We arose to another glorious Arizona day, cool, crisp and with a magnificent blue sky. We had breakfast and proceeded to drive through the NAU campus looking for the Physics building. The campus is relatively small, and we were able to find the building with little effort. We found the building directory and made our way to Kathy Eastwood's office. She had forgotten all about our coming, but that did not prevent her from stopping what she was doing and talking to us about Lori's thesis and the job opening at NAU. She then took us on a tour of the department facilities and eventually to the department office. There we met Barry Lutz, an old friend of mine (and Steve's) from our days at the Earth and Space Sciences Department at SUNY Stony Brook in New York. He gave us an overview of the job opening from a more administrative point of view (teaching responsibilites, etc.). As Lori had not yet put in a complete application, it became clear that she would somehow have to complete her application while we were on the road, given the timescale set in place for review of the candidates.
After a few hours, all of our business had been conducted. We left to visit our last mall in the Anglo USA to obtain a few supplies and to decide on the proper sunglasses for Lori for this trip (she did forget a lot of critical items!). In the Safeway parking lot on the outskirts of Flagstaff [Kinaní], Lori divested herself of her "interview clothes" and prepared to shift into a different gear. While she had spent most of her life west of the Mississippi and had observed in Tucson often, Lori had never explored northern Arizona [Hoozdo Hahoodzo]. A new world was to open up for her. I knew well what to expect and am drawn inexorably back to the region. My ability to return to Massachusetts each time continues to puzzle me.
We started north from Flagstaff [Kinaní], not knowing where we would spend the night. Before leaving Tucson I had checked with the Hopi Cultural Office; I was assured that there would be no dances that weekend. Since they were also having plumbing problems at the motel on Second Mesa, [Tsétsoh'id] and, though taking room reservations, they could not assure us of running water, we decided to turn in another direction, directly into Navajo country [Diné bikéyah].
We first took the loop drive through Sunset Crater National Monument and Wupatki National Monument. The drive begins in the Sunset Crater area, passing through the relatively recent lava flows and cinder cones of this part of the San Francisco volcano field. It then continues in the loop, dropping down into Wupatki National Monument.
Photograph: Stephen E. Strom. An alternate view of this landscape is available from Lawrence McFarland.
It was on this drive that Lori first saw the changing colors ['atah'áát'eego nidaashch'ágíí] and textures of the northern Arizona [Hoozdo Hahoodzo] landscape. It was there that she began her collection of sands [séí] on this trip. At Wupatki, while exploring one of the building sites, she took an empty plastic water [tó] bottle and collected her first sand [séí]. It was also here that she had her first experience with the colors ['atah'áát'eego nidaashch'ágíí] of the sands [séí] changing with her viewing angle. Sometimes, as she went to get a "new" color ['atah'áát'eego nidaashch'ágíí] sample, she found, on direct comparison in the same light, that this earth sample was the same color ['atah'áát'eego nidaashch'ágíí] as one she had collected before! Here also the remarkable sandstone erosion patterms began working their way into my consciousness again, as they had each time I saw them.
It is here also that you get the first large scale overviews of the ever so gradually staged pastel layers of the Navajo reservation. If you allow yourself, you can be enveloped by the soft expanse and feel yourself sinking into it as if into a featherbed. I began to relax and let go of the forces confining me within my own skin and my culturally and professionally driven concerns.The existence of far larger concerns made these seem trivial by comparison. As we headed toward Tuba City [Tónaneesdizí], we sank into a country considered by some to be the most desolate in the U.S. and by others (including me) to be some of the most beautiful "painted desert" or stratified mudhill expanse seen, competing easily with, and even surpassing, the Painted Desert National Park. As we climbed into Tuba City [Tónaneesdizí], we were met by an incredible pink [dinilchíí] landscape which startles me anew each time I go to meet it. As the roadside pullouts are constantly evolving here, I drove past the overview that I wanted. I turned the van around and pulled out onto the "level" top of a very large mudhill. Leaving the car, I brought Lori to the edge. The view was incredible, as always -- a heavily textured and veined pink [dinilchíí] hillside falling into a level plain with a small pond in the distance. In spring [daan dgo] and summer [sh shhgo] there can be an unbelievably green [tát'id] growth around the pond which reflects the clear blue [doot'izh] sky [yáh], all sitting in the middle of the irrefutable pink [dinilchíí] landscape. The same discarded tires [chidí bikee'] had not moved far, and I was reassured that even in this world, some things can still be relied upon as anchors in our life.
We walked over the almost level top of this high mudhill to look out over the plain in other directions. It appeared that we were walking on a layer of 1 - 2" diameter elliptical but rough, black, hard nodules. On closer inspection, some had been broken open, probably by the cars which are driven out here, to reveal a beautiful agate interior. I picked up one of the nodules that had been broken open and placed it in my jacket pocket. Whenever I wear that jacket now, I remember that clear winter day and the gorgeous view of the pink [dinilchíí] landscape against the blue sky.
We stopped at the trading post [naalyéhí báhooghan] in Tuba City [Tónaneesdizí], something I had never done before. Tuba City [Tónaneesdizí] is located near the edge of the Hopi lands [Kiis'áanii bikéyah]. The town of Moenkopi is nearby, and the trading post [naalyéhí báhooghan] was filled with many exquisitly carved Hopi kachina "dolls", in truth, sculptures. I coveted one with a $6000 price tag, but decided that this was slightly outside my allowance for this trip. However, the miniature Navajo rugs [diyogí], very finely woven, were within my budget. I selected one of these to take home. Lori found a box of zip-lock bags in which to contain her growing sand [séí] collection. I found a copy of Mean Spirit by Linda Hogan, a novel about the life of the Indians in Oklahoma after the discovery of oil. I had been recommending that Lori read this book for at least a year, so I bought a copy for her. We also got a copy of the Navajo Times, a necessity if you truly want to see things from the Navajo perspective as you drive in the Navajo Nation [diné bikéyah].
We decided that we had time to drive to Kayenta [Tódínéeshzhee'] before the sun [Jóhonaa'éí] set (important as we intended to miss not a second of the landscape!) so we set out northeast [Náhooks dóó ha'a'aah bita'gi] on US 160. Black Mesa [Dziyíjiin] loomed in the distance on the right side of the road. We passed (with much regret on my part!) the turnoff to Shonto [Sh'tóhí] and Navajo Mountain [Naatsis']. We also passed the conveyor belt which brings the coal [eejin] slurry down from the top of Black Mesa[ Dziyíjiin] to the waiting ore cars which take it to Page [Na'ní'á hótsaa] to be converted into electricity ['atsinolt'ish] for the still growing population of the desert southwest and into smoke and pollution for the residents of the Four Corners country.
Beyond that point, the stone formations of Tségyi' Canyon began to grow on our left [nisht'ahjí] while Black Mesa [Dziyíjiin] [*] still loomed nearby on the right [nisnhááji]. There is something about the way that the light cream [dinilgai] colored rock [tsé] of Tségyi' Canyon grows from the sand [séí], with the side canyons and large erosion holes, that holds the imagination. Lori couldn't take her eyes off of it as we drove up the Klethla Valley, and questions poured out of her. The sun was getting low behind us, and we couldn't stop to explore. But I told her about Betatakin [Bitát'ahkin] and Keet Seel in Navajo National Monument, the possible horse trips and 2 day hikes down the canyons, the time I drove over the tops of the canyons on the drive out to Navajo Mountain [Naatsis'], all I could remember, as we drove on past the Comb Ridge
to reach Kayenta [Tódínéeshzhee'] at sunset. We forsook the Holiday Inn for the small town atmosphere of the Wetherill Inn, my long time home when in Kayenta [Tódínéeshzhee']. And next door to the Wetherill is the pride of Kayenta [Tódínéeshzhee'], the Golden Sands restaurant [da'adá báhooghan], named for the ever present material just outside, and sometimes inside, its doors.
After we checked into our room, we wandered over to the Golden Sands to sample the local culture and cuisine. As I am a longtime patron of the Golden Sands, I told Lori that the Navajo Taco was the item of choice on their menu, but that you must be careful to order the mini, since only lumberjacks can eat the full order. However, I was disappointed to note that the new owners of the Golden Sands had instituted a new menu -- there was no longer a full order available. The only choice was a single order -- a plate size piece of fry bread [dah díníilghaazh] covered with chili (beans [naa'oí] and ground meat ['ats'yik'ání]), chopped lettuce [ch'il igaaí] and tomato [ch'il ichí'í], onion [t'ohchin], cheese [géeso] and a hot pepper. So we both ordered this delicacy and sat back to examine our maps.
While we were eating our dinner, two [naaki] very drunk [adláanii] local residents, barely able to stand, attempted to enter the restaurant [da'adá báhooghan] .The new manager (a bilagáana) stopped them just inside the door and, addressing them by name, firmly but politely, refused them service and escorted them outside. This happened two [naaki] more times while we were consuming our dinner and making our "plans" for the next day [j]. Plan is a very loosely used term here because we both valued very much the fact that we were, at least temporarily, free of all obligations. We did have a reservation at the Thunderbird Inn at Canyon de Chelly [Tséyi'] for the next night, but that was hardly a constraint. Maybe, instead of planning, I should say that we explored and weighed the possibilities available. We decided to have breakfast [abínígo da'adánígíí] at the Golden Sands in the morning [abíní] and then to drive the loop in Monument Valley [Tsé bii'nidzisgai] before driving southeast [Shádi'ááh dóó ha'a'ah bita'gi] to the Chinle [Ch'íníl] area.
During our dinner, the next table [bikáá adání] over
was occupied by a
Navajo family (at least 3 generations) with the youngest member being a
baby ['awéé'] asleep in his(her?) cradleboard
[awééts'áál]. We had our first real exposure to the cultural differences to be found in this corner of the US.
Since it was now quite dark, we checked in on the rest of the world via CNN and ESPN
(Lori needed to know how the UMass basketball team was doing). We also had a
chance to look at the Navajo Times, which we had bought in Tuba City [Tónaneesdizí].
There we found two [naaki] items of real interest:
an ad for a secretary for a law office with truly
unique qualifications required and a job opening at
Crownpoint Institute of Technology for which we were both qualified!
This would take careful consideration. A visit to
Crownpoint [T'iists'óóz nídeeshgiizh] was definitely
on the agenda!
Recommend this website to a friend!
Navajo Spaceships, Star Mountain and Rez Memories, An Online Writing Journal, Prose & Poetry by John Rustywire, Navajo
There is an historical photograph available of Flagstaff, circa 1899, from the National Archives American West Still Images page:
Flagstaff, Ariz. Terr. Street view of post office, other buildings, and people, with mountains in background, ca. 1899. Photograph by G. Ben Wittick, 48-RST-4B-1 7 [250 Kbytes]
A photograph of the San Francisco Mountains from the North is available from the Cline library Special Collections and Archives Department of Northern Arizona University.
A page on Humphreys Peak is also available.
Approximately a dozen photographs of Monument Valley can be found in the Special Collections and Archives Department, Cline Library, Northern Arizona University.
Many photographs of Tuba City and the surrounding area may also be found at the Special Collections and Archives Department, Cline Library, Northern Arizona University.
Subscribe to American Indian Art Magazine
Books on Flagstaff
Books on Navajo Rug Weaving
Visit The Sonoran Desert 5000 square miles of silence.
On to Day 3
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