pages fly away 72

There are twenty-two tribal communities in Arizona and the land that makes up the reservations is roughly twenty million acres, more than a quarter of the land in the state.  The Hopi Reservation which I was driving towards, is totally surrounded by the Navajo Nation.  Hopi refers to people who are civilized, polite, and well mannered.  They do not see time as a linear construction and often experience the past and present at the same time.  This ability keeps them closely in touch with their ancestors and the land around them.  Their goal is to maintain the balance between all things.

It was two hours to reach the Hopi Nation from Fort Defiance.  The sky was clear and the road was straight ahead.  The first place I reached was Keam’s Canyon.  There was a market beside the road with a painting of a California Condor on the side, soaring high above a canyon.  Next, I passed the Hopi High School, then Hopi Fine Arts.  Further down the road, I came upon a museum with a petroglyph out front.  Both it and the restrooms were closed.  I wasn’t sure if this was because of COVID or not. 

My destination that day was Monument Valley, and I was taking the long way to get there.  I reached a mesa where even the surrounding mountains were flat.  The road began to seem endless.  Then I found some abandoned buildings that had been turned into a street art gallery.  A woman in a COVID mask that had bluebird written on it.  Two elders beneath a psychedelic mountain.  Faces with red eyes that looked like skulls.  Another native woman in a gas mask.  A drummer.  A horned toad.

When I got to Tuba City, it was still almost a hundred miles to get to Monument Valley.  By now I couldn’t drive fast enough, and was twitching in my seat, speeding along the north 160, until I came upon a group of cars stuck behind a camper going 45 miles an hour.  There was too much traffic in the opposite lane to pass.  I almost went ballistic.  Inside I kept pushing and pushing.  I had to pull over and let them get far enough ahead of me, just to avoid a seizure.

When I got back on the road, the land and the clouds were like a painting, towers, chimneys, and mesas on both side of the road.  I was starting to get lost in the dreaming when I caught up with the RV procession again, somewhere around Kayenta, and immediately reverted to lunatic ravings, shouting out loud, slapping my thigh, praying to God to send a lightning bolt to earth to strike me dead.  That went on for the next twenty miles.

When I reached Monument Valley, I got lucky.  It was nearly five and they were about to close, but the woman at the booth let me in anyway.  A few minutes later and I would’ve lost my mind.  Monument Valley has been featured in a number of Western movies and may be among the most photographed destinations on the planet.  Its trademark is the three buttes that stand at the center of it; West Mitten Butte, East Mitten Butte, and Merrick Butte.  Thankful just to be there, I left my car in the lot and stumbled towards the overlook, my shadow leading the way.  The sky was still blue and the clouds above the buttes were spiraling like galaxies.  It was that magical time of day between late afternoon and nightfall, where all is calm and crystal-clear.

I went into the giftshop and there was a collection of souvenirs based on every tribe in the nation as well as every figure out of folklore that the Old West ever produced.  There were postcards, cowboy boots, T-shirts, dreamcatchers, keychains, puzzles, shot-glasses, you name it.  On one window ledge were a series of kachina dolls, looking like they were dancing in the sky above the three buttes.

When I left the parking lot, I pulled over at a statue of a Navajo family and turned off the car.  It was late enough to start thinking about a campsite, but I hadn’t even meditated yet.  My phone service wasn’t working and it was already cold out.  The sun was right behind me and the shadow of my car was right in front of me. 

All I could think about was where I would go that night.  Mexican Hat?  It was absolutely still until another car would pass.  There was a whirring to the left of me and a truck with a trailer went by.  My stomach growled so loudly it sounded like a bear in a cave.  Just then an Asian family pulled up right behind me.  The father jumped out and began taking pictures of everything.  He must’ve taken seventy-five pictures of the statue from different angles.  The mother and daughter got out of the car, both wearing COVID masks.

I’d had five perfect weeks.  Was my luck about to change?  What would happen next?  I wasn’t meditating.  All I was doing, was sitting there worrying about where I’d sleep that night.  It would be a shame if it ended up being in the car.  My nerves were so shot, and my back ached so badly, that I couldn’t even go there.

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