Caterpillar to butterfly
When Kira and Grange were young and their vocabularies were just developing, their misfires often made me laugh out loud.
During that period, we lived in the apartment above the trading post, so they were constantly wandering in and out of the store.
It was common for them to be here countless times a day, meeting people from around the world, and expanding their experience and language skills.
Sometimes, however, the new words did not roll perfectly off their tongues.
In their youthful language, caterpillars became “padipillars” and computers, “papooters.” While I am sure there were other mispronounced words, those are the only two that stand out. All others have been lost in the mist.
As happens, the years flew by and Kira, now 24, works as an astrophysicist at Penn State’s Swift Observatory.
Grange, 21, is a third-year biomedical engineering student at the University of Utah, doing research in computational genetics.
Now, their words are incomprehensible for an altogether different reason.
Like Kira and Grange, the world and Twin Rocks Trading Post have changed.
There are, however, some things that remain constant at our Bluff outpost.
Baskets makers bring their weavings in on a regular basis and we are always amazed how beautiful and creative their work continues to be.
We still encourage and support the artists and their innovative techniques and styles.
There just aren’t as many basket makers as there once were. Peggy Black, Joann Johnson, and Elsie Holiday have, however, been keeping Navajo basketry alive and interesting.
Elsie is here almost weekly. Peggy and Joann not so much.
Peggy did, however, recently visit the trading post. She is a daughter-in-law of the legendary Mary Holiday Black and is also a member of the notable Rock family of basket makers which includes Joann, her niece.
Consequently, Peggy has generations of basket-making blood flowing through her veins. She also has decades of experience creating baskets that inspire other weavers, collectors, and us.
Peggy is a steady producer and, with her husband Eddie Black, has created an extensive portfolio. Eddie is both basket maker and herbalist and has spent years studying to be a medicine man.
His interests dovetail nicely with Peggy’s belief that the sumac plant and the baskets she weaves with it have powerful healing qualities.
While she respects her Navajo heritage and weaves baskets that lean toward traditional concepts, featuring harmony and balance, she has been known to step out of the channel from time to time. And for us, that is when things become really interesting.
Peggy has won many awards from Southwestern art shows, including the Museum of Northern Arizona, the Gallup Ceremonial, and Santa Fe Indian Market, so we are keenly interested in what she brings into the trading post.
Earlier this week, she arrived with a large, earth-tone basket featuring “padipillar” and butterfly imagery.
I had been missing Kira and Grange, so the weaving reminded me of them and struck me as prescient.
Peggy explained that her design represents the evolution of a chrysalis into a butterfly. In other words, it is transformative.
Tribes of the American Southwest typically revere butterflies and, like early Christians, identify the insect as a symbol of the supernatural. Dances are performed by both Navajo and Hopi people in Butterfly’s honor.
Additionally, in Hopi culture, unmarried maidens of the Butterfly Clan historically wore their hair in the shape of wings to advertise their availability.
To many Native cultures, the butterfly represents change, joy, and light and also transmutation and resurrection. Traditional Navajo people also believe caterpillar is the gatherer of sacred flint.
Because of their vanity, however, caterpillar and butterfly cannot always be trusted to provide proper advice, so they are approached with caution.
For me, Peggy’s basket symbolizes transformation: the development of Kira and Grange from youth to adulthood, the evolution of Twin Rocks Trading Post over time, and the progress of Navajo basketry at the hands of heroic and daring artists who push the envelope of tradition, design, and beauty.
It is also a sign that we are finally emerging from the darkness of the coronavirus and coming into the light, as we overcome this menace that has plagued us the past year.