Cauldron of Elements

DSC03020Earth and water, air and fire. The cauldron bubbles. Its turquoise fluid has flecks of gold – colors of protection and connection to the spirit world. The steam rising from it smells of sulphur, like the entrance to the underworld. Heaven and hell. Earth and water, air and fire – the elemental directions of the Medicine Wheel – come together in this place.

The springs and pools at Yellowstone National Park have individual personalities: some are viscous mud, others could invite a swim were it not for the superheated water. Awed at the intensity and purity of color, I understand that the colors in and around the springs come from thermophiles – heat-dwelling microorganisms. How can an organism live in such heat? Do they have consciousness? They are beings, part of the All That Is.

The earth below me is alive. I stand with other gawkers on a protected platform that gives a sense of security in this active geothermal zone. The earth could change her mind and open a new pool beneath us on a whim.

Water seeping into the fiery magma chambers below emerges as steam that wraps around us on wafts of air, sometimes enveloping us in a sulphurous blanket of warm moisture that obscures the pools. Other times the steam flows away – again on whim – and clears our view of the jewel-colored pool.

Earth and water, air and fire. In this place I feel the life and breath of the earth, her living power, and understand why the First Nations peoples did not live here, but came for ritual.

This place calls for ritual. I sing to the directions, say a prayer of gratitude, and pull out some of my hair to leave as an offering. The sulphurous steam curls around me and then clears, and I am alone on the platform.

Later, driving through a wooded section of the park I sensed, but could not see, Bear. I reached out with heart and mind. “Bear, I sense you there, but I can’t see you.”

The answer came: “Just feel. You do not need to see. We know you are here.”

Connection, in a place of great power and deep mystery.

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"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Eliot
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi
"There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings – we all feel pain, we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and live freely, and we all share this planet together." - attributed to Gandhi
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