by Michael Drake
The 2011 Winter Solstice will occur at 05:30 (or 5:30am) Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on December 22, 2011, when winter begins in the Northern Hemisphere. Solstice means "Standing-Still-Sun." At Winter Solstice, the Sun journeys farthest south in its orbital path and for the next three days it rises and sets at virtually the same place on the horizon, appearing to stand still, and then it slowly returns north.
Like the sun, my journey south has ended. I am returning north to rest in my Oregon home. Compelled by Mother Earth's birthing pangs, I left home to shamanize the meridian system of her numinous web. Earth, human, and solar processes are interwoven through a vibrational resonant network around the planet. These energy ley lines contain a two-fold element, a male and female, positive and negative, expanding and reverting breath, resembling two magnetic currents--the azure dragon and the white tiger. At the intersection points of the planet's energy web exist holy places, power spots, or acupuncture points. Like acupuncture needles, humans are capable of maintaining the harmonious flow of the planetary energy meridians by making an Earth connection at power places.
Many magical things happened during my two month pilgrimage. I soaked in the healing waters of Umpqua, Buckeye, Travertine, Whitmore, and Keough Hot Springs. I camped at Panther Meadows on Mount Shasta. I hiked among the oldest living things on the earth in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.
By happenstance, I encountered my dear friend and master drum maker, Judith Thomson in Bishop, CA. Judith and I began facilitating workshops together in 1993. She was called by spirit to teach drum making and I was called to teach shamanic drumming. Unbeknownst to me, Judith had journeyed from her home in Packwood, WA to facilitate a drum making seminar in Big Pine, CA. I helped Judith teach her final class before retirement and she helped me and thirteen other participants birth the most beautiful singing drums I have ever heard. Thank you Judith!
After the seminar, Judith returned to Packwood and I was asked to stay for a drum blessing and workshop the following weekend after the wet rawhide drums had dried. The drum circle was held outside next to Birch Creek. We asked each of the six powers/directions to bless our drums. We thanked the animal spirits for giving their hides for our drum heads. We thanked the trees for the wooden rims and asked that our drums' hoops be connected to the World Tree which enables all trees to sing our prayers while drumming. Our drums were consecrated and we journeyed to meet our power animals.
The Azure Dragon
Over the next six weeks, I facilitated two more workshops, taught classes, and administered drum therapy treatments in a creek-side yurt at the base of Birch Mountain on the east side of the Sierra Nevada crest. It is here that I met a protective mountain dragon. The Sierra Nevada range embodies the spirit of a great green dragon. The azure mountain dragon has empowered my life immeasurably. Dragon carries me higher and deeper into myself than any energy I know.
The Chinese Year of the Dragon is in 2012. The last Year of the Dragon, which occurred in 2000, was fraught with fear. There was a lot of trepidation about the collapse of our technological world, the Y2K bug and other millennial prophecies that turned out to be more hype than bite. The Year of the Dragon is again just around the corner and fear is once more an issue. This time it's the Mayan Calendar and the alleged prophecy that the world will end. Is the Chinese Year of the Dragon, which comes around every 12 years, truly something to be feared?
According to Cherokee wisdom-keeper Dhyani Ywahoo, the energy of the Ukdena, the great dragons used to protect this land, but the dragons have now become tied into the mountains or moved into another dimension. She believes that the connection between these dragons and the mind of humans is significant in these changing times. Ywahoo explains, "Basically, the dragon is the unconscious of all nations, the untamed energies of anger and fear, waiting to be called into the light of clear thought. Until people awaken to their own minds, the dragon appears to be dangerous; when emotions are tamed, the dragon becomes a winged angelic being." (Voices of Our Ancestors: Cherokee Teachings from the Wisdom Fire, p. 16)
The White Tiger
Prior to my final workshop at Mammoth Lakes on December 7th, I planned a four day desert exploration. In one day I drove from Mt. Whitney (the sacred masculine), the tallest mountain in the continuous 48 states, into Death Valley (the sacred feminine), the lowest elevation in North America. Shortly after entering Death Valley National Park, I took an 8 mile detour north along the Saline Valley Road to visit a Joshua Tree forest at Lee Flat. The Saline Valley Road is very rough and progress was slow, but I eventually reached the magical forest. A cold wind buffeted me each time I left the confines of my truck to hike and photograph the forest. I would have camped here for the night if not for the high elevation and bitter cold wind (winds follow the tiger). I camped instead at Panamint Springs Resort, 22 miles inside the western border of Death Valley National Park.
The following day, I explored Darwin Falls and the remote Panamint Valley, adjacent to Death Valley. I camped for the next few days at the far northeast end of the South Panamint Dry Lake, a small wetland, grassland, dune system and mesquite bosque. The warm sulphur springs of this desert oasis provide habitat for frogs, shore birds, marsh hawks, and wild burros. A short-eared owl visited my campsite each evening at dusk and a white tiger prowled my dreams each night. Few things are more serene than the deep stillness of the desert on a starry night.
Oh, how I love vagabonding. Like drumming, nomadic wandering alters your consciousness. It is another means of habit annihilation, for reimprinting on alternate realties. When you leave home, meet new people, experience new stimuli, and process new information, you're soon intoxicated on a natural high. Vagabonding is nothing less than reality transformation, and its power is not to be underestimated. It is essentially meeting people, and every person that I met on my journey has enriched my life in some remarkable way.
To view my photo travelogue, click here.