As is the case with Laurie, the early Native people who populated this mostly barren landscape were highly motivated to make it produce. Anywhere water seeped or flowed became a sacred place and someone could be found doing their darnedest to discover a way to plant and harvest a crop on that location. Corn, beans and squash were indispensable, and they became recognized as manna from heaven. Any consumable local plant was brought into the fold to subsidize livestock and wild game. Pinon nuts, yucca fruit, prickly pear cactus and even Navajo tea were some of the most common inclusions. Seeds became treasure beyond measure, because they allowed continuity. Pottery bowls decorated with deities were created to store those life-giving gems. The pots were then placed in the cool, dry, atmosphere of sandstone caves for safety and protection.
Many wild plants were found to be medicinally beneficial. Mountain tobacco was thought to ease headaches and calm nerves, yucca root was used as a shampoo and cleanser and pinon sap was mixed with mutton tallow to produce a cream which drew out infection. Sagebrush, both dried and powdered, was found to be effective for baby rash and chaffing. Cliff rose, chopped and boiled, was used as an effective cough suppressant. Plants, seeds and roots of all sorts were happily harvested and became important in keeping the people well fed and healthy. A gift of the Gods? Probably.
Considering this, it is easy to see how images of sacred plants came to be depicted on objects of art. Rugs, baskets, jewelry and even folk art are adorned with squash blossoms, ears of corn, twisting vines, flowers and leaves. The story of plants and their association to human beings began to be woven into, stamped upon and overlaid onto the art of the people. These life sources were honored admirably by those who benefited most. Mother Earth, who is believed to be responsible for all living and growing things, must have been pleased with that acknowledgment.
I am certain my personal "Mother Earth", who is responsible for such a preponderance of plant life around our home, could never be pleased with my inferior interest in such things. Although she would never complain, I am certain Laurie is frustrated with my lackluster performance at the plow. I am also certain that the knowledge I gain from the educational channels and the fact that I am well rested will, one day, come in handy. I mean, one can never know too much about noodling for flatheads, grappling with gators or prepping for the pawn business. One day I may just be able to prove my love and appreciation for her by asking one of the local weavers to place Laurie's mesmeric mug on a rug. She might like that.
With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and The Team
Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!