Monday, November 19, 2007

Sweet Sunset Ceremony for Shizhee

It took many hours of preparation to give our Shizhee Billie a proper ceremony for his passing into the Spiritual World, with consideration carefully taken as to what Pop enjoyed wearing, his wonderful adventures and the stories he told to those he held dear.
What kind of belt buckle did he favor? And what about all those buffalo nickels that adorned his belt? And there was that signature hat with the silver conchas he proudly made himself at his work bench.
We would put all those things together in story and song and make a vessel that IS Pop to take to sea to his next world of adventure.

It was all Chiaz's idea. His special way of celebrating our dear Shizhee's story in a way that would make us feel the emotions of joy and sorrow and love and pain in the spirit that Pop would want us to remember him.

Chiaz sat down at Brian's silver-making bench, lovingly and patiently spending several hours creating a silver buckle, adorned with coral and turquoise, that would decorate the front of Billie's old grey Stetson hat that I was fortunate to discover in my closet.

Billie often liked to tell us stories about his brother Jimmie, the star gazer. Jimmie was a talented medicine man who could look at a crystal and make things happen and even make the long departed reappear. Well, one day, Billie's dog ran away. He searched everywhere for days.. but nothing, and things began to look hopeless. He decided to try something, to challenge his brother.

"Hey, Jimmie," he said, "If you're supposed to be such a great medicine man, let's see if you can find my dog. If you can, I'll give you $15." So, Jimmie studied his crystal and immediately told Billie to go to a certain area on the reservation and ask around. That the dog was there.

The next morning, Billie took the journey. He knocked on the doors of every hogan in that area and spoke to all kinds of people. There was an elderly Dineh man with two wives who seemed to know something. He told Billie that he saw a dog of that description, that was chasing a horse, that was running to a small creek to get water. So, Billie followed the track that led to the creek and there it was..the horse and his dog! As he walked home with his dog, he thought about Jimmie waiting for the payment and smiled. He loved his brother.

As I recounted the story, Chiaz made sketches in a silver bowl of the characters involved in the story. He then painstakingly sawed them all out. The Navajo stargazer, with his hair tied back in a chongo and his fingers in motion was especially challenging. The cut-out figures were then soldered onto silver rounds, making conchas to be strung around the hat.
Now, you had a silver-laden hat fit for a king and when you looked at it you could envision the man, Shizhee Billie, saying, "Hey, you know, my son Chiaz, he's a pretty good silversmith!"

Chiaz placed the hat atop Brian's head and blessed it with his eagle feather. It was ready for sailing. All it needed was a seaworthy ship, and Brian's bamboo was ready to take the journey. Chiaz cut and tied the bamboo, making it secure, and we were off to Greynolds Park just as the sun began to set in the west.

For Pop's journey, we all tasted the sweet milk of a fresh coconut and then, Chiaz poured the liquid on the hat and placed the coconut on the bamboo ship so Billie would have nourishment for the trip.

Brian, with Chiaz guiding him, took Pop for his adventure to sea. As the vessel moved out over the water, a flock of ducks appeared, headed in the same direction. Perhaps, they had an idea where our Shizhee was headed and decided to follow the leader. Or, perhaps, they were the ones that were leading him the Beauty Way.

Haggoneah, Shizhee, from your son Chiaz and your adopted Jewish children from "way over there", Brian and Bette, who promise to always honor you by following the way of the tratadine.

The photos can be "mouse-clicked" to enlarge, and are from Bottom to Top as follows:

Chiaz and I are at Brian's home. Under the eagle, and in the far left background is a black and white photo of Shizhee Billie in a suit from his working days "in the jungle" of Sandia Lab. If you click on the photo and look to the right of Chiaz and under the eagle, there is a photo of Billie on a horse taken during his appearance on "Good Morning America" in the late 1980's.

Chiaz sketched Billie's story in a silver tray. The characters were cut out and used to make four conchas for Billie's hat.

Pop's old Stetson with silver belt buckle and conchas.

A coconut for Pop's nourishment on his journey.The liquid is tasted by us and then poured over the hat.

Chiaz makes a raft of bamboo to carry Pop's hat across the sea to its destination.

Everything together and ready to sail.

Brian takes the vessel to sea with Chiaz guiding.

A photo taken before we headed out to the park. Brian in Billie attire,and beautifully adorned hat is blessed by Chiaz.