New Year Reflections: A Navajo Perspective

JMRoessel Sunset

I miss Diné Bikeyáh most in the fall and winter seasons. There is a special connection I have to my land in the winter time when it receives its first dusting of snow.  It’s not solely the look of the land but what the transition signals. The change in seasons means the continuation of key parts of our culture. It signals our ability to tell our sacred origin stories again. I look forward to playing string games with my uncles and all the joking which will ensue. There are also “normal” winter things which just feel better at home. The making of s’mores in my backyard may feed my sweet tooth but often feels incongruous next to my pool and palm tree.

In Navajo we call October, Ghąąji’ meaning “the joining of seasons”. It marks our new year and the time we harvest the crops of the summer and begin to prepare for the winter’s ceremonies.  It is a time for us to cultivate the richness around us as we anticipate the hardships winter will bring.

When I moved to Phoenix to attend college, I promised myself I would return home at least once a month. It’s a promise I have only broken a few times as the demands of work have taken precedent. My winter trips home are what I long for mostly because it’s when our ceremonial cycle reaches its pinnacle with our YeíbicheÍ ceremonies. Held traditionally from the time of the first snow until the first lightening comes. Attending Yeíbicheí ceremonies offers an instant connection to my family and community. Everyone comes together to support the healing of the patient with whom the ceremony is held. As with all our ceremonies, it is a time for us to connect with one another.

I dream of home in the desert. It’s the desert which sustains me and quenches my thirst to be home. It’s the desert which distracts me from what I miss. As the seasons change, I plan the style changes I will make – more scarves, autumnal hues, boots and tights. But most importantly, I look for openings in my calendar so I can travel home to see family. “Being Navajo” is a continual transformation as I am always learning what more I can do. In a world filled with such complex beauty and chaos it is easy to assume the lessons are just as intricate. But the truth is simple – we are wondrous beings with an inherent need to connect to each all we need to do is just show one another we are important by being present.