Saturday, 4 October 2014

Great Expectations

The day we set out for Canyon de Chelly (pronounced duh shay), I was pretty pumped. The Navajo people, who have a deep respect for the land and for their ancestors, revere it as the birthplace of their people.  For those seeking spiritual enlightenment, it is considered  one of the great sacred places on earth.                               

The NE Arizona canyon has been inhabited by various native peoples for over 5,000 years. Its walls are a deep red, rising up to a thousand feet from the green valley floor, and in these walls are caves holding the the ruins of many small settlements. I had great expectations that I, too, like other pilgrims who’d come before, would experience the mystery and wonder of this special place.

We opted to pay big bucks for a tour with a Navajo guide so we could get down close to the ruins. We were to meet our guide at the Sacred Lodge inside the park, where we were greeted by a clerk in the gift shop. She got a sour look on her face when she realized we weren’t there to buy anything. Oh, well, maybe she was having a bad day. Even people working in sacred lodges can have bad days.

We hopped into a mud-spattered jeep with our guide, a friendly enough chap. But wait, first we had to pay an entrance fee to the sacred canyon. Even sacred canyons need upkeep, I reminded myself. Off we went in the four-wheel drive, with our guide telling us stories of the various peoples who’d lived there – first the Anasazis, then the Hopis, and finally the Navajos ....brrrrrrring.... oh, excuse me. He checked the message. I guess even sacred canyons have cell phone reception.

We stopped here and there to look at the ruins, to listen to the stories, and to ask questions, but somehow, it just wasn’t working for me. (Maybe the guide’s constant checking of his cell phone and watch were part of the problem.) The last straw was a “rest stop” where his aunties and uncle had their jewellery and flutes set up – perhaps we’d like to take home a souvenir of this experience? Mmmm, no thanks. Some spiritual pilgrimage this had turned out to be.

Several days later, we were on the road again. We were not expecting much besides a long trip – certainly we weren’t expecting the horrible smell that filled the truck cab about two hours after we set out. The RS pulled over immediately along the busy Interstate. The heat guage was off the charts, and smoke was seeping out from under the hood. Our hearts sank. This had all the makings of a horrible, no good, very bad, terrible day. We were thirty miles from Holbrook, which looked like a little pimple on the map of Arizona. What kind of help would we find there? We’d been travelling through these decaying small towns with their boarded up shop fronts, their weedy sidewalks, and their faded bill boards, and we weren’t hopeful.

But when we called the emergency road service on our nifty new cell phone, they jumped into action. Within 2 hours, our ailing beast had been towed to a car hospital, and our trailer was sitting at a campground nearby. We began to feel a bit more hopeful. We took a walk into town to check things out. And right here I owe the people of Holbrook a deep and heartfelt apology. Holbrook is not a pimple on Arizona’s face – it is a dimple, a laugh-line, a smiley face. We met wonderful people who cheered us up and made us feel better. The service manager at the well-equipped garage was a friendly fellow who actually showed me the fried parts that needed replacing as though I were an intelligent woman who would be interested in such things. The waitress in the café where we stopped for a cold drink and the saleswoman in the rock shop both listened to our story with great sympathy, offered advice, and wished us the best. And would you believe there was a quilt shop in town? Truly! The owner, Shirley, had just opened Painted Desert Quilts a few days previously, but her bright and cheery work was already hanging on the walls. I found some fabric I just had to have, and then she offered me her scrap basket full of leftover pieces cut from her work. “Take anything you like, or take it all,” she invited me. Shirley, you are my new BFF! I took her scraps back to the trailer and made a new postcard as homage to Holbrook.

We spent our unexpectedly free day in the campground, reading, sleeping, and relaxing (travel can be tiring, you know!). Later in the day the garage sent a car to pick us up so we could retrieve our truck. Yes, our pocketbook is lighter, but so are our hearts for this experience.

Sometimes you set out with great expectations, and come home empty-handed. And sometimes, you set out not expecting much, until the Almighty taps you on the shoulder and suggests, “Hey! Pay attention! You don’t have to look far to experience my spirit at work in this world.”



  1. Well Jess , what an experience and the best postcard of all

  2. Hey, Jess. Love the postcards and your telling of the stories. For some reason, I missed 3 posts. I just caught up on the blogs so feel like I went on a little journey.