I wrote this last night, but didn’t get to post it until now because of hotel internet issues…
We left Villanueva this morning. We left the Pecos River where we’d built twin rock pools by the bank (which we also transformed from red mud bog into sand and pebble beach). We left the bejeweled mesas behind the house where we’d seen giant snakeskins left suggestively at the openings of egg-shaped tunnels. We left the deep soft irrigation canal where Bella and Xi were drying mud cakes, and where I’d made pebble steps leading up to the house and cleared a spot in the thick wild roses for Great-Gramma Alice to see the girls play in the water. We left the screened-in porch bedroom we’d shared with the exceptionally hospitable mosquitoes. We left the most delightful and infernal wind yet known to humanity. We left the stones we’d collected but didn’t want to carry away. And we each left a piece of ourselves, right where we’d found it.
We love(d) that magic little place. And I’m sure we’ll be there again many times over the coming years…
But today, we left. And wandered, somewhat aimlessly, across the high desert, passed Santa Fe, and the Zia Indian Reservation, and Cuba, to the badlands around Angel Peak where we stopped for lunch. We ate PB-and-J’s and fruit in the lee of the van. We took pictures of Bella and Xi for the world tour journals they are each making of themselves and their dolls. We found another snakeskin lingering outside a hole, but this time I figured out that the snakes are leaving the holes when they shed (which for some reason was more comforting to us all…). Then piled back into Sylvia’s cool belly and headed off again, somewhat aimlessly, across the high desert, passed Aztec Ruins, through the Navaho Reservation, passed Ship Rock (near Shiprock) which I think looks more like a “Castle Rock”… Then we stopped at Four Corners for the much-anticipated photo-op it offered, and for the novelty of seeing where four states meet.
Since I was there last, the Navaho Nation has begun charging a nominal fee for this privilege. I certainly don’t begrudge them this after all the profiteering done at their expense, but I did find it a little odd and ironic to be paying to stand at the arbitrary and imaginary (if political) intersection of four states, which all look pretty much identical for a hundred miles in any direction, and to be charged for this by the Navaho, who are essentially alien to all four “states” – well, it was sort of funny… We paid our fee, and went in to the hopped-up point of interest (or POI).
There was what I would consider the usual fair of over-weight and over-white touristas, multi-colored family vacationers (like you know who), red teen adventure groups, and greyish Harley-riders all waiting in line and then taking their turn to pose at the big dot on the X that marked the literal spot. Then they would wander, somewhat aimlessly, perusing the wares of the red-brown Navaho vendors who each had a variety of Navaho and Navaho-esque items for sale ranging from simple beaded bracelets, necklaces and dream-catchers, to pipes, arrows, buckskin pouches, crystals, elaborate silver and stone jewelry, pottery, and sand paintings. We met what I would consider the usual wiseman, selling incredible, hard-to-believe sand paintings among other things. He spoke to us for a good while about the history of the sand-paintings and the meaning of the various symbols in each. He silently handed a card to his reticent companion while he spoke to us, then later handed the same card to us with his business contact information printed on the front and the hand-scrawled contact information for their Fall and Winter locale on the back. And we left, with me feeling like it was far too soon, and set off again across the high desert. Natalie and I agreed that we’d always somehow identified more with the Navaho than with most other Native Nations, though we couldn’t be sure as to why.
Tonight we sleep at the edge of Mesa Verde in Colorado, in a town named for the same conquistador goof ball whom (I think) misnamed “Castle Rock”, Cortez. My precious cargo of pizza-fed family rests in lumps of quiet, windless, mosquito-free delight. The girls are, no doubt, dreaming of tomorrow’s hotel pool (now that today’s hotel pool has come and gone). Natalie may well be dreaming of prickly-heat-free skin and other sweet prosperities. I hope I dream of Wayne Tom, the Navaho sand-painting artist, telling me all there is to know about the Navaho ways. Either that, or another day at Villa Nueva.