A welcome reprieve for Bluff
Winters in Bluff give us a much-needed reprieve from the red winds of spring, and the heat of summer.
Here in the high desert, we are sand-blasted by the intermittent winds in March and April, which are followed not long after by the high temperatures of July and August. All that gives us a healthy appreciation for this serene time of year.
While we complain about the heat and dust, Navajo people simply incorporate it into their lives. In doing so, they frequently engage in ritual sweat baths.
These “baths” require the participant to build a mini hogan, fill it with hot rocks and climb inside.
This cleansing is concluded by bailing out of the hogan and rolling in the sand. The heat inside the sweat house forces poisons and bad spirits in daily life to the body’s surface.
Frolicking in the dirt gives Mother Earth the chance to carry away all negativity. Navajo people have a way of embracing that which the rest of us merely allow ourselves to suffer.
Winter in Bluff is, however, enjoyed by Anglo and Navajo alike. During the cold season, Bluff is a sleepy town and we take extra time in comings and goings.
You might see someone stand in the soft sunlight for some time, soaking up the sun like a lizard on a warm rock.
There is more time for conversation as well, possibly because you can often be outside in the mild temperatures.
Barren limbs of cottonwood trees stand in stark contrast to warm pink tones of the surrounding cliffs. Daylight quickly fades, providing time to spend with family and friends.
It is a warm, rich time, and I often sit in front of a trading post window in the late afternoon.
Outside stand twisted, interwoven cottonwood trees. The light is soft, filtered by high clouds and the angle of the sun. A golden glow surrounds the stark white backlit limbs, and the sky is often an intense, sapphire blue.
I frequently contemplate the overall visual effect, wishing I was artistic enough to reproduce the image. With limited artistic skills, I commit the scene to memory.
Winter must affect the Navajo people in much the same way, since this also is a time of reflection and storytelling. There is much to be taught and learned.
Legends and lore are more easily discussed. Cooler weather seems to slow the pace for artists as well.
At this time, they are generally more free with information about their creations. The Navajo lifestyle is much slower than the rest of the world anyway. Or, maybe it’s all relative.
There are those who feel we share too much information about the beliefs of the Navajo, that such knowledge must be hard won to have value. These individuals believe the journey must be undertaken at the proper time in life, when one needs answers to life’s hard questions.
In many of the cultural stories, the searcher starts his quest as a homely, disheveled individual of lowly birth.
Through trial and error and an intensive search for knowledge the youngster begins to grow and develop; the supernaturals take notice and lend aid.
There is always growth and development achieved by the seeker as he begins to evolve. The common theme speaks of beginning as a mud person and growing into something that resembles the deities.
At present we are most like those mud people, but we aspire to a higher form. We hope that by sharing glimpses into the Navajo culture our patrons will have a greater appreciation for these people.
This time of year makes us realize the gifts we have been given, and we take great pleasure in sharing those with our friends.