Friday, August 21, 2009

The Natural World

The other morning I saw a magnificent sunrise. I had to be in Bluff early, so I left the house before dawn and was graced with the amazing spectacle. It had rained the night before, so the earth smelled fresh, new. The heavy cloud cover made it darker than usual. Before I left the house, I hurried into the garden and picked a handful of fresh peas, two small tomatoes and a cob of sweet corn for breakfast. To me, there is nothing more tasty than vegetables straight from the garden. I hopped into the torpedo shaped Previa, pointed its nose south, split a shell and popped a few glorious peas into my mouth.

Navajo Fire Dance Ceremony Basket

Cruising slowly towards Bluff, and munching my freshly picked appetizers, I inhaled the refreshing fragrance of earth and sky flowing in through the open window. Approaching the newly mowed hayfields just south of Blanding, I looked to the east and was struck by a sky more wondrous than Elizabeth Taylor's eyes. The heavens were a magnificent lavender, with accents of vanilla highlights brushed across it. The whole scene was embellished with a tinge of rose blush about the edges. Driving to Bluff took approximately 35 minutes, and during that time the sky constantly transformed, ebbing and flowing in ever changing modifications of light and color. It was almost a shame to drop into the warm morning glow embracing Cow Canyon and leave behind this enchanted scene.

Often I speak of the natural world, probably because it often speaks to me. The Navajo people declare that humans were created of Earth and Sky, introduced through water, supported by wind and nourished by corn. Every aspect of human creation is recognized and granted sacred status. When I look closely at their interpretations, I see that every element of this creation story, every nuance, is essential to their survival and understanding.

Consistent with the Navajo traditions, modern science tells us that our bodies are primarily water (H2O); 65-90% by weight. Fundamentally we are oxygen molecules. Carbon, the basic unit for organic organisms, comes in second. In fact, 99% our bodies is comprised of just six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus. The parallels among our differing stories are striking. As human beings with vastly varying life experiences, we simply interpret the stories differently.

When our parents, Duke and Rose Simpson, came to this less than hospitable river valley I doubt they realized the cultural implications. Our mother was educated in parochial schools, and was determined to familiarize us with Catholicism. The traveling priest was scheduled to pass through town once a month, but often missed his appointments because of other, more pressing, obligations. Concerned about raising a group of heathens, and undaunted in her religious efforts, Mom, with Dad's stern support, herded us over to Saint Christopher's Episcopal Mission, where Craig and I were installed as alter boys. Our parents adapted and evolved.

A multitude of rich and varied cultures surrounded us; Ancient Puebloan, Navajo, Ute, a smattering of outlaws and, from Bluff's founding fathers, Latter Day Saints. Most people would have been confounded by the convoluted infusion of articles of faith, natural interpretations and archaeological hypotheses. My wife, Laurie, will tell you that this is the origin of my addled state of mind. Our parents did their best to introduce us to all these traditions. They patiently counseled us to educate ourselves to all, take what we considered the best and most thoughtful from each and build a firm foundation from the available materials.

It was from the Navajo that I acquired my love of the natural world, and my desire to know more about myths and legends flowing in from all corners of the globe. Listening to Navajo creation stories and embracing the simple, basic elements of life illuminated the world around me. These tales allowed me to experience the unique color variations of dawn and dusk; the depth and emotion of landscape rendered texture, the visual uniqueness and appeal of stunted Juniper trees; the invigorating aroma of sage and rabbit brush at various seasons of the year; and the humor and life lessons of the animal kingdom. These experiences came from listening to traditional stories and interpreting Native art. In doing so, I gained a grasp of many simple realities.

For example, when I see turquoise I visualize a fractured piece of the sky thrown to earth as a gift of the gods. For me, Navajo rugs portray enchanting mountains, mesas and monuments enhanced with thunder, lightning and much desired moisture. In baskets I see sacred ceremony and life ways essential to the upward movement and forward motion of tradition and culture. In the art of the Navajo people, and the stories it tells, I see a sensitivity to the earth, sky and water. In it I witness an age old honor and respect for that which we depend upon to survive. I see common ground.

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2009 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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