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Kayenta Moments

I felt my lungs Inflate with the onrush of scenery---air, mountains, trees, people.  I thought, "THIS IS WHAT IS to be happy." Sylvia Plath

This is what Kayenta meant to me...


A rainbow breaks out on our last night at the "ranch"... We all stopped and took it in.  It was a very moving moment...almost like the spirits were giving us their blessings on a job well done.  As we stood there and watched, the rainbow grew...another sign for a safe journey home.  It was a lot of hard work, hot and humid but the fullness of it all came full circle with that rainbow.  A sign perhaps, that we will return again.  The need is always there, for our Navajo friends and for ourselves.

I would also like to thank so many special people for contributing to my trip there.  Such generous and kind and heartfelt contributions from you.  Although we have not meet in person (yet), your generosity is stored in my heart with all the other memories from this trip.  You know who you are and your the good that comes from this social media... Thank you so much.  I hope you can see from my photo's the work that you shared in...


From A Service Project to a Love Project


Kayenta, Navajo of the most wonderful people.  It was a privileged to get to know them. When one walks away from a service project feeling like they got more than they gave, that is when you know that a spirit walks with all who are involved.  That's what has happened for me both times I visited with my now Kayenta friends.  It started out as a service project and ended as a love project, because of the people we worked with and for. 

We had a schedule for our work projects but when something exciting comes up, our Native American friends call and say "change of plans"  before work, we will go to a Pow Wow..  The photo above was taken at the local pow wow and all the people were so welcoming and the music and drumming so haunting and lovely. The costumes are all hand made with such beautiful beading and art work.  Feathers were stunning and everyone from young children to senior adults dances.  It is called the Jingle dance.  They have bells on their ankles and as they dance to the music and hear the beat, the jingle bells make music also.  It is quite interesting to watch and learn.  Prizes are awarded in each category...Several children won bikes.  That is a big deal for them.  There were also craft tables with local crafts at very reasonable prices. To be invited to this Pow Wow on our first day was a wonderful way for us to start our week. A big thank you to Lita for taking us...I would like to introduce to you the people that played a major roll in helping us accomplish all the work that we did while there.  Not only did they direct the projects and help where they could, they taught us so much about a culture that few non-Native Americans get to experience.  A history lesson of those we came before us and preserved their culture. It is not an easy thing to do.


Dr. James Nez, my friend and our contact on the reservation. He has worked with us both times we have visited.  He is smart and wise, a lawyer, a medicine man, a teller of great Navajo stories and history, an avid reader.  More than that though and most importantly, he is dedicated to his family and his land.  I have had many conversations with James over the years and for a young man he is so full of wisdom and spirit.  He believes in the land and practices what he preaches.  Family is most important and he takes care of them all brillantly.  Each person on this trip had their own personal conversations with James and I think it would be fair to say they all walked away with a better understanding of  themselves and the reason that they were there serving his people..all of his Navajo people, not just his family.  He welcomed us to his land and opened his door to each and everyone of us.  He is progressive in his persuits but still carries on the traditions of his heritage.  A fine balancing act for sure.

Ah Gary, James's brother.  Chief cook and bottle washer.  What would we have done without his expertise at the grill and fry pan..well of course, there was him Mother Lita, but Gary never missed a beat feeding us the most delicious food in every kind of weather...None of us will forget his barbarque chicken, bacon and pancakes, with Lita's help...beautiful and fresh salads...and lots and lots of gatorade...yuk.  He cooked and carried and mixed and even helped clean up although that was mostly my job.  The one big gift from Gary though was that he taught me it's o.k. to be myself.  I'm a hugger for sure and yes, I do like to kiss someone to show my affection for them.  Now my friend James was not so keen on that 10 years ago..oh, I got a few hugs out of him and we had some discussions about that but I never got a kiss.  It's not really something that the Navajo people were comfortable with.  I understood that and respected it back then.  I got a Navajo name 10 years ago..the name is somewhat of a representation of who you are.  James will correct me on this if I'm wrong.  My Navajo name was "She stands to close"...hmmm.  So this year along comes Gary.  So of course when we arrived I gave James a big hug..along with his Mom and Grandma's.  I gave Gary a hug and I was telling Gary that James doesn't like to be kissed..and James said "but Gary does"...and so I gave Gary a kiss. That's when I knew we were solid...LOL  As the week went along, from that one kiss for grew until, yes, James was getting kisses also...major breakthrough...I had also expressed to James and Gary that I wasn't crazy about my Navajo name...but I was happy to have one.  Long story short, at the end of the week James told me he was changing my Navajo name...he said Gary came up with a new one for me...and you know what, I love my new Navajo name..Hugs and Kisses...that is such a gift to bring home with me...these boys are unique in their love of people and I'm hoping that now that I'm not there they are still hugging and kissing, especially their Mom's and Grandma's...

The Grandma's.  Really the head of the family.  Woman are very well respected in Navajo Nation...and in the family.  They have a say in everything,  and the men listen.  Meet Grandma Anita and Grandma Florence, they are sisters. They both own their own hogan's and worked their land.  Florence still drives a truck up and down the winding, dusting, bumpy road.  I met Grandma Florence ten years ago and we became close friends.  Her Hogan was the one we painted sky blue on our last visit. This year she was getting it painted again. With the sun beating on it the way it does out in the desert, the paint doesn't last very long.  She is a power house and watches what is happening all the time.  She has been know to help clean out the paint trays with some of the girls when it got stuck from the heat.  She is also a great teacher of all things Navajo. Grandma Anita lives on one side of James a bit further away and Grandma Florence lives on the other side of James.  This was my first time getting to know Grandma Anita.  She is somewhat of a gentle soul but does speak her mind.  I took them both shopping to get the color of paint that they wanted. Iove talking with Grandma Anita as she told me the history of how her Hogan was built by her husband and now he is gone and she still maintains its.  Grandma Anita also told us the story of how she was born on the Mesa and would travel into town by foot to work. It took her many hours of walking back and forth and sometimes, lots of times, she was walking in the dark, with no fear. They are smart, brave and beautiful, with lots of stories to tell.  They also give hugs freely and don't mind a kiss. either.


This is my friend Lita. She cooked all the meals along with Gary.  She was the official food, menu person. She did a great job.  I worked with her for the week in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning, laughing and sharing. We are both Mothers, both James and Gary are her sons,  and that gave us plenty of fodder for the week.  I meet Lita 10 years ago when she also cooked and bagged lunches for us.  She is a dinamo in action. She never seems to get tired and she also does a lot for her Navajo community..just recently I saw that she was running for some office.  Even though I'm back home now, I voted for her.  I'd vote her in for anything because she would get the job done.  If I had stayed longer I'm sure I would have learned how to make that delicious Navajo fry bread, corn pudding and a few other of her specialties.  When it came time to leave I felt like I was leaving a best friend behind. I hope someday to see her again, there was a special bonding for us this time around, and yes, she loves hugs. Grandma Anita is Lita's mother.  The elders are treated with the upmost respect of the Reservation. Every night they came and had dinner with us.  Lita always took her Mother and sometimes Grandma Florence with her when she was going somewhere.  On the same hand, each night after dinner both Grandma's always thanked James for having them to dinner.  So much respect for each other...It was lovely to witness...



This lovely man is Roland Dixon.  He was our tour guide to Monument Valley...husband of Lita Dixon.  He is a sweet, soft spoken man who is now retired.  He used to be a tour guide at Monument Valley but now he only does it on special occassions. James arranged for us to have this trip and it was really special.  Because of the heat and our work projects, we met Roland at 6 am to head to the Valley.  It's a good thing we did because by the time we left, a bit after noon, it was really heating up. The heat just radiates off that red rock and dirt.  He told us of all the mesa's and the Butte's names on our trip.  He also did something so special that I had remembered from my last trip with him.  We all hiked out to Artist Point, which is a sweeping landscape of the Valley and we found spots to sit or lean, then Roland start beating on his drum and singing in Navajo to was so moving.  You could feel the Spirit and the beauty of the land entering your mind and body. A peace just came over you. At the end, we walked back down, baking in the heat, like cake dough. We all got water and then Roland told us about giving back to Mother Earth whenever she gives to you. Mother Earth had given us a great show today with all the Natural beauty this is Monument Valley. He showed us how to pour some of our water into the ground so that Mother Earth received the gift also...and always remember you pour your water clockwise...

So there you have it. These are the people we served and these are the people we now love.  We helped them to paint houses, plant gardens, feed sheep and cows and got a few wild kittens to trust us. We made a dam for them to finally get some water back in the ground so that they can make things grow again.  It is a model dam for others to learn about and hopefully do for their areas on the reservation...and we made friends.

We have been to Kayenta twice now...the first time we were all testing the waters for trust and sincerity. We were getting to know each other and also learning each others customs.  We are bound now by 10 years of talking, sharing and now returning to a most beautiful land.  We returned to  hard working and proud people who have not had a fair shake from our goverment. We, on such a small scale are trying to make a difference.  This time I sensed we really did.  For me and Jim it was like going home to relatives we had not seen in a very long time.  For those on their first trip here, it was a very new experience but a very rewarding and fullfilling one also...When we got into the vans to leave there were big waves, lots of hugs, a few kisses and many tears flowing...God is good.  Never be afraid to reach out to someone in might be surprised when it turns your life around and gives you a whole new cluster of friends and a greater appreciation for the important things in life...people.

A Navajo Prayer

Today may I walk out in beauty.

With beauty may I walk.

With beauty before me, may I walk.

With beauty behind me, may I walk.

With beauty above me, may I walk.

With beauty below me, may I walk.

With beauty around me, may I walk.

It is finished in beauty.

It is finished in beauty.

A Navajo (Dine) Chant


From Hopelessness to Hope

The title above is the title from my sons Meditation class last week...then he went on to say.."I have hope!  We are living in difficult times.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it, bearing a vague sense of the past rushing forward into the present; generations before us have expressed similar sentiments. Yet something stands out for me about the current climate of violence and social suffering.  Maybe it feels uniquely problematic in relationship to my own sense that it should have changed by now.  Maybe I’m surprised and caught off guard by how little the landscape of prejudice has shifted.  Maybe I’m surprised that my own allegiance to the lineage of Buddhism, which advocates for wisdom and kindness, has yet to shape a new western culture as I had thought it might when I was a teenager.  But also perhaps being awake means being unwilling to remain asleep to the truth of injustice, violence and socially constructed racism.  And maybe its okay that it is painful and confusing right now.  Transformation on the contemplative path is not about being comfortable, though we can fall into this wrong view easily." Each time we meet, we meditate and then Chris does a talk and we have a small discussion.  This was an important talk and many people were able to express their feelings about the hopelessness that they sometimes feel and the lack of being able to do something on a large scale to help others to find hope...

I have said this many times on my blog and I live it each day as best I can.  I have signs in my house to remind me and my family that KINDNESS matters.  It doesn't matter what the rest of the world is doing, it only matter what you are doing. Maybe we can't solve the problems of the world on a large scale but we are capable of helping our neighbors and all the people that we come into contact with, just by showing a bit of the end of Chris's talk and our discussion, he read to us short essay called Cause and Effect- the Huffington Post response to Orlando..I'd like to share that with you now so that maybe through these words, you will find a small way to spread your own KINDNESS and by reaching out to each other, we may all find some hope going forward...and let go of the hopelessness..

Cause and Effect- Huffington Post to Orlando

It's time we shot back and righted the wrong. It's time we killed our culture of hatred with kindness. The only proper response to Orlando, and the only response that can avenge the deaths of 49 young men and women, is to wield the arms of compassion and fight back.  If each bullet was an act of hatred, an expression of the destruction of humanity, then we need to respond with the acts of universal kindness, compassion and creation.

We can not revive our dead, but we can change the course of history.  the planting of a tree, or smiling and encouraging a child, is a deadly salvo of kindness fired at the heart of hatred.  Buying the next person in line a cup of coffee, or thanking a veteran or first responder for their service, is a shinning monument to human goodness standing against Omar Mateen's barrage of bullets.  Reaching out to a family member and asking them how they're doing, or picking up a piece of litter on the side of the road, is a cannonade of consideration that can blow away the ash of nihilism in the souls of those around us.

The truth is, if you believe that the universe is governed by cause and effect, then you have to also believe in the profound consequences of our kindness.  We can not revive our dead, but we can change the course of history.  It's time we confronted the politics of hate with the politics of love.

My challenge to you is this: for each person murdered by Omar Mateen, commit one act of kindness. If you don't know any gay people, go to a pride celebration this month and give someone a hug. If you don't know any Muslims, go a mosque and tell someone they are wonderful. Break out of your daily norm. Burst out of the chains of your indifference and feel the warm sunlight of brotherhood. Only kindness can unite us. If we all join together and make the world a little bit kinder, then we can turn the poison of Orlando into a medicine for all mankind.

The meditation session left me thinking about the planet we are walking on and what our responsibility to it and each other is.  I have most always chosen Kindness as my guiding light. I will admit, I haven't always been perfect at it, but now is the time to express our kindness more fully, deeply and honestly, than we have ever done before...The future of our children and grandchildren are depending on us.  They are "watching"...don't let them down..

 The Quote from the first paragraph is by my son Chris Crotty.




Boys, Camera's and the Audubon


Must we always teach our children with books?

LET THEM LOOK at the stars and the mountains above.

LET THEM LOOK at the water and the trees and flowers on earth.

THEN they will begin to think, 


is the beginning of a real education.

David Polis

Last week, we once again, took the boys to the Audubon, this time they brought their camera's.  Both of them love going to the Audubon and now both of them love bringing their camera's.  Liam is getting quite good with his shooting and is now asking for a camera like mine...I don't think so.  Jaxson well, he shoots and then looks at what he got and that is keeping him happy at the moment.  Funny how fast they learn. They are both equally as good at figuring out how to work their cameras as they are at working an i-pad. That makes me happy.  So join us for a bit of our walk in the Audubon...I think for this post, the photo's speak for themselves...


Of course we got many more photo's and lots of running up and down the rocks.  The path they like best is called the Rockery. They head that way the minute they are out of the car.  So much to see and do on that little hike.  We spent over two hours here on this day, with everyone shooting..Perhaps next time I'll show you what I got.  I don't always just shot the boys, although it does feel that way sometimes.  My time is becoming more limited with them, so for now, this is my photography passion...

Enjoy your week...and take a friend for a walk sometime.  Bring your camera.  You'll find things that you didn't even know existed...happy snapping...


Mission Memories

Red dirt, dust flying everywhere and heat that could fry an egg on the patio.  Two fifteen passenger vans, loaded up with people and supplies, made there way up the winding road that was so pitted with ruts and bumps that often we would fish tail and lose our balance, flying off the seats,  along with some of the supplies.  I signed on to be one of the driver's for those vans and I thought for sure, at the end of the week, that we were going to turn the vans in and be charged for new shocks.

The directions to the "ranch" where some of us would be staying and all of us would be working, were: follow the road, after going up a steep hill, watch for a tree on the right.  Right after the tree you will see the road split off in three directions, take the middle road, and so it began.  Our mission trip to Kayenta, Arizona. Navajo Nation.  For Jim and I, it was not our first trip to Navajo Nation.  We had brought a group there 10 years ago and now, we returned with another group from our church, First Church in Wenham.  They were in for a reality check and in some ways, so were we, even though Kayenta had already become a beloved land for us.  


This was to be our home for the next week. After many months of planning, phones calls to James and meetings at church every other week, gathering information and setting goals, we would be doing service projects for the people of Navajo Nation and upon arrival we didn't know how the projects would go or where we would be at the end of the week...but that's where faith comes in.  I knew from our last trip out that even with a well laid plan, Mission trips take on a life of their own...and this one was no different.  All we knew upon arrival was that it was hot and dusty and it took us a very long time to get here.  

James is a friend of ours...he and my son went to grad school together in Prescott Arizona.  The friendship has not only lasted, it has grown into a family friendship on both sides.  It has grown because we have taken the time to learn to trust each other with our word and our promises.  The Navajo people have not been treated very well and I remember the first time we went in there that James said to me..."your people have come, done some projects and then they leave and we never see them again...ten years ago, I made a promise to James that that would not happen with us.  Jim and I and the church have kept that promise for all these years.. The church sends packages full of hand knit items, coats, and gifts every Christmas to James to distribute to his people.  In June, our Mission board sends money for a Navajo student to receive a scholarship for college. On our end, I correspond with James all the time..because he is a friend and over time we have come into an easy relationship.  That is the history...and we honor it all year long.  It's funny about life, and going back, helped me to think more closely about our two cultures meeting up and finding a sustainable relationship. You never know what one kind word, what one person reaching out to another, not letting differences become barriers, where knowing and talking and being interested in each, will lead.  If my son and James Nez were not placed in the same place at the right time, and had they not walked a path together for however long they were at Prescott, we would not know the history of the Navajos and we would not be better off for their friendship.  Never be afraid to reach out, to anyone.  

So on this trip we all learned and our Native American friends trust us, to know that not all "Bilagaana" walk away.  So much good happened the week we were there but honestly, I can't put it all down in one for now, I would just like to share with you the one major project that we did. Next I would like to share the land, the beauty and the Spirit of these wonderful people.  They are deeply rooted to Mother Earth and see her working in their every day life. Their spirit and faith are far beyond what I see here.  It was a gift to be able to not only help them but to spend time with them and to learn from them...again.

The top photo...a tractor, that we rented for nine hours to help clear some land so that we could start a water project for Navajo Nation.  A test project, that if successful, would be presented to the Farm board for approval to open up at least 8 more ponds that have been dry for at least 4 years.  It was the biggest project and took lots of man/woman power to get the job done.  The tractor cleared the land, and widen a pond that was already there and created a substantial and durable dam, which was then re-enforced and lined with stone to preserve the it.  After the tractor did it's work, all the rocks and building of the dam was done strictly by hand, wheelbarrow, sweat and prayers. There was a stream bed that existed but would get over-run with the fast running water during the monsoon season. So by lining the stream with rocks and creating Trenchea's, the water would be slowed down and guided into the ponds, where it could get absorbed by the land instead of It took a crew of about 10 people, 3 days to line the dam, and lay the rocks.  It was hard and hot work in the high heat that Kayenta was experiencing while we were there...The good news and the miracle of it, was that within 4 hours, a monsoon rain came and the pond filled half-way, over a 1,000 gallons of water entered the pond for the first time in 4 years.  The dam held...The Farm board came and inspected our work and a proposal was written by James Nez and photo's that I took were submitted to the farm board to have those other wells re-opened.  Slowly the water gets absorbed back into the land to restore the aquifer, which is the underlying water source for the entire region, which had been shamelessly depleted by Peterson coal company.  This had caused draughts, wells dried up, huge sink holes formed where the water once was. The land could not longer be farmer or vegetable grown, which is the Navajo way. The coal company did this without regard to the Native American's that lived there and then walked away.  Now, with one tractor and a crew of 10, our Native American friends have hope again...James has already written to me and sent photo's every time it has rained and the dam is still holding...

The second photo here is of my friend James Nez...he is so dedicated to his people.  It is a beautiful thing to witness and he was so helpful with this project.  It was his thought process that got the project going...he's just so smart...and an amazing host to us now here is what we did...

Building the slow down the water flow and lead it to the pond...brick by gathered brick.

Finding the rocks on the land and transporting by wheelbarrow...hard work in the heat.


Placing the rocks...always a two man job..and they had to be placed strategically.


That rock looks way to heavy should have asked for help....from one of the girls...see the red water bottle...they were everywhere...water, water, water, stay hydrated.  So hot.

Four hours after finishing the project the water came. One of many miracles that happened that week...and the pond filled half-way. It's still holding.



The Dam...has now been officially named Mission Dam...awesome.


Some of the group returning to the "ranch" after a long days work in the, I was back at the ranch getting dinner on the table with my friends Lita and Gary...our cooks for the week.  

This was three days of sweat and a lot of hard, heavy work.  The team of about ten consisted of both men, woman and members of our youth.  They did an awesome job. Now, hopefully, the Farm Board will take it to the Council and then the other eight ponds and dams can be fixed, with our work as a model.  It will change the scope of the land for the Navajos and real gardens could be planted again.  There is so much more to tell you about.  I think it took me so long to start because I actually didn't know where to start but now, I know that this will required at least one more blog post.  I want to you to experience it all, as if you were there and I don't want to leave out the many other jobs that got done and I need to share the people that we meet and got to please come back again...until then..I leave you with this quote that says it all for me...

"But the truth of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,

long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith."  

Galantians 5:22

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