Water Within Reach - Thoreau, New Mexico - April 2016
Our Mothers + Daughters stayed on a working lavender farm which was in full bloom on our visit. Each morning at Los Poblanos Inn, the Hummingbirds were treated to a traditional New Mexican breakfast with fresh farm eggs. We sat outside in the sunshine amongst the property’s three peacocks. The girls were able to feed the chickens and milk the goats and roam the 25 acres of lavender fields, enormous cottonwood trees and lush formal gardens. Los Poblanos is one of the most magnificent historic properties in the Southwest.
The Los Poblanos land was originally inhabited by the Anasazi (ancient pueblo Indians) in the 14th century. Many of the original settlers in this area were thought to have come from Puebla, Mexico, a citizen of which is called a “Poblano.”
On our first day in New Mexico we rode out to Thoreau, which is hours from a grocery or department store. We spent our morning with Darlene who is known on the reservation as the Water Lady. Darlene has lived her entire life in Thoreau and knows everyone’s names, families and personal hardships. She is often the first person to intervene when services are needed beyond the communities’ resources. We helped Darlene fill the water truck’s enormous tank, and the girls bumped along with her on the pitted dirt roads that are impassable during the rainy and snow seasons. This makes the water crisis there even more severe. It is on these roads that Darlene makes rounds with the water truck to deliver to families on the rez.
At each stop as the barrels were filled, we shared stories with the families while the girls played in their yards. The Hummingbirds were able to visit a hogan. As we learned, a hogan is a sacred home for the Diné (Navajo) people. Every family, even if they live most of the time in a newer home, must have the traditional hogan for ceremonies and to keep themselves in balance. The Navajos used to make their hogans out of wooden poles, tree bark and mud. The doorway of each hogan opens to the east so they could get the morning sun as well as good blessings. Today, many Diné families still live in hogans, although trailers or more modern houses are tending to replace them. We were taught that when you enter a hogan you always walk in a counter-clockwise direction around the hearth.
After a morning with the Water Lady, we were pleasantly surprised to bare witness to a young Navajo girl being blessed in anticipation of her time in the Army serving our country in Afghanistan. She wore her traditional Navajo clothing, and as her community raised the American flag, a young Navajo woman sang our National Anthem in Navajo. It was tremendously emotional to see a young woman, surrounded by her family and community of First Americans, on sacred land dedicating to our country. We were extremely lucky to experience such an intimate prayer and ceremony, the combination of the old and the new.
After the ceremony we joined everyone for lunch in the brand new community center which included an office space, work out room with equipment and a secondhand store. Community members had lined up to be the first in the store. Ziplock bags hung with 3 diapers (a full package can be too expensive for families in Thoreau) as well as hotel toiletries and single rolls of toilet paper.
As we rode home in an typically stunning sunset, the girls faded into sleep, and we counted our blessings back home with endless running water and access to everything we need in abundance.
The next morning we slept in and headed over to Old Town’s narrow streets and century-old adobe houses. We stuffed our faces with green chili enchiladas and sopaipillas drenched in honey. We visited tiny artisan shops selling jewelry, rugs and pottery and toured the 18th-century San Felipe de Neri Church.
We ended our day at the 2016 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, North America’s largest gathering of native peoples. Indigenous persons from all over the Americas drummed and danced. We were welcomed with open arms. It was a unique opportunity to see the vast differences between nations. Having grown up in New Mexico, my childhood was surrounded and shaped by the Pueblo cultures, but this was a really special time to meet people from the plains and even descendants of the Aztecs. It was like stepping into a time machine and stepping out 200 years ago.
It’s always hard for me to leave New Mexico, not just because it’s the place where most of my childhood memories reside which include my dad, but because it really is the land of enchantment, where you can’t help but feel connected to something larger than yourself, something sacred.