30hands for Peace: 20 Children, a Navajo Story

Eric Braun Blog

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We are visiting Sedona in the desert and the mountains which expand forever. Century plants rise up to the vast skies that swirl above, and the powdery red dust colors everything around.CenturyPlant-IMG_6032

By the side of the road, there are Navajos selling jewelry at stands near the roadside.
One woman says she is 54. She looks great and has no wrinkles. She says she’s been through a lot. Raised 20 children. “Foster?” She nods but maybe not 100% true. She was the mother to her sisters and to her own mother, she says.

“Where are you from?” she asks me. Boston.
“You have no rocks there, right?” Right.
“Everything is covered.” She cannot believe a life without rocks.
I nod, thinking about my broad green lawn and the rocks hidden below the surface, the rocks that I uncovered only when I wanted to plant a tree or build a brick walkway.

One year, she says, they traveled to South Dakota to see Sitting Bull. There, they heard of a place called Standing Rock. In a place where everything was covered, they wanted to see this rock. Perhaps, it would remind them of home. They could not find it, though, and finally asked someone. When they got there, they laughed. The rock was not even standing!

Every summer she and her family travel on pow wow where they dance traditional dances and sell jewelry and Indian souvenirs.

“All 20 children?” Yes.Navajo-20Children-FullSizeRender 13
“In a bus?” No, in a truck with a trailer pulled behind it.

I thought it was illegal to ride in a pulled trailer behind a truck, but I do not comment. Instead, I smile at her and think, “She is an amazing person. So resilient, positive and adventurous.”

Someone is trying to get her attention to ask about a price, but she ignores him. She prefers my conversation. Is it because of the topic? Does she think I will buy something? Does she just like me? Are we already down a path together too far to turn back?

I continue. “We were just talking about how great it would be to travel around the country and work to be able to visit different places while making a living.” What if a police officer could go to a new place every month — like in the days of the old west — roll into town and say, “Got any work?” The sheriff would say, “Sure. Here’s a deputy badge. Then, he could get to work and discover a whole new place.

She nods and smiles.
“You’ve been doing that!” I say.
Her smile lingers.

“How much is this?” He dangles a necklace.

I’m already on to the next table and the next story.
And yet, her story lingers.

NavajoWoman-IMG_6036I return a few days later to buy some dream catchers from my friend, but she is not there. I am saddened that I cannot buy them from her. I walk around and chat with those who are selling dream catchers until I find another woman who reminds me a bit of the woman with 20 children. I am tempted to ask her questions to uncover her story, but something holds me back. The previous story is stuck with me, and I don’t want to dislodge it and lose it.

As I pay for the dream catchers, she poses for a photo and thanks me.
“You made my day”, she says. “Thank you.”

“Thank you”, I say. “You made my day, too.”

That night, I close my eyes and dream of adventures.


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