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Bristlecone Medicine Wheel Story, Our Time

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These pages are records of trips taken on the search for the whole self, visiting the ancient Bristlecone forest.

This one tells how I came to the wheel.

The Ancient Bristlecone Forest*1.

First contact

The first time I saw the Bristlecone Medicine wheel was on a trip with my daughter, Elizabeth. We came to climb as high as we could to match Leo's last flight. Leo was my son, Elizabeth's brother. Two years before we could come here, after flying up over the Bristlecones in a paraglider, the next day he crashed, fatally. We are here to celebrate the flying, to find in ourselves traces of the joy, and to affirm his freedom to live as he chose.

We're both worried about Elizabeth. All the information we could find vaguely said that for anyone with sickle cell trait, the blood might sieze up with interlocked sickle cells, which would be fatal. The doctors we asked said, "Don't go over 10,000 feet unless you acclimatize very slowly." This was the second day over 8,000 feet. Slow enough, we wondered? Elizabeth felt fine so far.

Picture. Cold Creek Canyon top.*2 Cold Creek Canyon head
(See a QuickTime virtual reality panorama of this scene.)
The car was the sick one. It seemed to be gasping for air in the dry heat. We were heading through the Bristlecones, to get to the other end of the park, where we could camp legally, and be under the arc of that last glorious flight path of Leo's. We'd brought our candles, incense, prayers, and colors, ready to create what we intended to be a proper ceremony in honor of our beloved.

Up over 10,000 feet altitude. We were almost there, coming around yet another bend in the road, where we could see the road descend steeply out of sight. It must have gone way down because in the distance we could see it rising steeply up a long meandering but basically straight climb.

"I wonder if the car can make it up that road?" I asked. Elizabeth shrugged. We decided to go for it. Winding down to the bottom of a meadow, heading uphill, the car coughed and died. We both tried and tried and it would not start again. So I coasted downhill to where I could turn sharply back off the road.

We looked at each other and the road. Not likely there would be much traffic for the Bristlecones or the high altitude research center, which is not open to public traffic. Looking up at the meadow, I saw the wheel. Later I could not remember what it was made of. All I knew was that it appeared to be a medicine wheel. We decided to do the ceremony there, since we had come as far as we could.

Eliz near BMWJust as we slammed the car doors, put a note on the car, and were ready to go, a 4WD came bumping dustily down from the direction we had failed to go. We waved and when they stopped, we asked them to send us a tow truck. In the truck were three Japanese reporters, here on assignment to record the world's oldest living beings. They had finished the report. It was their idea to tow us.

By chance they asked if we had a rope. By chance we did. By chance the hooks attached to each vehicle didn't fall off as we got towed over several hills. Then the car restarted and we drove back to 8,000 feet altitude to do the ceremony.


Pictures. Candle*2, wind-blown from the south. Elizabeth OMlulu*2, spirit dancing, scattering blue cornmeal in the shape of a giant bird. Caroling*1, sitting under the gate described by a bluebird's flight, very pleased with the ceremony.
Candle at ceremony

Elizabeth at ceremonyCarol at ceremony

Walking the wheel, trip 2

Over the years I visited the wheel in imagination many times. Two years later, a chance came to drive there with a friend, who has a truck. Although altitude sickness slowed my walking to more rest than step, I finally made my way up to the wheel.

What was it? Bristlecone logs and stumps. A shock to see the handsaw marks and know that people harvested these trees. Not as great as the spell of their beauty. Each log appealed to me. I went from one to the next getting to know them. Each had a special character. My film ran out at the 9th photo. However, I wrote keywords on the first impression of each log. I felt too sick to do anything else.

Imaginary visits

Nothing prepared me for the events of the month to come. Except a feeling of intensity. When home, I kept thinking of the wheel, wondering at the short time I was able to be there compared to the hold it had on my attention. I thought of it frequently.

I can imagine approaching the wheel, like the outside of a spiral, going toward the one who welcomes (see photo*2). All of a sudden I sense the source of my facination. There is an enchantment here. I move into another stage of understanding what draws me to the Bristlecone Forest and the wheel. This awakening helps explain why to me this dump of logs is the Medicine Wheel. Soon I'm ready to listen to the story.

Next pages: A postcard and a flyer.

Credits: *1 photos © Elizabeth 1994 All rights reserved.

*2 photos © Caroling 1994 All rights reserved.

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© Caroling 1997, 1998 All rights reserved. Last Modified: 2 December, 2004