Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sunset at Little Manitou

Manitou Beach, Saskatchewan
IT was once a glacier-melt spillway, they say, abandoned when in the aeons of time-before-man, the ice melted back to its Arctic home where it belongs. Now it's a sausage-shaped lake about ten kilometres long and half a kilometre across between rolling, grassy, banks.

Centuries of waters seeping through the Saskatchewan soils, picking up magnesium, sodium and potassium salts and with no outflow have created a brine five times saltier than the oceans and half as salty as the Dead Sea; lie on your back in the waters of Little Manitou Lake and you'll marvel at your cork-like ability to defy gravity. Make the mistake of splashing its waters into your eyes and you might wish you'd stayed in your beach chair. 

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

And one thing the Creator gave to the Aboriginal people who valued these waters is the legendary healing quality often associated with the great spas of the world. I remember watching a man at a mineral spring in Aachen in the late eighties; dressed for business, he nevertheless washed face and hands under the fountain built there for that purpose, drew a cup from inside his suit, filled it several times and drank the contents. Faith in the curative powers of mineral waters is evident in various cultures, it appears, and should not be dismissed lightly no matter how absurd it might seem to insist that water on the skin could affect one's inner organs.

Manitou is the English-spelling-version of an Amerindian word for the "Good Spirit," the Creator. The name for this lake therefore suggests a spiritual more than a physical healing, although legend has it that some were cured from Smallpox in its waters.

Skeptics might well invoke the "I'll believe it when I see it" aphorism . . . (or its antithesis: "I'll see it when I believe it.") Soul-health is fundamental to all-around health, though, and for some, a certain place  may provide the avenue toward soul-healing, especially if its unusual nature arrests and turns routine, counter-productive thought patterns onto new and better roads. "Rebirth" comes to mind.

Is Little Manitou Lake one with Lourdes, Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem—a place for rebirth, for renewal of spirit? Is it a place that heals only if you believe in it? Is Little Manitou Lake drug or placebo?

We were in a cabin with sticking old windows and sloping floors on the shore of Little Manitou Lake on Tuesday. After a violent storm, the electricity was off more than on for the night and the next day. Apparently even Manitou's country is not immune to the darker fits of nature; slashing rain and hail, lightning and thunder, wind and threats of tornadoes. It gave me some time to sit back and read the brochures and ponder again the meaning of healing.

I cut my thumb recently but it healed. I can no longer tell which thumb it was (even though I have only two) because it's been restored to the state of health it enjoyed before. The biology of cell reproduction as the great healer of physical wounds is pretty well understood by us, although we still have a long way to go in encouraging our bodies to restore themselves from Heart Disease, certain Cancers, Huntington's Chorea or Lou Gehrig's Disease, for instance.

These days, I need to go to the East Wing in a nursing home if I wish to visit my sister. It's the dementia wing and everything about it says that there is no restoration to health expected here.

My sister is a most positive person, most open to joy in my family, maybe in the entire nursing home, maybe even in the world. When we moved her from her previous rooms, she watched from the doorway as we discarded or saved, bagged and boxed, left or carted off the many items she'd accumulated over the years. I asked her if she was OK with what we were doing. "I think I'll go sit outside," she replied. "The less I see, the less I need."

There was certainly healing there, if not of the physically-restorative kind . . . not to mention a pretty substantial sermon thrown in for free. Healing in the midst of separation and apprehension.

We spent a total of 2 hours in two sessions in the healing waters of the spa fed by Little Manitou Lake. We floated, thrashed, joked and floated some more. I felt pretty good and slept really well that night.

Perhaps salt waters do heal . . . somewhat. Or perhaps all waters do.

If you let them.

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