Thursday, May 11, 2006

More Myth than Legend

The other day Jana, Kira and I journeyed to Cortez, Colorado to support Grange in his fledgling wrestling adventures. As a kindergartner participating in his first season, Grange has struggled to find a way out of the fog and into the win column. Jana and I have labored to ensure his experience is enjoyable and have also continuously assured him he is making good progress, although it may not be readily apparent to him.

Grange & his medal @ Twin Rocks Trading Post

After the tournament, I wandered aimlessly in the never ending aisles of the local Super Wal-Mart while Jana shopped and the kids petitioned for every plaything they spied. As I stumbled about in the frozen food section, pinballing from one freezer to the next, I noticed an old friend from high school. Taylor asked what we were doing in Cortez, and I explained that we had been watching Grange's matches. When Taylor asked how things were developing, I said, "Well, we are learning." With a quizzical look on his face, he said, "As a Simpson, he must have inherited the wrestling gene."

While Craig had immense success in the sport, Barry and I were less notable. In spite of that, our reputation as a wrestling family has grown. Thinking about Taylor's comment for the past several days has made me question whether our renown as accomplished wrestlers is more myth than legend.

Since he is careful not to offend anyone but me, Barry always refers to the traditional Navajo stories as legend rather than myth. To Barry, legends are more tangible and concrete; myths, on the other hand, seem somewhat amorphous. He also believes that calling the stories legends is more respectful.

Wondering whether Barry's conclusions were based in sound logic or simple mysticism, I began searching for the trading post dictionary. After several days of rummaging about in cabinets which are proof that nature abhors a void, I found the book buried under several layers of dust. Spell check has obviously made us less diligent in our word quests.

Flipping through the pages of our long neglected lexicon, I discovered that Webster's defines a legend as, A story coming down from the past: [especially]: one popularly regarded as historical although not verifiable. Myth, however, is described as, A [usually] traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon.

It seems my esteemed partner had been mistaken, and, because they represent views of the Navajo people trying to explain their natural world, the stories we have heard over the years are more appropriately referred to as myth, rather than legend. Having made this groundbreaking discovery, I could not wait to inform Barry of his mistake. When I finally reached him on his cell phone, he was at Disneyland having his photograph made with Mickey Mouse."What?" he shouted, not grasping the full extent of what I had so carefully explained. Obviously concerned about the chocolate eggs he had been anxiously anticipating, and completely missing my point, his voice cracked as he croaked,"But what about the Easter Bunny?"

Taking a deep breath, and wondering whether I had been too hasty in pointing out Barry's legendary shortcoming, I explained even more slowly than before that Mr. Webster had not informed me that myths were necessarily untrue, just that they were based upon ostensibly historical events. Although Barry tried to hide the conversation by placing his hand over the receiver of his telephone, I heard him ask Goofy what "ostensibly" means. Goofy, innately comprehending that his standing with this extremely unsettled tourist wearing mouse ears perched atop his slightly graying head was in jeopardy, patiently explained that it means, "plausible, rather than demonstrably true or real." "You mean it really is real; just can't be proven," Barry burbled."Yes," said Mickey and Goofy in unison."Whew," Barry gasped.

Having been at the trading post for almost 16 years, and in the Indian trading business since I was about nine, I have come to realize that real is a state of mind, not an actual fact. I have frequently heard visitors to the store chuckle about the traditional Navajo stories we relate while discussing a rug, basket, ring, bracelet or other artistic creation. At times like that, I remember when Barry and I were young and one of our Navajo friends was badly burned while pouring gasoline into an open carburetor; trying to inspire his uncooperative pickup truck. When the petroleum flared, our friend's face and upper body were badly burned. The doctors trained in western medicine told our friend he would be badly scarred, so he requested the opinion of a Navajo medicine man.

The medicine man subsequently took over, and within months our friend was handsome once again. Amazingly, there were no visible scares remaining after the treatment. Surely, psychology plays a major role in our belief systems and how we view ourselves and our world. That psychology, whether based in myth or legend, is extremely powerful.

So, yes Barry, there is an Easter Bunny. It may, however, take a while to determine whether Grange has inherited the wrestling gene. In the meantime, we will propagate the legend and see if it takes root.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright 2006 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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