Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dilkon 4-28-2010

by John Aldrich

It started last night. The Red Wind Yeis are out with a vengance. During the night they probed and searched for a weakness in the roof hoping they could lift it off its mooring. This morning it was merely breezy and still clear when we arrived in Dilkon. But the wind has steadily increased since then, and now, as I sit in the motel in Winslow, I can barely see what's across the street. The earth is reaching for the sky. Interstate 40 has been shut down since late morning so the town is full of truckers and travelers looking for refuge.

The food run at Dilkon is held currently at the LDS (Mormon) meeting house which is a nice modular structure.  The capacity of the building unfortunately wasn't designed with a group our size in mind so things were "cozy". But everything went very smoothly.

Before departing for Dilkon we posed for our group picture using the rental truck and motel sign for a backdrop. The group totals 30 and hails from Georgia, Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho, New Mexico, and Colorado in addition to Utah.

And that's as far as I got with yesterday's post:

I know I said that I would try to blog from the road with the intention of posting something about each day's food run. But I hadn't counted on the power to Winslow being interrupted by the wind. This end of town at least was without electricity from late afternoon until around 9:00 p.m. We had our group dinner at the nearby Chinese restaurant by candlelight following which the restaurant's sign departed for the Super 8 motel's parking lot across the road.

The wind continued to provide drama to our activities today, but I'll share more about that later. For now, let's return to the Dilkon food run.

Here is the LDS meeting house with the ANE van out front. As you can see, the sky is still clear, and the ground remains where it is supposed to be. What you can't see is that the wind is already starting to blow.

Now the food boxes and flour are in place as Don Bagley and Ron Borden look them over.

Now we jump to the conclusion of the food run where the food and other provisions are being loaded into the Elders' vehicles. You will note that the sky is no longer blue. In fact it looks suspiciously like the color of the earth.

Here Al Sanborn has done his best to maintain his composure and coiffure. Mother Nature has other ideas. I'm not posting any picture now from inside the food run, but just wanted to give an idea of what the day was like. Despite the wind, it was a fine and very successful food run. At the evening meal all the volunteers felt blessed by the experiences they had had that day.

I will end this post with three pictures taken on the return drive to Winslow:

Drive in Beauty is an allusion to a common Navajo aphorism, Walk in Beauty. This theme appears in many prayers and writings.

I will post later about the food runs at Leupp and Birdsprings but most likely not before we are back home a few days from now.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On The Road To Winslow

by John Aldrich

We are in Winslow, Arizona tonight. Tomorrow the food run to Dilkon will commence the second series of runs of the spring season. It's predicted to be very windy which means the Red Wind Yeis will be out trying to get sand in my camera.

It's also past my bedtime, but I had set this goal for myself that I would try blogging from the road - - - the first time that I have tried this. Today my idea was to try to record a few scenes along the road between Bluff, UT and Winslow so as to give the reader some idea of the beauty as well as cultural characteristics of the Navajo Reservation. Thus I present ten photos which were gathered as opportunity presented. Many other pictures were passed up due to traffic, lack of a place to pull over, or any number of other variables.

The northern boundary of the Utah portion of the reservation is formed primarily by the San Juan River. Water is sacred to the Navajo and this watery border helps provide a spiritual security to those living to its south.

 Traveling down U.S. Route 191 after crossing the river takes us through the Mexican Water area. Here are some beautiful rock formations along the way.
These few buildings constitute the "commercial hub" of Mexican Water. We are on a short stretch of busy Rt. 160 which traverses the northern portion of the reservation between Tuba City and Shiprock.

Many Christian denominations have established outposts in Navajoland. Here is a Lutheran mission in Rock Point as we continue south down Route 191.

Rodeo is one of the most popular sports on the reservation. This arena is situated in a front yard in Rock Point

Between Rock Point and Round Rock we cross Lukachukai Creek. It drains the mountains to the west and is quite full this spring following the hard winter.

Between Round Rock and Many Farms the highway passes through some beautiful badlands.

Just south of Many Farms is Elizabeth Clah's homeland.  This is the location of the Many Farms food run which will take place next week. Black Mesa is in the background.

 One must be ever-vigilant for livestock on the highway. Sheep cross the road here on Navajo Route 15 as we travel southwest from Ganado toward Greasewood Springs.

And finally a few horses cast a curious glance toward the camera.

We have a wonderful group of volunteers with us for this food run, and I hope to have more to report tomorrow after Dilkon. And I hope to do it prior to bedtime.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The First Food Runs Of The Year

by John Aldrich

The food runs to Oljato and Navajo Mountain are the first to occur every spring. This year the dates were March 30 - April 1. These two food runs are the most recent to be added to the locations that ANE serves. We began going to Oljato in  2003, and this is the third year for Navajo Mountain. Both of these runs are in the Utah portion of the Reservation. A generous grant from the American Express corporation made it possible to start the food runs to Oljato. They wished for the proceeds of their grant to benefit people in Utah which made Oljato a logical choice. Oljato is near Monument Valley in one of the most beautiful portions of Navajoland. After the road was paved to Navajo Mountain a few years ago, it became possible to extend our efforts to this area as well. Navajo Mountain is also in Utah although one needs to drive many miles through Arizona before reentering Utah just south of the mountain.

Volunteers initially meet in Mexican Hat, Utah, where we stay at the San Juan Inn overlooking the San Juan River. The food run ceremony is held outdoors in a beautiful setting with the sounds of the river below and an occasional serenade by a canyon wren.

The Oljato food run takes place the following morning and is held at the new Senior Center. Elders and their families come from the surrounding areas to attend. There are currently 51 Elders served by ANE at this food run.

After arriving at the food run site it usually takes 1 to 1 1/2 hours to get everything set up for the event. The men work outside to unload the produce, flour, Rainbow food boxes, and the various giveaway boxes that the Elders will receive.

Before the general meeting starts there is usually time for volunteers to visit with the Elders.

Occasionally the local hosts arrange for some special entertainment for us. This year at Oljato we were treated to singing by a preschool group.

Spring in this region can see considerable variation in the weather. At Oljato we were blessed with mostly sunny skies and only occasional gusts of wind.  That evening in Kayenta the wind was howling in advance of a storm front that arrived during the night. We awoke to several inches of snow on our vehicles and needed to negotiate snowy and icy roads for the first twenty miles of our drive to Navajo Mountain.

Snow blowing off the roof of the chapter house covers Duncan Orr of Flagstaff. Duncan is instrumental in obtaining donations to provide drinking water for the Navajo Mountain Elders. The water supply there is particularly precarious as they are dependent on a single spring, and the delivery system from it occasionally breaks down.

Here volunteers are putting the finishing touches on the array of food, produce, and other giveaways that the Elders will receive.

Inside, other volunteers are greeting Elders as they arrive.

Now it's time for the actual event to begin. The group of volunteers is introduced to the Elders and their families as Mary Robertson-Begay translates for Linda.

A parting view of Navajo Mountain. Although the weather is always an unpredictable factor for the spring food runs, it never succeeds in dampening our spirit or spoiling the events.