Who’ll Stop the Rain?

 

As Bob Dylan once wrote, “The Times They are a Changin’". And they are surely a changin’ round Bluff. After an exceptionally dry winter, which made us wonder whether there would be any water left to drink when summer arrived, and caused some to question whether beer might be our only alternative, the last three months have brought storm after storm to our parched landscape. Indeed, in June the San Juan Record reported a tornado touching down near Bluff, hailstorms, rock slides and precipitation at 439 percent of normal.

Now, I am a desert dweller, I was born in the desert, I have spent the overwhelming majority of my life in the desert and from all indications I will receive my ultimate reward, or final penalty as the case may be, while residing in the desert. As such, rain is sacred to me. Indeed, as a long-term Indian trader and purveyor of Southwest art, I am exceptionally fond of Hopi jewelry. With its clean lines and precise motifs, this artistic movement often communicates clouds, lightening and life-giving moisture. The Hopi, being dryland farmers and sophisticated artists, have developed an entire economy around silver and gold work representing rain. That symbolism speaks to me in a deep, resounding voice.

Never will I forget the man, who professed to be the grandson of visionary Lakota holy man Sitting Bull, leading me outside during a particularly heavy thunderstorm and instructing me to wet my hands and rub the falling droplets over my face, arms and chest. Not only did Stormy's exercise refresh me, it also left me feeling cleansed in body and spirit. Eventually Stormy ran off with two; that’s right, not one but two, German women. Notwithstanding his errant exit from southern Utah, from that moment forward, when raindrops begin falling I uniformly rush outside to repeat the ceremony Stormy taught me that afternoon. Always, that is, until this year.

Hopi Clouds and Rain Symbols Bracelet (Look for the bracelet in next weeks mailer)  


When the storms initially began rolling in during May, I was, as usual, the first out the Kokopelli doors and into the deluge. After first reinvigorating myself in the downpour, I would retrieve a metal bucket and water the plants arrayed in clay pots along the trading post porch. They too seemed regenerated and appeared to dance with delight. I imagined them saying, “Nuts to tap water with its chemicals and artificial additives, this is the real thing.” During that time Priscilla tutored me on legends relating to thunder, the evolution of rainbows, coyote and To’ Neinilii, the Navajo chief of wet things. Life was good, my knowledge of local culture expanding and my thirst sated.

Then the next and the next and the next thundershower hurtled Comb Ridge or circumnavigated Blue Mountain and inundated our small valley, causing the river to rise and the weeds to spontaneously sprout. Once the ground became saturated, however, water began to seep under the back wall of Twin Rocks Cafe and percolate through the basement of the old Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr. home in which Jana, Grange and I have taken up residence; Kira having abandoned us in favor of college and various other high adventures. The first few times that happened, we happily mopped up the mess and went about our business, happy in the knowledge the gods had finally smiled upon us. Comfortable our personal appeals had not been acted upon, Barry and I speculated whether it was Native rituals or Mormon fasting and prayer that eventually opened the floodgates. We desired clarification and proper documentation, so we would know how to precede and whom to contact in the event future dry spells occurred.

But the rains kept falling and we began to wonder whether someone had requested a larger allocation than was actually required. We questioned whether the experience was similar to that of a hungry man who finally finds food; once he gets started it is impossible to stop. All too late he realizes he has overdone it and must bear the consequences of his unrestrained exuberance. In our case excess water saturated our carpets, moistened our mats and whetted our weeds to the point they grew into forests. Like John Fogerty, we found ourselves asking, “Who’ll stop the rain?” While we realized our inquiry was heresy for people of the desert and that we risked being excommunicated from our red rock sanctuary, we could not restrain ourselves.

Something had to be done. So, in an effort to moderate the flow without terminating it altogether, Barry was dispatched to discuss our dilemma with the deacons and Priscilla hastened to hunt down the hataalii. For my part, I reluctantly cancelled the beer order and stood by with the shop vac. Priscilla, realizing I was feeling overwhelmed by the additional responsibilities and depressed about having to redirect the Budweiser truck, reminded me of a quote I once read to her, “Rain clouds come floating in, not to muddy our days, but to make us calm, happy and hopeful."

With warm regards from Steve Simpson and the team.
Barry, Priscilla and Danny.