“Hey guys, what do you think about a detour today?”
“What kind of detour, Dave?”
“Well, there’s this ancient Native American site on the top of a mountain.”
“Let’s do it!”
For a brief stint in my late 20s, I had a job driving a 13-seater van across the country, leading shoe-string, camping tours for groups of young Europeans. As a child of the suburbs who had never been camping before, to say I was ill-prepared for this crazy job would be an understatement. But I loved it! Every day I would transport my passengers from one campground to another, following a fairly-fixed agenda. Nevertheless, as long as I reached the campgrounds before nightfall, I had a good deal of leeway on proposing detours – like the one we took to Medicine Wheel, Wyoming.
Perched high on a mountain top at 9,642 feet, Medicine Wheel is a strange and evocative place – sort of an American Stonehenge. Approximately 1,000 years old, its layout is a circular alignment of limestone boulders about 80 feet in diameter with 28 rocky “spokes” radiating from a central hub. Around the periphery of the wheel is a wire fence, tied here and there with notes and pieces of fabric. No one knows exactly what the wheel signified although it was clearly part of a much larger spiritual landscape. Additionally, it may well have been aligned with certain stars associated with Cheyenne ritual use.
Getting to Medicine Wheel is a trip in itself, a steep, winding dirt road up a mountainside: even more precarious when driving a heavily-laden van with a roof rack full of camping gear! As we disembark at the top, my crew is struck both by the beautiful view, stretching on for miles, and the sheer, absolute silence. No cars. No planes. No ambient sound of buzzing electronics like you experience at home and in big cities. Medicine Wheel is quiet! We all take in the silent with reverence and awe, as if connected somehow to a bigger world.
(Where is your Medicine Wheel? It doesn’t have to be at the top of a mountain. It can be a room in your house where you can sit and meditate, where you get in touch with your inner voice. We all need silent detours in our life; you have the leeway to schedule one today.)