LATE IN THE DAY
… best spots are taken
Sunday July 6, 2014
As expected, hot and dry, and windy.
Longview highway was beautiful as always, Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump was as important, impressive and worth the visit as I remember experiencing it before.
Then our adventure began. My mission, to find a place not on any map – hard to find.
Fun and many times frustrating afternoon, feeling incredibly lost. At the same moment feeling incredibly close, but not finding it.
To see, to be at, to experience it … but first you have to find it.
In search of what, exactly?
I’m 62. Age of my city, 138. My country, as Canada, 147 years. Age of colonization, from arrival of first European in North America, 522 years. Age of the pyramid at Chichen Itza (built 1200 years ago). Age of the pyramids in Egypt (started in 2700BC, finished in 1700 BC … which is 3714 yrs ago). Age of Stonehenge, its first stones raised 4,414 years ago.
Before anything at Stonehenge was erected, long before Egyptians chose sites for their massive pyramid structures, first nations people from Southern Alberta chose their spot, built their medicine wheel. Place of celebration, for contemplation, for measuring seasons – it’s size difficult to imagine, their reasons unknown, but scholars probably have the gist of it. Age of the Majorville Medicine Wheel – 4,500 years.
A small portion, at the centre, at the top – protected by a fence so it seems particularly small, its vistas incredibly large. Researching suggests, just as the temple in Chichen Itza was designed with the length of the day, the penetration of light at the equinox – it’s measurements of where the sun would be boggle the mind at the wisdom of those who built it.
And its size is probably 20,000 times larger than that spot where I walked yesterday, where I sat on a survey marker.
Regardless it’s actual original size – experience of being there is without size as a consideration.
Mountain climbers know that feeling, being at the peak of something, gives a complete 360 degree view. This place does too, but not in a celebratory cheering a victorious climb way.
More one of peace, of silence. Warm winds sweep the place, as it did for people so long ago who might have come there to celebrate changing seasons or a successful hunt. Or to be alone with their thoughts.
I can only imagine it being for solemn occasions.
For emotional experiences.
I can’t imagine anyone being there and not being moved, being emotional – in part for the sweeping beauty of that view in every direction, but for its serenity. For its sense of place, their place – special place of ancient peoples, long gone. Or maybe they aren’t. Maybe there is a spirit world. Sitting there, surrounded by all that – being at the centre of the wheel, makes one wonder …
The Majorville experience is hard to describe. Words seemed inadequate – after the adventure of actually finding it. Not for the faint of heart, impatient or with low slung cars like mine (thanks SB … good thing we took yours). The full extent of the medicine wheel is 13 sq. km. . I learned that from research done after the visit. I’m rather glad to know that the first place we went based on published longitude and latitude was a natural gas plant/compressor station. I realize now that we were already there. To find the cairn (centre/top) of the wheel, about 6 km. as the crow flies from that spot, would be impossible to find without directions. Many thanks to the only person we encountered all afternoon (a very nice man who gave us fairly accurate directions in terms of distances and landmarks) for without that help we’d never have found it.
I will treasure knowing how to get there.
I’ll go there again.
I’d like, one day, to take my children there, to take my grandchildren there.
It is a place of incredible serenity and, as much I like descriptive superlatives, I’m unable to describe magnificence of that place adequately. I can image it being beautiful in fall colours, I can’t imagine a fall experience being better than yesterday. It would be impossible to get there if it were not dry, the road … if you could call it that, would not allow entry.
To imagine ancestors of current aboriginal peoples wandering these prairie lands in foothills of magnificent mountains 10,000 years ago is easy. History books tell us that was true, their nomadic life following seasons, following food – of survival. To imagine how they might have felt, how they might have chosen that place, that vantage point on the landscape to see all around, to view undulating landscape and coulees along the winding river valley, views in all directions – to imagine it was to build such a place of peace, a seasonal time clock of sorts, to have done so 4,500 years ago is very difficult to imagine.
That its location is disguised between secret and obscure is completely appropriate, and reverent of those who find it sacred in their own way.
A small portion is fenced and protected. Remainder is part of a crown land grazing lease in the middle of well exploited oil & natural gas leases. The government, in its wisdom, will not allow any oil & gas development (ie: tanks, equipment, machinery) to be visible from that place. How completely appropriate.
I’ll not go back often, but I will go back. I’ll read more, prepare more, and spend a longer time there next time.
To everyone else … don’t go.
Don’t spoil that place.
Leave it alone, leave it be, let it remain obscure and un-trampled.
If I had a voice in it, I would ask the government to build another fence – making a much wider circle of protection and preservation.
I’ve watched sun rise, felt morning emerge out of darkness, felt magnificence of some place – of many places, always knowing I was not the first to see it, not the first to feel it, not alone in my appreciation of it, but knowing in that moment, by myself or in a crowd – that I was feeling it, seeing it and knowing it just for me, my own incredible experience of that moment, of that time, of that place.
Yesterday, one of those, set apart.
Didn’t find a great picnic spot, didn’t find a magnificent look-out spot, not a place of history or mystery – though it is all of these things. I found a centered feeling. Others, surely, must have felt that, felt it there. If we could only imagine, how its creators must have felt – what it must meant to them, to create that place, and to celebrate being in that place – that would be major-ville exciting.
Ancient magnificent history, right here in our own backyard.
They were here first, long before anyone else.
They picked the best spot.
I’ve come, rather late in the day, to something 4,500 years old.
I’ll treasure and protect the memory and won’t easily share the directions.
column written/ published from Calgary
morning walk: 16C / 62F, light overcast, warm breeze, a peaceful easy feeling – light on my feet, Gusta cooperative but, I think, sensing something different about me today. Lucky me.
Reader feedback / comments always welcome:
Hi Mark, We live in such a fascinating area of Canada. Thanks for pointing out a couple of things that are must see's for this summer. I love the prairie & all that she gives & has, a great memory from back in 1975 when I first came west. Enjoy your trip today. I also love the dry prairie heat of summer & the deserts of Nevada & Arizona. Strange for a gal that grew up in Ontario & their summer humidity & all those lakes. Take care, MC, North of Cochrane, AB