The finger troubles her no more
Although I’m not sure why, Mary Holiday Black has been on my mind lately. Mary is an integral part of the Twin Rocks Trading Post history.
Unfortunately, we haven’t seen her in several years and we miss her. All this has brought back memories of a certain time when she visited regularly.
But for a few common phrases, a limited amount of numbers, and an expletive or two, we didn’t speak the same language. That, however, was no impediment to our conversation.
Ours was show-and-tell, not elaborate dialogue. Holding up a single digit, she was confident I would understand. I am no stranger to expressing one’s emotion with a finger or two, nor am I unfamiliar with this particular individual.
At that point, I had known her more than 20 years, and we have never shared a cross word.
Outside it was a blustery early April morning, and the Kokopelli doors were braced against a steady gale that blew in from the west.
On spring days like that, Priscilla and I joked with Twin Rocks Trading Post patrons about not having to visit Monument Valley. Instead, thinking we might wheedle a few bucks out of them, we recommend they sit tight and watch as the well-known formations blow by.
“You can see the whole thing from right here,” we advised them, “the Mittens, Bear and Rabbit, Cattle Rock, Ear of the Wind – all of it.”
When it blasts particularly hard, we have actually been able to sell the idea.
“Just give it a little time,” we admonished our impatient guests, “they will come.”
The trading post is an ever-evolving kaleidoscope of humanity, and on stormy days, the volume increases as people duck in to avoid the wind, rain, snow, or cold.
Over the course of any given day, we might see shoppers from every corner of the globe and artists from every region of the Southwest. We work to cultivate both groups, so the art ebbs in and flows out in a rhythmic and symbiotic tide.
As this cycle developed, Navajo weaver Mary Black became a mainstay of our enterprise.
Twin Rocks Trading Post is probably most well known for contemporary Navajo basketry, and at times, we have had oodles and oodles of these woven treasures.
We also typically had gobs of people who stopped by to investigate the cultural, historical, and artistic meaning of these sumac storyboards.
We were ever eager to decipher their messages, and it didn’t take much to launch us into a discussion about their significance in Navajo folklore.
To say we love baskets would be a gross understatement; they are in our blood, and we are obsessed.
Mary was and is surely the most famous Navajo basket weaver, and in many ways, she and Twin Rocks Trading Post were synonymous. You might say we were interwoven.
As Mary’s reputation soared, Twin Rocks correspondingly became more widely known. Indeed, we grew extremely fond of Mary, and she became the matron of our artistic family.
Along with her fame, a callous on her left index finger ballooned. After scores of baskets, the lump became greater than half an inch thick, and she often displayed it to illustrate just how difficult weaving was on her hands – and to convince us we should be more generous with our funds.
It was an odd reminder that progress often comes at significant cost, and in southeastern Utah, fame is an imperfect hedge against hard work.
On that particular day, Mary was not negotiating, she was showing off. She had recently visited her physician and the pernicious barnacle was gone, disappeared, and altogether vanished.
That is why she stood on the consumer side of the counter holding up her finger. She was proud and wanted us to share in the exorcism of that painful bump.
Priscilla and I each carefully examined her pointer, stroking the smooth surface in admiration. After all these years, was it actually gone for good? She was confident it would trouble her no more.
I seem to be growing more and more sentimental as the years race by, finding myself missing the things that have passed, and wondering, worrying what tomorrow might bring.