Languages of New Lands

How do I prepare? How will I begin? How do I start?

Each of these questions has been racing through my mind each day since I committed to expanding Grownup Navajo full-time. Having moved from the Sonoran desert to the high Puebla desert I am slowing planting roots. Having never made a home outside of Arizona, I am beginning to understand how daunting the “all-possibility” mode of a journey can be.

In a recent conversation with Dennis Worden of NextGen Native, I shared how optimistic I am to one day speak the languages of these lands I find myself in now. What I shared on the podcast is how I do not mean the actual languages of the Native people who live here but the languages of the land. In leaving my beloved Sonoran Desert and O’odham Bikéyáh (O’odham Lands) , I understood more fully just how much the land of the desert made me who I am today. Living there I had conversations with sunsets, realized how mountains were actually purple and learned of the powerful impact of welcoming the sunrise each day. These lessons composed an entire language of the place in which I spent over 11 years.

I find myself in a new place observing. Watching the way the sun casts shadows on the hills around me, trying to recall from memory, after the sun sets, the profile of the beautiful mountains circling me, finding most often, how in my mind, they are blurry because we don’t know one another yet. Even things as simple as understanding a place with a tangible season, I am learning how to bring a sweater or jacket with me as I venture out the door.

I am also watching myself. Understanding how my body is struggling trying to find the light in the morning as my home is new to me. How happy I am to have creative brainstorms any time I choose since I do not have a structured schedule. I am simultaneously realizing how I long for a structured schedule because the openness of the each day can at times distract or intimidate me.

This journey is filled with unlearning and learning lessons and languages. How does one begin to speak new languages? Linguists today share that immersion is key. If you want to speak fluently, you need to surround yourself with the language you want to share. I am confident my act of throwing myself into the deep end of this adventure will result in my being able to speak the sacredness of this place.

While the newness of the exploration is daunting, I am continuously encouraged by the voice of my late Nalí asdzaan (paternal grandmother) in my head saying, “Don’t talk about it, just do it.” While I continuously have more questions than answers, right now I also know my observing, listening, questioning is all a part of me doing. While I may not know the language of these lands, I know I am capable of the growth in understanding. One learns language, yes through immersion but also through speaking. I want my actions to be pronounced so I will listen and then speak. I will act in an effort to communicate my heart’s work, understanding I will rise to the occasion of speaking the language this beautifully powerful place will teach me.

Published by Jaclyn Roessel

Jaclyn Roessel was born and raised on the Navajo Nation. She is founder of the blog Grownup Navajo. She co-founded the blog Presence 4.0, a Native style blog. She also co-founded the multi-media project schmooze: lady connected. Owner of the card company the Naaltsoos Project, Roessel is a philanthropist, American Indian advocate and museum professional.

4 thoughts on “Languages of New Lands

  1. ❤ thank you for sharing. Yes, the deserts of central and northern New Mexico cast different shadows. The palette is softer and the earth smells differently than the mesquite and hot caliche of the Sonoran desert. Every time I start a new project, or move to a new city, I am first thrilled by what is new and interesting, and then I become tired, yearning for what is familiar. I am presently wrapping up a major writing project, and the body is reminding me of the anxiety of letting go and facing the empty space after the project is finished. Last night, while falling asleep, I meditated on bravery. I reminded myself that bravery is about acknowledging the fear of the new, and making room for joy and peace in the midst of experiencing all that newness, both the good and the deleterious.

    I'm excited for you. Small battles, big struggles. Resting in bravery every day. 👊💖🌹

    1. Oh asdzaan, I will carry your words with me as a shield and grounding. Ahé’hee! I am sending you reciprocative vibrations so you feel only empowered strength, confidence & peace at this release of your project!

  2. I have moved around a lot in my adult life with sojourns in several states throughout the Midwest and now in the Southwest. There will be things to cherish from each place and its people and other things that taught you life’s hard lessons. I cherish the good things I learned from you in Arizona and wish you many blessings as you “become” who you were created to be! Life will throw you serendipitous moments and deep challenges but keep listening to your authentic self, and I know you will be okay!

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