Friday, August 24, 2012


Not long after returning to Bluff in 1989, I developed the habit of sitting on the porch of Twin Rocks Trading Post after a hard day of selling Navajo rugs, baskets and turquoise jewelry.  One cannot imagine how taxing it is answering questions like, “Isn’t it convenient the Anasazi built those roads so close to the ruins at Mesa Verde?” and “Who made the Twin Rocks?”  By closing time I was exhausted, and found a spell on the steps an effective way to decompress before heading up to the house above the trading post.
Hozho Bluff, UT
Hozho Bluff, Ut
Summer evenings in Bluff can be genuinely beautiful.  The evening light illuminates the cliffs, making them glow a soft, cozy pink.  As darkness falls and stars begin to blink, quiet enfolds the town in an all-encompassing embrace.
To my amazement, people strolling the narrow streets often walked up the stairs, sat close by and, after taking Bluff’s full measure, asked, “What is it?”  At first, the question confounded me.  “What is what?”, I would respond, a little bewildered.  “It, you know, it!”, they would say.
After a time I came to understand they meant the feeling Bluff instilled in them.  One western trained medical doctor, who had studied eastern philosophy, speculated it must be the high concentration of iron in the rocks.  “It attracts a strong magnetic field,” he explained.  Two women from New Mexico postulated that nobody had ever been killed in Bluff, which left it in absolute peace.  Others thought it was the light, the heat, the quiet, the darkness . . . Nobody could fully explain “it”.
When Barry started coming to Bluff on a regular basis, I noticed he often referred to something called “hozho.”  “It’s hard to explain,” he would say, “Sorta’ like being in balance, at peace, you know, one with nature.”  Referring to the book, The Navajo Language, a Grammar and Colloquial Dictionary, by Young and Morgan, I learned hozho meant, “to be beautiful, peaceful, harmonious.”
During a recent meeting with representatives of the Business Owners of Bluff, commonly known as BOB, the question that had so often bedeviled me in the past arose once again.  Attempting to design a website for Bluff, we had been asked to determine what it was that defined the community.  We tried, peaceful, quiet, nature, historic, culture, beautiful, adventurous, far out, way out, get out, the big empty, the world’s greatest outdoor museum, but nothing seemed to capture Bluff’s true essence in a single word.
Nothing, that was, until Diana, a BOB member, related a conversation she had with Barry a few months ago.  Getting that far away look in her eye, she said, “hozho.”  “Ahh, hozho,” we repeated, “Yes, maybe that’s it.”  Once we asked Priscilla, Toni and Jenelia, our Navajo experts, what the term means to them, we realized it was as close as anyone had ever come to describing Bluff.  Now when people ask, “What is it?”, I just smile and say, “hozho; beautiful, peaceful, harmonious . . . hozho.”  “Yes,” they say, nodding their heads, “hozho.”
With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and The Team

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