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  • You aren't supposed to photograph these trees festooned with pieces of prayer cloth offerings, but I couldn't help but take just one. I thought of all the believers who walked the butte, up up up to the vortex that had been measured by scientists at the summit. My old knees wouldn't get all the way to the top. I climbed, sweaty, tired, thirsty, sunburnt, happy, serene, joyful too. The place was the place of the spirit, and I could feel my spirit expanding to fill the space inside my body and then overflowing into the rocks and scrub brush around me. I could feel every cell straining to remember the feeling of connection to the gods, energies, Great Spirit all around me. Each trickle of sweat carried out with it a bit of sadness, a bit of hopelessness, a bit of loneliness and a bit of the negative part of me, the part that couldn't see myself in the cosmic scheme of things.

    Making the pilgrimage in front of us was a Native American, possibly Cheyenne, possibly Lakota, given his tats, running up the hill, arms outstretched, holding two bunches of sage. He was focused on the path before him, eyes straight. We didn't say hello, but my spirit reached out to his for a moment and joined it in a sort of energetic handshake. I still see him, the way he ran, arms out to his sides, making a T. He disappeared from view around a bend and then reappeared very far up. I stopped many times to rest my old bones. Once, I retied my shoes too close to a prairie rattler sunning himself on a rock just off the path, frightening myself for a second. I kept going... I knew I wouldn't make the top but every step brought me closer to my own apex, my personal summit where I could turn around and look back at the butte, the prairie and lake beyond and the Cheyenne camped below. The sun climbed close to noon when he passed us again on his way down, still running, still holding his bunches straight out. The expression on his face was of the wonder of having gazed into the face of (G)god, the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka.
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