Sandstones, Hoodoos, and "Home", Writing-on-Stone Park
Where is home? Although I “know” or at least have an idea of where I happen to be and where my parents or my spouse live, the word “home” is not necessarily tied to a postal address. In speaking Tagalog language, I use the verb “uwi” (v. to return home) more than the word for “home” (n. tahanan) itself. Thus, for me “home” is a direction, an orientation, or an essence of “being” more than anything else... more than the idea of "destination" itself.
Thus, the good news is that "I" or anybody can be “home” regardless of where they are in relation to their physical “dwelling”. The not-so-good news is that a physical “house” cannot guarantee a feeling of being “at home”.
“Home” is thus beyond the physical time-space dimensions. "Home" for me also means the people whose mere presence or memory helps me “position” myself (across the universe) or get back to "my place of center", and makes me feel “present” also in my life.
We drove further south of Lethbridge towards the town of Coutts. The drive into the beautiful southern Albertan country was beyond idyllic. The summer heat easily have melted and tenderized the body and the breath, and the asphalt. Everything seemed still and steady as if a 2D painting. As the Milk River valley cracked the vastness of the plains open, the moisture and the green color from the cottonwood trees broke the dry grainy texture of the prairie lands.
The hoodoos appeared as if giant sculptures on the valley walls. They were inviting as they were spectacular. The various shapes and columns of sandstone felt like a crowd of wise people whose mere presence help you navigate through life. It felt like I knew each of their names, because they felt cuddly and intelligent and caring, like grandparents and family and dearest friends from eons of lifetimes and universes away.
The heat from touching the sandstone transmitted a very lovely and subtle warmth, perhaps from the years of erosion and weathering that they seem to have endured and have held within. To stand among them reassures the worried heart.
On the first "sweat lodge" ceremony I have ever participated in, "Sid" a young vibrant man of the First Nations just a few years my senior, lead the ritual. He spoke very tenderly of stories that he has learned and that has been passed on to him by Elders and guides. As he poured fresh ground water onto the fired "lava rocks", he beautifully mentioned how the puffs of steam "are" the breath of our ancestors. And thus, this pulsating wave of heat that could easily overcome a first-timer in the sweat lodge, is a life-giving gift from "all our relations" beyond time and space.
In a world where people in our lives move around so often and so far away at times, our sense of direction can seem to be so “pulled apart”. It is easy to feel a bit frantic and “lost at sea". But coming to a “wise” and tranquil place such as the Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, similar to how the warriors of the Blackfoot Nations have come to the legacy and guidance of the “writing and art” on the sandstone walls, one can find oneself centered again and appreciating all the myriads of “homes” in life both seemingly near and seemingly far.
Because home is always “here” and because home is always “now”.
Om shantih shantih shantih...