Friday, January 6, 2017


Winters in Bluff are a treasured time. In the spring of the year, we are often sandblasted by harsh, intermittent winds, which are followed by a time of formidable summer heat. Fall is fabulous but still busy, so we truly appreciate this cold, crisp and calm time of year.

The Navajo people never seem to complain about whether it is too hot, cold or windy, they simply accept the circumstances and move on. I have been told that sweat baths help them cope. These "baths" require the participant to build a mini hogan, fill it with hot rocks and climb inside dousing the rocks with water. The heat and steam inside the structure and eventual sweat, forces any poisons and bad spirits picked up in everyday life to the body's surface. This ritual cleansing is concluded by emerging from the bath and rolling in the sand and whatever snow may be available. Frolicking in the dirt gives Mother Earth the chance to whisk away those negative influences.

During the winter months, Bluff is a sleepy little town. People take extra time in their comings and goings and they appreciate their surroundings more. It is not unusual to see someone standing outside in golden rays of soft sunlight, frozen in time, just soaking up the warmth of a sunbeam like a giant lizard on sandstone. There is more time for quiet reflective conversation as well, time to catch up on what we might have missed during the summer rush. After hours with family and friends is more fulfilling because of the longer, more restful hours.

I often find myself sitting in front of a small window in the late afternoon. The window is filled with the twisted, interwoven branches of a cottonwood tree. The light at this time of day is soft, filtered by high clouds and the angle of the sun. There is a golden glow surrounding the stark white, sunlit limbs, and the background of the sky is often an intense, sapphire blue. I frequently sit and contemplate the overall visual effect, wishing I was artistic enough to reproduce the image. Since I have only limited artistic ability, I can only commit the scene to memory. Sometimes, late at night when I cannot sleep and my thoughts are bouncing off the walls like rubber super balls, I recall such images to refocus my thoughts. They calm and allow me to find sleep.

Winter must affect the Navajo people in much the same manner, since this is also a time of reflection and storytelling for them. There is much to be taught and to be learned. The legends and lore are more easily discussed. The cooler weather seems to slow the pace for the artists as well. They are generally freer with information about their creations. The Navajo lifestyle is much slower than the rest of the world anyway. Maybe because the winter months are traditionally the time Navajo elders share creation tales and discuss ways of life, the in-depth discussions come more freely and are more open. Frequently we feel that we are being granted a rare look into a time honored and evolving belief system.

There are those who feel that we share too much information about the beliefs of the Navajo; that such knowledge must be hard won to have value. These individuals believe that the journey should be undertaken at the proper time in one's life; at a time when the individual is in need of answers to life's hard questions. In many of the cultural stories the searcher starts his quest as a homely, disheveled individual of lowly birth. Through trial and error and an intensive search for knowledge, the youngster begins to grow and develop, the super naturals take notice and begin to lend aid. There is always much personal growth and development achieved by the seeker; he begins to evolve, and becomes more refined. The common theme talks of beginning as a mud person and growing into something that resembles the Deities.

At present Steve and I are akin to those mud people, but we aspire to a higher form. We hope that by sharing our glimpses into the Navajo culture you will gain a greater appreciation for our friends and associates. This season of year makes us realize the true gifts we have been given, and we take great pleasure in sharing those gifts with all our friends.

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