I’ve been back in the Navajo Nation for a few days now, and lots of fun things as well as some important things have happened along the way. First, the 20-ish hour drive from New Orleans to Klagetoh was more or less uneventful, except for the travel center sign that read, "Eat here. Get gas." (I can only presume they knew what they were doing) and that the 35-hour-long audiobook of The Brothers Karamozov that I brought with me has been disappointing so far; I know it’s a classic, but the writing style that spends entire chapters discussing someone’s appearance or some feature of the landscape just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe that is me being impatient, but 6 CDs into the book, there has not been very much actual plot development; I’m still not quite sure what the plot actually is.
Thursday we (my friend and former co-worker Ben) went to St. Michael’s (the high school I used to teach at) to help the maintenance folks break up an old sidewalk – they had said we would be able to use a jackhammer, which was the main reason I wanted to go, but they had decided to put off getting the jackhammer until later on. Anyway, they handed us sledgehammers and told us to go to work; not as much fun, but still a good way to spend a day. We did get help from one of the maintenance guys with a Bobcat, so we broke up and hauled a lot of concrete that day, to the point that we were pretty wrecked that day and still not quite back to 100%.
Today (Saturday) was a trip to Canyon de Chelly, followed by a sweatlodge at the mission. They asked me to be the fire man for the sweat, which means nothing more than that I got to dig white-hot rocks out of a blazing fire, close enough to scald me all over. I spent a lot of time in there thinking about what has kept me coming back here all these years – certainly I love the landscape, the ritual life, the pace, and so on, but I think that the mentoring I get from Br. John, who runs the mission here, is something I crave. John exudes what I would call Grandfather Energy – that unhurried wisdom that comes from a lifetime of living the religious life well, and even while I admit he isn’t perfect (and he wouldn’t be upset by me saying so), he gives young folks like me a space to “apprentice” with him. That is, I spend my time here going with him to visit families, working with him to prepare meals for groups coming in, making trips into town for supplies, and other seemingly menial things that let me learn his way of doing things by directly watching him do it – something one does not do so easily as a teacher or a person working a desk job.