White hot bolts of lightning bee-bopped across the darkened horizon as we topped out on the south side of Devil's Canyon. It looked as if an electrified game of pin ball was being played above the torn and ragged, moisture laden clouds. I visualized the frightening, Navajo deity, "Big Thunder" aggressively playing the game above our heads. A host of smaller Thunder and Lightning People would be whooping it up and sparking the big boy on.
Navajo Thunder Sandpainting by Joe Ben Jr.
My wife, children and I were on our way home from Uncle Reid and Aunt Stephanie's home in Monticello. We had joined up with Grandma and Grandpa Washburn for dinner and Sunday companionship. The Washburn/Chapman skill at gardening was abundantly evident at the dinner table that evening, as was their legendary skill at creating culinary delights.
I was reminded of my childhood fascination with the television show Hee Haw. Good fun, humor, country music and a healthy respect for family and friends. Hey Grandpa, What's for Dinner, with Grandpa Jones was one of my favorite segments of the show, because it spotlighted the mouth-watering goodness of country cooking. Grandpa Jones would have been proud of the Washburn women that day.
As we made our way to the dinner table, I spied homegrown lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers gracing a green salad almost too beautiful to disturb; steamed green beans with real butter; fresh peas and Olathe sweet corn; hot dinner rolls with home made raspberry and strawberry jam; slow roasted beef with sauteed onions; and mashed potatoes and brown gravy. All this caused me to swoon in anticipation. A huge platter of fresh Green River watermelon and Casaba, along with red and green grapes, sliced peaches and an odd apricot or two graced the table. I foundered just looking at the delicious magnitude of the setting.
After this marvelous meal; and a few games of Barnyard Rummy, Kings Gone Wild and much laughter, Laurie finished us off with a serving of fresh apple crisp and vanilla ice cream. I had discovered culinary paradise. After dinner, I found myself nursing a knot in my stomach the size of a cantaloupe; it was time to go home and crawl into bed for a mid-summer's eve nap. I was sure the knot would transfer itself to my midsection and hindquarters by morning, but I could not worry about that right then; tomorrow about 30,000 sit-ups would take care of the problem. I told Laurie she would have to drive.
Navajo Ceremonial Basket by Alicia Nelson
As we made our way south to Blanding, Alyssa and McKale vivaciously sang along with every song on the radio. Although he would never admit it, I could hear Spenser's gravelly voice in the mix. The three kids sounded heavenly to me. I reached over and laid my hand on my wife's slender neck and gave her a squeeze that, I hoped, projected my love, satisfaction and enjoyment she, the kids and this life provides me. As if reading my mind, she smiled. We relaxed in our seats, and enjoyed the concert.
The stimulating show of thunder and lightning, and the associated visual imagery, along with the pleasure I receive from over-consumption and familial interaction, was etched upon my memory; I can see, hear and taste it still. All I need do is close my eyes and open my mind. I see it like an age-old black and white movie with a herky-jerky frame display, scratched images and a static-filled sound track. Such is my mind on "recall".
The Navajo people are greatly aware of the importance of family. They believe relationships are the essence of beauty and harmony. The joining of blood recreates and projects joy, hope and love into the future. We are fed in many ways in this life; spiritually, emotionally and physically. I am ever so lucky to have tremendous love and support on all sides. My plate is full, I hope yours is as well.
With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team