Before the birth, she moved and pushed inside her mother.
Her heart pounded quickly and we recognized the sound of horses running:
the thundering of hooves on the desert floor.
Her mother clenched her fists and gasped.
She moans ageless pain and pushes: This is it!
Chamisa slips out, glistening wet and takes her first breath.
The wind outside swirls small leaves
and branches in the dark.
Her father's eyes are wet with gratitude.
He prays and watches both mother and baby -- stunned.
This baby arrived amid a herd of horses,
horses of different colors.
- Luci Tapahonso (from "Blue Horses Rush In")
I'm mixing the two lands that I love today: photographs of the ancient, mythic expanse of Dartmoor; and words from the ancient, mythic expanse of the Arizona desert.
The photographs are by Stu Jenks, who lives and works in Tucson, Arizona. He's best known for his gorgeous desert imagery -- but these pictures were taken when he visited us here on Dartmoor a few years ago. (To my eye, he has captured the spiritual connection of these two vastly different landcapes.)
The poem excerpt above is from Sáanii Dahataal/The Women Are Singing by Navajo poet Luci Tapahonso, who is also from Arizona.
"The combination of song, prayer, and poetry," writes Tapahonso, "is a natural form of expression for many Navajo people. A person who is able to 'talk beautifully' is well thought of and considered wealthy. To know stories, remember stories, and retell them well is to have been 'raised right'; the family of such an individually is also held in high esteem. The value of the spoken word is not diminished, even with the influences of television, radio, and video. Indeed, it seems to have enriched the verbal dexterity of colloquial language, as for instance, in names given to objects for which a Navajo word does not exist, such as béésh nitsékees or 'thinking metal' for computers and chidí bijéí or 'the car's heart' for a car battery. I feel fortunate to have access to two, sometimes three languages, to have been taught the 'correct' way to use these languages, and to have the support of my family and relatives. Like many Navajos, I was taught that the way one speaks and conducts oneself is a direct reflection of the people who raised him or her. People are known by their use of language."
In this contentious political and social media age, "talking beautifully" is a concept worth thinking about, practicing, and spreading.
My online reading recommendation today also comes from the Arizona desert: "One Morning, a Stranger at Home" by Aleah Sato. It's one of my many book-marked pages from her beautifully ruminative blog, The Wild Muse -- but do have a look at some of the more recent posts too, if you're not already following Aleah's work.
And while I'm recommending treasures from the desert, Greta Ward's artwork is simply stunning, rich in the ineffable numinous spirit that the Sonoran Desert and Dartmoor share.
To end with, here are three Dartmoor pictures by Stu that I love for more personal reasons:
The first, called "Chagford Hoop Dance," brings spiral magic to our village Commons. The second is a portrait of Howard, performing with his band The Nosey Crows. The third is a portrait of our Tilly, in the woods behind my studio.
The photographs above are by Stu Jenks (the titles can be found in the picture captions); all rights reserved by the artist. The poem except above is from "Blue Horses Rush In" by Luci Tapahonso, which can be found in the collection of the same name, and in Sáanii Dahataal/The Women Are Singing. Both books are published by The University of Arizona Press. All rights reserved by the author.