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Sunday, June 7, 2009

we went home to Rock Springs

This weekend we went back to Rock Springs, to see Helen and Dorothy and all our family. It was so wonderful. I tried to phrase things in coherent sentences and paragraphs but it just wasn’t possible. I’m suffering from sensory and mental overload. Thoughts only come in poignant, evocative fragments, vignettes of memory and contrast. New sights reflected on the screen of memories. Catch the images. Don't look for sentences.

Smooth asphalt where there used to be washboard dirt, a graded road where there used to be two ruts between sage, a steel bridge where there used to be a deep descent into the wash and an angled ascent back up to the level. Frame houses where there used to be only open range. A gate across the mission drive. New buildings at the chapter house. Few roaming horses. No cattle. No Goats, no sheep. Power lines running through the community. Water piped to most houses. Very few out houses. The surrounding change but the vital things remain the same.

Helen, Leonard, Dorothy and Lenora, still working at securing the shade pavilion against the constant NM wind. Happy faces, weathered by wind and sun. Traditional gentle handshakes. Welcoming arms and tears of gladness. Memories recalled between loved ones. Shi k’is yaz, all grown up with kids of her own. Catching up on who is married, who has babies, where the kids live now. Where is this one or that one. The enclosing circle of the hogan. Rugs on the floor, beds on the sides, a round table with a lamp. A kitchen counter with sink, no running water in here. Kids running in and out. ( wow now it’s just Seth and DJ—used to be half a dozen grandkids) Puppy nosing on the floor. Cat being chased out the door repeatedly. Dorothy’s velvet blouse and tiered skirt. Helen’s twisted bun. The comforting sound of Navajo, flowing around me

Talking about family and happenings. A mixture of Navajo and English, forgotten words and phrases surfacing in my memory. Someone died, someone is in the hospital. Dave has three girls. Chester’s wife is living with Dorothy’s, their youngest was premature, still in the NICU in Albuquerque. Lots of people will be around, what will we feed them. How about tomorrow. Mixtures of traditional Navajo and modern anglo adoptions. ( Tonight’s menu: traditional cubed meat and potatoes fried together, tortillas, and pizza!) Everyone goes to cook, Kerra to pick up pizza. (Two large supreme, three medium cheese and pepperoni )

Me, alone, with orders to rest. That’s good. My knees hurt from the long drive and sitting on the bed with my feet down. Lying on the bed, puppy snuggled against my back. Quiet all about. Hogan, round and arched and white above me, enfolding. The open door and the direct view across the expanse of sagebrush juniper, rabbit brush and clumps of thread grass (what the kids called “dog tail” grass) in front of the hogan to the blue, blue sky above. Wind constantly driving, occasional bursts of sand and grit. The dog barking down by the house. How many days spent lying or sitting on a bed while the wind blasted around outside. Partial sleep; cat seizing the opportunity to come inside. No one moves. Cat strolling around calling inquiringly for company, wakes the puppy. I slap the bed and he hops down. Quiet again after the puppy settles back. I almost expect Louie at any minute.

Quiet is gone, the boys come clattering back, laughing and chasing each other flopping on the other bed, waking the pup. Soon Kerra and Keva return with pizzas. Kerra goes to help with cooking. Keva begins cleaning the accumulated grit off the table. DJ wants to dive into the Pizza, but has to wait. Bummers…

Sensory overload stills. Coherence picks up. Soon Helen, Kerra and Lenora arrive with food, OK. It’s home I am gonna eat tortilla! I’ll give the dogs the pizza crust, but I will not waste Helen’s tortillas!

Helen took Leonard a plate of pizza and fried potatoes. He prefers to stay in the quiet at the house rather being with a crowd of chattering relatives. Leonard isn’t really unsociable, just likes the quiet better. Of all the family, I noticed the years more with Leonard. His once jet hair is now an ash black color with some honest silver above the ears. His face is older but not deeply lined, only sagging some on the cheeks. His once confident stride has slowed even to a shuffle once in a while. Helen said he will be 71 in September. He and Notah share the same birthdate.

We all ate pizza and meat and potatoes with soda or punch. Helen’s tortillas are puffy and soft. I haven’t eaten such excellent naanesk’adi since the last time I was at her house! And once I leave I know I won’t again. Rachael and Kerra prefer to buy theirs ready made at Krogers or Smiths. Real naanesk’adi is a lot of work for busy modern women. I understand. I just think the ‘real thing’ is sooo much better. They think so too, it is just quicker to do the plastic bag kind. Seth and Keva literally stuffed themselves. I lost count of how many they ate. No one cared. Kids are supposed to love Navajo tortillas.

Dorothy had to leave before we ate. A couple of her grandkids came down to tell her that Sam was in a lot of pain from his stomach. He had been in pain the night before, but Navajos don’t give a lot of thought to pain until it is practically excruciating. When they came for Dorothy, they said he was hurting so bad he couldn't stop shaking. Just after Dorothy got home they took Sam to the hospital. He was admitted.

So we had supper together; then by and by other family stopped in, too. It is neat Navajo visits are kind of a progressive dinner… The people present at first eat, then as others come they eat too. If a staple runs out, a little more meat is fried or potatoes peeled. Dean and Kathy and their son stopped by and had pizza. Angeline and Michelle, (Monte’s wife) and Neesha came too and ate. Someone else stopped too but we had so many I can’t remember who it was. There was some pizza left that we sent home then with them for Angeline’s boyfriend and Monte when they got off work.

We were all worn out. Helen looked weary. Even the boys were calming down. Puppy was falling asleep where ever he stood until someone picked him up or tripped over him. Then he’d move and go to sleep again. Poor baby.

( Oh! I didn’t mention the new puppy before, did I? On Tuesday, June 2nd, Notah and Kerra bought a German shepherd pup. He was just short of six weeks old—a little fuzz bucket! Poor baby. He had spent his whole life in a horse barn with a mama and brothers n sisters. Now these people picked him up and hauled him around in a car for an hour, Then they brought him into a strange barn with fuzzy floors and strange dogs! AND THEN they tried to drown him with warm water and foamy bubbly smelly stuff. Goodness! He was so overwhelmed he jus sat still and stared into space.

But he learned fast and decided it was a pretty good deal. He got his own food several times a day and he didn’t have to compete for it. His siblings were gone but people were always ready to play with him. And when he fell asleep everyone made sure nothing othered him. Notah finally named him Thain, after Thorin’s brother in The Hobbit. LOL except if I stay too long he’s going to be “Train.” It just always comes out that way. )

Anyway, back to the weekend. We had made reservations to stay in Gallup because usually Helen uses the hogan for storage and I didn’t want her to go to so much work for only one night. We have always stayed there when we visit. Not only that, I’m up and down a lot at night and need special arrangements to keep my knees from aching so much I cannot walk.

I should have known my sister better than that! Somenone had been living there not too long ago so she had just straightened up the hogan anyway and put up a shade outside on the north side. It was good to be able to sit in there during the day on our visit, but we went into town to sleep. Seth and Keva were gratified to be able to jump in the pool for a few minutes before bed time. Not me. I washed up, fixed my chair and put my poor knees out straight! What a grand evening. And more to come tomorrow!

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