Thursday, February 1, 2007

Experiencing the Art

For many years now our family has made a concentrated effort to introduce our children to the wonderful and often outrageous cast of characters we are blessed to interact with at the Twin Rocks trading post. Artists, craftspeople, turquoise miners and lapidaries, dealers and customers alike. Each individual has a story, a unique perspective on life and diverse interpretations on proper and improper etiquette. Some introductory censorship applies, based upon parental discretion, of course. As a general rule, however, most of these people are fairly laid back and moderate. We feel it is our obligation to attempt a unique and varied education for the kids. The goal is an introduction to the best and most interesting side of Twin Rocks trading post life which will most benefit them.

Navajo Rug by Rena Begay
Navajo Tree of Life Pictorial Rug

Lately, it has become much more of an effort to bring the children into contact with these people. In the early days, before school, sports, music lessons, recognition of the opposite sex and other disturbing distractions, the kids were always about and easily accessible when an opportunity arose to introduce and educate. Since they have begun their formal education, it has become increasingly difficult to make these connections. That problem is compounded by the fact that Dad is "not cool," and less than familiar with modern life, their personal emotional state of being, wants and needs and generally, the workings of universal circumstance. All these factors cause a crimp in my "get along" and effect the main objective; thereby altering the odds of success, but not eliminating them entirely. .

Thus was the case last Saturday. Steve had the day off, so I was working the store alone when Rena Begay came in with a truly remarkable rug packed with imagery and metaphor. Before Rena got started on her explanation and sales pitch I phoned home. Luckily Alyssa and McKale were up early and available to travel. Spenser was already off playing tennis, thus unavailable for the remainder of the day. My patient and compromising wife understands my persistent effort to share my life at the trading post with our children and was willing to bring our daughters down from Blanding to meet the artist and hear the message.

The girls were twenty-five minutes away, so I had to stall Rena and her small entourage until they arrived. It cost me five servings of cake and associated beverages at the cafe, but I felt it was worth the sweet sacrifice. Luckily I caught my girls just before they had dispersed for the day; they were already made up and ready to move with no particular place to go. My daughters have listened to me discuss Navajo myth and legend so often that they are somewhat familiar with the stories. This was a special opportunity for them to hear it directly from the source.

Everyone arrived at the store at about the same time. Rena was flattered that we were so interested in her weaving and the meaning behind it. It did not take long for us to negotiate a price for Rena's strikingly beautiful rug, because I had decided we needed it in the store the minute I saw it. Rena told us that the rug contained more birds than any rug she had previously woven. McKale counted the feathered features twice and came up with a total of 121 birds.

Tabita Bitah, Rena Begay & McKale & Alyssa Simpson

Rena started out shy and slow by saying she had always loved small birds because of their delicate beauty; she had watched them flitter about her Reservation home since early childhood. Lately Rena had noticed a number of new species in her area and had been curious why they were there. She had discovered that, through global warming, the temperatures in the U.S. have been rising. Because of this, birds that would normally be suited for more southerly climes were venturing further north. Rena was so pleased with the discovery that she dedicated her rug to the occasion.

As Rena became more comfortable, we found that she was raised nontraditionally, in a Christian home, so she was not intimately familiar with Navajo culture and tradition. Being a curious person by nature, however, she was in the process of discovering the secrets of her people and weaving her new knowledge into her textiles. The girls learned that the Navajo people believe there are important and worthwhile messages hidden in the mythology of the Navajo people. Rena shared stories about maintaining relationships with the elders and attempting to learn from them and their experience, and about how nature stands as metaphorical reference to many of those messages.

Rena indicated that she felt there was also an inherent promise that the caring deities of Navajo people will stand patiently by as their people explored alternative beliefs. They continue to provide supernatural support as the people go forth in an attempt to grow mentally and emotionally. Their covenant is to support their Navajo creations until they were ready to embrace the traditions through a more defined cultural understanding. Prayer, respectful ceremonial practice, a deeper, more thoughtful experience and understanding and an open-minded attitude is desired. Simply put, Alyssa and McKale shared in Rena's life experience portrayed in her art.

For me, the meeting, the interaction with my family, and Rena' s explanation and her art will remain a treasured memory. One day a memory triggered by a small bird, will be dredged up from my sticky primordial past. I can be counted on to exaggerate a bit and then recount "Trading Post Stories" to my adoring grandchildren. If nothing else, there is the possibility that my family will better understand why I am so adamantly and emotionally invested in this business and cut me some slack when I obnoxiously carry on about it. And then again, probably not!

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2007 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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