Shíkeyáh, My Love

by Jaclyn Roessel

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My people came from the earth and because of this, I believe, every story I have ever been told by my parents, grandparents, aunties or uncles, always starts with place. There is always a reference to a specific point in the land to set a story. Whether it’s where a family lives, “Remember where the Kinsels home is? The ridge there…” “Remember the mountain from the stories about the Diyin Diné (Holy People) and how Ma’ii (Coyote) wasn’t supposed to climb the hill? That is the hill.”

Some of my favorite conversations are ones that have happened as I have traveled across my homelands. From early morning discussions shared while commuting with my dad to late night drives with my mom returning from town. The land I come from is the not necessarily the backdrop but is me, the heroine in the story, the temple where my story and my people’s story is written.

I’ve danced across the earth. I’ve played in the dirt. When I was home for Christmas, I woke to a snow draped landscape. Waking up with my family and striping down to little cloths so I could take a bath in the first snow I was home to enjoy. All in an effort to bless myself with a life that leads into “old age”.

I believe I can feel the power of the earth move in me. I can feel the stars’ energy and the lunar shifts in my life. I was taught to be humble. To understand my place in the world. But tonight when I think of the beauty of this winter, the lessons the cold air is teaching me each time it washes over me, I don’t feel small, I feel I am giant.

When I was home in the snow at Christmas and my bare feet began to ache from the shivering cold of the snow underneath me, I felt strong. When I watch a sunrise and see the genesis of the day the Holy People are creating I can feel my ancestors.

I think often of my great-great-great grandmother who was removed from our homelands during The Long Walk, the government’s forcible removal of my people and imprisonment at Hweeldi (Place of Suffering) or Ft. Sumner in New Mexico. I think of her escaping this horrific place and her journey home. I wonder what it must have felt like to see the land again. I ponder how it compares to the joy I feel when I return to Diné Bikeyáh every month.

My day dreams while I am in the city are of the places my heart has found solace in from mountains to springs and washes where flowing water runs. All of these memories are my fuel. Touchstones that create motivation for me to grow, touchstones to help me own my power as an asdzaan Diné (Navajo lady).

For Diné (Navajo) people pride is not a characteristic that is encouraged. But when I think about what has created me. It is the land. I am the red sandstone formations, I am mountains I have hiked, camped and played in. I am the stars’ brilliance, the moon’s shine. I am sunrays that spill through the clouds during every season of the year. So I don’t ever feel insignificant because I come from a people who have learned the sacredness of the earth, the blessedness of the heavens and the medicines of the land.

The feeling I harness most as I reflect on these teachings is pride. It is not boastful but it is a whisper. Like the small voice I use in the morning when I pray at dawn. The quietness of my breath as I wait for the sun to kiss the land goodbye at night. It is that quiver of pride that I hold because it is one grounded in respect for the small amount of teachings I hold and the vast amount of curiosity I try to not to let overwhelm me because there are still so many things I do not yet know. So tonight as I go to bed I will think, dream of shíkeyáh (my land), my love, and pray for more clarity and strength. I will ask with a humble heart that I can continue to have more conversations with sunrises, serenades in my favorite places and offer prayers out of respect for the grandeur of place that is the beginning, middle and end of my story.

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