Medicine Wheel

Road up to the Medicine Wheel

August 3

I am no longer waking at 5 am – I do wake for the windstorm, the meows signaling freshly caught mouse, the sprinklers outside my door that do little but dampen the mulch – but 9 am now and the hills’ brow still shades it’s chin though the sun is already high.

Yesterday I wavered – and abandoned an ongoing painting to hop into Nina’s rentacar for adventure. Andres too – sitting silently in the back. Nina, not so silently, driving. She had an inkling for conversation and us quiet folks were not holding forth. She had a play by play going on every bug we hit (the hood resembles a Pollock painting), every sign we passed as well as random thoughts and general musings on motorcycle drivers and hog vernacular (the Sturges roundup yearly motorcycle convention is coming or going so
endless rumbling strings pass us on the highway) in an attempt to woo us into verbosity.

After monosyllabically responding for a while I began to stare off at the landscape passing and so she adapted by directing comments to specific people, signaling initially who was the desired responder: “Andres: blablablabla….” “Jen: blablablabla….” This brought her much conversational success from her less conversant companions.

It is a quiet walk up to the Medicine Wheel, a mile or so of slow incline. Frequented it seems an odd place, cleansed it could be without so much human offering – but the surrounding mountaintop is less traversed. The way people come and look at a lauded picture in a museum crowding round, but the next picture, the next room are quite empty. 9000 feet and the air is thin – funny to look down on the backs of eagles.

The Wheel is doubled by an observatory like a golf ball on the next near peak. The moonscape below descends steeply towards the road, crumbling over into a strip of grassland strewn with rock and alpine flowers, then continuing on down the hill where the punctuation of pine trees succeeds the stones. Between the pines there are bluebirds deep as Lapis, and chipmunks rustling over the rock – tails held up like thin sails. Tiny white phlox blossom peppering the grass and butterflies in Nabokov varients soar above flowers mirroring the flights of eagles and vultures catching the gusts high above.

Blue lupins, pink mallows, golden and white yarrow. Indian paintbrush in red and orange, tiny daisies and strange purple fluffs, even bluebells thick in the pines and the air is resined as the wind lifts the sap from the green needles and carries up and over. Were there not a fire in Montana one could see all the way to Yellowstone, but the low hot plain that divides the ranges seems to funnel the smoke and the further mountains are grey beasts dissolving into gloom. I should not forget the sounds – the hisses and whistles and deep moans the earth flutes the wind into.

Also seen: Shell Canyon, some red hills and a strange red rock, more hills like melting earth colored sherbets, hills like eroded Egyptian monuments, many deer, two moose, one rattlesnake (called up no doubt by yours truly the queen of snakes).

Not seen but looked for: Dinosaur beds, Devil’s Kitchen

Big red

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