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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Majestic Landscape--Spiritual and Haunting

March 17, 2013 7:47 pm Hampton Inn Room 330 Kayenta, Az

Happy St Patrick's Day!  I wore the green of my Irish ancestors today but, so impressed with my surroundings, totally forgot to have a picture taken. Even Bill wore a green shirt, which surprised me but made me smile.

The motel is extremely hot and the window is jammed so it cannot be opened. The A/C barely makes a difference. As a result, neither of us slept very well last night. As a matter of fact, I got up at midnight, after having gone to bed at 10:30, and read until 1:30, when I fell asleep. Got up at 6:30, dressed quickly, ate breakfast and were on the road before 8.  Once we were riding toward the Valley and the sun was breaking through the heavy cloud cover, bringing the colors of the Earth to life, we forgot any fatigue we might feel.

Our tour began at The View Motel at 9. We were there by 8:15 so I had plenty of time to explore the grounds and lobby. Every room faces the Valley with a balcony and the Mittens are so close it feels as though you could touch them. I think I'll make this my extravagance if we ever return.

At 8:50 a short, stocky Navajo appeared and asked for Katherine--he introduced himself as Richard, our guide. Turns out we were the only two on the tour!!! A private tour is almost twice the cost of a group tour--so we lucked out!  We rode in a van, which was Bill's only complaint, since it inhibited his view as we rode. I, of course, had shotgun! Driving out into the Valley, Richard introduced himself in Navajo traditional manner and in the Navajo tongue, which he had to translate, of course. One begins by naming one's Mother's clan, since this is a maternal system of belonging, then his father's clan, followed by the clans of both of his grandparents--remembering that there are only two--his maternal grandmother's clan and his paternal grandmother's clan since that grandfather was now of her clan. He said both of his grandparents are of the same clan and that this is most unusual, since marriage among close relatives is not allowed and this idiosyncrasy has sometimes caused him problems.

Having chosen the first trip of the day, we experienced a wonderful change in color as we were introduced to the various forms and their names. I may have to upload the photos again to Snapfish, since I have labeled the names of the one's I could remember from the tour. Several worth mentioning are the Thunderbird Mesa which didn't record as well as I'd like, but the desert varnish or black coloration on the rock, seems to have formed the large figure of a Thunderbird on its face.

Another formation, which became my favorite, is the king on his throne. Showing his humor, Richard said that it is of him, King Richard!  Forever in my mind it will remain King Richard on his throne.

There is also The Hub since it looks like a wheel lying on the ground with its hub elevated above the spokes.

One of the first of the holes in the rocks we were shown was The Eye. It is found in a depressed area of the Valley where water gathers forming a huge lake when the rains come in Spring. Here, too, are the petroglyphs of mountain goats that are so mysterious and interesting and a small Anasazi home --actually, it just looks small--all of the surrounding forms are so huge they dwarf everything.

Another opening is called the Ear of the Wind. Reminds Richard of Elvis for some reason. I didn't see it, myself.

Probably the most memorable stop was the Big Hogan. A large domed formation into which we walked. I noticed Richard was carrying a back pack but just thought he didn't want to leave any valuables in the van. When we reached the back wall he told me and Bill to sit or lie on it and look up through the hole above us--a perfect window to the pure blue sky. We got comfortable and relaxed into the beauty when Richard began to chant--the acoustics were so perfect--his voice a rich baritone. All was silent but for this other worldly sound. As his voice died away, he began to play a Navajo flute. So haunting--so unexpected. I felt myself totally transported by the beauty and silence of the surroundings but for the lilt and chirp of the music. As the last notes died away, he brought us back by breaking into Amazing Grace, complete with the sound of chanter. It was though we had been meditating. It took a few minutes to resume normal breathing and thought. I could have stayed there forever.

Out we came and before  us, back lit, were the Three Sisters and The Totem Pole. Apparently, Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman were photographed on the Totem. Since then,no one has been allowed to ascend that structure. No explanation given.

Then we came to the area known as John Ford's Point. This is the area that he most loved to shoot in his movies and is probably the mental image everyone in the whole world  carries around as the appearance of all of the American West--or at least those in the world who ever think about the American West.

Another formation is The Rooster.

Grey Whiskers is named for Richard's grandfather, Levy Black, a medicine man. He said when I wore my black Levis I would remember!

The conversation with Richard ranged from discussion of Navajo customs, the language ( similarities with Japanese language though not alot, hence the success of the Code Talkers),the system of government in the Navajo Nation and the presence of nepotism which is rampant, the education of the children ( BIA schools that did not challenge the kids,boarding schools in which the culture and customs and language of the Dine are taught and the consolidated State schools in which the kids are taught the same curriculum as none Dine) whether people live on the Valley (yes), which is a Tribal Park and is not part of the National Parks System, where various movies and some of the specific scenes in them were filmed, Richard's career as a computer systems developer in Mesa and his return home, etc, etc, etc. He also showed me how to better use my camera, since photography is a hobby of his, too. His taste in music--KISS--and movies. He is funny--as we approached a young woman dropped her camera--he said to us with a chuckle --that's a goner--then opened his window as we passed and asked her if the camera was for sale now! 

As our tour drew to a close Richard showed us a shot on his iPhone of the highway coming right into the Valley and its Monuments. He told us to head farther into Utah to mile marker 13 and take the shot.  He also told me that the Navajos call the rock that I think looks like a Basset Hound or a Bear, depending on the light, Dolly Parton. I said I hadn't seen that but probably was looking at a different part of the formation. Well, on the way back to Kayenta, I saw that at a certain angle it looks like the Owl Rock, that it is called, but certainly from another angle it DOES resemble Dolly!  LOL

Having reached the Kayenta end of the scenic route we retired to our room for a nap and then later in the evening went once more to the Reuben Heflin Restaurant and I had a lovely poached salmon with lemonade and Bill had the rosemary chicken I'd had the night before. Didn't think to photograph either meal but they were plentiful and delicious.

As a final note, for the linguists among you or the simply those with curiosity about an incredible historical footnote to WW II. As a student in grade school my Dad told me about the Navajo Code Talkers and their importance in the Pacific Theatre. It was only this year that I finally understood just exactly how the code worked.

A Navajo word was chosen for a particular letter of the English language. For example, for the letter "a", the word chosen might be "wolachee" meaning ant, or belasana meaning apple, or "tsenill" meaning axe.

So here is the possible string of Navajo words that could be transmitted and have as their meaning the word Navy. "tsah (needle) wol-la-chee ( ant ) ah-keh-di-glini ( victor ) tsah-ah-dzoh ( yucca) " Even if the Japanese listening in knew the meaning of these words, a sentence that says "needle ant victor yucca" wouldn't make a great deal of sense!  But the Navajo code talker getting this message would know to take the first letter of each English word and make a word and then a sentence from it. I took this example from the publication " Discover Beautiful Navajo".  This code became particularly important when an English speaking Japanese, and they had many, broke into our communications system and ordered an artillery assault on our men. There were Code Talkers among them and they transmitted a cease fire order letting our artillery know that they were attacking their own men.

You might want to check back on an earlier note in which I stated the years in which Native Americans received the right to vote. And we worry about the mistreatment of our former slaves, only. Sigh!

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