It Could Happen
It was the night before Christmas and all through our house, Jana, Grange, and I were settling in for a Zoom call with Kira, who was quarantined in Pennsylvania.
The pandemic had grounded Kira in State College, so it was up to the rest of us to celebrate the holiday season in Bluff.
That’s when the call came in from Frances, the Twin Rocks Café general manager. Frances has developed a love for the café and “her kids” who work there, so she can be found on the premises early and late.
“Laurence called. He has ‘the painting,’” Frances reported.
“The painting” was one I had originally discussed with Laurence Spencer about this time last year. I was, however, still intrigued with his work, so I gave him a call.
“What’s up?” I inquired.
“Your painting is done. I thought you wanted it for Christmas.”
“Okay,” I said, thinking that was supposed to be Christmas 2019 and wondering how this encounter might end. “Where are you?”
“All right, I’ll meet you at the trading post in an hour.”
“Make it an hour and a half. I need to feed the horses before I leave.”
“Okey dokey,” I said and hung up the phone.
“What’s that?” Jana and Grange asked.
“A Christmas gift,” I said, shrugging my shoulders to put them off.
Going to the trading post on Christmas Eve was not part of their plan, and they know a trip to the post is never an in-and-out proposition.
The painting, which Laurence unveiled 90 minutes later, is of a December scene of Navajo Yeis dancing half-naked around a hogan. The winter moon shines in the heavens, highlighting a jolly old man in a warm red suit sailing through the skies in a sled piled with gifts and pulled by eight tiny reindeer.
Most of the Yeis are unfazed by the appearance of St. Nick and continue dancing. Two, however, pause to acknowledge Santa with upraised gourd rattles. Laurence has titled his creation, “It Could Happen.”
Laurence had laid out his concept several months before, and it had reminded me of a time when Grange was still young.
Back then, Grange and his buddies were well into their superhero phase and whenever they were together, donned Halloween costumes from prior years and strutted around Twin Rocks like they were masters of the universe.
It was common to see Spiderman, The Hulk, Superman, and various other comic book characters running up and down the porch, shouting and whooping.
One October afternoon, Priscilla and I heard the Yeis hootie-hooting from what appeared to be about a quarter mile from the Kokopelli doors, which were flung open to capture the last warmth of late fall.
This hullabaloo typically meant the Yeis were collecting for a ceremony, and we had to get flour, baking soda, and soda pop to put in their bags.
By the time the Yeis arrived at our front steps, the superheroes were suited up and groceries had been secured. Thinking it would be fun to let the boys hand off the supplies, we corralled them and gave them directions.
When the Yeis arrived, it was magical to see the costumed kids cautiously place the items in the Yeis’ bags. The young warriors were awestruck.
While I longed to get a picture, I knew photographing the Yeis was strictly forbidden, so the moment only exists in my memory.
I have, however, often thought how interesting and fascinating it is when cultures successfully blend, when our differences bind us together.
There have been times at the Twin Rocks when we have been accused of being cultural appropriators, but I have never quite understood the accusation.
Generally, this comes from people who look amazingly similar to the way we look, a slight variation in skin tone being the only noticeable difference.
Just as Laurence’s painting blends traditional Navajo themes with Christmas, many interesting things arise from collaboration and innovation.
At Twin Rocks, we celebrate these types of mash-ups and don’t worry a great deal about who may be appropriating whom. We all do it. I am convinced that if I had to sort out all the complications associated with this matter, nothing would ever get done around here.
Thankfully, virtually all the people we work with on a regular basis take a more liberal approach to the issue and primarily focus on making a living, doing good art, and just generally supporting each other. The result is work like Laurence’s whimsical painting.
Maybe in this new year, we can open a brighter future for all those around us and strive to make this a better world. It Could Happen!