Friday, August 1, 2014

Raining A Parade

It has been hot in Bluff, and also dry. As the month of July exhausts itself, with temperatures topping 100 degrees Barry and I have been closing the Kokopelli doors and turning on the refrigeration earlier and earlier each day. Fearing she might overheat, Barry has also begun bringing Buffy the Wonder Dog inside the trading post. Although keenly missing the attention she receives while reclining on the outside steps, Buffy seems content to lie on the cool concrete of the storage room floor until the workday is complete and it is time to head home for supper.

For months Barry, Danny, Priscilla and I have scanned the skies for rain clouds, murmuring quiet prayers intended to coax the thunderheads our way. We have become so desperate Barry even proposed doing a rain dance. Priscilla, however, nixed the idea, saying we do not have adequate training and would likely extend rather than shorten the drought. I had to agree with her assessment.
Buffy at her home on the porch.

As an alternative, I suggested petitioning the missionaries at Bluff Fort for assistance. They have, after all, done miraculous things over there. Since Danny is the only Mormon on the premises, and therefore the only one with bona fide influence in this arena, we elected him our emissary. He, however, deferred, saying he needed to reserve such favors in the event more pressing needs arise. Since his second child, a daughter, will arrive soon, we agreed he had a legitimate excuse.

So, all summer we have watched as our appeals go unanswered and clouds float past without so much as a sprinkle. Last Monday, however, things changed. As we went about our afternoon routines, secure in the knowledge we had once again been neglected, there came an unfamiliar sound on the metal roof of Twin Rocks Trading Post. “Rain,” someone speculated, causing us to hurry toward the picture windows to see if the assessment was accurate. Sure enough, our pleas had finally been addressed and heavy raindrops fell upon the thirsty land.

We immediately heaved open the heavy wooden doors and paraded outside, neglecting the customers who lazily inspected turquoise jewelry, Navajo rugs and baskets. When Barry and I arrived on the porch, we were not surprised to find the servers, cooks, dishwashers, cashiers and managers of Twin Rocks Cafe already outside, stretching out their hands to grasp a bit of moisture for splashing on their faces and rubbing on their arms to show appreciation and bless themselves with the holy water.

At the trading post our visitors were obviously from a wetter climate, which prevented them from fully appreciating our affinity for thunderstorms. Consequently they did not anticipate or comprehend our abrupt exit. As a result, they stumbled around the showroom a bit and, not knowing what else to do, eventually joined our celebration.

For those who have never lived in the desert, it is easy to underestimate the emotional effect even a small amount of rain can have on an individual. Since we work with the Navajo people on an everyday basis, it is likely Barry and I have a heightened sense of awareness when it comes to water. This accentuates our response to rivers, streams, cloudbursts and other wet things.

Navajo stories personalize natural phenomena like clouds, wind, rain, thunder and lightning, which are generally distinguished by the four sacred colors; black, blue, yellow and white. Sex is attributed only to rain, which can be either male or female. Heavy, fast, crashing storms with thunder and lightening are considered male. Light, gentle, nourishing showers are referred to as female.

Having interrogated Priscilla several times, Barry and I have never received a satisfactory answer to the question why Navajo legends all too often blame males for coming and going quickly and leaving a path of destruction in their wake, while females are viewed as kind, tender, patient and nurturing. At one point Barry even suggested we ask our wives for their opinions on this particular topic. I thought it best to leave them out of the discussion, lest we become black and blue.

With warm regards Steve Simpson and the team;
Barry, Priscilla and Danny.

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