Chapter 1: Opening
Do you hear my whisper?
What does the wind whisper to you?
Listen to the song of the manzanita tree and the desert holly,
As we step down this trail,
Towards the late afternoon spring.
There is a lifting up, of an accord to heaven,
On this wash of red sandstone and hematite;
A distant drumming, together of our heartbeats,
One pulse as we walk along the mesa’s edge.
I catch a glimpse into your eyes,
As the peering sun squints between feathered clouds;
On canyon walls, I hear a subtle song reflected,
From a past long shared, in a distant foreign land.
The whisper of times spent wrapped together,
In a blanket near the fire, on a brisk winter’s evening;
And of moments that we danced slowly together,
In the soft hush of the spring morn.
You searched for me in rainbows that color the sky,
You watched for me in the thousand winds that blew,
You met me in diamond glints in the snow;
When you thought, I was gone.
Turn my way and know;
That I am here, and have always been,
Do you hear the whisper?
There are moments in this holy place of the Navajo and Hopi, a place of painted orange skies and soft evening breezes that open into gentle melodies arising from waves of purple three-awn and tufted green hair-grass. It is a place where the spirit circulates between the walls of canyons that lift breezes and thoughts upward to honor the skies. Rhythmic tics outline this story of simple truths. Time in this part of the world flutters on feathered wings from stances of Aspen in the high country to the open vistas of the red mesas lands.
I was trekking with my VW minivan several years ago through the Ponderosa pines that surround Flagstaff to the land of mesas where the Gods once reached down to touch the human race. I looked forward to a hot cup of coffee on the blustery first day of jittered travel on the back-roads of the Nava-Hopi lands. My intended destination was the Navajo spiritual place, Canyon De Chelly. According to my projections, I’d be there by that evening.
My plan was to take a few pictures, journal a bit, and move onward by the following day. I had mapped out the course several weeks prior. Earlier, I highlighted each stop on a road map that was now neatly folded up that lay in the passenger’s seat. I also made a list on a smaller piece of paper of places to stop and see, where to eat, and when I would rent a hotel room or stay in the van which I previously folded and tucked in my shirt pocket.
At my first stop was when I first met Ajei (translated: my heart) at the Hubble Trading post near Ganado, Arizona. The trading post rests at the intersection of U.S. route 191 and Indian Road 264.
I stepped in the large trading post. It look like it was build in the mid 1800s, was constructed of large heavy pine timbers. I took a few steps on the uneven pine floor towards a counter with a hand painted sign that read “Drinks, Water & Coffee.”
“I’d like a cup of coffee, please.” I asked the older Navajo man behind the counter as he was cleaning up the coffee service area.
He looked around at me and grinned. “Straight-up?”
“Yeah, that’ll do” Assuming that he was talking about ‘no cream or sugar.’
“What’s your name?” This place, the land and the people have always piqued my interest.
“Joe” he grinned. “Figures. I’m an Injun” he grinned wider.
I winced and politely said, “How do I get a tour when I get into the canyon?”
“Ask an Injun when you get there.” He smiled and turned away, again wiping the counter.
Ajei, the beautiful Navajo woman that I met that night who I often think about to this very day was sitting at a small card table to the side of the counter. She wore a thin royal blue blanket as a wrap around her shoulder and blue and white earrings hung from the lobes of her ears softly touching her smooth desert-brown skin. Her straight raven black hair reached far down her back and was decorated on one side with a feather. She softly smiled as I stepped closer to the table. I was caught off-guard by her gentle presence in the midst of the crusty and cold trading post. I stopped to introduce myself.
After introductions, Ajei spoke to me about several generalities that day, like how the Navajos have traded in the Hubble Trading post for well over a century and a half, how the light wind-swept away the dusting of snow from the evening before, and the differences that exist between clans like how many Navajos leave to marry a non-native since non-natives are outside of their clan.
Then, she softly focused and looked deep within my eyes with a gaze warmed with compassion. “We each have a story to share. Our shared stories give purpose to each person on Mother Earth.”
“Your story will be a sand painting of healing. And …” she paused as if she as listening inward to a soft whispered voice, “…and your story will be told in five parts over the next three years.”
I waited for a moment and started to say something, but Ajei continued, “My story will then follow yours. And this is when you will know when to share your story.” She softened and looked down into her open hands.
I drew back slightly. I thanked her, swallowed the last drop of coffee, crumpled the paper cup and pitched it in the trashcan. Smiling at Ajei, I tipped my hat and closed the door behind me.
That was several years ago and this is my story.
(c) 2016, Ron McFarland