February 2, 2012
At Zuni: We borrowed a clutch of neighbor kids and went hiking in the windblown sand south of the pueblo. The kids were itchy and wild, flinging themselves off the red dunes, playing cowboys and Indians—funny, given that they were all Indians.
One of the adults, a fast hiker, disappeared for awhile. We wondered aloud, “Where’s Andy?” Small Brandon said seriously, “Prob’ly those Indians got him.”
July 14, 2010
In Zuni, if I have it right (and often I don’t), you go through several incarnations after this human one. The first are as food-giving game animals like deer or antelope. But the last—right before you go to heaven to dance for eternity—is as sho:mi:do’kya, the little black stinkbug that raises its tail on our desert’s red earth.
I once had a stinkbug crawl into my old Intellifax 1270 and die there. This caused a paper jam and permanent scratches on the drum, but I felt kind of touched that somebody went to heaven from my fax machine.
June 29, 2010
In the mid-nineteenth century, Stephen James emigrated from Wales to work as a shipbuilder on the Great Lakes. Though he didn’t know his great-great-granddaughter would one day teach at Zuni Pueblo, he bequeathed to her the legacy of the unvoiced, or aspirated, L.
Llewellyn. Llangollen. The tongue forms an L, but the vocal cords rest and let the breath take over. English-speakers struggle, but Zuni-speakers are right at home with Grandpa’s double L.
Me’shoko eshe llabissho.
It means “donkey lips.” If you can say it, you’re Zuni…or Welsh.
May 18, 2010
April 30, 2010
We started a half dozen antelope, who paced the truck to 25 mph. When we slowed they burst ahead, clearly racing us.
Long wandering on foot brought us to a wide, quiet ravine whose walls were covered with petroglyphs: many macaws, prehistorically revered and carried on foot from Mexico. Only bushtits there now, whispering in flocks. I started a big jackrabbit; as it zipped under the brush it folded back its ears, the way a cherrypicker folds to fit under a freeway bridge.
March 29, 2010
Serena: I can spell Melissa. That’s my sister’s name. Only we call her Medusa.
Me: Does your sister have hair like snakes?
Serena (after a stare): She doesn’t have any hair. She’s bald. She just got born.