The Way is Reality, Not Belief

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So, instead of chilling out after a pretty hard day’s work, we break the all-time record in cleaning ourselves up and putting on our Trachten (traditional Austrian clothing). Still, we arrive late. Everyone is eating, and then we have to get up and introduce ourselves … but the all Navajo crowd is kind to us and even make some jokes at our expense – a good sign. To cut a long story short: important evening for the future of NativeNow! (a non-profit organisation) Let’s see what develops.

(From I am Alive)

Day 5, 7th June 2002:

Sent our diary entries through the wire. The idea of almost instant transportation of content is somehow fascinating to me, but I would still prefer to sense you in physical reality.

This seems a bit like a message in a bottle drifting through the immeasurable expanse of the digital information ocean. Is anybody out there?!

Today there was a little misunderstanding in regard to the house keys which kept us stationary for hours. The time was made good use of by laying out the concept for the “cultural entertainment” we are supposed to provide for the wedding festivities. We will use Tom’s belly as an example for the round planet earth, in order to demonstrate the geographical position of Austria (no, it is not Australia) in relation to the Navajo Reservation.

Further, we plan to enlighten our audience about several aspects of our home’s history, language, and food. Secretly we are hoping that we can avoid the whole affair because we were asked to sing a song. We don’t want to make the whole party want to escape into the desert. If we can’t get around it, we will teach the guests the words and moves to: “Mein Hut, der hat drei Ecken …” That should keep them occupied.

Drove to Cortez in the late afternoon. Visited “Totten Lake“, the only puddle of filthy stinking water for miles. Had a fairly disgusting meal plus unbelievable amounts of Coke. Had a great conversation amongst ourselves that made up for the rest of the day. Just want to sleep, dreaming of my loved one’s skin and a cool Waldviertel breeze.

PS: Were able to arrange a meeting at Diné College planned for Monday to discuss future cooperations in educational and intercultural matters. Good.

Day 6, 8th June 2002:

Early in the morning, Blackhorse showed me a script he is supposed to translate into Navajo. Turns out to be a story of a grandfather who takes his grandson walking, following the trail of the sun in all four directions. It includes the prayers to be performed at each stage and is being illustrated by a Navajo student of Blackhorse. This book will be used for language training but is also suitable for anyone interested in Navajo culture, I believe. When Blackhorse rings the author, he puts me on the phone and the subject turns to publishing.

He then arranges a meeting in Bluff for lunch. On arrival, we immediately recognized who the lady was, and joined her and her friend for lunch. Well, Bluff is in Utah, and Utah is the Mormon state. So, it was not surprising to find out that we were having lunch with two members of this belief system. Over the years I have met quite a number of Mormons, as they are responsible for building a lot of educational and other infrastructure on the Rez.

Their particular brand of teaching incorporates the role of the native people in a very interesting way. Whoever wants to know more, should read the book of Mormons. Or, ask one of their ever-present missionaries – if you have enough time to listen to some of the most fantastical stories that have ever sprung from the human mind.

After lunch, we decided to visit C. Diego a friend of mine from long ago. She is a filmmaker and teacher who has established a project named “Elder Hostel” where elderly people from all over the US get the chance to go to the Reservation and learn about native culture in direct contact with the Diné. Had a “head banging” ride back to Shiprock, being pushed by the setting sun on our backs and some of the best music on the planet.

Lying down early tonight. Blackhorse is watching “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” on TV. Indian on the couch watching Cowboys – it’s a wonderful world, indeed!

PS: Fires springing up everywhere. Frightening.

Day 7, 9th June 2002:

Rising with the sunlight, I meet Blackhorse to share fruits, yogurt, and Navajo tea. The mood is tense, I dreamt of home and we start to talk about the trouble of being away from where you belong. The wind is ringing in my ears, I am not getting used to it.

Blackhorse has to prepare for a healing and leaves for the Hogan. The patients arrive, and to my surprise, he asks me to attend the ceremony. I get to know about family structures and once more I am touched deeply by the trust put in me. The pipe, the song, the water, the fire, the earth floor, the octagon opening towards the sky, the focus of the practitioner, the attentive and slightly nervous patient being comforted by the man in charge – and I mean: in charge.

The prayer lifted by song, by smoke and offerings, the Way is a healing reality to those who participate. The Way is Reality, not belief. No matter what you believe.

The knowledge of thousands upon thousands of years of observation and practice being handed down from generation to generation cannot be extinguished by shallow religious mind games and esoteric bullshitters.

While the patient’s brother and I clean the fresh sand for the painting, Blackhorse goes off with the patient to the desert to make an offering. On his return, he invites Tom to enter the Hogan for the sand painting and the remaining ceremony. I am glad that he is there because I am nervous when I get asked to help with the sacred patterns for the first time.

Credits

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