Thursday, August 7, 2008

Soldier Lady

Navajo Ganado Rug by Bessie Bitsui
Navajo Ganado Rug by Beth Bitsui

Recently I was "resting" on the cool, shaded porch of the trading post when I heard the heavy wood chair next to me accept the slight weight of an intrusion. I opened my good eye and looked upon a stately woman of approximately 60 years of age. There was the hint of a smile on her lips, as if she were proud she had sneaked up on me.

"I heard you coming," I said casually. "You were snoring," she said with a look of complete disbelief in her steel blue eyes. "A ruse," I said, "I grew up among the Navajo and Ute Indians; they taught me how to 'capture' curious white people." "To what end?" asked the Levi and lace clad lady as she relaxed her still slim form in the chair a bit and looked at me with interest.

"Well, my Native American friends would have scalped you," I said, "I was simply honing my skills, your hair is safe with me!" The comment caused the woman to pause, and reflect for a moment. She unconsciously ran her fingers through her bobbed, salt and pepper hair, and frowned inwardly, as if dredging up an unwelcome memory. I pressed my advantage by adding, "They call it the Venus Fly Trap Effect." The woman snapped to attention, and turned the frown on me. I had gone too far with that last statement, and instantly lost my credibility.

The woman shook her head at my sad attempt to misdirect and cover-up. She said "In my world you would have been shot at sunrise for falling asleep on duty." "Ex-military?" I asked sitting up. "Army, major retired" she replied proudly. "I'm hoping, for my sake, that you were disarmed when you retired," I said. "You think?" she retorted. We both laughed and fell into easy conversation.

Navajo Dancing Yeis Pictorial Basket by Peggy Black
Navajo Dancin' Yei Basket by Peggy Black

As I discovered, Major Moore was on a quest to re-harmonize her life. She was looking for a quiet place in the world and in her mind to regain the balance she had lost. The good major told me that living a life of competitive aggression had cost her dearly. She had chosen to forgo a family and lost her innocence in an extreme fashion. At this point in her life she was looking to regroup and retreat into a calmer, more rationally focused lifestyle. The major stated that she was no longer interested in investing in power and control for herself or others. This soldier was in search of a relationship with the good earth and centered people.

After hearing Major Moore's comments, and seeing the sadness in her eyes, I felt her sincerity. Trying to lighten the mood, I said, "You are in the land of new beginnings, this is where the Navajo learned to walk in beauty, at least that is the basis of their belief system." We got out of our chairs and walked into the trading post. I introduced Major Moore to the Navajo philosophy of "Hozho", which loosely translates into personal harmony and balance.

We looked at pictorial baskets, traditional rugs and precious jewelry with images of sacred ceremony and cultural significance. The culture of the Navajo is alive today in great part because the people incorporated these impressions in their art. It was, and still is with some, a lifestyle that is embraced on a daily basis; ingrained in every aspect of their lives.

Navajo Dispersing the Waters Design Bracelet
Navajo Dispersing the Waters Design Bracelet

We saw stars as duality symbols, whirling logs as emerging consciousness, masked dancers symbolizing health and well-being. The major asked why water signs are so prevalent in Navajo art. I responded that for desert dwellers, water is paradise; it hydrates, cleanses and gives precious life to an otherwise parched land and people. From a people in touch with the subtle realities of the universe, deities of wind, sky and sacred corn came to life through the creativity of an agriculturally inspired society. This recently retired soldier began to see and appreciate a different perspective of those intimately in touch with the natural world.

We recaptured our seats on the porch, and, as the sun made its way to the western horizon, spoke at length on alternate realities based on harmony and balance. The major finally sat back, sighed and said, "You have given me a great deal of food for thought. I appreciate it." "Thoughts and ideas shared by most aboriginal cultures around the world;" I said, "easy to understand and appreciate but hard to adopt in today's science-based society. "Indeed!" was her reply.

As the major rose to take her leave, she said, "You can go back to sleep now soldier, all is well." "Thanks to you and those who serve ma'am," I said with a lopsided but polite salute, "watch your top knot Major." The lady soldier smiled and walked away. I sat back, closed my eyes and nodded off.

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

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