My Red Rock Memories

By Chris Madison

As long as I can remember I've loved the patterns of rock and desert. Being among the rocks and in the desert has always felt like home, as if I belong to that landscape. Every step, every turn in Canyon de Chelly brings vistas, surfaces and textures each as beautiful as the last. I've spent years of my life doing art of various kinds but am always humbled by the exquisite patterns of nature.

Our trip to Canyon de Chelly started with a phone call from an old college roommate asking us to join her on this trip, in part a celebration of our joint August birthdays. We went expecting the beauty of the Canyon and found so much more in the incredible generosity of our Navajo guides, Lupita and Jon McClanahan. They opened their lives and shared their family with us and introduced us to the way of the Diné.

It was an incredible opportunity to live in another culture and to imagine how our world might be changed by absorbing some of the values of the Diné. We went on day trips around the Canyon, sometimes climbing up ancient hand and toe trails made by the Anasazi and used over the centuries by the Navajo to the Canyon rim. We hiked across beautiful plateaus to return down trails through rock textures and Canyon vistas that took my breath away. We also saw the history of the Canyon inscribed on the walls from the Anasazi, Navajo, Hopi and Spanish each recording the life and drama in the Canyon as it unfolded over the centuries - a rock art history among ancient ruins. Lupita shared stories of her culture and childhood during our walks and Jon told us about Mother Earth and Father Sky.

Evenings were spent around the fire telling stories and tall tales. Our laughter echoing off the Canyon walls sometimes punctuated by the hysterical bray of a wondering donkey. Each morning we rose to the sun in the East and set out to explore the day, looking forward to the mysteries we will discover with each footstep of our journey.

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