As a youth, I was part of a peer counseling program that traveled the state of Arizona with skits directed at students and educators regarding social issues facing teens. While it was some time ago, many of the issues are still current. From it I learned a lot about myself and made dear friends who are still close to this day. One such friend is an artist named Kyle. On a trip to the four corners area of Northern Arizona, our group stayed overnight in Chinle. This is Navajo nation. We had wrapped up at the schools where we presented skits and discussions on drinking, teen pregnancy, suicide and other topics. The school nurse opened her home to us. It was a small home typical of most on the reservation. The nurse was a mystical woman with long flowing gray waves that framed her face before cascading down her back. Kyle was fascinated with her crochet work and photography. While the others spread out on the living room couch and in the guest room, Kyle and I decided to camp outside. I say camp lightly because we were only armed with a sole sleeping bag. It was large enough for two, but it was the week before Thanksgiving in the high deserts of Northern Arizona. It was COLD! With our youthful stubbornness we cast aside the weather and lay under the stars. After naming all the stars and constellations we could remember, which weren’t many, we talked the night away…sharing our teenage dreams and life thoughts. We talked about our families, our problems and friends, only silencing ourselves when we heard packs of wild dogs running. They sounded much nearer than I’m sure they were. Kyle was the first boy I believed when he told me I was beautiful because he wanted nothing from me but offered friendship.
The next morning we warmed our hands with coffee and our bellies with freshly baked pumpkin bread smothered in butter. We visited an outdoor market where the nurse bought yarn. I found the raw log stall with all of the colorful yarns quite lovely and ran my fingers along the dangling varieties. From there the group drove to Canyon de Chelly. At the time, I had not yet even seen the Grand Canyon. I wasn’t sure what to expect but as a nature lover, I was excited. On the drive I was listening to a cassette tape of Tuck and Patti. I love her silky jazz vocals and his fingerpicked rhythms. The cassette needed to be flipped. I turned to the side of the van where the cassette player sat under the window. It was then that I saw a view that literally took my breath away. Warm drops graced my cheeks as I continued to stare through the window of the moving van. What seemed like several minutes was only seconds before the van rolled to a stop and I could pull the door open to be free in the fresh air and beauty of this marvelous landscape. I ran to the edge and stood in complete awe of what my eyes were taking in. Tears still coming down, I tilted my head back and inhaled. Kyle took a great photo of me standing at the edge, 15 years old- jeans tucked into slouching boots wearing a borrowed over-sized leather jacket. What the picture doesn’t show are my hands covering my mouth in awe as I stood in silence intently searching through every detail of the canyon with her high red walls, ancient Native American dwellings and hieroglyphics. It was in those moments of gazing into the canyon that I made a life altering decision; a decision that would not only change me, but my entire family.
Reluctantly it was time to leave. We tumbled into the rented minivan for the five-hour ride home to Phoenix. Turning towards the back window to get one final look, I saw the most incredible sight I have yet to see since. At the top of a cliff, with all the colors of an Arizona sunset just starting to form was a lone white horse. He was wild and this was his land. He ran to the edge and stood majestically surveying the land beneath. In that moment I felt a calmness all through my body as if the horse was a sign from an old Navajo spirit sent to tell me that everything would be alright. ❤