Mary and Alii
My husband and I just returned from a trip to Sedona. It was a budget trip, more about hiking than shopping.
But one morning, our hike ended up leading us to these sweet Navajo women selling jewelry in the shade of a large green umbrella!
Oak Creek Vista
This neat line up of tables and umbrellas is part of a project sponsored by Native Americans "for Community Action in Cooperation with US Forest Service" We spoke with a few Navajo vendors who sign up and pay in advance for the opportunity to sell their crafts.
Alii and Mary had more to offer than crafts!
Alii did most of the talking while her grandmother sat in the shade beading jewelry. I had not intended on taking photos or even being nosy with questions, but Alii was bursting with pride about her family. She was extremely proud of her grandmother who still lives on a reservation and speaks only a few words of English. Alii lives in Phoenix and picks up Mary to help her sell her crafts a few times a month. She shared stories of her own family and children who sadly speak no Navajo.
I hadn't intended on shopping that morning, but ended up using all the cash we carried!
One more photo
Alii asked her grandmother to pose with her for a photo, since I offered to email them.
Alii worried that she didn't get to see enough of her grandmother.
"She's getting very old."
It was wonderful to witness these two generations. Alii in blue jeans and Mary in her turquoise that she never removes!
So different, yet so appreciative of each other!
Alii was also concerned for her grandfather who at 98 is still herding sheep, living alone most of the time in a small hut with no running water or electricity. She said an article was recently published about him.
A day later when I emailed the photos, she promptly sent a thank you, with a link to the article!
Thanks Alii and Mary!
I will think of you both when I wear my turquoise bracelet. You were selling jewelry... but thanks for giving us your stories!
We heard singing in the canyon!
In April 2011, my husband, Don and I had our first visit to Big Bend National Park.
Maybe it was the 100 degree heat that made the hike down to Boquillas Canyon almost dreamlike.
Or maybe it was the voice we heard echoing up from the Rio Grande that added an eerie quality to our walk.
We had been warned!
Earlier, we saw signs telling us it was illegal to purchase goods from "Mexican Nationals". That gave us a little more to think about as we hiked. After all, the drought left little water in the Rio Grande, so it was easy for our Mexican neighbors to wade across with crafts to sell. If you stopped to look at the walking sticks and tiny animals made from beads, you could sometimes see the craftsmen across the river, watching to see if you placed money in the jar.
We heard him before we saw him.
We heard the voice singing Cielito Lindo, the "Ay... ay,ay,ay..." song, that takes me back to the "Frito Bandito" commercial I remember from childhood.
As we came around the bend, we could see him on our side of the Rio, standing on a mound. In front of him was a metal can with a note. "Donations for Singing Jesus".
"Prohibito." Don tried to warn him when he asked if we had any song requests.
His words didn't match his look.
He looked a bit threatening with his serious expression and hands on his hips. His large mustache, cowboy hat and the way he squinted up towards the hill with his binoculars, (looking out for border patrol) made him look a bit intimidating.
But when he pointed to his canoe and told us how he paddled 5 miles from his village everyday, he suddenly became a person. He reminded us that he wasn't selling anything...you can't sell a song. The can was just for donations. We didn't make a request. But we had enjoyed the way his voice had echoed in the canyon while we hiked. We ended up accidently dropping a dollar in the can as we walked away.
I think of you often when I read news about securing the borders and concerns of illegal "aliens". It's been over a year since we met, but you've opened my thinking towards these arguments. You were no alien. You were just a man feeding your family.
I don't have the answers, but I'm reading more and asking more questions. I'm trying to educate myself better to understand the concerns on both sides of the border!
#5 Shaky Jake
He was an odd one. His dress was stylishly tattered. His colorful guitar was often missing strings. He claimed to play Blues, but he banged on the guitar and socialized more than anything.
At 16, I sort of kept my distance. He had a thing for the ladies and unless I was walking with friends, I tried to avoid his hoots and hollers.
Adjusting to Ann Arbor
My family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1973. I had lived in a number of towns and cities in my 16 years, but Ann Arbor had a flavor all its own. I loved dodging the bikes, dogs and students on the U of M "Diag". I loved exploring the quirky shops and stopping at the old soda fountain, Drakes. And if I was lucky, I might catch a glimpse of Shaky Jake, standing on a corner with his guitar!
Even though I kept my distance, most of Ann Arbor reached out to Jake. He was welcomed into restaurants for free food. He often had a cluster of "fans" chatting with him, and enough money in his bucket to get by. What I didn't realize until years later, is that Jake had moved to Ann Arbor the same year I did. I was nervously excited about adjusting to a new town and high school, that year. Jake looked like he'd been there forever!
Back to Ann Arbor
In the fall of 2005, I returned to Ann Arbor to move my freshman daughter into the dorm at University of Michigan. While she was busy with orientation, I spent the morning strolling down State Street and Liberty Street... straining my memory to recall what had changed, what was missing. And then I saw him. Shaky Jake, was seated at a cafe table having breakfast with a middle aged woman. He wore his napkin safety pinned around his neck. Without thinking, I stopped and introduced myself and told him I rememberd him from when I lived in Ann Arbor 30 years ago. He looked no different, really. He stood and shook my hand and his friend took our picture.
It took me 30 years to be brave enough to talk to you. You were polite. A little sad maybe. I heard you died in 2007 at 82, so I'm lucky I saw you. We came to Ann Arbor the same year...I left and you stayed. You taught me to realize I have something in common with every person I meet...no matter how different we seem.
All I know is that he is a grandfather.
January 2009, I stood on a bridge taking pictures of Beijing's Bird Nest Stadium when a young boy approached me. He held a camera and pointed to a sweet older man standing nearby. I thought he wanted me to take a picture of the two of them.
Then the boy spoke... in decent English. He said his grandfather wanted to know if I would pose in a photo with him. The grandfather spoke no English,but he smiled shyly.
I'm used to observing others
Whether I'm traveling or just at the grocery store, I love people-watching. Maybe it's nosy, but I like watching how people interact with each other. How they work, play, walk, move... I like hearing conversations and wondering about people's lives.
But it never occurs to me that someone would ever be looking at me.
Such a brief encounter
I greeted the sweet man with a confused smile. Why would he want me in his photo? Then we both turned towards the boy and the camera clicked. We turned back to each other and the man gave a bit of a bow.
Luckily someone in my family snapped a photo as well, so I could see the picture later. I had to chuckle when I realized our ages weren't probably that far apart. And then I laughed bigger to notice how wide eyed the sweet man looked, compared to my squinting smile!
So Thank You, Grandpa!
I still have no idea why you wanted this photo, but I will always remember you, because you caught me by surprise when I was busy watching others. It's kind of fun to think, maybe I am the stranger in someone elses photo for a change!
To celebrate my birthday in April 2012, I decided to reflect on the past with a different kind of list. I've met a lot of people in my 55 years, but I'm going to stop and remind myself about the strangers I've met. These are people I met by accident, not through friends or work. For some reason, these strangers dropped into my life. Even though we may have only spent a few minutes together, these people have never been forgotten.
Each week, I'll spotlight someone I met in the past, who in some small way, made me stop and think.
Remember 55 Strangers