tornado near canyon de chelly (08.03.10)
One of the things I've become more sensitive to as a result of spending more time outdoors wheat pasting is subtleties in the weather. This past winter I longed for days with a temperature above 50 degrees F. Keeping my hands in wet wheat paste for a couple hours at less than 50 degrees was agony. This spring, as compared to last year, was much more windy. Not only were the winds stronger but we had more days of big winds than I remember having for some time; that on the heels of record amounts of snow this past winter.
The monsoon rains have been fierce this summer on the Colorado Plateau. They started a little later than normal but made up for it in quantity and ferocity. The Navajo recognize two types of rain. There's the gentle, nurturing rain that lasts less than 30 minutes known as a female rain. It's also called an "in-law chaser" in that when you're working in the cornfield bored to tears with an in-laws constant banter and the gentle rain starts, an unwanted inlaw who is visiting takes that as their cue to leave. Or at least that's how it was explained to me.
The skies this time of year are especially dramatic with heavy cumulus clouds with dark, threatening undersides. The lighting throughout the day is dramatic. By the afternoon these clouds coalesce to bring rain with big wind, thunder and lightening. These are known as male rains. They definitely aren't nurturing and are the rains responsible for flash flooding and erosion of the land.
Just this week the president of the Navajo Nation declared the reservation a disaster area as a result of flooding of low lying areas. I noticed that the number of people coming into the clinic thinned out a bit as well. Several patients said the dirt roads leading from their homes to the main road were so muddy that they were nearly impassable. Red mud from peoples shoes litters the clinic floor.
As I was driving home from Flagstaff this past weekend I stopped in Gray Mountain to see how the pastings I put up recently with Yote and Jorael were holding up. Not surprisingly, the south facing installations I put were were showing more wear than Yote's piece on the north side. I was bummed that this piece was going to have such a short life span but appreciated the ongoing lesson of being here now and letting go. That's what this project has been about - letting go.
At work the next day everything was placed into proper perspective when I learned that a co-workers 17 year old daughter was killed over the weekend during a thunder storm. Apparently the girl was visiting her cousin brother for the evening near her home in Kayenta. They were up late surfing the internet during an electrical storm. The girl, Kimberlie, was sitting with a laptop in her lap when a surge of electricity came through the trailer electrocuting her and her cousin brother. They were found the following morning by Kimberlie's aunt. Though unconscious, the boy was breathing still and was revived after 2 days in the intensive care unit in Flagstaff.
Kimberlie was to have started school in less than 2 weeks. This would have been her senior year. I didn't know her but know her mom fairly well. Her funeral service was small but moving. Kimberlie was a good student and a member of the cross country team. Last year she'd represented the Navajo Nation at an international track meet in Australia being the first in her family to travel abroad. Several of her friends shared humorous stories of time shared with Kimberlie. The laughter felt good and was a welcome relief from the grief and intensity of the moment. Everyone was trying to reconcile how a person so innocent and young was snatched away so soon. It just doesn't make sense.
I was moved by the show of support for the family, by the love from friends and family. In the end, that's all that matters. Thanks Kimberlie for this lesson.