The Hózhó of Navajo Nation
For years it was just a place I traveled to in my mind. The vast open landscapes full of beauty and deep cultural history. The iconic rock formations that represent integrity to me. Navajo Nation. Something about it has always inspired the artist inside of me. My love for Mother Earth & the inner peace it brings me. During the most transformative time in my life, I traveled here to heal myself through creation… This is my journey learning Beauty Way. ♥
“May it be beautiful before me. May is be beautiful behind me. May it be beautiful above me. May it be beautiful below me. May I walk in beauty.”
“Hózhó″ is a Navajo word that means “walking in beauty” – or living in a manner that strives to create and maintain balance, harmony, beauty and order. Hózhó is similar to, but much richer in meaning than the term “conservation” as it implies a deep connection between people and land. One cannot restore land health without people and culture. This concept forms the founding principal for understanding ecological and cultural resilience on Navajo land. It is my deep pleasure and honor to continue learning the deep wisdom that this beautiful land and culture shares with me.
“Be still and the earth will speak to you.” Navajo Proverb
“You are looking into a sacred landscape. The Diné (Navajo) name for Monument Valley is Tse’Bii’Ndzisgai (White Streaks Amidst the Rocks). There are many sacred places within the valley, including springs, places where plant medicines grow, and places where prayers are offered. These places have names and stories, and they are occupied and visited by the deities. Many of the rocks are named for animals that live in the traditional Diné homeland. People with traditional Diné ceremonial training know the place names and stories, and visit those places to make offerings for the deities and gathering plants and other natural materials for ceremonial use. People without such training, both Diné and others, must avoid them. Today, the multitudes of visitors, along with the vehicles and aircraft that accompany them, are threatening these sacred places. Noise from the engines has made rocks collapse. Road construction, dust, and erosion discourage the plant medicines. They are alive, have eyes, ears, mouths, and breath just as humans do. When you go into the valley, respect the sacred places within it.”
My passion, and the purpose of my project Sacred Ecology, is to show the connection between cultural and biodiversity preservation in the form of seeds and storytelling. During my seed saving education with Native Seeds/SEARCH, I was deeply inspired by Bill McDorman’s saying, “Rejoin the Ritual” he shares in combination with photos of indigenous farmers working in the fields. After discovering Earl Waggoner’s photograph above from 1958, I was deeply inspired to go on my own journey to photograph the Navajo Nation cornfields. To my great pleasure and surprise, I discovered that Monument Valley high school has an agriculture program teaching their students how to grow their ancestral, traditional crops.
“Everything that’s grown in the garden is of cultural value.” ~ Jack Seltzer, National award-winning teacher at Monument Valley High School on the Navajo Reservation. His goal is to help students bring back vanishing native plants. “This isn’t just corn. It’s an old variety of Navajo corn. We plant Navajo squash, we plant Navajo melons. Sustainable agriculture is still a viable option for people if they want to do it.”
As I continue my documentary film and photo journeys, I look forward to visiting Navajo Nation many more times in my lifetime. The connection I feel to this land and their culture reminds me to always Walk in Beauty; in Hózhó. I’m so grateful to be friends with some incredible healers and teachers from Navajo Nation that continue to support me and inspire me to do the good work I’m called to do on this planet. Thank you for all your blessings ♥