Thursday, August 2, 2012

Happy hopi hippy

The trip, in it's short duration, has been incredibly rewarding. I stopped in town for one last coffee with the boys and then got on my way up the 15 to Barstow, picked up the 40 and headed east. The thundershowers I had been expecting never quite materialized and the trip to Flagstaff was pretty tolerable, if  uneventful.

I still had plenty of gas in the truck and in my own tank and I decided to keep going a bit farther and see what turned up. My driving knee started to hurt after an hour and I slowly drove through Winslow, sizing up the hotels and tying to find an alternative to the La Posada, which is a fine hotel but at $129 was a bit excessive for my budget and in any case, a lot more fun when Leslie is along for the ride. I decided to sneak up the 87, one of my favorite roads and steal a few pictures before nightfall. I pulled my car off of the Homolovi runs and walked around, catching the day's first rainbow and enjoying the old Hopi ruins by myself, with not another soul in sight.

I got a wild hair and said screw it, I will keep driving. I set my sights on the Hopi Second Mesa. Leslie called ahead for me and got the last room at the Hopi  Cultural Center. I circled up through the magnificent sunset and arrived near dark. I dragged my suitcase and guitar into the room and then decided to have dinner while the restaurant was still open. The menu had both hopi and non hopi items and I thought I should go with the hometown cooking. I ordered Nowivi, hopi lamb stew with hominy and green chile. The entree came with blue corn fry bread and was absolutely delicious. I ordered a glass of water but felt a little guilty that I couldn't finish it, water being such a scarce commodity on the parched desert hilltop. The server, Brittany, was a sweetheart and brought her giggling baby over when the meal was over. After dinner I went back to my room and picked a few old tunes. I had brought an old friend I hadn't played in several years, my handmade Andy Powers guitar with Michelangelo's creation of life inlay on the fretboard. It felt good to get reacquainted and I felt a bit neglectful at my long lapse from the instrument.

I got up at 4:30 in the morning and made preparations for catching the 5:30 sunrise. Deleted photos off the card and jumped in the van. You aren't supposed to go into the villages before 8 and there are places where photography and sketching are forbidden so I just decided to take a drive west, actually away from the coming sunrise and catch the full moon that now rose gloriously in the sky. I don't know that I have ever seen it looking so magnificent. I turned on the hopi radio station and Miss Hopi 2012 led the morning blessing for all living beings. The rest of the drive I was treated to native american singing and chants, welcoming the sun and the new day.

I drove to the town of Old Oraibi and then backtracked and decided to take the road towards Leupp. The cliffs of Leupp are where the navajos get their eagles. I don't think I have ever taken this particular road before. I didn't see all that much but it was heaven. An old navajo fixing fence at 5 in the morning, beautiful cows in silhouette against a distant butte and mesa. The area is remarkable in its cleanliness, not a single piece of litter and the people are remarkable as well, living incredible distances from stores and each other, in perfect harmony.

I have been taking side roads on the navajo and hopi reservation for over thirty years. I love to get lost out here. I feel a certain balance in this place that I do not find anywhere else in the world. My deficiencies are sort of  smoothed over and I am whole, like I uncover a vital piece of my personal identity that I have somehow misplaced. One thing I didn't do was take a lot of pictures, not really wanting to stop and disturb the flow. Sometimes my best shots are the ones I don't actually get a chance to take, the static image never coming close to the remarkable reality and brilliance of nature. So I keep the memories forever in my head and in my heart instead.

The Hopi people are so special. I have never met a kinder, more balanced group of individuals in my life. They live in the harshest conditions imaginable and yet go through their lives with grace and humor. They have survived onslaughts from their neighbors for centuries and still project a mien of peace. I remember seeing letters they had written to Lincoln asking for help with the navajos who were stealing their women and their peaches. I am going to go eat breakfast and then hit the road for Albuquerque  and go to work this afternoon. But I am so happy for this side journey. When I return I will share a few photographs with you. Peace.


Anonymous said...


MC. said...

A very nice tale.

Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

Lovely writing...what a pleasure to read!