Thursday, April 6, 2017

Thoughts on Wrestling and Navajo Baskets

Some time ago Grange and I were sitting in a Mexican restaurant, having dinner and enjoying few moments together. Earlier that day he and I had been to a wrestling match, which, as anyone who knows me will confirm, is one of my all-time favorite things to do. Since this is a wrestling family, however, seeing Grange on the mat fills me with a unique pride. Competing in a sport where you have nobody to rely on but yourself and have to accept sole responsibility for your success or failure seems exceptionally courageous to me.

Grange has been wrestling since he was five years old, so he has a great deal of experience. Over that time, we have had good and not so good years. That particular day had not been a successful one for Team Simpson. In fact, it had been exceptionally difficult, so he and I were working hard to find the good in our endeavor. As we waited for our dinner to arrive, I noticed Tom, one of our Twin Rocks Trading Post customers, sitting across the dining room.

Tom, like Barry, is addicted to turquoise, and comes into the store to see what Bisbee, Morenci, Kingman, Number 8 and Blue Gem stones we have. When he holds the cabochons in his hand, he gets genuinely nervous and you can see they actually affect his judgment.

Aside from being fascinated by Tom’s addiction to Sky Stone, or maybe as a result of it, I have grown extremely fond of him. He arrives at the trading post each year attended by a herd of young people from the private school where he coaches and teaches. The kids obviously love him, and he surely adores them. So, along with his own children, who are now in their mid- to late twenties, Tom travels the Southwest with his students, visiting Anasazi ruins, running rivers, looking at art and studying local cultures.

Seeing Grange in his athletic gear, Tom inquired where we had been and what we had been doing. One thing led to another, and before long he was asking how the day had gone. Reluctantly we admitted it had been challenging. Having been an exceptionally talented coach, Tom was quick to advise Grange that failure is an important part of any undertaking. Tom went on to say that if Grange took the opportunity to evaluate what needed to be improved he would likely look back at this as a positive experience and find that it allowed him to improve his skills.

Grange seemed to accept Tom’s premise, and dinner became a much happier affair. As Grange and I drove home, I began to realize just how many times I had seen Tom’s advice at work in the trading post, particularly in the realm of Navajo basketry.

Twin Rocks Trading Post has been open just over 28 years, and we have been collaborating with the local Navajo basket weavers from the beginning. Over that time, I have watched as Mary Black has gone from a vibrant young mother instructing her offspring in this traditional craft to an elderly weaver. I have also seen her children grow from inexperienced, uncertain basket makers to acknowledged masters in their field. The evolutionary cycle has been both exciting and frustrating. Along the way there have been soaring successes and a few colossal failures. Overall, it’s been a stunning experiment. It is my hope Grange and I will look back on his time on the wrestling mat with the same emotion.

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