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Austere Beauty

I thought it was windy yesterday.  Today the air is red/brown. 

I went out on the res w/ a Navajo nurse today.  She showed me around the countryside in between stops in villages and remote camps to visit patients.  I am yet again struck by the sheer scope and diversity of this land - canyons and mesas, miles of sagebrush, wheat-colored grass and stunted cedars.  It's breathtaking.  My new friend has been driving these roads - rutted and dusty - for over 30 years and still isn't tired of this scenery. 

Stopping at the senior center in one village I listened to the elders speaking their native tongue, strange and soothing.  My friend told me of her parents who were taken off the reservation by the army  to boarding school when they were 5 or 6 years old.  Her dad told her that they'd be beaten if they were caught speaking their native language.  (Pretty ironic considering that the very same army that took them away used the Navajo language as code and those who could speak it as radio operators during WWII.)   The Navajo language was never spoken in her home growing up, and though she can understand it she can't speak it proficiently. 

The juxtaposition of modern and antiquated, new and traditional, is expected but at times jarring.  There are brand new schools and clinics in some villages, practically gleaming; shiny gas stations and convenience stores in others.  Some village schools are crumbling, clinics in re-purposed housing.  Some folks live in modern, 2-story homes.  Others live in traditional hogans or ramshackle trailers.  Many have outhouses.  And the dogs are omnipresent in every settlement.  But there's lots and lots of empty land in between the people. 

The vistas were impressive, but less than they might have been on this occasion due to the intense wind and dust storms.  We're talking 40-50 mph winds and the sky totally obscured by particulate.  There were giant tumbleweeds rolling across the road and large numbers of them - all different sizes and shades - huddled together against the fences.  I was inexplicably reminded of tribbles...

I still have grit in my teeth and I think there are grains of sand embedded in my sinuses.  And apparently I have an affinity for dashes as well...



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 9th, 2011 09:29 pm (UTC)
It sounds like you are having a great experience. So different from your homestate, isn't it?
Apr. 11th, 2011 02:02 am (UTC)
That's the truth! I keep asking myself if I could live out here or if I'd get green withdrawals. Home is so lush and vibrant. I don't know. But seeing the mountains when it's clear here makes me think it'd be a fair trade...
Apr. 10th, 2011 03:12 pm (UTC)
I'm enjoying your trip log. This is interesting and lovely.

PS wind makes me happy too. There are studies on it. It makes people (and animals) high or something. There are some countries where you can get away with murder when the mistrals are blowing.
Apr. 11th, 2011 02:00 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading! I start to feel antsy when the air is too still. I got wind chimes for Christmas. Makes me happy to hear them when I can't be out to feel the wind.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )