Monday, May 09, 2005

May Greetings from the West

Here I am in Miami Beach, getting ready to make my way across the country for a two month trek up mesas and down canyons, through desert valleys and finally, importantly, into the hearts of those who await my arrival.
Through the years, they came to be, the glorious people of the west, who have started to take on as much significance as the gems and minerals that encircle their homesteads. A rockhound goes to discover painted jasper and pecos diamonds and aquamarines and if she is lucky she will encounter the true treasures of friendship along the way.

The western folks mostly enjoy life without the internet and so for the greater part of the year their voices are confined to my photo collection of men and women in jeans and T-shirts, hanging out next to their old pickups and 4-wheelers, with backdrops of the rivers and mountains and cedar and sagebrush that give them their soul and expansive outlooks. No impoverished souls here looking to fill their days with shopping or watching reality shows on the tube. The hours and minutes here are not wasted on fillers, on those distractions that help you forget what is inside. They like what is inside and their environment is the true nourishment of their souls.

Right now, my count is Six. Six beautiful people to visit this trip. Six people and six places as diverse as they are, for none of them live even a shooting distance from the other. It will be a challenge to see if a Jeep with 260,000 can get to all these places and back to Miami in the space of two months, but we, as always are up to the challenge.

Kate lives in a small bungalow in the woods in the middle of the Zuni Mountain range in New Mexico. The directions to her place go something like "follow the 3rd cattle guard about a mile and a half to a miniature old wooden hogan and then take a sharp left along a faint road that begins about a mile past the hogan." She is in her early sixties and her bungalow is filled with Navajo, Buddhist and New Age books that she has collected for most of her life. A remarkable woman, who always has a smile, Kate has promised to take us to a secret site where we can find linarite. I have not spoken to her since last July, but she will remember we are coming. Western people always remember and she will wait for us.

Billie, my Shizhee, my Navajo father will be at his house in Window Rock, Arizona, making silver, when I get there. Still very active at 91, Billie likes to drive around the neighborhood, which he can stretch to include the San Carlos Apache Reservation, Shiprock and Albuquerque. His house is filled with family photos, a lot of old furniture, a silver making bench, equipment, and torch and a huge kitchen table and chairs we helped him transport there when he moved back to the reservation from Albuquerque. When I come, he will insist I take his bedroom to the east where the sun rises every morning. He will take his walk to the mountain at dawn to greet that sunrise in Dineh prayer, and I will try to get up in time to join him.

When we get to Gerlach, Nevada, we will head for Bruno's Motel and room 15, which Bruno has saved for us. Bruno, in his 80's now, has been looking over and caring for this wonderful litttle hamlet at the Black Rock Desert since the 1950's. He will be behind the bar at his country club and he will make us bloody mary's, very, very strong, and it will be on the house. It has been almost a year now, since we have talked to Bruno but he knows we are coming for his great ravioli and hospitality and he will be expecting us.

Blue Star has moved back to the Wind River Reservation from Albuquerque since I last saw him, so that will mean a trip way up to the Tetons in Wyoming. Blue Star went to SIPI in Albuquerque and it was a tradition every spring to meet him, have a bite at the Sandia Casino and say prayers for eachother. He is a wonderful man who has always managed to rise to the top when presented with any problem. Last year, I gave him some money for the leather to make me a pair of moccasins and maybe when I get there, they will be ready. Here, in Miami, whenever I think about Blue Star, I tap the drum he made for me and I think of the earth in motion. He is building his homestead now and may be looking to find me a place to stay, but I will stay in Lander.

Sometime around 3 AM the other morning, I had an instant message on my computer from Jeannie, who lives in Salida, Colorado. I had not heard from her since last October, even though I sent her a Christmas card. She was worried about Bush winning the election and threatened to move to Canada if he won, but, thankfully, she didn't. Jeannie owns a wonderful bookstore in town that offers best sellers, a Native American collection, and old books and eclectic clothing that you would never find anywhere else. I don't think she makes a fortune there but it is a great place to get together and unwind. Sometimes, when you come into the store, it looks like no one is in, but there is Jeannie out in her back patio, and she will always invite you back there to unwind and have a soda. Jeannie has a piece of land up in the mountains and she has invited me there every June to camp at the fire. Maybe this will be the year we do it.

My friend Charlie lives in Albuquerque and every July he makes the drive up to Santa Fe to meet me for lunch. We meet at 12 at the square and we talk for about 4 hours about nothing and everything. He is a Vietnam veteran who cares too much about this world and its politics. As a result, Charlie has invested much time and energy in caring for that war's suffering souls and their wounded spirits. 18 years to be exact. He writes beautiful letters during the year in which he may pour out sudden emotions that make me cry. There are times I don't hear from him for half a year or more and then I will receive an email entitled "Back from the dead." Charlie has no idea when I will arrive in Santa Fe, because it is usually a last stop before heading back to Miami. When I get there, I always call, and the next day, no matter what he is up to, Charlie will get in his pickup and drive up for lunch.

I will be leaving on my journey next week. I pray for good weather, and an eagle to fly above for smooth sailing, or driving, as the case may be. I love my western friends and I just wanted them to know.