As might have been expected, we got a late start. Lori had to mail some resumés before we left, and the mail outlet store was late in opening, and, even then, moved slowly. We did finally get under way at about 10:30.
The trip to Phoenix was uneventful, and we found our way to the Heard Museum. It is the policy of the Heard Museum to allow Native American tribal members free admission. As Lori possessed a tribal membership card from the Choctaw Nation, I suggested that she use it to obtain entry. For a reason that I don't recall, I had entered first, so I missed the scene that followed. I am told it went like this: Lori presented her tribal membership card and was greeted immediately with a belly laugh. It seems that the membership card states on its face the fraction of Native American blood (at least in the tribe issuing the card) possessed by the holder. Lori's card said 1/128. Apparently some tribes, particuliarly Western tribes, are not as generous in distributing tribal membership cards as are other tribes. Nonetheless, humiliated as she was, Lori was allowed in without charge. But, as she noted, she now knows where she stands!
We had an incredibly stimulating time while at the Heard Museum. They had a wonderful exhibit of contemporary Native American art in their Gallery of Indian Art and a marvelous exhibit of photographs in the COMPAS Gallery taken by Horace Poolaw, a Kiowa photographer from Anadarko,Oklahoma, during the period 1925-1955, documenting the changes in Native American society throughout that period. The show documented the changing culture of the Kiowas during that period and included some work he did as an air force photographer during World War II. Seeing Oklahoma through his eyes was especially illuminating for the two of us who grew up there through part of that period.
We then entered a large multimedia (exhibits, videos, recordings) presentation on the meaning and effect of rain on the cultures and the peoples of the desert. We saw and heard people from the Zuni, Diné (Navajo), Tohono O'odham, Indé (Apache), Hopi and Rio Grande Pueblos discuss rain, its meaning and its interaction with them in videos, discussions with their children, in song, in their artwork. The Zuni potters make ceramics having many images associated with rain (frogs, water serpents, clouds) both for sale and for use in ceremonies. Rain images are also seen in their jewelry. The Diné describe two kinds of rain. "Male rain" comes with thunder, lightning and wind in a downpour. "Female rain" is a steady, quiet rain. The origins of weaving are interwoven with rain. The spindles used by Spider Woman were made of the three types of lightning: zigzag, flash and sheet. The fourth spindle was a rain streamer. The year begins for the Tohono O'odham with the harvesting of the saguaro fruit in late May and June and the ceremony that ensures that rain will continue throughout the summer. The Saguaro Wine festival begins with the harvest of the ripe saguaro fruit, the "pulling down of the clouds." The juice is extracted from this fruit and allowed to ferment for three days in the "rainhouse" under the care of the village ceremonial leader, the "Keeper of the Smoke." While the juice ferments, the people of the village sing songs and dance at night. On the third day, at noon, the headmen gather to recite poems over the basket of wine. After the ceremony, the crops are planted to take advantage of the rains that are sure to follow. For the Indé the meaning of rain is quite different. They believe rain represents those who have died. But this is certainly nothing to be feared, but to be celebrated. When it rains, you should stand out in it and feel it. When your ancestors died, they changed into rain while traveling to the next world. Many rain symbols are found in their basketry. For the Hopis, everything that they do, even the social dance, is for rain. Rain imagery is seen in much of their art, as in the cloud symbols in the headdress of this kachina For the peoples of the Rio Grande pueblos, "Rain is Life." The Rio Grande basin has been populated since at least 1100 AD. Despite the river, it is still a very dry region. In the prehistoric pueblos, murals were painted on the walls depicting kachinas and other images associated with rain. Some contemporary painters from these communities, such as Pablita Velarde, make images inspired by the older works.
We made our own rain images with stencils and crayons while listening to songs to bring and to celebrate the rain. We also saw exhibits of intricate beadwork in the South Gallery (Room 6) and of Zuni fetishes, both traditional and modern fetishes carved for trade, in the Sandra Day O'Connor Gallery (Room 8). We were barely able to tear ourselves away, and I had to stop at the museum shop, of course. I escaped with minimal damage to my purse, making only a few crucial purchases,including a small burden basket to hang from our sun visor and a miniature Mexican hand painted candelabra. We also hung our hand made rain images from the rearview mirror. We were now ready to head north to immerse ourselves in Indian territory.
But . . . . by this time we were starving! I managed to remember how to get to the Bahia San Carlos (1901 East McDowell Road) where we joined the Mexican-American community in a meal to remember, Mexican seafood eaten beneath the interstate (almost).
I still had one stop to make in the Phoenix area, a galley in Scottsdale where Steve and I had found a very unusual piece of Acoma pottery in the shape of an owl. So we drove to Scottsdale. The Native American art in the Lovena Ohl Gallery is indeed exquisite. I was unable to leave before buying a "34th anniversary gift" for Steve, a beautiful sand painting by Joe Ben, Jr. containing a comet, meteors [s'nídiilwod], a moon [T'ehonaa'í] with a wonderful evocation of craters, constellations [s'ání] and stars [s'] and a Navajo depiction of the Milky Way [Yikáísdáhí]. Since Steve was back in Massachusetts, I had the sandpainting shipped back so I would not have to worry about protecting it on the road.
We needed to find a bank machine which would dispense some cash for us for our journey, not expecting to see many of these between Flagstaff and Albuquerque. We asked directions at the gallery and were told that there was an ATM only a couple of blocks away. We wound up driving through several mall parking lots until we found the one with the ATM. Of course, since it was now rush hour, the traffic was very heavy, compounding our problems. But, we did get cash and could now try to find our way to the interstate and get on the road again.
So we finally started for Flagstaff at almost 5 PM, fighting the rush hour traffic all the way around the city as the sun set. We headed north for our as yet vaguely defined adventure. Before dark completely enveloped us, we saw a sign which would provide amusement for us throughout the rest of the trip, an exit to Table Mesa Road! Only a confirmed know-nothing developer would not understand the foolishness of that name!
As we drove through the dark Arizona landscape, it seemed that Orion appeared in the sky around every curve, mocking and accusing us, as if he knew that we were leaving him behind and he wouldn't let us go. Near the Verde Valley we passed Montezuma's Castle, a pueblo ruin high in a hillside of volcanic tuff. But it was dark and they were closed long ago, so we passed with regret. We finally got to Flagstaff and couldn't find the motel that had been recommended, so we settled into the Comfort Inn near the university. We had a light snack (we were still stuffed from "lunch"), and Lori prepared herself for her meetings tomorrow morning while I tried to sleep.
A short set of pages on Montezuma's Castle is also available from SEDONA On-Line.
Recommend this website to a friend!
Visit The Sonoran Desert 5000 square miles of silence.
Books from the Heard Museum
Books About Phoenix
© 1994 Karen M. Strom
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