowstone. It was something I had so much wanted to do for my children but never could afford. I planned the trip through the Big Horn Mountains specifically to visit the Medicine Wheel. Once there, a sign warned of a long hike to the actual site. I was not physically capable of such a hike at that altitude and I was deeply disappointed. I made a silent vow to come back.
Years went by but my intent to return to the Big Horn Mountains never wavered. I felt as if a perfect time would present itself for the trip, but I could never have guessed the circumstances of my return in 2001. It worked out that Patti and I could go at the same time. We met there and camped on the day before her birthday. That is how magical life sometimes is.