Thursday, February 24, 2005

Not Really Dangerous

There are many legends associated with the Twin Rocks, the massive stone towers that loom above the trading post. Over the years, many older Navajo people have told me stories about the rocks. The stories include tales of how the two spires represent each of the Hero Twins, Monster Slayer and Born for Water; that they are prayer sticks, transmitting appeals to the heavens; that they signal an extremely sacred location; and that at the time one or both of the monuments fall, Earth as we know it will cease to exist.

Twin Rocks Trading Post

Since I live directly beneath the Twins, I am confident our Navajo friends are correct on at least one count; my world will end if the rocks tumble. When customers ask what I will do if I hear crashing boulders, I usually lift my left foot, place it on the counter and exhibit my sneaker. "Running shoes," I explain. Then I say, "Oh, well, it will be over quickly, don't you think?" Most of the inquisitors just nod in agreement, realizing I will certainly be smashed into very fine particles in the event of a downfall.

Although I do from time to time consider the implications of a stone calamity, for the most part I ignore them, and take comfort in the knowledge the formations have stood an extraordinarily long time and my tenure on this planet is comparatively short. I believe the odds of me escaping a fall are actually pretty good. That does not, however, stop me from gazing up from the base of the Twins and questioning whether I might one day experience the fall.

A few days ago, I decided the trading post porch needed a thorough cleaning, so I rounded up the electric blower . Although I generally have an aversion to blowers, out here Mother Nature perpetually pushes large deposits of sand onto my porch, so I have decided the only solution is to blow it back. She and I have engaged in this endless battle for years. As I pushed the red sand around with my blower, three semi tractor-trailer rigs pulled into the parking lot and backed up just south of the Twins.

After the drivers had properly positioned their vehicles and hopped down from the cabs, I overheard one say to the others, "Well, I hope those rocks don't fall while we're having lunch." At that point, I felt compelled to comment, so, as the drivers began to walk toward the cafe, I waived my hands and shouted, "Hey, you guys may want to move those trucks. These rocks do fall and I wouldn't want your rigs to get smashed; unless you have good insurance. I have, from time to time, had to put these rocks back up after they squashed a car or two. We have never had any smashed trucks, but you never know. Our guests don't enjoy calling AAA or the rental company to come get them. It's a long way from Denver, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City or Phoenix, so replacement vehicles don't arrive very quickly."

One of the drivers hesitated as though he were going to heed my advice and relocate his semi, but Barry stopped him in his tracks. "Don't worry about him, he's not really dangerous; crazy, but not dangerous," Barry reassured. The other drivers acted as though they knew all along that I was only joking, and could not really lift those rocks.

Twin Rocks

There are times when the blower goes a little astray and my hair begins looking like Einstein's, but insanity is a whole different matter. As the truck drivers continued on their way, I heard one say to the others, "Well, he looked pretty normal." One of the others replied, "Yes, but you just can't tell anymore, remember those postal workers. Maybe he just needs to be medicated."

Although Barry may have a point about me not being dangerous, he is definitely wrong about the crazy part. The older Navajo people assure me the Twins have extremely strong curative powers, and I have felt that energy on more than one occasion. Like the convert at the revival, I have been healed. Barry and the rest of the bunch at the trading post would certainly have driven me mad long ago had it not been for the power of the rocks.

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright 2005 Twin Rocks Trading Post

Thursday, February 17, 2005

I See!

"I see said the blind man!" That statement has been cycling through my consciousness since I was young, and lately seems to be constantly on my mind. Seeing clearly has been a problem for me lately, in both the tangible and intangible worlds. Absorbing and interpreting what is physically visible is difficult enough; that which requires my other senses to divine has become an ever larger chore. I find myself perpetually frustrated by my inability to understand what is happening around me, and I am often upset by things I do not or cannot directly see.

When I was a child, my grandfather, Woodrow Wilson Simpson, used to sing a song that went something like, "Here comes Noah stumbling in the dark, trying to find a hammer just to build himself an ark." Strange what stays with you over the years, and how it affects your life as you mature. To me, this sound bite from "Woody" is a metaphor for the way I blindly search for the truth and attempt to act rationally based upon what I believe to be my personal reality.

At times, I am vaguely aware there is much more to the world revolving around my barely penetrable skull than I am able to perceive. I also know that if I am more in touch with the other components of my every day existence, I will lead a more balanced and harmonious life; my Navajo friends assure me that is true. Tapping into the dynamic of existence is a journey I view as an embryonic vision quest. I have realized I must strive to break through the veil of confusion and frustration I am feeling in order to gain the full and complete understanding I need.

Recently I read an article in Discover magazine that spoke of a group of scientists drilling and placing a steel lined shaft directly into the heart of California's San Andreas fault. The idea is to implant sensors, collect data and interpret the information to develop a better understanding of the fault. The shaft is in essence a finger on the pulse of a sleeping giant.

For me the article indicated that one has to probe the heart of the problem to understand its real issues, and to have any chance at finding appropriate answers. Probing a fault, like probing one's heart, may seem a radical approach, but how else can you view the paradox up close and personal? At the very least, your world is going to shake, rattle and roll from time to time.

Providing my loved ones with clues to better comprehend my sometimes terrifying logic is complex and complicated. I view myself as a passionate advocate for supporting those searching for the truth, and believe that as long as we live righteously, respect the rights of others and live within the law of the land, everything will come out right. For me, the motivation for this behavior is that it makes me feel as good as possible as often as possible.

So, I keep searching, because I want and need improved relations with my wife, children and immediate family; I would be miserable without them. Unlike the blind man, I often really do not see at all. To be sure, my vision is a far cry from 20/20. As I have learned, life can be a terrifying experience. I have found however that it is also full of wonder, excitement and the most exquisite emotion of all . . . love. I am in it for the long run; as long as my lungs hold out. In the mean time, I hope I will not make a mess of things and leave this world with egg on my face.

Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2005 Twin Rocks Trading Post

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur - the first time I heard the word was during a college business class, and I was certain it indicated something associated with the back half of a bovine. To this day, I am required to consult a dictionary to assure proper spelling of the term, and am often reminded of the old joke about the self-employed, "Last week I couldn't even spell entrepreneur, and now I is one." Had I known how profoundly the term, and all it implies, would affect my life, I may have paid more attention to the instructor.

Once I realized entrepreneurs usually have little to do with manure, and that I had in fact been one since the age of seven, I began to envision the concept as a vehicle to take me exotic places, where I would meet wildly interesting people and make gobs of money. I thought of entrepreneurship as a hot rod, with fiery flames scorching its fenders and blasting out its tailpipes, or as a long black Cadillac, with fashionable tail fins, easing with extraordinary class down the freeway of life. Little did I realize my entrepreneurial vehicle would be more like the Datsun pickup I drove during school.

That old yellow truck was once accused of single-handedly polluting the entire Sacramento valley with its belching smoke. Although that was a bit of an exaggeration, there was a grain of truth in the accusation. With all the petroleum products that Datsun consumed, it may have been primarily responsible for keeping the Saudi royal family in a positive cash flow position throughout the early 1980s. The California Highway Patrol once attempted to eject me and my truck from the state, but since it sported Utah license plates, there was nothing they could do to exorcise me from their jurisdiction.

Whenever I took my truck to the garage to have its annual inspection, my mechanic would just shake his head and paste the new sticker on the window; knowing full well that he would be held liable if the truck went wrong and killed or maimed some innocent traveler due to a defective part. My bank representative often reminds me of that mechanic. When I ask the banker for additional financing to fuel my entrepreneurial tank, he shrugs his shoulders, wags his finger at me and eventually gives in to my request. He, like the mechanic, knows there is a very real possibility he will be found responsible if a catastrophe occurs.

In spite of its immense desire for oil, my old yellow transport took me places a country bumpkin could only imagine, and provided experiences that made me what I am today. I learned some very important lessons about life and love lying in the bed of that truck in the Nevada desert; watching as the stars cascaded across the night sky, alone, nursing a broken heart. I explored the California coast and the immense redwoods, feeling the richness of this earth and beginning to understand the beauty of our natural environment.

While driving that truck, I learned the law of the land and the land of the law, and met people who still inhabit the various chambers of my heart. I began to appreciate, rather than fear, differences in individuals, and was saddened when the pickup was retired to a farm in Northern California.

Like that old truck, the trading post has become a vehicle for education and new experiences. There is an old African proverb that says, "It takes a village to raise a child." I believe it also takes a village to raise a business. Our trading post community is comprised of numerous artists who produce beautiful creations which are then cast upon the waters for our customers to enjoy. If we, as intermediary between artist and collector, do our job correctly, we become a catalyst for change; the fertilizer that brings the soil to a rich, loamy state, suitable for growing and nurturing crops planted by the artists to sate the collectors' hunger for beauty. If not, we begin to resemble the entrepreneur pile I originally imagined.

The trading post has brought me many rich relationships, including a nurturing spouse who gifted me two fabulous, redheaded children, and who helps me raise a third. It has given me a window onto a rapidly changing culture; one that I worry may not be able to sustain itself many generations into the future. I have seen the local artists create weavings that I worry my grandchildren will never see replicated. Through those creations I have been exposed to the mythology, sociology and anthropology of an enduring people.

This trading post has been responsible for teaching me more about living in harmony with divergent people and difficult environments than I could have hoped. It has polished me like a river stone, wearing off many, but certainly not all, of my rough edges as I tumble along. In return, I keep buffing and burnishing that entrepreneurial vehicle, hoping it will one day turn into the comfortable Cadillac or fiery hot rod I once envisioned.

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright 2005 Twin Rocks Trading Post

Thursday, February 3, 2005


Driving down the narrow strip of asphalt connecting the small southern Utah towns of Blanding and Bluff each morning provides me a window onto Nature's most intimate secrets, which are revealed in scenes of unimaginable beauty. Her earthy vistas and passionate splashes of light on stark, singular formations delight the eye and make my heart race.

Driving home after a day in the trading post, I have seen cloud formations ripple across the evening sky, lit by a blood red sun that ignites the evening and showers the landscape with light that splinters my emotions and inspires my imagination. There is a special corner of my mind that holds memories of lazy clouds easing through intensely blue summer days; high-riding formations of white feathers that stand in direct contrast to their sapphire canopy.

I have often wondered why clouds are so common in Native American art. Rugs, baskets, pottery and jewelry frequently feature representations of clouds and cloud people. I feel a certain magic when an artist brings his or her work into the store and it is adorned with elaborate, geometric sky symbols.

My curiosity is insatiable when it comes to Navajo culture, and I am in constant search for subtle tidbits of mythical information concerning the natural world, always hoping for deeper insight. There is much to learn here at the trading post, and probing artists for explanations about the symbols used in their creations is one way I scratch my persistent itch for further knowledge.

Many artists must wonder at my continuing lack of understanding, and tire of my incessant questions. Every once in a while, however, an individual well versed in Navajo legends crosses my path. When that happens, I am grateful for their patience and willingness to help expand my understanding. As we talk, the heavens open, light shines down on me with blinding clarity and I experience the same sense of satisfaction I feel while watching the morning light break across nature's geologic treasures.

From our Navajo friends, I have learned that clouds are blessings from supernatural benefactors, who scatter them about the sky in an effort to moisturize and re-energize thirsty land and tired souls. Clouds represent symbols of fruition, generous hydration and blessings given to the desert people. Through the patiently observant eyes of Navajo artists, much is seen that may not be obvious to the rest of us, and these observations are translated through their creations.

Clouds remind us that there are higher levels of achievement and understanding available to mortals which are often unrealized; that there are visions, intangible objects and forms that cannot be touched or felt, they must be experienced deep inside the body. By closely watching and thoughtfully pondering these subtle symbols, the veil of ignorance is cast aside, and we are inspired to open ourselves to new possibilities.

On a recent morning, I was focused on the warm air emanating from my truck's heating system as I approached the downward descent of White Mesa Hill. It was cold outside, the sunlight bright and crystal clear, as most winter days are in San Juan County. As I motored along, anticipating the view from the top of White Mesa, I knew the morning vision would not be disappointing.

Although I expected a beautiful vista, I could not have predicted what unfolded before me. In the valley below, a blanket of fog wrapped around the winter landscape; a shroud of mist covering the low ground and filling the canyons. The vision reminded me of a picture postcard of Lake Powell; with white clouds substituting for the lake's dark blue waters.

The hazy white lather wrapped itself around mesas and boulder strewn hillsides, turning them into floating islands. As I descended into this land of mystery, I noticed the sparse plant life covered in crystalline droplets. Sunlight filtered through the mist, backlighting the sagebrush and juniper trees, making the water crystals sparkle like diamonds.

As I drove deeper into the fog, I had the sensation of floating through the swirling mist and filtered sunlight; as if I had entered a bubble. I viewed the outside world through an opaque, slightly smudged portal. The experience was sensuous, surreal and spiritual all at the same time, like a moment shared with the most intimate partner.

As I grow older, I have realized that such moments of discovery, happiness and pleasure are extremely rare, and transcendent. Clouds affect me in strange ways. Those instances that sneak up and surprise me with their inexplicable beauty are sublime. May we always remain open to the world of mystery and imagination; the world of clouds.

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2005 Twin Rocks Trading Post