Last Wednesday morning I sat on the end of our bed pulling on warm woolen socks. Outside the northwest wind howled, causing the gnarly branches of our locust tree to scrape against the window pane. Thinking of the frigid morning, I shuddered and reached for the blue sweater on the dresser in front of me. Pulling it over my head, I emerged from the top end and noticed an odd glow spilling into the room through the window on my right. Looking to the east, I saw the top half of the sun resting on the horizon. Because of the red dirt salting the air it looked grungy, and its light was unattractive. As I sat there taking in the view, Laurie walked into the room and asked what I was staring at. "The scuzzy sunrise," I said, pursing my lips and nodding in that direction.
Laurie ignored the aurora aura, shook her head in a cynical manner and said, "You have to stop leading with your lips, it is unbecoming." Looking at the sunrise then back to my wife, I decided on abstinance, saying, "I don't think I can change that. I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam." "Who you are not," came McKale's impertinent reply from the nearby bathroom, "is Popeye the Sailor Man!" It is a sure bet my daughter will back her mother, no matter what the controversy. There was no point in discussing the matter further, so I reached for my shoes and, emulating Popeye's boat whistle ending, said, "Toot, toot!"
The icy breath of spring and the sandblasted sunrise had caused me to start the day on the wrong foot. After dropping McKale off at school, I drove south on U.S. Highway 191 toward my hometown and modern day work place. As I traveled, the wind buffeted my car and the blowing sand punished the windshield and scratched the paint. Being pestered and pelted in such a manner started me rethinking the earlier interaction with my wife and child. I began to wonder just what it was that made me who I yam and how it might effect those around me. I wondered if my comments were the product of my upbringing, environment or experience.
Fond memories are the reason I purse my lips, point with them and nod my head in the direction indicated. My work at the trading post introduced me to people like Old Joe Belitso and Espie Jones. Both were well practiced in the art of oral indication, as were Archie Yazzie, Yazzie Rock and Hite Chee. Although they are all long gone, these friends are still affectionately remembered. I learned from these "Hastooi" that It was considered impolite to point with your finger, but completely acceptable to do so with your lips. It just felt right to adopt their less harsh manner of indicating direction, so I did. I suspect doing so will remain a part of who I yam for a very long time. Although I am may not be Popeye, I yam, for good reason, what I yam.
With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and The Team