Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In the Arizona sun here in the valley you start wondering what rain was like. We've been here for about three full weeks and it has not rained. We were delighted in San Diego when it rained. The dramatic harsh winds and the misty air was refreshing. I always feel I need a drink of water here. Lisa said it well the days are all sunny and you feel obligated to get outside and enjoy the sunshine, only every day there is sunshine. Eventually you get a little tired of chasing yourself around all the activities in the valley. Do not fear we will continue our explorations. The sun does shine every day.
The first few days here I was amazed at the expanse of sky and the way the sun slowly retired across the horizon spreading golds orange and pinks. When there are clouds in the sky you get a nice echo of the colors repeated across the deepening blue. I wondered if I would get over it and just move through the evening without admiring the colors. I have. Being tired from the days here I have gotten over it. I still watch the sun sneak away behind the mountains but it's so common now, no longer new.
We went to the pow wow near Fort McDowell this weekend. We ate fry bread and watched the dancing. Lisa was our "guide" as she had been to several pow wows as a child. Her grandmother had taken her to the reservation in Oklahoma and her relatives would dress, sing and dance to mark the occasion. The occasion being marked this weekend was triumph over Anglos in the region. At some point in the not so distant past (1980's) the Yavapai had defeated a plan to build a dam on their reservation. The dam would have flooded thousands of acres of their land.
In the early 1990's federal agents had raided and ceased operations of the casino built by the tribe, claiming the casino was illegal. The tribe persevered and operates a thriving gambling business to this day.
The pow wow was a celebration of these triumphs and a celebration of the native cultures from tribes throughout the region. Myself, my beautiful dark blond fair skinned wife, my red headed princess, my six year old "Harry Potter", my youngest blonder daughter and our lovely friend Lisa were standing in a tent surrounded by darker skinned traditionally dressed tribal members from all over Arizona. The theme was "We conquered the Anglos" and we were clearly Anglo. The emcee announced they should celebrate their native culture because they had a culture to return to. He said Anglos have no culture to turn to unless they can turn to Jerry Springer. I am from the mid west but I have never met this Mr. Springer. I should contact him as he clearly holds the key to my traditional past. At this point I had become somewhat uncomfortable. The moment passed though and they began their singing and dancing. There were a multitude of feathers bouncing and shimmering in the air and jangling traditional gowns. The drums rang out in unison and the songs were ringing through the tent to a deafening roar. It was an impressive demonstration.

The kids went to the amusement park side of the celebration. Savannah chose to ride the Zipper, Sophia rode the horses, and Shane braved the giant slide. Shane is so brave. He has a death gripped fear of heights but he grabbed his rug and mounted those stairs up to the forty foot high slide with a determination even Mr. Springer would be proud of. He took some time adjusting his blanket to smooth the wrinkles, about three minutes go by until his blanket is prepared just right to carry Shane to the ground. During his blanket fixing about ten other kids go down the slide. Shane studies each child's descent with intense observatory skill. He looks for and wrinkle in the ride and finally decides he must sit on the blanket and take the plunge. He slides down at an even pace and lands safely on the ground. Standing he announces "I wanna go again!" His complexion is pale but his resolve seems solid.
Could he finally have conquered his fears of going to fast? I was intrigued as was Traci and we watched as Shane climbed the stairs again. He began laying his blanket out but couldn't get all the wrinkles out before a line of kids developed waiting to go down. Shane obliged them by letting them past him to go down the slide. He was also able to study their trip down the slide. Having seen the children all rise safely from their blankets at the bottom of the slide Shane again started the task of laying his blanket out with care. Traci and I couldn't help but be amused at his fastidious employ with this blanket. He had already spent the time it took to go down several times on fixing this blanket. Then his careful examination of this activity, his desire to understand the deeper meaning of descending the slide, how the move downward happens and what it means to reach the bottom turned a little pathologic. His face was draining of color. The determined furrow in his brow creased deeper into a look of concern and then fear slowly crept its tentacles into the poor child's psyche. He looked at the slide with bewilderment wondering what had drawn him to this point forty feet in the air hanging on to a blanket with smaller brown children racing past him and down the fiberglass surface. His sister was sent as a rescue party. She tried to encourage his second descent. Shane was done. He walked down the stairs, eyes low to the ground. The carnie running the slide (how you "run" the slide I don't know but it was clearly a challenge for this guy) held all the other children at bay so when Shane reached the bottom he had an audience of children his age or younger eyeballing the kid who wouldn't come down the slide. The carnie gave Shane his tickets back and we went home.
I was so curious to find out what made the change in Shane, to help him understand what happened to him. The look on his face was gut wrenching. I grabbed him around the shoulders to my side, squeezed a little and we walked back to the car. Traci and I asked him briefly what happened but he wasn't talking. The day was finished off with relaxing at home, we were all tired from chasing the sunshine.

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