Friday, September 08, 2006

Land of Contrasts

I left Grand Junction this morning and for the
first time in almost two weeks it was raining.
At times, pouring. It was almost like someone
knew I would be driving all day so open up the
clouds and let it all fall out. Regardless, it
was a great drive. I chose not to go over the
mountains, but to drive the route through eastern
Utah, going through Moab and Cortez before coming
to Shiprock

For some reason, I've always been drawn to Shiprock.
At least since I first saw it in 1990. It's almost
medieval looking. Like a huge fortress in the desert.
What it actually is is a volcanic neck. The remnant
of a huge volcano, formed 3 million years ago. It's
now just a part of it's former self. It rises 1700
feet off the floor of the surrounding plain and is
a sacred place to the Navajos. Their nation surrounds
Shiprock and they call it Tse Bi dahi, or the Rock
with Wings.

On the way to and from Shiprock I drove through the
Navajo Nation and listened to KTNN (AM 660), the Voice
of the Navajo Nation. It's mostly country, but it's
fun to listen to long sections of Navajo being spoken
interspersed with English that has no Navajo equivalent,
such as "Hot Dog" or "Touchdown". I've been to the Rez
many times before but it still seems to look different
everytime I see it.

One of the hardest things to see on the Rez is the
abject poverty that is everywhere. These are actually
some of the more modern houses in the town of Shiprock, New
Mexico and they have electricity. It's not like the Amish
in the Midwest that choose to not use electricity. Many
are too poor to afford electricity, even if it is available,
which in many areas of the Rez, it is not. Some money is
coming their way though as they have a huge modern hospital
on the north end of town that is run by the BIA. Although
to some Navajo, that probably isn't considered a good thing.

After leaving the town of Shiprock, I made it to my destination
for the evening; Farmington, New Mexico. Although Lynn and I
think the town is ok (not great, but ok), we LOVE the library.
It is probably my favorite library in the whole world. Yes,
I am a geek that keeps rankings of libraries in my head.
Because so many local Navajo use the library (even though
Farmington isn't on the Rez, many Navajo live there)they built
it in the shape of a Hogan (a traditional Navajo dwelling that
is round). It even has spots on the granite floor marking where
the sun rays will hit during equinoxes and solstices. Oh, and
they have great books too.

Today I saw ancient landforms, modern buildings, clouds filled
with rain, sunny skies, wealthy people driving Mercedes SUVs
indigenous peoples that live in intense poverty. It was a real
day of contrasts.

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