Saturday, May 8, 2010
Deon and Leon - Flagstaff to Dilkon
Leaving the Grand Canyon Trust we were graced with the company of Deon, a 26 year old Navajo employee of the Trust who agreed to ride with us to the Leupp (pronounced Loop) Family Farm to share with us the story of the farm.
We had tailwinds and downhill most of the way so we all were treated to a delightful 40 mile ride. Whenever we stopped, Deon would answer our questions and tell us the history of the region. Deon learned Navajo as his first language from his grandparents and they also instilled in him a strong commitment to the Navajo ways. The connection to the land, the support of family and community and the generous spirit that he so willingly shared with us.
When we got to the Farm, it was hard to tell it apart from the surrounding barren landscape. Deon said that the first time he saw the farm it was the same season, right before planting time. As we learned about the project, the farm became a vibrant community project with grandparents and children working and playing together, with traditional crops being prepared for the Farmer's Market, with a new solar system providing the pumping power needed to irrigate and with students visiting from across the nation to learn about traditional farming practices and the ways of Navajo communities.
Catherine, Sean and I were very impressed with Deon's ability to live in the "White Man's World" while continuing to deepen his commitment to learning and sharing the Navajo Ways. Deon will hopefully become one of the few incredibly important links between cultures whose lives are dedicated to bringing different worlds together for the benefit of both. Sustainability is as much about having an open spirit to the world as it is about increasing efficiency and high tech solutions.
Moving on, we again were forced to portage another 30 mile stretch. Our friend and enemy the wind had picked up to the point where a huge dust storm was blowing across our route. Since we had a place to stay and were expected, we drove the sand covered road to Dilkon where we found Leon's house atop a small knoll surrounded by buttes, mesas and dust. We had met Leon the day before we headed up to the Grand Canyon and he invited us to spend the night at his place.
He greeted us with his 2 year old daughter in his arms and we went into his double wide home surrounded by horses, a tepee and lots of hauling equipment and trucks. There is no water or electricity here so everything has to be hauled in, including lots of water for the horses. Leon is a traditional dancer who makes all of his own costumes and graciously dressed Sean up in one of his "simpler" outfits. His work is incredibly athletic and now in his early thirties, his body is beginning to cause him a lot of pain. We also enjoyed the company of his father in law Art and Art's son Arti who are devoted to raising quarter horses the natural way. They work together with the horses. They don't use words like 'breaking' or 'training' but rather words like 'working together'. The results are incredibly noticeable. The horses are calm, curious and very friendly. As I write this, Sean is stroking the neck of their young orphan horse whose mother died during the winter so Art and Arti are mothering the colt through this hard time.
There is less knowledge here about the history of the Navajo's but there is a constant reference to the way it was before, when grandparents lived longer, more water flowed from springs and when the winds weren't so strong and the sand wasn't so deep. The planet is changing and the Navajo's know it both from their personal experience and from the prophecies of their culture.
Leon has another home in Phoenix where his wife and son go to school. Leon prefers it up here even without the 'benefits' of modern civilization.
The two men I spent time with today offered an openness that makes me feel the magic of this land and the people. I am reminded again that the solutions we need to evolve as a species cannot rely on technical fixes. Probably more important is for humans to become more generous and more forgiving if we hope to survive together on this speck of dust we call home.
Dave giving riding instructions to Deon before heading back to California
Leaving Flagstaff behind
Just across the border into the Navajo Nation
No reservations about being in Navajo Country
Leupp Family Farm - A bit desolate
Deon explains it to us
This is all beaded!
Porcupine quill headdress - Soft quills
Leon shows another headdress
Is Sean having a good time, or what?
Ready for a night on the town
Yea, well, we're just hanging out
Morning on the compound
Leon's father in law Art standing in front of the tepee he made.