Friday, January 28, 2011


The other morning I went out for an early morning walk and unexpectedly became entangled. I was walking up the mountain road, north of town, before the sun began its journey across the heavens. The sky was a velvety blue-black in color, with brilliant pinpoints of starlight adding dimension but not much illumination. There was no moon, and it was pitchy dark. It was times such as this that had caused me to place a Mini Maglite in the pocket of my heavy Carhartt coat. I do not see well after hours, which causes me hesitation when striding the weather ravaged and narrow back roads of town. Enlightenment is essential, so I am not "Stumblin' in the dark!", like Noah of the old Sunday School song. I was feeling the thermal embrace of the canvas duck and quilted lining as it deflected the frigorific blast of arctic air blowing in from the north. My head was encased in an orange stocking cap, and my hands in black neoprene gloves . . . I was stylin'

Navajo Owl Carving
As I followed the narrow but helpful beam of artificial light, I saw an appealing plume slowly drifting across the blacktop. I shuffled left, clumsily bent over; hampered by my heavy coat, and attempted to grab the feather in my gloved hand. I felt like Ralphie in The Christmas Story; over-encumbered by exterior garb! I finally had to pull my right hand loose from the neoprene, kneel down and scoop up the quill. As I looked at the feather in the blue glow of the flashlight, I heard a noise; clip-clop-clip, clip-clop-clip. Quickly looking up in the direction of the sound, I found my beanie covering my eyes. I stood up, frustrated by hindered vision, pushed back my hat and shone the light up the road in the direction of the oncoming sound. There in the glow of my flashlight was an oncoming runner, tightly wrapped in a thin suit of Lycra, Under Armour hat and gloves and a fancy pair of fluorescent running shoes. I say runner, because the young woman was moving fast, she was definitely not a jogger. I moved over to the side of the road and felt a fresh breeze as she flew past, sprinting into the embracing gloom. I waved my new found feather after the less than languid lass and said: "Bless you sister!"

Smiling to myself, I recalled the time I successfully ran down a fine young filly of my own. It had turned out well, three fantastic offspring were proof of that. I refocused on the feather and found it to be about 7 inches long and 2 inches wide at the top end. It had a creamy tan body color, was horizontally banded in a medium gray, with smudges of lighter gray mixed in. The quill looked to have been dropped by a large bird of prey, my guess was a Great Horned Owl. "Humph!" I thought to myself, remembering the Navajo belief that the owl can be either a harbinger of bad tidings or, on the positive side, a guardian to ward off evil spirits. I choose the latter, thinking "Better to keep things focused on the up-side." As I went on my merry way, I stuck the feather in my cap and whistled Yankee-Doodle.

It was still dark when I found myself at the intersection of Reservoir Road and 300 West. In the distance I could see a jogger. Actually I could only see a halogen headlamp bee-bopping along. I knew there was a hound in tow, because I heard dog tags jingling. I turned my light to the side of the road so as not to distract them. Just as we passed on opposite sides of the byway, the headlamp hit me square in the eyes and I was blinded by the light. At the same time a mid-size English Bull Dog came running up and greeted me in doggie fashion. I pushed the nosy critter away from my backside and heard a woman say, "He's nice, he won't bite. All the while that light was flashing in my eyes and the dog circling my legs. I was trying to walk on by, but the dog, and now, the jogger were right there beside me. What I did not know, because of the excessive show of light, was that the dog had pulled free of its tether and was trying to become better acquainted while the woman was attempting to regain the leash.

All I knew for sure was that dog was way too friendly and the woman (with her Halogen bulb) was blindingly close. I was discombobulated by the unintended skirmish. I finally got a clue as to what was happening when the woman said, "Could you grab that leash for me?" I stopped, bent over (big mistake) grabbed the leash and shoved it toward the over bright light source and backed away. "Thank you!", said the female voice. "No problem!" said I, turning to high step it away from the overly-bold boxer. It took me several minutes of separation to regain my night vision and sense of dignity. By that time the dynamic duo had departed. I still do not know who that woman was, but I do know the dog's name was Mac. "Bad Spirit, that dog!" I said to myself. Taking the owl feather from my hat, I reached up and wedged it between the wood and metal of a nearby stop sign and left it there for someone else. Maybe it would bring them better luck than it had me. As I walked on I reflected on how the local Natives view dogs.

Navajo people believe the Holy Beings formed the dog; male and female. The first male dog was dressed with the dawn and was white. He traveled from the east. The first female dog was reddish or brownish yellow and she was dressed with the twilight. She traveled from the west-central region. On their ears sat the Little Breeze. Their ears were made from the winds, and at the tip of the tail also there is a breeze; (that has,certainly been my experience). So when a dog passes another dog he can tell from the mouth to the tip of the tail his entire history (that explains it). As he has the wind at the ears and at the tip of the tail he never gets lost. Burned food was put on their noses and they were black. A medicine stick was placed inside their stomachs, and they say that is why a dog never gets enough to fill himself. He knows many things, for he was sent to guard the doorways of the people. I made it home without further incident, walked in the back door and found Laurie standing at the stove making the morning meal. "Hi Hon, how'd it go", she asked. "Well", I replied, "I was gifted a fleeting glimpse of the good old days, tempted fate, was blinded by the light, and made a new, close, personal friend." "That's nice", she replied, refusing to take the bait, "breakfast is almost ready."

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

No comments: