Thursday, March 29, 2007

On the Verge of Extinction

Kira and Grange Simpson
Kira & Grange Simpson @ Navajo Jewelers John Yazzie's work bench.

Since we initiated our Traders in Training program in April of last year, circumstances have begun to spiral out of control. I am shamefully aware that chaos is the general rule of thumb around here; occupational management and organization dissipated long ago and we accept that as a fact. The problem is that Steve and I are on the verge of loosing our place in the Twin Rocks trading post spotlight. Up until now, my brother and I have been the ones overseeing this turbulent state of affairs, but it seems there is a new and more glorious day on the horizon.

The thing that has agitated our insecure egos and made us feel uncomfortable is that our artists and customers would rather deal with the kids than us. Spenser, Alyssa, McKale, Kira and Grange are effectively, if not intentionally, displacing us. A case in point occurred the other day when Peggy Black brought in an exquisite basket and would only speak to Spenser about it. Feeling effectively bypassed, I sent her to Blanding with Spenser's updated personal schedule and, more importantly, a guesstimate of his actual whereabouts.

Peggy has begun developing a close and lucrative relationship with our children. This particular instance was a case of an incredibly talented artist directing her highly developed basket weaving skills and creativity towards capturing Spenser's imagination, and bank account. Need I say more about my feelings of rejection? I am desperately in need of a good psychologist here and now. The visual impact of Peggy's latest weaving is striking and dovetails nicely with what is now taking place in Spenser's life.

Peggy targeted Spenser by weaving a basket packed with images that relate so closely to his current state of affairs that it is uncanny. The woman should be a psychic; actually she may well be. When Peggy sat down to interpret the message in this weaving, she caught his attention immediately. As this gifted storyteller began to point out the meaning behind this basket, Spenser became enthralled.

Navajo Basket by Peggy Black
Peggy Black Basket

Peggy explained that the central theme in her basket was the harmony and balance portrayed by turtle; a creature with extraordinary healing powers. She said that by positively associating with the turtle, practically any physical obstacle can be overcome. Because Spenser deals with partial paralysis on his left side, he adopted the turtle as his totem animal on the spot.

Peggy showed Spenser the three graduated bands of alternating rainbow spots and human forms contained within and around the opposing forces of black and white. She said that in Navajo culture, these spots often represent portals into the realm of the supernatural. Peggy said the rainbow allowed us to, metaphorically, enter other worlds. By studying the cultural beliefs of a variety of societies and interacting with a diversely educated group of people, it would allow us a greater understanding of and compassion for Mother Earth and her inhabitants.

I think it was the horses and their associated meaning that really grabbed Spenser's attention. Peggy explained that the possession of horses brought a golden era of prosperity to the Navajo. Since the horse was not indigenous to the western hemisphere, its arrival brought a whole new way of life to most of the Indian tribes. Horses came to signify power, speed, wealth and most importantly independence!

The Spanish introduction of the horse had a profound effect upon Navajo culture; not only did increased mobility enlarge the range and frequency of contact with non-Navajos, it also altered the character of social relations within the tribe. Access to horses made It possible to visit distant relatives more frequently and to attend ceremonial events from much greater distances. Thus, the audiences at ceremonials became larger, and this in turn may have led to the more elaborate ceremonies.

Spenser,McKale and Alyssa Simpson with Navajo Basket Weaver Peggy Black
McKale, Spenser, Peggy Black & Alyssa Simpson

Peggy also told Spenser that it was common for parents to gift horses and other livestock to their children in an effort to educate them to animal husbandry, economics and responsibility. Spenser was fired up now, he was having visions of power, speed, freedom and social relationships of his own. When I got home that evening, my son cornered me to share his new acquisition and associated wealth of information.

After filling me in on what he had recently learned, and its relevance to him, Spenser said he felt he was in need of economic stimulation, responsibility, and basic transportation. "One Mustang would do," said Spenser, "preferably a red one with about 300 horsepower." I told Spenser I thought he had missed the point, but he assured me he had not. He bore witness to the fact that Peggy had explained herself quite well, that he was a willing and excellent student and that I was the one missing the point. Indeed!

The enthusiasm on Spenser's face made me realize why our children are in demand at the Twin Rocks trading post. They are youthful, fresh, open to new thoughts and easily excited. A while back Steve wondered whether it was time for us to freshen up with a face lift, tummy tuck and overall overhaul. I am not sure that is the correct answer, maybe it is simply time for the two of us to move on and let the next generation take control. I can smell the clover now!

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2007 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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