There are a lot of people in Saskatchewan who don’t know about a very precious little pocket of the province known as “The Crooked Bush”. This is apparently a very rare thing in the world. I hear that there is no other grove like it anywhere on the planet. Something (alright, I’ll say it…an ALIEN LANDING) affected this grove of Aspen so profoundly that, instead of growing straight up and reaching for the sky like all other self-respecting Aspen do, these ones grow in twists and bends and turns. It has become a point of interest site in Saskatchewan….if you can find it. I have been there 17 times now, including one night a few years back. Every time I have been there, other than that night, I have simply driven straight there and parked in the parking lot, gotten out of my car and entered the grove of trees. Heck, they even have wooden walk ways through the grove so that all the people who come to see don’t end up damaging the habitat. I personally think that this path is there so that those who go barefoot (like me) don’t get infected with alien DNA. I can see it in my head now…. “Why are you so bent over and walking so crooked?” “Crooked Bush Syndrome” (insert dry and crackly voice).
I used to be part of a wonderful group called “Working Witchuals”. This is a blended word play on the word “Witch” and the word “Rituals”. Therefore we have “Witchuals”. Clever, eh? Anyway, we met once a month to have a small ritual and then follow that with some social time. Most people go to church of one form or another. Our church was Nature….or my garage in the winter because it is insulated and heated and at -40 degrees that comes in handy. But in the Spring, Summer and early Autumn, we met outdoors. This particular gathering was going to happen at the Crooked Bush because, let’s face it…. the whole thing looks like something out of Lord of the Rings!
Because the Crooked Bush is about an hour and a half outside of Saskatoon, where we all live, we decided to car pool to the location. I had Ryan and Alison riding along with me in my car. So as I have mentioned, I have been there 17 times, so I know where I am going, right? So off we go. No need to Google map it. Besides, when you do Google “Crooked Bush” the directions are vague at best (I think purposefully so). But that’s ok, because I know where I am going. The last time that I was there was just the summer before with my daughter, Tressa. We took the long way there, through Hafford. Now, to get to Hafford you have to take this road (ok…GOAT TRAIL) that is slightly paved and has so many car-sized craters in it that you would think that you were driving through war torn Beirut, and so it takes FOREVER to get there. But I remembered that, last summer, instead of going back through Hafford we decided to turn right instead and travel along highway 40 back to North Battleford. It basically took us right to the city and from there, after lunch, we headed back to Saskatoon. It was a lovely road trip and we talked about EVERYTHING and played tunes and I got her hooked on my Abby Spinner “Enter the Center” CD.
So my first error on this fateful night was forgetting which highway it was that took us northward to the Crooked Bush. Instead of the number 40 I turned on the 376. So we are travelling on the 376 and I say, “This is not the same highway I took before and it is in worse condition than the Hafford highway.” Then we entered the swamp lands. Yep. This is not the highway. So we turned around and headed back to the number 16 Yellowhead highway. Then something (I no longer remember what….and you will soon understand why) made us turn around and head back down the 376. I think that it was Ryan’s GPS that told us that this highway would indeed lead us toward Hafford. Ok. So off we go. Then we get to the number 40 and I’m all, “Ok! THIS is the highway Tressa and I were on!” The sign down the highway just past the intersection says “Hafford 27” so I figure, nope, it was THIS way and turn left instead of right. Ten kilometres down the road I turn back because this is obviously not the right direction. But I DO remember that there were actual signs directing traffic TO the Crooked Bush from the number 40. About 5 km past the sign for Hafford 27, THERE IT IS! The sign that says “Crooked Bush” with an arrow. So we turn down that grid road and drive an eternity. I remember that there is a dead end and then we turn left, and from there about a kilometre the Crooked Bush is on the left side of the road. We come across a sign that says, “Crooked Bush” with an arrow directing us to continue to drive onward. So we do. And THAT is where it all went to SHIT!
We get to a dead end (apparently not the CORRECT dead end) and I turn left. We are looking everywhere for the Crooked Bush. And as we are driving along, the road is getting more and more like a cow trail. So I turn the car around to head back. As I drive back down the road I look to the right and say, “Hey! I didn’t see that lake there before! Did either of you?” and they both look at me with a blank stare and say that they hadn’t noticed it. THAT is when I started to get a little bit creeped out. How can all three of us not notice a LAKE just off the road??? We all start laughing….nervously….and I continue to drive, only now nothing on the road THAT WE JUST DROVE DOWN LIKE 5 MINUTES AGO looks familiar! When did I start losing my ever-lovin’ mind??? So we look for the turn off that we came onto this road from….and fail miserably. Meanwhile I am now and then texting and trying to phone Jay, one of our friends who has GPS and knows about this area but there is no cell service. So we keep driving…..through something that is a Wildlife Habitat for ducks and geese and, I do believe, the Loch Ness Monster. And there, off to the side and across the swamp on the left side is an old almost falling down building that I am sure is inhabited by the Voodoo Queen, Mama Tutu. I mention, “Oh, look! There’s Mama Tutu’s shack!” and Alison is all, “Who’s Mama Tutu?” and I say, “You know…the Voodoo Queen.” Alison looks at the falling down grain bin and is all, “Like actual or just in your head?” I had only known Alison for a short time, and I don’t know what other heteroflexible shamans she knows, but she obviously had an innate understanding of my inner workings. So before we get swallowed up by alligators or Nessie, I decide to turn around. It is now getting dark….and we are beginning to get low on gas….which surprises me because we started out with a full tank. We turn down a road and find a farm yard. I am wearing a traditional Roma headdress (a scarf with a crystal woven through it) and I am thinking that this is not what anyone would want to have knocking on the door. So I tell Ryan that he has to go to the door and ask directions. He is perfectly willing to do so, considering that no GPS will ever tell you how to get to the Crooked Bush. I am ever so glad that he is willing to do so because there was a rather large guard cat (about the size of a small lynx) at the barn door as we drove in and I am not sure that it was not rabid. As Ryan is about to get outa the car, I tell him that if he is met with a 10 gage shot gun we will just start backing up and turn around and boot it outa there and he can just jump onto the hood of the car and hang on for a kilometre or two until it is safe enough to stop and let him back into the car without getting our heads shot off. You never know in Saskatchewan. After all, I did grow up in a region that was mostly populated by hunters with anger issues and a variety of guns. So Ryan goes to the door. The cat stays where it is, which makes me suspicious because I KNOW CATS. They are all like, “I’m just gonna sit here and watch the show and then eat whatever is left over.” But nothing happened. Ryan came back to the car and we set off again, back the way we started.
Just as we come up to another intersection Jay calls. “I’m FLIPPIN LOST!” I tell him over the speaker phone. “What??? YOU??? A Shaman??? Is LOST ??” and in my mind I punch him in the throat, which I would never do in real life because I love that guy. And just as I am about to ask him for help MY PHONE DIES. Bloody Bermuda Triangle!!!!!! But that is ok because we have found at this intersection a truck with a flatbed trailer that is being loaded with round bails by a tractor with a fork lift. Ryan gets out to ask the driver of the truck for directions, sloughing off my warning to be very careful about the round bails because they are not secured and if one rolls off it can crush him. I have actually been in a situation on a grid road where an oncoming semi-trailer with a load of round bails lost one of the bails and it was rolling right at me at 80km/hr. Not cool! Those things can kill ya! The world is full of perilous situations, I tell ya! So he sloughs off my warning and gets directions from the woman driving the truck.
Off we go! “Two miles that way then two miles to the right” Ryan says. “Well….what is that in kilometres?” I ask, because my gage doesn’t do miles. “Between 2 and 3” Ryan says. Then I remember that 100 years ago, before kilometres were introduced in Canada, everything was on a mile grid. So every intersection would be a mile away from another intersection….unless it was a correction line. That part always screwed me up. But we turn right where Ryan says to turn right. This is obviously not an actual road. The rocks sticking out from the wheel path were doing so by a good 6 inches. I know inches and how much is six and then how much is eight and how I know this I will leave to your own perverted imagination. So my poor Nissan Versa is getting the workout of her LIFE! Then, just to top things off, the centre of the road is overgrown with weeds and something that I can only assume in the light (or lack thereof) of dusk are the arms of demons trying to grab us and take us into the depths of HELL, which are scraping the bottom of the car with the ferocity of piranhas nibbling on ground beef. We finally come across the Crooked Bush and there, at the entrance, is Ave, our other friend, waving us in. In her hooded cloak and long dress she was like a Grim Reaper in the shadows of dusk. I was not sure whether to turn in or head back to Mama Tutu’s shack because that would be safer. I was totally freaked out by now. But I let myself know that she was actually looking more like a mystical priestess than the Grim Reaper. So we meet in the parking lot, spray down with mosquito repellent (I was basically bathing in it because I was wearing shorts because when we started out it was daylight and +31 degrees) and went into the Crooked Bush and had our ritual. Then we ate some delicious food at the picnic table that is just off from the parking lot…and also got eaten by the mosquitoes who obviously wanted to carry us off to their young for feeding time.
When we headed back we followed Chad, who was driving an SUV, and was someone who apparently knew an easier way to get back to the number 40. But all the way there we were eating his dust. At night, when a vehicle drives down a grid road and leaves a lot of dust behind that dust begins to look like a creepy form of mist/fog. I was almost certain that we had entered the Mists of Avalon. Only it was not as pretty as depicted in the Marion Zimmer Bradley book or in the made for TV movie. It was dark, dusty and scary. Good thing my deer dar was on because we avoided a few of those critters along the way. I didn’t say anything about that to my passengers because I was almost certain that by then they no longer had any faith in my driving abilities.
So we get to the number 40 and Chad turns left to go through Hafford. No way. I turn right. I can see in my rear view mirror the confusion that Chad, Ave, Jay and Chad’s wife, Krystal are having at the fact that, after getting so lost, I have not made the obvious choice and followed them back to the City. But by then I have already been through the Bermuda Triangle of Saskatchewan and have lived to tell about it, as is evidenced by this blog entry, so I decided to stay on the number 40 all the way back to North Battleford. “Hey, isn’t that were we turned onto this highway?” Ryan asks. “Yes,” I say, “but we are going to North Battleford for a potty break. It’s not that far and it is closer than the gas station at Radisson.” We listen to music as we travel. About 10 or so kilometres later I look at Ryan and say, “What? Don’t you TRUST me?” Alison roars with laughter from the back seat and Ryan laughs nervously. “Seriously,” I say, “GPS the hell outa that one. You will see that the number 40 comes out at North Battleford.” So he GPS’s IT! WTF??? He really DOESN’T trust me! ME!!!! “Yep, it comes out in North Battleford,” he says.
So we go into North Battleford and I take us to a Petro Can service station. I fill with gas and my two passengers go into the gas station…I am sure to phone whomever is available at 11:30 at night to come and rescue them from this crazy shaman dude. I go in to pay for the gas, still wearing my regular (to me) shaman attire and completely freak out an elderly local man in line behind me. Then I go to use the men’s room. Now the sign on the men’s room door says this:
TAKE ALL COMPLAINTS TO HUMPTY’S
Humpty’s is the adjoining restaurant. So obviously Humpty’s is the place that is in charge of the men’s room BUT….I don’t see it as a good sign when seeing a sign like this one when entering a public washroom! What horrors are awaiting me on the other side of that door? Are there perverts in there? Is there an orgy going on in there? Will I run into the local drug lord? Is the toilet so backed up that there is a large lake of urine and feces to step around just to get to the urinal? OMG! Can this night get any weirder? So I tentatively enter the men’s room, do my thing at the urinal while holding my breath because the horrible stink of men’s urine is overwhelming, wash my hands, still holding my breath, and find that there are no paper towels and the air blow hand dryer is malfunctioning. So, wet handed, I use just my pinkie to open the door to leave. Normally I would not even contemplate touching the inside handle of a men’s room door without the use of a paper towel to keep my hands clean from whatever is on there from the many men who DON’T WASH THEIR HANDS AFTER USING THE TOILET. But I was running out of lung capacity and needed to quickly get into an oxygen rich environment. So I used my pinkie and got the hell outa there.
Once we were back on the number 16 Yellowhead highway, it was an excellent trip!
- The next morning I did my little ritual of pulling a Tarot card from the deck by Colette Baron-Reid called “The Enchanted Map Oracle Cards”. The card I pulled was COMPASS. This is what it says:
“As long as you orient your compass to True North – the direction of your higher power –you will never be lost.” Upright: You’re entering uncharted territories right now and can expect wonderful new experiences. To stay on the highest path of your destiny, you’ll need to keep your compass pointed to True North. Only Spirit, or a higher power, can serve this function. Money, property, prestige, romance, and other material achievements can’t help you find your true path. They are simply things you may experience along the journey.
Know that Spirit is working in your life, so even if you feel lost temporarily, it will be easy to find your way. Have faith and trust, for your compass, with Spirit as True North, will ensure that you’ll never be lost – even on a starless night when all seems dark.
Freaky how accurate these things can be, eh?
In thinking back on it now, I can honestly say that the Crooked Bush was not even close to being the strangest thing about that night’s journey. And it is usually the main attraction!
- I think that I should develop an App that punches people in the throat through the phone that they are on while talking to you….or at least makes the sound….that would be so freakin’ cool!