Friday, March 8, 2013

Stormy Weather

Recently my family and I found ourselves traveling north along the I-15 corridor near Salt Lake City while a blizzard swirled all around us. The air outside our Honda Odyssey van was below freezing, and the snow was sticking to the pavement. Because he has the most experience driving in heavy traffic during icy conditions, my brother-in-law Wade was behind the wheel. We were on our way to the Natural History Museum of Utah to see an exhibit of the Twin Rocks Trading Post Navajo basket collection. The show, called "Weaving a Revolution", features baskets the trading post transferred to that institution almost five years ago.
Wade, Lisa, McKale, Laurie, Alyssa and Barry

Since someone had to stay home and man the fort, I had missed the show's January opening. At the time Steve drew the long straw, so, fighting an even larger storm, he traveled to Salt Lake City to represent us. Arriving safely, he managed the necessary lectures and stood fast throughout the pomp and circumstance associated with the ceremonies. I had been trying to get to the museum since that time and was looking forward to re-establishing a relationship with the collection we had built over the past 40 years.

As we made our way over the Point of the Mountain between Utah Valley and Salt Lake City and exited onto the I-215 belt route, which circumvents much of the city traffic, the snow became worse. I worried we might have to cancel the trip, but Uncle Wade assured me we could make it. The women folk felt safe, so on we traveled. My wife, Laurie; daughters, Alyssa and McKale, with Laurie's twin sister, Lisa, were along for the adventure. Our son, Spenser, had forsaken us, preferring a date with a BYU coed over a trip with his family. Dating seems to be his favorite past time these days. We soon found our way to Foothill Drive, all the while slipping and sliding onward and upward. And we darn near made it. As slick as it was we were forced to stop a block shy of the museum. That was, however, close enough for us to walk the remaining distance.

We entered the museum, stamped snow off our feet and brushed huge flakes from our heads and shoulders. Right off the bat we knew we were in a special place. The Natural History Museum has the look of a massive slot canyon, and features a very tall window displaying representative samples of the various collections. And yes, there were some very familiar baskets in what is referred to as the "Canyon". Because Lisa Thompson, the museum's Public Programs Manager, left tickets for us, we were whisked right on in and turned over to Chris Eisenberg, the Director of Philanthropy. Chris asked where we would like to start our tour. I wasted no time telling him it was the Simpson Family Basket Collection I wanted to see, so Chris led us to the second floor.

Up the ramp we went, passing in front of the crystal collection, which slowed my pace a bit. I saw an impressive and extremely rare specimen of Morganite (Red Beryl) from the Wah Wah mountains of western Utah, which made me drool. Alyssa and McKale suspected I might be tempted by bright shiny objects, so they refocused my attention by dragging me around the corner to my beloved baskets. I swear, when I saw those weavings displayed there I nearly wept as a tsunami of emotion swept over me. As I looked upon those weavings I recalled the artists, designers and stories surrounding each and every piece. I was having flashbacks like crazy, the people around me must have thought I was nuts, because I was babbling out information as it came back to me. Talk about a stream of unrecognizable consciousness. I could not get close enough to my old friends. I imagined what the night janitor might say about the multitude of nose prints I left on the glass cases. My family kept their distance as I viewed the displays. I don't know for certain, but I might have embarrassed them. To say the least, the show was amazing. McKale eventually took me by the arm and led me through the rest of the museum. What a great place! I am definitely planning to return and discover more of their treasures.

Several hours later, as my wife Laurie led me from the building into the now gorgeous afternoon light, she reminded me about the times she gave me grief for having the baskets stored away in a cold, dark warehouse, only sharing them with the public when there was space enough to do so. She also knew about the time and effort we spent gathering the collection, so she was very much aware of how I was emotionally attached to those baskets. After seeing the show Laurie commented, "I was really angry with you guys when you transferred the basket collection, but now that I see it here represented so beautifully, how well the curators and staff have displayed the baskets and told their stories, I now realize they are in a very good place." Laurie had found "Hozho" with our decision to place the collection with the Natural History Museum. "Hozho" is the Navajo word for harmony and balance and is the basic premise behind the stories contained within almost every basket in the collection.

There were numerous people and organizations involved with the transfer. The logistics were often overwhelming, and there were instances where we thought the whole crazy deal would just fall apart. Steve's attorney training came in handy on several occasions. For all the right reasons the transfer did occur and so far it has been beneficial to everyone involved. Not only did the conveyance help us overcome some trying economic times, it also allowed us to place the collection in a wonderful and worthy home. The deal also allowed the artists to receive the attention and notoriety they so rightly deserve. We understand that when the show ends at the Natural History Museum it will travel to other prominent museums across the country, as might the artists. The undertaking proved to be an emotionally stormy process for all of us at Twin Rocks Trading Post, but we have discovered harmony and balance in doing so. We now know it was the right thing to do; our Hozho is assured.

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve, Priscilla and Danny; The Team

Visit our Great New Items that we have acquired this week!

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