Barren landscapes and open spaces line the road to my chosen destination. Despite the fact such places seem to have a way of making one feel insecurely isolated, this is where I find myself wandering.
As I travel along Indian Highway 2, a link between the modern civilization I have left and the Hopi Reservation, where I am going, the only signs of life here in these in-between spaces are those passers-by quickly moving through in search of their own journey’s end. After all, salutary side streets and pull-offs do not exist here. The last signs of gas or food had been in Flagstaff, and the next . . . who knows where.
Ida Yazzie, hand-painted upon a piece of barnwood points to an empty stretch of sand reminding me civilization does indeed exist out here, somewhere.
I arrive at the base of Second Mesa by noon. The town appears as barren as the surrounding landscape and remnants of a few abandoned gas stations mark the distances along the highway. The houses along this stretch appear shut up and ghostly. There are no signs of what I call rural life . . . people working on cars in the driveway or mowing grass. Grass doesn’t exist out here and cars are few.
Driving up to the top of Second Mesa, I find that it is closed to pahana or white people, so I move on to try First. Upon arrival, I find myself surrounded by a pueblo styled village interspersed with a few cinder block homes. A sign on the front of the first house I see reads ‘Tours Here.’
Stepping from my truck, faces begin to appear from nowhere with crafts and food for sale. Despite being warned by my Hopi friend back home, not to purchase the first thing I see, I buy a hand-carved Kachina from an elderly man sitting on his porch. His Kachina, Crow Mother, is said to be the one who comes in February with the bean sprouts, a representation of the power of germination during winter months. She also initiates the young boys into manhood, teaching them responsibility, strength and how not to be lazy. I take two, one for each of my sons, who ironically were born in February.
In touring through the village I am reminded of how the Hopi have struggled to turn down the offerings of pahana’s modern conveniences. Electricity and plumbing are rather new here. Empty reservoirs for collecting water below and locked outhouses on the cliffs edge are silent indications of how such a battle has mostly been lost. Kivas surround the plaza where the Kachinas dance at night. Prayer feathers are tied to various scrub brush holding poisons or evils that the preparer has cast away from himself. The wind will eventually take the feathers away indicating a type of absolution.
It is said that a tourist once mistakenly picked up a collection of these feathers she found floating about on the mesa below. She soon became deathly ill. Upon being rushed to the nearest hospital, no illness could be determined. It was later realized by a maid in the woman’s motel that she had gathered the contaminated offerings. Once returned, the woman began to feel her health come back again.
The Hopilands are considered by some as one of the most holy places in the world and this is why I have come. Ancient Hopi prophecies from 1,100 years ago have mostly been fulfilled and are known as the most accurate of revelations. It has been predicted a large frustration will occur among many people as they will feel deceived by world leaders and led astray. I wonder if this time has already come.
Leaving this mysterious place I wonder about ends, beginnings, the old and new. A fear that I arrived with continues to be fueled by the same unending stream of life’s questions and what ifs. I pull my truck off the road and park near a gated fence. The darkness absorbs me along with the silence and all appears without ending or beginning. I sit upon the warm earth and gaze up into the sky, letting the land comfort me for the first time.
The Hopilands. Is it a land that is truly sacred as so many have claimed? Will it remain after the earth is destroyed or nations fall apart - or are these words of hopeful old men who want to justify their barren existence? People are poor here. Life is rough. It is interesting how holy places tend to appear in empty places.
In being in the middle of nowhere, one cannot preoccupy ones self away from their own being. I am here, all alone, and I cannot disguise my doubts and fears with action. It seems we spend most of our lives in questioning. War, relationships, tomorrow’s bills . . . they are all illusions but also the road that takes us to our destinations. They are the expanses that connect us to where we want to go. They are those in-between spaces that we tend to move so quickly and obliviously through, sometimes missing the hidden signs in search of our true journey’s end.
Yet when we slow down or even pause we discover that life does indeed exist out here in these places between destinations. It appears that the place where we are and the destination we are heading for is without any difference.
As I drive home, following the long stretched out path called a road, I concur, the Hopilands are truly sacred lands . . . but also decide, what land isn’t. That which opens our soul and allows us to see the marrow of our existence must be holy and must be revered . . . and only nature, in all its forms, has the power to speak the magical combinations that find such a way to our hearts.