Talon Windwalker is the single adoptive parent of a special needs child. ...Find out more!
My son and I recently embarked on a road trip from our home in Colorado through Four Corners (an area of the United States where the borders of the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah all come together) and into the deep, barren desert on our way to Sedona, Arizona.
By the time we reached southwest Colorado we had well and truly entered the desert. The predominant scenery was sagebrush and sand with an occasional distant view of a rugged mountain. The area surrounding Four Corners was even more barren. I figured we had seen the most extreme of desert views here, but as we passed the Ute land and entered Navajo territory I saw a vision of desolation I had never imagined.
I have always found the American Indian reservations depressing. One will often find more poverty here than in some third-world countries. There is an unusual feel to them, but perhaps that is just me. Perhaps it is because of the history of how they came into existence. I have visited ones in the plains, the Southwest, and the Pacific Northwest, and the feeling is almost always the same for me: almost overwhelming sadness.
The Navajo land felt even more depressing to me. Even the sagebrush seemed diminished. The homes were some of the most dilapidated I have ever seen. As I continued the seemingly never-ending drive, I pondered why people continue to live here. Why did they not leave and find better lives? Then I remembered asking this same question to my adopted grandfather on the Zuni reservation. “That’s because you’re looking through White Man eyes.” Then he looked away from me off into the setting sun and spat a wad of chewing tobacco onto the ground leaving me to work that out on my own.
“White Man eyes?” What the hell was he talking about? I wondered. Later that summer I figured it out, and it returned to me once again. I was viewing this world through my own filters and what I deem to be quality of life. What WAS so special about this land? I switched that filter, let all thoughts and expectations drop away, and allowed the country itself to speak to me. I began to see the immense, colorful rock formations differently. Instead of geological wonders, they had faces that had witnessed things I couldn’t, and sometimes wouldn’t want to, imagine. I began to feel their energy. The land spoke to me. My son was quietly sitting in the backseat playing his Nintendo DSi. I reached over and turned off the car radio. I was in physical silence and ever thankful for the straight road that went on forever.
The more I tuned my senses, including my spiritual ones, the more I understood. Yes, the poverty was still there, but I felt I understood more. This land resonated with power. I wanted to pull over and take photos, but I couldn’t. The moment was too sacred. T he whole area sang a seductive spiritual song. I imagined I could live here. Right up against the brilliant terracotta-colored stones appearing like people casting their eternal rock eyes toward the heavens.
When the land finally opened up to ponderosa pine forests, I almost wanted to turn around. Then I thought about the places we were about to travel. I will see places that may bring back similar thoughts initially, but instead of using my normal filters, I will remember my time with my grandfather, Old Man, and especially this trip through The People’s land. I will open myself completely, tuned into each area’s unique music. Yes, Old Man, I get it.