Wheatfield Near Fort Pierre, South Dakota. Photograph by Robert Clements

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sheep Mountain

Sheep Mountain, in the southern unit of the Badlands. Photo by Robert Clements.

For some reason, well, for the reason that I'm technically challenged, I find it hard to get onto the blog lately. Not because I have nothing to say, or share, or blather on about, but because I can't match up emails to passwords. Today, I did it. I wrote the combination down - I feel like a safe cracker - and now I hope I will have more luck.

But I've been anxious to get onto the blog, because some extraordinary shifts have happened to me since I've come back and settled in for a spell. They have to do with larger things than me. With understanding that something within me responds to something outside of me in unconscious ways. As a writer, I know this, because I make up characters that surprise me every day with who they become. But this is different. This is my unconscious reacting on and responding to the person that I am. It includes the writer and the animal lover, and the partner and sister and daughter and friend and the thousands of widgets that make up the whole board of morganopoly that is me.

Sheep Mountain from another view. Robert Clements Photo.
All of this occurred to me after Bob and I visited Sheep Mountain, which is located in the South Unit of the Badlands. It's not the 'popular' tourist destination, which is scenically stunning and colorful and located near Wall. Sheep Mountain is a place unto itself. If it were a setting for a movie, it would be shown in the part when the heroine has lost her horse, or her mind, and is wandering through canyons of upthrust rock underneath a cloudless, pitiless blue sky that stretches across forever. It is an ancient, ancient, place. That timelessness gives it the power that it has. It is beautiful, yes, but it is not pretty in any sense that is obvious. This place has been there, done that, and came back with the geological, anthropological, archeological, and mythological teeshirt. 
Teeth in the ground. RC photo
We drove for two hours from Wall to get there. We saw a bobcat along the way and the sky and prairie and hills that are part of this Dakota. We photographed rows of tiny hoodoos - rock mushrooms that happen when the stone underneath a plate on top of it crumbles. We drove up powdery hills onto a high plain and gazed at vast gulches of rock teeth sticking up from the rock gum that is the ground. It was dazzling. Colorless. Bone white and stark. So stark. While Bob took photos, I came close to the edge of the world to look down and across, and up to the sky. The combination of starkness, the silence, the vivid blue, the shadows, and the geological perspective made me humble. Being an introvert, I couldn't voice what I felt, and I don't think I should have, anyway. It's never good to try to describe something that is beyond description.

We drove through part of Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation, then up to Hermosa and through Rapid City to get home, eventually. And we settled in for the night. Or so I thought. But my mind had wrapped itself around the fact that, yes Virginia, there ARE things bigger and older and greater than you, and it surprised me with vivid, vivid dreams wherein I was looking for shelter, any shelter, and there wasn't any to be found. And I woke up, changed.

To fall in love with a person, or with a place, it is important to demystify it. Only when you see its true nature - like those barenaked rocks and the undaunted sky above it all - can you decide whether or not to commit to it. So, it's with great surprise that I find myself in love with where I live. It only took about a year and a half, but I can say, for sure that I love this place. I think Sheep Mountain gave me a vision (oh don't get all moogly for heaven sakes, I'm still as Yankee, dry-witted, and practical as ever) and with that vision, the gift of itself. It caught me with my pyschic drawers down, which is something that has never happened to me before. 

Bob Dylan sang, "You've got to serve somebody." Well, yeah, I guess you do. As yet, what I serve is nameless, but I recognize its power. Maybe it's the earth or the sky, or both. Maybe it's the willingness to even contemplate it. Maybe it's understanding that the universe spins itself into wild dances of unbridled rapture and sorrow, and that I can either stand by the sidelines and watch, or I can choose to be part of it all. All I know is that, ever since I've had that experience, joy has re-entered my life, and I hope that it unpacks its belongings and sticks around for a while. 

Tilted road to the sky. Photo by Robert Clements.