Tuesday my class met with Alicia Daniels from the University of Vermont. Alicia is a field naturalist who has devoted many years studying with Indigenous healers, and to understanding the Medicine Wheel. Now she respectfully shares its teachings with students and elders.
We met in my classroom, then, needing a place to construct the wheel that was out of the public eye, walked down the hill to the land that was recently sold for development. The students led us to a small grove of trees, prickly ash and aspen, sheltered from view.
The day had been wet, but as we gathered for class the skies had cleared and the sun was shining brightly. Then, as we walked dawn the hill, clouds quickly rolled in and a heavy rain began to fall. Soon we were all soaked. A cold wind picked up from the west, and the students who had neglected to bring coats became chilled; actually, we were all cold. Then, just as impulsively as the rain arrived, it departed, and we were bathed in late afternoon sun; we dried in minutes!
The land has long been important to local Indian tribes, and I am told there are burials there. For this reason, and others, some elders hold the land as sacred. Alicia and I kept this in mind and heart as we walked the land.
As we built the very transitory Medicine Wheel, songbirds flew past, moving from grove to grove. When we awakened the wheel, invoking the directions, spirits, and Ancestors, the grove also awoke, and a sense of attention permeated the site, a deep expectancy filling the grove as we looked across the meadow and the lake.
We spent the next ninety minutes exploring the directions with the students, most of whom are in their late teens and early twenties. The West and North beckoned, yet remained in some ways unknowable to them. Alicia and I held those realms of experience for the students, sharing just a little of our journeys into those directions.
Some of the students are preparing to graduate, while others are seeking to understand their purpose in the world. This is difficult for them, as they are bright, and the future is uncertain; they wonder how they can make a real difference in the world. We closed the Wheel with a prayer that they might have clear vision and healing, and that renewal might come to the land.
Walking back up the hill, a challenge for me, Alicia and I stopped to savor the afternoon, and to rest our legs for a moment. As we surveyed the landscape, we noted the mature aspens had sprouted catkins. Below us, the Wheel remained, hidden by the grove. Soon, it will dissolve, its parts returning to the land.