After ten days in Arizona, I find myself growing fond of this desert oasis although I’m not sure I could ever survive so far from an ocean. After my conference, I spent two relaxing days at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass, a resort owned by the Pima people. The last two days I explored Tempe and Downtown Phoenix, using the city’s cool new light rail. Every time I come out to the Southwest, I become intrigued by the Native American culture, their traditions, their history, and their kindness. Back East their presence has been practically erased. Not so here. They are a proud people, and their energy is everywhere.
Yesterday I visited the Heard Museum in Phoenix, an amazing collection of Native American art and artifacts, both ancient and contemporary. The poignant exhibit about the Indian Boarding Schools touched my heart. How sad that the Native American children as young as four and five years old were ripped from their families, put on trains—think North Dakota to Florida in the early 1900s—and placed in military-like institutions where they couldn’t speak their own language or feel their mother’s embrace. The children often didn’t see their families for half a decade or more. Some ran away and died in the wild. Yet the First Nation people survived, and thankfully their culture did as well.
The meaning behind everything Native Americans do—what drives them—is so rooted in their traditions, their family values, and their spiritual beliefs. you can’t help but feel it, too. I’ve had vivid dreams since arriving, two of which have involved stinging insects. One night I dreamed about a wasp caught in a small plastic bag with a bunch of grapes. He was very angry, and my dream ended when—too afraid to let the wasp out—I tossed the bag out the door with the wasp still stuck inside. Clearly I am afraid of something in my waking life. Then last night, I dreamed a bee was stuck in a web. The girl I was with—friendly, helpful, but not someone I knew—plucked the bee out of the web with her bare fingers, and we watched it fly away toward a body of water in the distance.
There’s stuff going on at the subconscious level that I don’t understand, but it feels right and necessary. Being in the Southwest does something to me. It’s the energy, the spirit that hovers here—in the sagebrush, cacti, rocks, and sand. Ancient wisdom? A chance to slow down and pay attention to my soul? I continue my journey.