We kicked off our week twisting through reservation roads fraught with potholes and washboard, our destination the Johnson’s Ranch in Cornfields. Elizabeth and Justin Johnson met us with much hospitality and welcome. They told us about the history of their Ranch going back to their parents, the work of their local chapter and its impact on the community (Local form or Navajo government), and the struggles and success of the Navajo people. The conversations were long and fruitful and we continued them long into a delicious dinner that Heather, Abby, Hannah, Amanda and Ole prepared. We thanked our hosts and turned in early at the Sage Dormitories for a labored filled day of wood chopping.
The next day our beloved Program Director Amanda parted ways and Drove back to Tucson at the crack of dawn with a promise to return. We met Bob, our host to the local community, and drove down the dusty res roads to our first stop in front of a medium pile of long rebellious wood. We made short work of the heap of lumber and cruised through the next three piles of wood at the proceeding houses. Labor became easier as the wood split under the weight of our axes and the day finished as soon as it started. We bade Cornfields farewell that day remembering all the faces of the elders we assisted.
Fresh paint filled our nostrils early the next morning as we finished painting the last remaining bare walls of Scott and Levina’s house. We said goodbye to them and the puppies hiding underneath the railroad ties and drove to Zuni to meet our next contact, Jim Enote. Jim Enote; Museum director, interrupted artist, archer, and Zuni farmer was our next contact. We winded our way to the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center, opened the door and were immediately blasted with cultural chill. The Museum was a chilly to preserve a plethora of ancient pottery and history. The walls were lined with a detailed history of the Zuni people combined with local art and locally constructed exhibits; it was a sight to behold in the heart of Zuni. Jim came out shortly and took us to our campsite where would be spending the night amongst the stars and endless fields of 6ft tall reeds. Over the next few days Jim gave us a full tour of his museum and took us to some of the most beautiful places we have been to yet. We saw pottery shards, ancient orchards, ancient dwellings and falcons. We learned how to shoot a bow and arrow, pick onions, and to irrigate and till soil. Jim came to our campfire the final day to share stories and marshmallows. The fire was warm, the wood was plenty and the stars were vibrant, it was a perfect end to our Zuni experience. On Halloween we ventured into a restaurant owned by Ira Vandever who runs a group called Music is Medicine. He talked about the some of the troubled youth of the Navajo Nation, that the nation was in need of some decisive action. He told us how music is a powerful weapon give purpose to the lives of the Navajo youth.
The next few days we found ourselves face to face with wolves, rose quartz crystals, energy healers, radical fairies, and chi tea! This was all found in El Morrow, a small town filled with people freely expressing their hearts and minds. That night we stay at Tom and Julia’s home, this couple followed their hearts from Georgia to pursue a calling to provide medical attention to the Navajo people. We were fed well and engaged in conversation all night. The next morning Julia gave us some of her hand made soap and we drove off to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary that rescues wolves or wolf dogs that can’t live in the wild or are too dangerous to be amongst people. We stumbled across ancient ways café, its run by a local LGBT community who makes a mean chi tea. Next in the aftermath of the town farmers market we bumped into some energy workers who gave us a crystal each to remember them and the town by.
So far this trip has been one of great adventure and learning. We are all excited for what lies ahead, and will push forward with open minds and open hearts.