Hello to family and friends!

The past six days have been truly inspiring as we have spoken to influential individuals and encountered beautiful landscapes. We have spent quality time with the earth and each other, delving into our minds, hearts, and souls. The first few nights in Flagstaff, AZ were cold as we camped on the San Francisco Peaks, but we had fun and gazed at a night sky unpolluted by lights.  The stars were breathtaking as the elk screeched from deep in the forest (seriously…look up “the sound elks make” online…it’s completely unexpected! Imagine hearing it in the middle of the night!). Hannah and I got used to camping pretty quickly…snuggling up warm in our sleeping bags wearing multiple layers, living out of our backpacks, and storing food in and eating from our large bins and cooler.

The first couple of days we met with speakers from various organizations to give us an overview of various issues. Klee Benally, from Outta Your Backpack Media (OYBM), gives kids a voice in teaching them how to use film equipment. He was extremely knowledgeable and an amazing resource. At OYBM they also deal with many issues relevant to indigenous people through education and action. We also learned about active protest when he spoke of the “Save the Peaks” movement to stop developers from creating a ski area using reclaimed waste water to make fake snow on the San Francisco Peaks, sacred to the Navajo.

We also spoke with Roberto, of the Black Mesa Water Coalition, who is trying to encourage local green economies and farming projects on the Navajo nation. His work is very inspiring as he works with many youth who can go out into the community and make a difference. We also met with Charlie Spinning, a Presbyterian missionary who grew up and worked on the Navajo nation. He gave us a lot of important information about the past and present of the mission schools. Despite some harsh realities of past abuses toward Navajo people, the mission became more open and accepting over time of the Navajo’s traditions and way of life. Finally, we met with Heather from Border Links (which we will be spending three weeks at towards the end of our journey) who explained the program and some issues that exist at the border of Mexico and the United States. It was very enlightening and opened our eyes to many issues we didn’t realize existed. We look so forward to visiting there, learning more, and giving our time. Before leaving for the Grand Canyon, we hiked a trail on the San Francisco Peaks and experienced the spiritual energy of the space. We came down just in time to be blessed with seeing the sun setting in the west. A perfect end to our stay in Flagstaff.

After three days we left for the Grand Canyon and spent two nights there. It was so beautiful and vast, and unexpectedly quiet. The canyon was filled with colors from white to green and red to yellow. We did a hike on the first day. It was steep going into and out of the canyon! We got a sense for what it would be like to hike all the way in. Personally, I would love to hike in and camp by the Colorado River someday. Pack lots of water!! The second day we spent some time visiting a few more viewpoints and collecting pinon nuts from beneath the trees (later we will roast them! Delicious!)  From there we got in the car and journeyed to Hopi (stopping at a place on the Navajo nation where we could see dinosaur prints and fossilized poop! As well as in Tuba City for supplies.)

So here we are, staying with a beautiful family and Danielle at a hostel on the Hopi nation. Today we met with Lillian and her family and friends who are doing incredible things with Tutskwa Permaculture here. They are attempting to create sustainable gardens for families so that they can support themselves in this dry climate. There are fruit tree orchards, veggies, local herbs and native plants! They are also building traditional Hopi home structures out of clay and sandstone and collecting rain water for drinking and watering plants. For the next ten days we will be here, helping out with various tasks. Today we helped dig two large garden beds at one of the community members’ homes! It was hard work digging, shoveling in manure, topping that with straw, then more manure, then dirt, and then more straw and covering the borders with plants like tumbleweed (so that the wind doesn’t blow the sand away!) Difficult but extremely rewarding. We are loving helping out with this amazing project.

To all back home who miss us, know we are doing wonderfully and are smiling most of the time! Our journeys have just begun and already we are learning so much and are doing some beautiful group bonding! What an incredible blessing it is to be here in an amazing place, with amazing people, doing amazing work! Sending our thoughts and love to all loved ones!

May we walk in beauty and express gratitude each day,

Abby, Hannah, Heather, Mike, and Ole (The IAM Team!)

PS: Heather has a “deadcat muff” (not a made up name..actually a real thing) for the microphone on her camera. It’s fuzzy and goofy-looking. We named it Shirley and she is our mascot. Rock on Shirley!