Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dawn Ceremony

We just returned from a marvelous trip up to Hopiland. Unfortunately, the Basket Dance at Second Mesa had been cancelled. We visited several homes and saw stacks of sifter baskets and plaques that had been made in preparation for the dance. Since they were not required for the ceremony, my daughter and I were able to purchase several.

We visited old friends and went to Oraibi on Third Mesa in an attempt to identify a woman in a photograph taken in 1905. It was an unsuccessful quest, but I will keep searching to find her identity. As we walked through that ancient village I thought of an earlier visit in the 1990s with Emory Sekaquaptewa. He talked about the buildings and the homes, and how they once looked, and the people who had lived there. And one day there was a kachina dance in the plaza. We stood on the "hill" that was actually the tumbled walls of the three-and four-story pueblo homes that had been abandoned more than a century earlier. Behind us three or four more straight rows of rock and dirt indicated where the houses had once been filled with families, mothers and fathers, and children, running and climbing and calling out to each other.

As I stood on the crumbled wall of a Hopi home, with pieces of broken pottery strewn on the ground like gravel, a sense of the timelessness of the dance began to ooze inside of me through the pores of my skin. After a while, you did not so much hear the stomp of the dancing feet and the beat of the drum and the shaking rattles, as you felt it circling and lifting you up, and sometimes you had to look out beyond the plaza to confirm that there were still cars parked out closer to the highway, and not wagons, to confirm that you were still existing in this century, and had not somehow been carried to an ancient, earlier time.

It was a good growing season at Hopi this year, every house had blue and white and red and yellow corn drying in the sun--on the rooftops and on makeshift platforms. Beans were spread on sheets on the ground, and as the pods dried they split open and the colorful beans popped out.
These were eventually gathered in the sifter baskets to be stored for future meals. There were beans of every color: small red beans, yellow beans, speckled beans and large white beans. .

And every house had piles of Hopi squash stacked in corners. At one friend's house we ate watermelon, carefully saving all of the seeds for future planting

The cottonwood trees were in full golden color. When the sun hit them they were a trail of brilliant yellow lining the washes. From Walpi at the top of First Mesa they were like trails of gold leading to the villages. One friend rode with us over to Ganado to see Hubbell Trading Post. The art there always takes my breath away, and my fingers are itching to do some research on the paintings and Kopta sculptures--maybe a new project?

The daughter of an old friend at Second Mesa graciously invited us to come to her granddaughter's Naming Ceremony. On Sunday we watched as their in-law prepared Pikami, a special pudding that is made at this time. Cornmeal, wheat flour, and sugar was mixed with boiling water in a big wash tub (stirred with three cleaned reeds). When it was the right consistency it was spooned into a tin lined with corn husks and placed into a pit where it would cook all through the night.

We returned the next morning in the cold darkness as fires were being rekindled outside to cook the three wash tubs of Hopi Stew made of mutton and hominy. We all stood next to the fire and watched as the sun rose over the mesa, and the rooftops of Mischongnovi were slowly outlined with the dawn. The Naming Ceremony was tender and moving, and we were most honored and grateful to have been invited to be a small part of that morning.

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