Steve & Barry Simpson
Recently I found myself sitting atop a large flat rock surrounded by a field of dry, yellow grass while the chilly wind rattled through stalks of once vibrant wild columbine.
The deserted meadow is located on the eastern edge of the Blue Mountain, in the Abajo range.
From my elevated vantage point, I could see rangelands and cedar breaks far below, in an area, which straddles the Utah-Colorado border.
A brisk, westerly wind blew down from the peaks, mussing my hair and tugging at my semi-frosted ear lobes. It was midday, but the sun was absent, hidden from view behind heavily laden banks of deep, dark cloud cover.
The cold breeze, overcast sky and tickle of light snow on my face and eyelashes made it seem that winter was ready to settle in.
I pulled my Carhartt coat closer about me and zipped it up to fend off the biting breeze. The quaking aspen and oak brush surrounding the pasture were skeletal in nature, void of the once vibrant foliage, which decorated their branches just one week ago. Evergreens growing sparsely in their midst stood lonely and exposed.
As I sat on the stone’s chilled surface and looked upon the bleak landscape, I thought to myself, “This is fabulous!”
I could find nothing negative about this place and time. Whatever shroud she wears, Mother Nature is forever fascinatingly alluring.
So there I rested, absorbing the elegance and wonder of my surroundings.
The experience made me think of a book I often refer to by author Paul Zolbrod. I often consult it to better understand Navajo culture. The text, Dine’ Bahane’, is one of those reads that is so packed with information constant study is necessary.
My recent interest involves Changing Woman, one of the most appealing and fascinating holy people of the Navajo.
She is wholly positive, absorbs all negativity and replaces it with thoughtfully righteous and affirmative action.
Her mate, the Sun, is a contrastive complement who is necessary to harmonize our natural world.
Changing Woman comes closest to being the personification of the earth and of the natural order of the universe. She represents the cyclical path of the seasons, birth (spring), maturing (summer), growing old (fall) and dying (winter).
Feeling the creak of my bones, I raised myself up and walked toward the trees in the direction of my truck.
As I went, I contemplated Navajo philosophy and life-ways, and how they are so eloquently explained through stories of the natural world.
Working my way through the raggedy oak brush caused me to consider just how complicated those various paths can be.
As in most aspects of life, there was no specific order. Here trees grew wherever they found a foothold, in clumps and bunches or off by themselves.
The gnarled branches tugged at my clothing, impeding my progress and doing their best to poke me in the eye. I either had to pick my way carefully through the twisted mess or crash through with my arms and hands protecting my face.
At differing times in my life I have used each of these methods. I still wonder which process was most effective. I soon arrived at a huge pine tree encircled by oaks and walked up to it.
Admiring its strength and stature, I gave it a hug. Yes, I am a tree hugger and have always been, it felt good to embrace the texture and well rooted solidity of the timber.
The first limb of the pine was only three feet off the ground, so I stepped-up and began to climb. It took awhile, but I huffed and I puffed and made it to the top.
Some 30 feet up, I found the view exhilarating and the pathway to my goal much more clear. There are times when we need to step-up to see our way to a desired goal.
On my way to the truck I discovered a fresh bear track in a moist area of the path. Bending down, I checked the size and realized the critter must have been rather small.
From then on I watched my back, just to be certain I was not on the menu.
In the Navajo life-cycle, I am somewhere between late summer and early fall. I could neither run nor stand and fight as well as I once could, so even a bear cub has to be considered a threat.
I thought of the Navajo Hero Twins, the sons of Changing Woman and the Sun, and how they purged the Monsters from the earth to make it habitable for man.
After exterminating the really bad abnormalities, they decided to move on to those slightly less threatening but still harmful. Changing Woman had warned the boys not to pursue this task, but they persisted.
With Born-for-Water staying home to keep the home-fires burning and pray fervently for his brother’s safety and well being,
Monsterslayer went in search of the remaining beasties. He soon discovered Old Age Woman among the mountains.
She was a bent and twisted creature with the ability to sap your strength and cramp your style.
He discovered Cold Woman high on the mountain, naked and afraid, shivering like a leaf. This evil could cause you to feel as chilled and frigid as a frozen pond.
He discovered Poverty Man huddling behind a peak, lacking anything of value and destitute beyond belief. To be looked-upon by Poverty would cause great hardship and difficulty.
Hunger Man, a gaunt, hollow eyed being that caused starvation and famine with the wink of an eye, was everywhere.
Monsterslayer threatened them all with instant death and they welcomed the end to their suffering with cries of, “Do it, do it now!”
The warrior’s hand was however stayed when he considered the implications of his actions. Killing Old Age Woman would cause over-population, and Monsterslayer decided it is better that people pass on their wisdom and responsibilities to the youth. Destroying
Cold Woman would cause it always to be hot; the land would dry and the springs cease to flow. Over the years all people would perish.
“If I destroy Poverty Man,” he thought to himself, “people will not suffer from want. Humans will not replace anything or improve their tools. By causing things to wear out, poverty leads people to invent new things, garments become more beautiful, tools become more useful and people appreciate what they have.”
By dispensing of Hunger Man people would lose their taste for food. They would never know the pleasure of cooking and eating together.
But if he lived, however, they would continue to plant seeds and harvest crops, and they would remain skilled hunters.
At this Monsterslayer decided he should let these beings live, so he returned home and stowed his weapons.
I am not sure I agree with the benevolent philosophy of those bad boys. They had the opportunity to change the world.
Because they chose not to act, however, I am getting old, I am usually too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter and too broke all the time. I am always hungry too.
Realizing I was truly hungry, I searched my pockets and discovered just enough change for a green chili burrito at Del Taco and decided things were not all that bad.
As for my own death and rebirth, well, those are conditions that will take more time and consideration to figure out. Although I have noticed that after eating one of those darn green chili burros I often feel I am going to die.
Additionally, Laurie does not appreciate the side effects. They are, however, just too tasty to pass-up. Rebirth, in that respect, is greatly appreciated.