Saturday, July 28, 2018

Thunder Bolts and Lightning

White hot bolts of lightning bee-bopped across the darkened horizon as we topped out on the south side of Devil's Canyon. It looked as if an electrified game of pin ball was being played above the torn and ragged, moisture-laden clouds. I visualized the frightening, Navajo deity, "Big Thunder," aggressively playing the game above our heads. A host of smaller Thunder and Lightning People would be whooping it up and sparking the big boy on. 

My wife, Laurie, and I were on our way home from Uncle Reid and Aunt Stephanie's home in Monticello. We had joined up with Grandma Washburn for dinner and Sunday companionship. The Washburn/Chapman’s skill at gardening was abundantly evident at the dinner table that evening, as was their legendary skill at creating culinary delights.

I was reminded of my childhood fascination with the television show Hee Haw. Good fun, humor, country music, and a healthy respect for family and friends. "Hey Grandpa, What's for Dinner" with Grandpa Jones was one of my favorite segments of the show, because it spotlighted the mouth-watering goodness of country cooking. Grandpa Jones would have been proud of the Washburn women that day.

As we made our way to the dinner table, I spied homegrown lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers gracing a green salad almost too beautiful to disturb; steamed green beans with real butter; fresh peas and Olathe sweet corn; hot dinner rolls with home-made raspberry and strawberry jam; slow roasted beef with sautéed onions; and mashed potatoes and brown gravy. All this caused me to swoon in anticipation. A huge platter of fresh Green River watermelon and Casaba, along with red and green grapes, sliced peaches, and an odd apricot or two graced the table. I foundered just looking at the delicious magnitude of the setting.

After this marvelous meal and a few games of Barnyard Rummy, Kings Gone Wild, and much laughter, Laurie finished us off with a serving of fresh apple crisp and vanilla ice cream. I had discovered culinary paradise. After dinner, I found myself nursing a knot in my stomach the size of a cantaloupe; it was time to go home and crawl into bed for a mid-summer's eve nap. I was sure the knot would transfer itself to my midsection and hindquarters by morning, but I could not worry about that right then; tomorrow about 30,000 sit-ups would take care of the problem. I told Laurie she would have to drive.

As we made our way south to Blanding, I reached over and laid my hand on my wife's slender neck and gave her a squeeze that, I hoped, projected my love, satisfaction, and enjoyment she, our children, and this life provides me. As if reading my mind, she smiled. The stimulating show of thunder and lightning and the associated visual imagery, along with the pleasure I receive from over-consumption and familial interaction, was etched upon my memory. I can see, hear, and taste it still. All I need do is close my eyes and open my mind. I see it like an age-old black and white movie with a herky-jerky frame display, scratched images, and a static-filled sound track. Such is my mind on "recall."

The Navajo people are greatly aware of the importance of family. They believe relationships are the essence of beauty and harmony. The joining of blood recreates and projects joy, hope, and love into the future. We are fed in many ways in this life: spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I am ever so lucky to have tremendous love and support on all sides. My plate is full. I hope yours is as well.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Soldier Lady

Recently I was "resting" on the cool, shaded porch of the trading post when I heard the heavy wood chair next to me accept the slight weight of an intrusion. I opened my good eye and looked upon a stately woman of approximately 60 years of age. There was the hint of a smile on her lips, as if she were proud she had sneaked up on me.

"I heard you coming," I said casually. "You were snoring," she said with a look of complete disbelief in her steel blue eyes. "A ruse," I said, "I grew up among the Navajo and Ute Indians; they taught me how to 'capture' curious white people." "To what end?" asked the Levi- and lace-clad lady as she relaxed her still slim form in the chair a bit and looked at me with interest.

"Well, my Native American friends would have scalped you," I said. "I was simply honing my skills. Your hair is safe with me though!” For some reason, the comment caused the woman to pause, and reflect for a moment. She unconsciously ran her fingers through her bobbed, salt and pepper hair, and frowned inwardly, as if dredging up an unwelcome memory. I attempted to regain her attention by saying; "They call it the Venus Fly Trap Effect." The woman snapped back into the moment and turned the frown on me. I guessed that I had gone too far with that last statement and instantly lost my credibility.

The woman shook her head at my sad attempt to misdirect. She said, "In my world, you would have been shot at sunrise for falling asleep on duty." "Ex-military?" I asked sitting up. "Army, major, retired," she replied proudly. "I'm hoping, for my sake, that you were disarmed when you retired," I said. "You think?" she retorted. We both laughed and fell into easy conversation.

I discovered that Major Moore was on a quest to re-harmonize her life. She was looking for a quiet place in the world and in her mind to regain the balance she had lost. The good Major told me that living a life of competitive aggression had cost her dearly. She had chosen to forgo a family and lost her innocence in an extreme fashion. At this point in her life, she was looking to regroup and retreat into a calmer, more rationally focused lifestyle. The Major stated that she was no longer interested in investing in power and control for herself or others. This soldier was in search of a relationship with the good earth and centered people.

Hearing Major Moore's comments, and seeing the sadness in her eyes, I felt her sincerity. Trying to lighten the mood, I said, "You are in the land of new beginnings. This is where the Navajo learned to walk in beauty, at least that is the basis of their belief system." We got out of our chairs and walked into the trading post. I introduced Major Moore to the Navajo philosophy of "Hozho," which loosely translates into personal harmony and balance.

We looked at pictorial baskets, traditional rugs, and precious jewelry with images of sacred ceremony and cultural significance. The culture of the Navajo is alive today in great part because the people incorporated these impressions in their art. It was, and still is with some, a lifestyle that is embraced on a daily basis, ingrained in every aspect of their lives.

We saw stars as duality symbols, whirling logs as emerging consciousness, masked dancers symbolizing health and well-being. The Major asked why water signs are so prevalent in Navajo art. I responded that for desert dwellers, water is paradise; it hydrates, cleanses, and gives precious life to an otherwise parched land and people. From a people in touch with the subtle realities of the universe, deities of wind, sky, and sacred corn came to life through the creativity of an agriculturally inspired society. This recently retired soldier began to see and appreciate a different perspective of those intimately in touch with the natural world.

We recaptured our seats on the porch, and, as the sun made its way to the western horizon, spoke at length on alternate realities based on harmony and balance. The Major finally sat back, sighed, and said, "You have given me a great deal of food for thought. I appreciate it." "Thoughts and ideas shared by most aboriginal cultures around the world," I said, "easy to understand and appreciate but hard to adopt in today's science-based society." "Indeed!" was her reply.

As the Major rose to take her leave, she said, "You can go back to sleep now soldier. All is well." "Thanks to you and those who serve ma'am," I said with a lopsided but polite salute. "Watch your top knot, Major." The lady soldier smiled and walked away. I sat back, closed my eyes, and nodded off.

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve, and the Team. 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Dressing Down to Move Up

Barry and I have recently adopted new strategies to increase trading post sales. Initially, we started by being unkind to our customers. This new approach is based upon convincing research from Southern Methodist University, which indicates rude salespeople boost luxury-item purchases.

Since we actually like our customers and since Priscilla refuses to participate in the program, we have had some difficulty fully implementing the new policies. Consequently, while we are uncertain whether this strategy will succeed, with full faith in the Methodists, however, we are not giving up.

Indeed, in our quest for enlightenment, we have uncovered additional data supporting this new business model. While pursuing our goal of improving revenue at Twin Rocks Trading Post by treating patrons with indifference, we recently discovered an article by Francesca Gino, a behavioral scientist and professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.

Since Barry and I are insecure about the quality of our public school education, we are typically wary of those associated with such influential institutions. Nonetheless, this particular essay captured our attention. Its premise is that conforming to social norms, rules, and expectations is widely believed to advance social acceptance and status and avoid disapproval, ridicule, and exclusion. Ms. Gino postulates, however, that deviating from accepted social norms has surprising benefits. She believes nonconformity frequently carries a significant social cost, and people generally assume those who do not conform are powerful enough to risk the price of violating these norms without fear of losing their position in society. Witness our present political environment. Priscilla wanted to know what happens if you have no societal status to begin with. Barry and I did not understand the question, so we simply ignored her inquiry, realizing such action may come at significant cost.

The Harvard investigation focuses on shopkeepers in stores selling exclusive merchandise and how they evaluate casually dressed customers compared to those who are well dressed. Apparently, people in gym shorts and jean jackets are generally believed to be better prospects than those in silks and furs.

Since dressing down works for customers, Barry and I concluded it might also work for those of us on the other side of the counter. And, since our most recent initiative requires that we stop bathing, brushing our teeth, shaving, and wearing deodorant, we believe dressing down can only enhance the results.

After thoroughly debating the issue, Barry and I concluded it would be most productive if we simply roll out of bed and go to work in our jammies and slippers. You know now neither of us sleeps in the buff. With the success we are sure to find, we will likely be working longer hours, so we can simply go from bed to work to bed. Aside from selling more turquoise jewelry, Navajo rugs, and baskets, we figure we will save a great deal of time.

Surely, this will lead to the next revolution in business practices. Barry is already imagining himself on the cover of Forbes, right next to Mark Zuckerberg. Twin Rocks Trading Post’s Business School classes begin in the fall, so get registered early. Orientation starts next week. Priscilla has suggested we call our new institution U Stink and that our motto be, “You don’t have to smell good to sell good,” and that we adopt a pig as our mascot.