Thursday, August 3, 2006

Butterflies and Sad Goodbyes

John Yazzie Butterfly Pin
Navajo Pin by John Yazzie

It had been a long, hot day in Bluff, and I was looking forward to returning home to participate in sunset ceremonies on Laurie's carefully manicured patch of heaven. My mate of 19 years has a green thumb which was passed down from her grandmother, Allie Adams. This trait is particularly advantageous, since we inherited the responsibility for the yard Allie, and her husband Lloyd, brought to life from a sagebrush-encrusted plain back in the 1940's.

Long summer days of educating myself and others about Indian art and culture make me yearn for the quiet, peaceful, close-to-the-earth comfort of Laurie's yard. My wife tolerates my laziness as she zips around watering, fertilizing and providing tender loving care to her flowers, plants and trees. I often collapse into my oversized, plastic Father's Day chair to enjoy the evening and Laurie's invigorating scenery of motion. As I sit in the garden, I often contemplate the life lessons and relationships the trading post experience has provided throughout the day.

On this particular night, I was listening to the sounds of nature and my wife with my good right ear and music with my somewhat deaf left ear. I was plugged into an iPod Nano I had acquired to listen to books on tape downloaded from the Internet. When I purchased the Nano, I was hoping to advance my education of classic and not so classic literature. A side benefit of this nifty little gizmo is that I can purchase my favorite songs without having to pay for the entire album. As in the Napoleon Dynamite movie when Kip croons to LaFawnduh on their wedding day, "I love technology".

The song softly filtering through my consciousness was Unwell by Matchbox Twenty. Now that is a song I can relate to, especially the chorus:

But I'm not crazy,
I'm just a little unwell
I know right now you can't tell
But stay awhile and maybe then you'll see
A different side of me
I'm not crazy, I'm just a little impaired
I know right now you don't care
But soon enough your gonna think of me
And how I used to be . . . me.

Subtle hints from my wife and children imply that I may be just a little impaired, or possibly I am just realizing my own insecurities on a subconscious level. My family assures me they do care, and think of me often in a kindly, albeit somewhat concerned, manner. As the cool evening breeze drifted across the lawn and soothed my mind, I was visited by a dainty butterfly of a golden color bordered by a frosted black framework.

The delicate creature floated into my line of sight and settled on a thorny rosebush inches from where I reclined. The Navajo metaphor of the butterfly flashed into my mind as I watched the insect balance on the nearby stem. The fragility of life and the wonder of its experience are symbolized by the seemingly insubstantial, yet beautiful, nature of the butterfly. Images of friends recently lost came to me as I sat in the gathering dusk. Our long-time friend Mary Jim, along with her wonderful weaving abilities and concern for tradition, had succumbed to the ravages of cancer.

Christine King Butterfly Basket
Navajo Pictorial Basket

Kim Hoggard, with his creative zest for life and thoughtful imagination, was taken from us far too early in his journey through this realm. Our dear friend Wally Lange, tragically taken, left us fond memories of his love of art and the artists who spend their lives creating such beauty. As darkness gathered and the evening star appeared, I reminisced about Uncle Curtis, Grandma Lorraine, Cousin Mitchell and many others, until a sad melancholy overcame me. I wondered to myself if individual consciousness did not somehow continue, and where, as vibrant beings, each of us begins and ends.

The words to the song reverberated through my head, "But soon enough your gonna think of me, and how I used to be". I looked to the now star-filled sky and was blessed with the visage of a shooting star. I began thinking how life might be very much like that star; a visible body of light burning brightly that blazes a path across the heavens then fades and flames out. The wonder is that the image remains in our minds, pressed into our consciousness. Maybe memory, that deep connection to those we love and care for, is the vehicle that allows our energy to continue.

I do not think I will ever look at a hand-spun Navajo rug without thinking about Mary, or admire a woven vessel without remembering Wally's thoughtful insight. When I pick up a telephone Kim installed, the image of him walking through the trading post with that smile of conspiracy on his face will certainly spark my imagination. Every time I witness an early morning sunrise over the farm to the east of Twin Rocks or hear the honk of geese resting there I will think of Uncle Curtis and his generosity towards others. The eyes, facial expressions, walk and talk of the family these people left behind project their love.

I realize now that life is a journey of understanding. We are made up of situations and circumstances that play in and out of our lives; some are lost and some remain. It is our responsibility to learn and grow as much as humanly possible, to pass on the best of what has effected us. We are all connected, the closer we are to someone, the stronger the bond. Our life force just might continue in some inconceivable manner, and that is a heady responsibility if this is the case

As I sat there, lost in thought, the living embodiment of Grandma Allie walked up to me with a questioning look. I smiled at her and silently gave thanks to the matriarch of the Adam's family for passing along a love of the natural world and those positive, hard working traits to my spouse. "What are you thinking," Laurie asked. Shaking my head, I remembered the words of the song and said, "I've been talking in my sleep, pretty soon they'll come to get me, Yeah, they're taking me away." It was Laurie's turn to shake her head. "My fault for asking," was her only comment. Sounds of joking and laughter from our children inside the house. "Come on woman" I said, grabbing Laurie's hand, "We have work to do before time runs out!"

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2006 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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