Friday, April 24, 2015

Across Navajolands, (photos)

We've been traveling for travel's sake across Navajolands to see what was there. We took a jeep deep into the back country with a new friend who lives in the canyon we're staying in. Though he's lived here for over a year, he's still discovering new places. Bill was a medic in the army, and serves as a nurse health practitioner at the Diné Health Clinic, so we're in good hands.

The jeep lumbers over rock reefs, and surfs and bucks in deep red sand. We yell Heehaw! Sing Surfin' USA. Myriad tracks braid their way through the bluffs and gullies of Mystery Valley, I worry about getting lost, but Bill's son, young Samuel from Brazil knows the way. He leads us unerringly to arches, holes in the walls.

The sandstone hills are steep. I scramble on hands and knees. My knee braces are only of so much use, so I can't see the inside of the Toilet Bowl. I scoot down cliffs on my butt when all else fails. I can't fathom using the handholds etched into cliffs. Not on the descent.

Yesterday we traversed Anvil Mesa where a petrified forest once stood. Downed logs the size of young redwoods, turned to stone, as if they had gazed upon Medusa's eyes. Some trees looked like huge swamp cypresses. Not junipers. The brewing storm had us shrieking as we stood patiently for the obligatory photographs, as an arm of lightning, the size of a vast tree limb, struck behind the photographer. Talk about using a flash.

Last night I dreamed that I ran into an old childhood friend at the ruins. It was an odd telescoping of time. What was Pete doing in my dream? It was great to see him. We reconnected on Facebook, but I haven't physically seen him in decades. I realized we had a common shared  history. If anyone would understand, it was Pete. A spirit guide of sorts.

We found makeshift homage altars made of potshards at the Kayenta Anasazi pueblos. I was explaining to our hosts how the pots were made. How the thin walls were made by hand, some pots were formed by pressing them into baskets, or against woven mats, others were pinch pots. (Didn't see evidence of coil pots).

The Anasazi used a slow black reduction firing, the designs were painted on with calcium and iron ore stains, no glaze was used. The pots were burnished with smooth stones to align the silica spicules in the clay. I rub shards thousands of years old, still smooth as skin, against my lip.

The Navajo or Diné people are superstitious, they won't visit the ruins, they say there are ghosts and evil buried within bone. If the Navajo guides do visit, they lay shards as offerings to belay any present danger. There are many shards stacked up. The tourists have followed suit. Better than everyone taking a small shard.

Suddenly I remembered our pottery teachers Jim Brown and Thano Johnson telling us how to construct pots when we were young. I explain to young Samuel and Sarah how the pots were made, using the models at hand, passing the knowledge onto the next generation.

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