Archive | March, 2019

Pueblo Grande and the Heard Museum Starts Our Quest into Native Cultures

19 Mar

We recently went on a Road Scholar program to learn about the Hopi Mesas and Navajo Lands of Canyon de Chelly.  Our first stop on this journey was Phoenix, Arizona, where we met up with the group of 34 including our two guides.

Before it started, my husband and I discovered the Pueblo Grande Museum and archeological park.  We arrived hours before our first program was to start, so decided to walk from our hotel to a restaurant nearby.  Right across the street from this museum.  What a delightful accident.

First stop, when entering the museum was a short movie about the Hohokam people and this site. It helped to adjust our minds back in time to the lives of those who lived here.  The museum showed us what was found in the site and explained more the way of life.

After we exited the back door, we walked through the grounds and the 2/3 mile loop around the ancient platform mound, which dates to the 1400.  We saw the evidence of the Hohokam people’s irrigation canals and homes.  We were amazed by the large oval ballcourt that was used, they believe from 750 – 1200 AD.    This court was my favorite part of the archeological site, but for many it was the mound. Later in our trip, after I had been on the tops of the Mesa’s where the Hopi live, I could imagine that this platform was built to imitate the mesas.  I don’t know if this is true, but it is my vision of the site.

This was a wonderful way to learn the history of the Pueblo people, the ancestors of both the Hopi and Navajo.

Later that evening, our official program began.  We would go in the morning to our first stop on the official agenda, the Heard Museum in Phoenix.  I had been there before, but without the help of a museum docent.  Having this knowledge helped us understand what we were looking at during the tour of the arts and history of the Navajo people, which is highlighted at the museum.

We saw the pottery, weaving, baskets, wood carvings and jewelry made and designed by the native peoples of Arizona.  I cannot say one was more beautiful than another because each type of art was magnificent in its own way.

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The walls filled with Kachina/Katsina spirit carvings opened my eyes to how these carvings changed over the centuries. And the history behind them revealed part of the culture, how they were used to teach young girls about the spirits that bring rain and information.

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Seeing the multitude of baskets and pottery and rugs along the walls of the museum, showed me how these home arts went from useful and decorative to now works of art.  The workmanship in the making of these crafts amazes.

Finally, the silver and turquoise and coral jewelry that the Navajo peoples make is stunning.  This is a skill that they learned after the Long Walk, when the people of the Navajo needed to rebuild their community. And the tools and skills they learned in blacksmithing helped them to turn these skills to jewelry design. While the turquoise was considered good fortune as it connected to the blue of the sky.

After our time with the docent, many of us went upstairs to an older section of the museum to view the newly redesigned exhibit on Native peoples and the boarding schools they went to in the late 1800s, early 1900s. These schools were seen as a way to assimilate the children into the Anglo-European culture.   Many still go to boarding schools today, as the people in the reservations are so spread out.  But no longer are they told to not express their own culture.

Day one ended with a long bus ride to the Hopi Reservation and then a two-day stay at the Hopi Indian Cultural Center on the Second Mesa.

Canyon De Chelly, The Most Lovely Grand Canyon

18 Mar

Visiting Canyons seems to be my newest craze.  I have written about seeing three grand canyons in the blog below.  This past week I visited what I think is one of the loveliest canyons: Canyon De Chelly, a National Monument and National Historic Place, located in Arizona on the Navajo Reservation.

Covering over 131 square miles in three canyons that merge together, Canyon De Chelly has been the home of the Navajo people, or Dine, for hundreds of years.  The Canyon itself ranges from 30 feet deep, where you can enter it near the town of Chinle, to over 1000 feet deep.  Its red sandstone cliffs are amazing to see.  The ancient pueblo homes of the original inhabitants can be viewed from the top of the Canyon as well as some by tours to the bottom.

There is more than just beautiful scenery and astonishing sites to be seen, there is the history of the Navajo to be learned.

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Spider Rock

We visited the rim alongside Spider Rock, where the Navajo believe that the Dine emerged into this world. She helped her people learn skills and protected them.  The Spider Rock is an amazing natural stone structure. To see its reach to the sky from the bottom of the canyon helps to envision the Navajo legends about the Spider Woman who lived there.  How else could one get up there?  It is just majestic as it reaches over 800 feet from the bottom.

Pueblo dwellers also lived in the Canyon.  You can still see the remains of their structures at White House and the Mummy Cave, as well as at other spots.  We viewed these two sites.  And they are amazing that so many centuries later the buildings are still recognizable and seem to exist outside of time.

But it is not only the formations and the ancient pueblos that make Canyon De Chelly special, it is also the history.  Navajo peoples have lived in the valley for centuries. It is here that they had their orchards and their farms.  It is here that Kt Carson, under the auspices of the US government, invaded the canyon to remove the Navajo. He used a scorched earth policy to destroy and starve the people in the Canyon. In an act of terror and misguided desire to cleanse the canyon of its native peoples, thousands were killed and rounded up for a long and treacherous march to New Mexico in 1864, where the Dine were kept prisoner at Fort Sumner for four years.

Finally, in 1868, the Navajo people were allowed to return home to their Canyon and try to rebuild their lives on what was now a protected Reservation. They were not returned to all their lands, but part of them.  This beautiful site still carries the memories of those who did not survive.  Some families still have claim to the land in the canyon’s valley. They still farm there and live there in the summer months.  To learn what happened to the Navajo/Dine people was depressing.  To see how harsh the US was on the first peoples made me want to cringe. But I felt some lightness of spirit to see that the canyon has been returned.

We visited the Canyon in March, where it was not supposed to be snowing, on a Road Scholar educational program.  It was informative and wonderful.  I must say the snow enhanced the beauty of the stone and the canyon.  Although we were unable to go to tour the bottom of the canyon as planned, due to the water and mud, seeing what we did was more than enough to make us deem this the loveliest of the Canyon’s we had seen.

I am glad that we decided to not just go to the Canyon De Chelly, but to have two excellent guides, one Navajo and one Hopi, from the Road Scholar program, who guided us through the two reservations and explained the history of their peoples as well as the magical and beautiful places we visited.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/08/15/my-third-grand-canyon-waimea-canyon-kauai/

 

Monument Valley Invokes Images Of My Dad

16 Mar

Monument Valley straddles Utah and Arizona, but for me it straddles my childhood and adulthood. I often watched old John Ford movies with my Dad, who was a major John Wayne fan. My job was to iron on the weekends, exactly when these old movies were on television. It gave me something to watch as I suffered through this chore and created a bonding time with my Dad.

Dad loved any John Wayne movie, military, westerns, Irish themed. I was more picky. There were three I loved. “The Quiet Man,” “The Searchers” and my favorite of all, “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.” The last was filmed in Monument Valley, so I knew that one day I would make the trek to see this spectacular site. Finally I made it. It was more than I anticipated.

The visit came on the last touring day of a weeklong Roads Scholar program learning about the Hopi and Navajo Peoples and visiting their reservations. Monument Valley is located in the Navajo Reservation. It was worth the wait. Usually I write about my trips in order. But the emotional impact forced my mind to focus on this experience.

We arrived soon before lunch at the Goulding’s Trading Post, where we had time to visit some of the sites before we had lunch and continued into the valley. The movie crew used some of the outside of the buildings for the movie, including a storage building that became the office of Captain Nathan Brittles. Of course that was my first stop. John Wayne played this character in the movie. And although it is a small space lined with movie memorabilia, it touched a nerve in me. I started to cry as I exited the building, just missing my Dad.

The after lunch experience created moments of awe. As we toured the valley, stopping at many vistas along the way, including John Ford Point, and seeing sites that were visible in the movie, I kept thinking about my Dad. He would have LOVED seeing Monument Valley! He would have told me about every scene with a bit of Goulding’s or the Valley were in.

Dad would have relished the beauty of the valley. The bright red sand stone and majestic buttes would have inspired him as they inspired me. There are no words. Majestic is too small! Unbelievable is too trite! Incredible is ridiculous! Photos do not do it justice. Traveling along the 17 mile loop and listening to the young Navajo guide tell you the names given to the buttes and why they were named is a little surreal.

John Ford’s Point.

These buttes do not need names. They need appreciation! Each one still a work in process as the cold and water still invade the sandstone and split through the crevices causes giant portions of stone to fall and then crumble at the base.

I really felt Dad was with me in Monument Valley. Another woman on my trip was also on a pilgrimage in tribute of her husband who had passed away. He also loved old John Wayne movies. We decided that they were up there together watching us as we toured this site. And at the final stop on our tour of the Valley, she played her flute for the group. Her haunting melody swept across the silence, its lament echoed the sadness in my heart that my Dad never made it here. But at the same time the echoes of the music, the unbelievable, majestic and fantastic vistas brought me joy. Because I was there and in remembering my Dad I keep him alive.

I am so fortunate to have found the perfect educational program, great guides and wonderful experience to remember my Dad.

Our Daughter: Not An Astronaut

7 Mar

We always thought our daughter would become an astronaut.  It was not a crazy dream.  Our house was filled with books and videos focusing on the idea of space exploration.  My husband actually started filling out the application to join NASA, but an undetected medical issue ended his dream.  However, that did not stop him from always speaking about space. (See blog below.)

Because he could not be an astronaut, for his 40th birthday, I gave him a week of Adult Space Academy at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama in 1994, just four years after the program began. He had a wonderful time and came home with his own blue NASA jumpsuit, which became his Halloween costume for years.  As a pediatrician, it was important for him to have a great costume.  Each time he put it on, he glowed.

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My husband and daughter in Space Camp.

His constant discussions of the joys of space camp excited our daughter, who also wanted to go.  So in June 1995, my husband  took his NASA jumpsuit with him when he took our then nine-year old daughter to Huntsville for a weekend of Family Space Camp.  They had a wonderful time.

Our daughter was hooked. She also came home with a desire to learn everything she could about space and becoming an astronaut.  So the summer between sixth and seventh grade she went to Space Camp at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas.

There is a wonderful museum there that contains many space relics.   We had been members of the Cosmosphere for several years, after a tour there once on our way to Wichita.  It was a bit out of our way, but well worth the journey.

When our daughter went to Space Camp in Hutchinson, there was only one overnight Space Camp available.  But she lucked out.  The following year, the Cosmosphere added a second level to Space Camp.  In this new program, the campers had an overnight trip to Houston, Texas, to visit NASA. That was so exciting for her.

While they were in Mission Control, the Space Shuttle mission STS-93 was orbiting the earth commanded by the Astronaut Eileen Collins, July 1999.  Our daughter was able to speak to Astronaut Collins.  And they were there when the Space Shuttle actually returned to earth and touched down in Houston.  That was the highlight for her.  A woman in control  epitomized our daughter’s dreams.

Her next stop was Huntsville, Alabama, on her own for Space Academy.  She was in her happy place.  At 15 years old, the world was hers.  As a scuba diver, she had her happiest moment in the giant tank, while others were learning to scuba dive, she somersaulted and enjoyed moving around the mock-up of the space vehicles.   We flew in to attend her graduation, where we were told what an excellent student she had been that week.

We didn’t fly in just for her.  Since her program ended on a Friday, my husband and son were signed up for Family Space Camp that weekend. While they enjoyed camp, my daughter and I explored Huntsville.  And she told me all about her experience.  She came home with her own  NASA jumpsuit and joined my husband in dressing up each Halloween.

Thus, we were surprised when she did not go into science and pursue her space exploration adventures.  In fact, when she wrote her college essay, she focused on the strengths of Pippi Longstocking, and not the excitement of space camp.

Why asked why, she said that an astronaut had come to speak to them at camp. He told them that the astronauts currently in the program were like penguins, who would never fly. To our daughter that was the end of her NASA dreams.  She found another dream and earned two masters’ degrees.  But never joined NASA.

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Our daughter never became an astronaut, but her American Girl doll did!  Last year, 2018,  the American Girl Company came out with Luciana.  Our daughter and her husband were at the mall when she stopped into the American Girl store because she saw all the clothes and items available for Luciana.  She purchased a NASA like jumpsuit for her doll.  She dressed her Rebecca doll as an astronaut and joined her in her own NASA jumpsuit! (It still fit as it had when she was a teenager!)

Recently I was at the mall and saw all the space accoutrements.  I sent photos to our daughter to see what she thought, as it was close to her birthday.  And even though she is in her 30s, her American Girl dolls and space are still important to her.  She reminded me that she had purchased the jump suit, but her husband said she did not need anything else.  But what is need to a mom.  I got the space suit, the book and a few other items. Once again I state, my daughter might never have been an astronaut, but I could be sure that her doll reached the stars.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/06/29/spaceastronomy-and-the-first-walk-on-the-moon/

Locking Up Candy Saves the Day!

2 Mar
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The locked candy was kept on the bottom left side.

My Dad loved to eat candy.  He absolutely had a sweet tooth.  And he could not stop once he got started!  The only way my mother could stop him was to keep the candy locked up in the breakfront/curio cabinet in the dining room.  The key, which was beautiful and ornate, was kept it hidden from him.

To be honest, I think my brother and I knew where the key was from an early age. But we also knew not to take it or to eat the candy.  Mom had a strong knowledge of what was in the cabinet.  She had been keeping a strict eye on Dad and the candy ever since she had a mah jong game at our home, inviting four friends over to play, and when she went to put out the treats, almost all the candy was gone. She was so annoyed that she started locking up the candy in the bottom part of the breakfront, where you could not see what was inside.

Baked goods were not a problem. Our grandfather was a baker, so there was often cakes and bread in the house.  It was delicious and kept us filled with delights.  But I guess for my Dad it was not enough.  Candy was his downfall.  Thus, my Mom rarely purchased any and when she did, she locked it away.

The locked candy worked for us as well, especially when our home was robbed.  There was a rash of robberies in North Bergen that year along the Boulevard East corridor. The police had even put notices on the front doors of homes in the area.  We had been fine.  We really thought no one would enter our house, because our elderly landlady, who lived on the second floor, was often home.   But eventually the thieves came to our home.

My brother and I were students at North Bergen High School at the time.  Luckily, he arrived home before me and found the giant mess.  The police thought he interrupted the thieves as our stereo and television were left hanging, actually hanging from their wires.. The police also thought the thieves went out one door while my brother came in the other.  My parents  were less concerned about the burglary because the police were so happy that my brother was safe.  They felt we were lucky that my brother was not injured!  This left quite an impression on us.  We were  careful about opening the door and entering the house for years!

But the burglary was intense!  The thieves trampled through our home.  Searching through everything. Emptying out the closets and the drawers.  It was a disaster and took quite awhile to put back into order!  For me the idea that someone had rummaged through my clothes, my underwear,  horrified me.  I had to wash everything before I would wear it again.  What bothered me the most however, is that they stole my moon landing necklace.  I had a lovely round silver disc that showed Tranquility Base and spot where the lunar lander had settled, which my Dad bought me in 1969.  It was one of my prized possessions.  I only wish I had worn it to school that day in 1970, the spring of my sophomore year of high school.

My parents’ closet and dressers were totally emptied.   It was an enlightening moment for my younger sister.  In 1963, at the World’s Fair, my parents had purchased a 45 record of “It’s A Small World After All” for her.  My sister listened to it constantly.  Finally, my Mom could not take it anymore.  She hid the record in the closet and told my sister she accidentally broke it when she was cleaning.  Imagine my sister’s surprise when she spied the record, totally intact, on the floor.  That, at least, gave us all a moment of delight in the middle of cleaning and anguish.  Well maybe my sister was not delighted.  And perhaps my Mom felt a bit guilty.  But my father, brother and I had a great laugh.

However, the best of all was the locked candy, which actually saved the day.  The breakfront had two locked doors.  On one side was the candy.  On the other side was our Mom’s jewelry and some other important items.

The thieves did their best.  They pried open one door. Destroying the locks and damaging the door.  All they found were bags of candy that they emptied out on the floor.  I wish I could be there when they searched and found nothing but candy.  They must have thought we were crazy people locking up candy.

The good news is that they did not even attempt to open the other door. They left it locked.  Leaving all my mom’s valuables behind.  From that point on, locking up candy took on new meaning as it had saved us from losing many more important items.

It took a while to get the breakfront fixed.  No more locked candy.   My parents also found another place to keep the jewelry.   But we never forgot how that the locked up candy saved the day.  To be honest, whenever I go to visit my sister in New Jersey, I look at the breakfront and remember its importance in saving our valuables during a burglary.