Saturday, August 6, 2011

Creature Companions

Tuesday was turning out to be a day of creature features. First of all, I opened the cafe at sunup and was greeted by a flock of Rufous Hummingbirds with very territorial attitudes. Our hummingbird population must be the most photographed in the county. Tourists just love to sit on the porch, watch the sunrise, eat breakfast and snap images of those bickering birds. The hummers brawl with and badger each other over drafts of Jenelia's slow-brewed sugar water. A few hours later, we opened the doors to the trading post and in flew one of the many Great Crested Flycatcher's that had been devouring winged bugs that were still attached to the outside walls after a night of illuminated attraction. It took awhile to catch and release the feathered phenom back into its augmented environment. The flycatchers are replaced by our cleanup crew of Collard, Spiny and Plateau Striped lizards, just to name a few, that emerge when the temperatures rise in the late morning, early afternoon.

Navajo Big Horned Sheep Carving - Marvin Jim & Grace Begay (#344)

At noon, I was still schlepping tables at the cafe. I went outside to sweep crumbs from under the patio tables when a family of six walked up and asked if they could bring their dog onto the porch. They wanted to get her out of the hot car and have a lite lunch for themselves. I told them we do allow dogs on the porch, so long as they are non-boisterous, do not beg and/or bother other people. Most importantly, I do not, will not, cannot tolerate incontinence in species! Looking around for the aforementioned pupster, I saw the woman pop a pooch out of her handbag, attach a leach and set it down. The miniature Mexican Chihuahua was primped in a sundress of all things. The Lilliputian Chiquita hunkered under a chair as if embarrassed by her attire and began licking crumbs I had missed. I felt badly for the little beastie, but I was certain we were going to get along just fine.

Seeing that poor pooch dressed to impress humans caused me to recall how Navajo lore speaks of how all animals once walked upright. At that time, they stood with humans and aided in the creation of the world. Traditional stories such as these speak of respectful conversation between all living beings, of equality, honor and friendship. The community stood strong and united; interaction was highly personal, harmonious and balanced. Animals played prominent roles in these myths. For example, raptors, both great and small, were strong and dominate aerialists. These magnificent birds of prey were often portrayed as intermediaries between the real and spirit worlds. When it was essential that a prayerful message be delivered to the upper realm, a raptor was petitioned to deliver the dispatch. At that time, dogs were considered highly intelligent and had the gift of tongues. Canines were exceptionally close allies with humans, and were known for their unselfish acts of protection and due diligence.

Each and every animal held a position of importance within the cultural community. Their assistance helped make the world an enjoyable place to live. Life was prosperous and pleasurable. Unfortunately, in an imperfect world relationships are often destroyed by less than subtle indecencies. Greed, jealousy, lapse of compassion and understanding; the mistakes and missteps so common to man that occur and reoccur with regularity crept in. These sins of man forced the separation of the animals and humans. Our creature companions discarded their garb and now, basically, choose to ignore and/or not to communicate with human kind. During the separation each went their separate way and ignorance destroyed harmonious and beneficial relationships. The stories of old remind the Navajo people of their past mistakes and attempt to teach them how to avoid revisiting such inappropriate and destructive behavior.

Later that day I was working the trading post when a young man and his parents pushed in through the Kokopelli doors. The parents were fifty-something and dressed like tourists outta be. They wore airy shirts, khaki shorts and sandals. The young man's attire was something else altogether. As the youth entered the building he caused a ripple in the tide. Everyone in the store stopped, stared for a moment, recalled proper protocol then regained their step. The youth was in the neighborhood of 17 years of age, he was tall, relatively good looking and by the way he greeted me I deemed him well mannered. The reason he caused everyone to stop and stare had everything to do with the way he was dressed. Riding upon his head of shoulder length brown hair was one of those heavy, crushable, brown leather, adventurer-style hats which was encircled by a porcupine quill band. His dark eyes shone bright from under that temperate topper, as if he were living life's perfect dream.

The upper torso of the young buck was encased in, first, a black silk shirt, then a mid-thigh black leather, Ralph-Cactus coat sporting fringe at the breast, back and under the arms. The heavy coat was adorned with brightly colored, 3" wide bands of imported bead-work over the chest, shoulders and across the back. It also had circular medallions at the cuffs. Black Levis' and a pair of dull, pitch black boots completed the ensemble. As the youth circled the store he repeatedly raised his arms and extended them fully. This action allowed the foot long, leather fringe streamers under the sleeves to hang freely. For all intents and purpose the kid looked like a giant California Condor floating about the store. The event was rather entertaining.

Smiling to myself, I thought back on Navajo legend. I contemplated discussing issues of personal space with hummingbirds, learning the finer points of aerodynamic acrobatics from a Flycatcher or climbing the walls with lackadaisical lizards. I laughed out loud when I conceived of having coffee and crumpets with a chic Chihuahua or a conversation with a California Condor about how young people express themselves these days. Life would certainly be more interesting if animals walked and talked with us once more. But, just as sure as sin, someone would mouth-off, open old wounds and cause a collapse of companionship once more. Aren't we humans something to behold?

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and The Team

Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!

Our TnT's purchased new treasures! Check out Traders in Training!

Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!

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