Friday, July 23, 2010

Male Land

“Meredith believes this is male land,” Win said as we sat across the table from one another, consuming a lunch of Navajo fry bread and Caesar salad. With his intelligent eyes and wild white mane, Win, who is in his early 70’s, looks like a cross between Jerry Garcia and Albert Einstein.

Recapture Pocket in Bluff, Utah.

Contemplating his own remarks Win unconsciously nodded his head, agreeing with the conclusion of his mate of many years. “She says female land is green, undulating, fertile, verdant. This is stark, hard, male,” he continued. Glancing out the plate glass windows of Twin Rocks Cafe at the vertical sandstone cliffs embracing Bluff, I had to agree.

A few days later, I found myself tramping through a five mile run with Kira and Jana. As we jogged south and west from the hoodoos and thumping oil wells of Recapture Pocket towards the pavement of Highway 162, my legs probed the rock-strewn red dirt road, searching for stability. There was none to be had; where there were not rocks, there was sand. “Male,” I thought to myself, remembering Win’s comments and quickly glancing over my shoulder to locate Kira. At that moment the sand deepened, focusing my mind on unsteady feet and interrupting my thoughts.

As the path became firm once again, and better traction ensued, I surveyed the landscape. Small, squat spires of sandstone populated the region. In the distance, weathered table mesas encircled us. The sandy soil supported only low patches of vegetation. Here it requires many acres to support a cow, and verdant is not a descriptive term generally applied. “Male,” I said out loud, “beautiful in its own right, but surely male.”

Priscilla has often reminded me that the Navajo universe is divided into male and female parts. From time to time she and I stand on the porch of Twin Rocks Trading Post as the wind howls and rain pelts the metal roof. “Male,” Priscilla reminds me. It is the right side of an individual that is male, the warrior. The left half is compassionate, female. When the slow sprinkles come to leisurely saturate the ground, she points out, “quiet, gentle, female.”

At times I have disagreed with her philosophy. When I am stormy and warlike or loving and kind, my emotions are all consuming, not half and half. Fortunately, as I have aged fire has given way to comprehension. Now, my world is more peaceful. I do not, however, feel less male. I believe I have simply come to better understand the female perspective. Maybe that is the meaning behind the metaphor, the purpose of the legend.

Looking back once more, I noticed Kira sneaking ever closer. Like our day-to-day relationship, when we run the distance between us expands and contracts in an ever evolving, perfectly elastic choreography; sometimes close, sometimes distant. We are, however, inextricably tied. Father, daughter; parent, child; older, younger; male, female. We do not exist independently, she is the blood of my blood.

As we approached the stability of the pavement and the cleft that delivers us into the valley of our residence, I sensed flowing water and saw vegetation sustained by the perpetual stream. In the middle of this male land, with all its hardness, runs a streak of moisture; a strand of fertility. Water converges with red earth, the elements connect, give birth to silt, mingle with the turquoise sky and shimmer under the mother-of-pearl sun. It is impossible to know where one facet ends and the other begins. They are inseparable.

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

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