Sunday, March 18, 2007

SW+1YR-SIX: The Soundless and The Hopi


Then we left Grand Canyon, heading east, descending towards the lands of the Navajo Nation. We stopped near the Little Colorado River Gorge to stretch our legs and were confronted with a silence we had never heard before.

One seldom confronts silence in this world. Usually there’s some kind of background noise present. Even when in the woods, there’s something to be heard. It may be the rustle of leaves or the rush of water from a nearby brook. On a mountaintop, it’s often the rush of wind past your own ears.

I remember one time, after descending a mountain in Acadia National Park, I was walking a gravel road, a carriage road, above Jordan Pond. I stopped to look at the sparkling blue waters and suddenly noticed the quiet. It was April, and there was little traffic in the park. At the time, across the pond, the Loop Road was empty. No buses or motorcycles were motoring by. Not even a Prius could be seen. There was only quiet and every now and then a bird or two could be heard.

It was beautiful, but it was nothing like the silence we were experiencing at the moment. This was an emptiness of sound, a stillness that was almost eerie in its void. Nothing, absolutely nothing could be heard. Whether it was the damping qualities of the desert that deadened any little buzz or hum or drone, I don’t know. Whether it was the contrast from our fellow tourists milling around at Grand Canyon, I don’t know.

All I know is that particular silence would need a million words to describe it. Or not a word at all.


We were stopping at Tuba City for the night, but took a sideway glance at the Hopi Reservation. No picture-taking is allowed, so I have no visual representations. What we saw was nothing spectacular. There were no ceremonies to be seen that day. There were the three mesas where the villages of Hopiland have been, longer than any other village in North America it’s said.

Consider this. Here’s an enclave in the middle of another enclave (the Navajo reservation surrounds it on all sides) in the middle of a desert. For the most part, for the most important part, things go on as they have for centuries. If ever there was a place that could keep the best of the human spirit alive as ultimate chaos destroys it all around, this is it. This, I believe, is the cocoon from which will spring the next world, after this one passes.

We stopped at a little shop called Tsakurshovi on Second Mesa and I bought one of its world famous T-Shirts: “Don’t Worry, Be Hopi.” We won’t for I know we shall be.

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