Saturday, June 19, 2010

Something Wicked This Way Comes

The house feels heavy as though the air held secrets... Not good secrets. As though the whispered words I only feel not hear were pushing down on my chest. Something I don't want to know.

The floors sagged slightly. Just enough to throw you off balance. No reality here. A hodge-podge of rooms added on sporadically. Another tripper step is just a few inches high that leads into a back hallway and out the back door. A door where the deadbolt lock won't open. A door you can't get out.   Who built this? Is it their secret being whispered?

There are plenty of windows, big picture windows but it's a dark house. This cabin in the mountains along a dusty little-used dirt road sits on a triangular piece of pine tree covered land, yet the views are hidden by walls misplaced.

I've got the heat blowing hot from the wall heater. It's cold here... like it's seeping up from the floors, leaking through the walls. The cold, I can't get warm.

I'm uncomfortable, I want to leave. Why do I feel this way? I have to leave and soon. There is no reasonable explaination. I just feel it.

(to be continued)

Friday, June 18, 2010

If I were a Native American Child for a Day

by Chelsea Nugent, Age 10

June 29, 1682

As the sun crept across the room and kissed my face, I wake up with a sudden jolt. Visions spin in my head as fear raced through my body. My heart is pounding. I blink once or twice bringing myself back to reality, realizing it is only a dream. "Not only do the Navajos raid Hopi villages," I thought, "they raid my wonderful dreams, too."

My father, uncle, little brother and cousin left to farm the fields on the mesa. My mother, aunt and I are outside grinding corn as we eat our morning meal of leftover bread from yesterday. Soon my arm ached from grinding corn so I stopped to rest. "Mother, what are we going to bake today?" I asked. "We are going to bake piki bread from this blue corn," my mother replied still grinding her corn. "Shooting Star, start grinding your corn, the sooner we can get baking," my aunt scolded. I sighed deeply and began grinding my corn again.

After all the corn was ground, my mother, my aunt, and I began making piki bread. First, my mom mixed the corn meal with water to make the dough. Then, I flattened the dough until it was paper-thin, and my aunt placed the dough on the stove to bake. "Now remember half of the bread is for supper, and the rest is for the ceremony," my mother told my aunt and me.

Ceremony? What ceremony? Then it hit me. The Coming Home ceremony! We have it every July as part of our Hopi culture, and it was only four days away! I must have looked shocked because my mother asked, "What's wrong Shooting Star?" "Nothing," I replied quickly. "Why don't you go help grandfather weave," my mother suggested.

Once I was on the second level where my grandfather was, I stepped into the weaving room quietly. My grandfather looked up and motioned to the loom on the other side of the room. I knew he wanted me to work on the weaving that I started yesterday. Soon my weaving was almost finished and the dark room was getting very hot. "Grandfather, may I go outside?" I asked. He looked up and studied my weaving. "Yes, you have done enough today, Shooting Star," he answered in a raspy voice. When I was on the roof, I felt a lot better than being in that stuffy room. I looked up at the sun and noticed that it was towards the west. The delicious smells of supper were rising from the kitchen.

Suddenly it occurred to me that it was time for my father, uncle, little brother and my cousin to be coming back from farming. I looked across the mesa. At the very edge I could just make out four figures in the distance. My body filled with joy as I  climbed down the ladder with my long black hair flowing behind me and ran to the door followed by my mom, aunt and sister who clutched a Kachina doll in her hand. My father, uncle, cousin and little brother were just coming up to the door. We hugged each other and went inside for supper.

After a delicious meal of piki bread, corn, beans and pork, we sat around the sitting room telling stories and laughing, all happy to be together again.

We were safe from the raiding Navajos today, but sadly, you never know what tomorrow will bring.

Comments from the Clear Creek Courant Newspaper editor.
"You have every right to be ultimately proud of your granddaughter. What a delightful article! She should be writing children's books. She has a knack for simplicity and wonderful description."

January 27, 2003

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chelsea and the Horse Camp

First Day. First Lesson.

     Ben the horse, Chelsea the seven year old. Although Ben has tutored many seven year old children, Chelsea only has lived with dreams of horses.

     Those of you who have dreamed of having horses know what that's like. In dreams, everything works out right, you are instantly the expert, things are perfect. You and the horse are a team. Whatever you can picture in your mind always works.

     In reality, the camp is almost overwhelming at first. So many things to remember, all at once. No matter how much you want it, nothing seems to fit together. "Hands up? How high? Put my leg where? Elbow back? What? Put my seat down? Does she mean my bottom? Ugh, I forgot what the teacher just said!" Too many thoughts for Chelsea. It's in her eyes, " Why can't I get it? I want it so much."

     At the children's horse camp at Anchorage Farm in Pine Junction, Colorado, each child has a four day intensive experience with the horse - their "adopted" horse. This is not your average experience at a horse camp. This is not just trial rides or arena clip-clopping games. Here you learn all the parts of a horse from the large jowl full of huge teeth (except in the middle where the bit goes) to the vernacular of horse coloration - a paint, a pie-bald, a pinto, a bay, a buckskin. The children learn the names for all the various tack that goes on a horse or used around a horse. What goes in the horse must come out, so they learn feeding and cleaning stalls. It is still fun and necessary to keeping a horse. Whew! It's a very busy day.
     "Oh yes, Grandma, these are called reins not ribbons" Livvy, her three year old sister called them that. Chelsea is getting it and proudly reiterating her knowledge. "I knew what a saddle was, Grandma, but not all the parts to it. I now know how to put the saddle on a horse and take it off." She looks off in the direction of three tiers of saddles along the tack room wall. "Actually, I didn't know that there were so many different types of saddles."
     "When the horse pokes his nose out of the stall," Chelsea continues describing her morning, "his nostrils are quivering. When he touches my outstretched hand, he sort of snorts at the smell of me. Then he pushes his nose out even further and gives me that 'you're okay' look in his eyes.'" She stops and looks at me smiling, "He likes me, Grandma!" Her eyes shine with a brightness you only find in people who are passionate about what they are feeling.
     All the kids in the class have different personalities. Some demanding, others shy, some loud and  mouthy, still others intense. Yet, all with a common dream of "their" horse in mind. I sense an amazing amount of cooperation and genuine kindness in these young people to help one another.
     Some of the group have a horse with a halter and a lead rope. They are learning the proper way to hold the rope, to lead the horse, and to stop the horse. The perfect way to teach a child how to safely handle a horse or to correct the horse. Basic training. Building confidence every moment.
     Here they are taught, horse thinking. Quite different than people thinking.  Learning about the horse's basic instincts, how to interpret the animal's body language and what might be running through the horse's mind, builds skills and a sympathetic relationship of trust and friendship.
     One hour a day, each horse camper gets a one hour dressage lesson. How the horse moves, what makes him balance his weight, what makes him off balance, what pressure points does the horse move away from, how to feel the control of the horse through his mouth. 
     Although I try to be with Chelsea, she is not interested in being with me. "it's okay Grandma, if you want to sit on the high benches and watch my lessons." Then Chelsea is off to help groom the horse after her lesson, leading her horse to their outside paddock, and happily talking to other riders about horses.
     One photo opportunity, that I reluctantly tell you I missed, happened when I came into the grooming and saddling room to find the Gray Arabian Gelding, Two Blankets, in cross ties - two ropes from the wall to each side of the horses halter. Swarming all over him with so much love and affection were no less than six small girls. One very small girl, standing on a step stool on his left side, was brushing his back. Another was brushing his side. The tail was getting a good brush and one girl was even kissing his nose. And the god, the half closed ecstasy in his eyes, I cannot describe.
     It's nonstop busy here. Everyone has something to do, that is except me. I'm just sitting here thinking on my laptop computer.
     "Grandma," Chelsea runs into the living room where I am working. "Grandma, my counselor, Lindsey, found this horseshoe and gave it to me to keep." This indeed is a great find for my horse dreamer. "Can you keep it for me?" Without even a glance backwards, she is halfway out the door again, "See you Grandma, I've got to go help with the horses." 
     And off she goes making her dream world into a reality.

Photo notes: 
1) Cover Story and Cover Photo, "Colorado Serenity Lifestyle Magazine" June 1999.
2) Publisher's Note