A couple of weeks ago, Howard Rowe and I had an opportunity to head out on the Northern Navajo Reservation to deliver some furniture to Marie Begay and her family.
Last fall, when we were cutting firewood to take out to the Burnham area, the Rowe's ended up with a brand-new king-size mattress, and their neighbors, who were remodeling, had an extra, like-new couch they were giving away. Howard called Shawda, one of Marie's daughters, and asked if they wanted them. She did the measurements and said sure, so we told her we would put these pieces in the trailer and deliver them after getting the firewood down there.
That was in November, and we just got it done. We haven't had much snow, but the big storms left plenty high in the mountains where the Rowes live. Then, the Navajo Nation had an uptick in infections, so everyone was back in masks. Not everyone was excited about visitors showing up. Howard and I had some things come up, and it just took a while.
But the day we headed down to Burnham was beautiful. The reservation is dry this year, and the usual spring vegetation is not coming up, but there are few places with more stunning vistas. As we left the highway pulling the large trailer, dozens of horses roamed in small herds, looking for vegetation on the open range. The road was like a washboard, and it was slow going with the trailer.
But it was great to be back at the Begay home to reconnect. We had moved the furniture in and were catching up when Marie, who does not speak English, said something to Shawda, their youngest daughter. She turned to me and said, "Mom says she has a rug, but she didn't know if you are interested."
I had to laugh because, in over 40 years, I have never said no to any weaving Marie has made. And then I had to wonder if something else caused her to wonder. Marie has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and while sitting and talking with us, her hands trembled slightly.
When she took the rug out, both Howard and I were stunned. It was a small but beautiful piece, with a gorgeous blending of grey and brown and some changes in the designs she typically weaves. She has woven pieces this fine before, but I think this is the most excellent small weaving she has ever done.
Howard, a big fan of Marie's weaving, said, "I think Marie has reached a new level in her weaving."
And she was proud of this rug! The mask she was wearing couldn't hide the smile in her eyes! It was obvious how surprised Howard and I were as Shawnda quickly started to tell us about Marie's experience with her doctor. She has been on medication, and except for the slight shaking in her hands, she has no other problems. "
We told him that she doesn't shake at all when she starts to work on a rug," said Shawda. "He was shocked and couldn't believe it when I showed him pictures of the rugs she had done. He told her she should keep weaving. He wanted to see this piece, but mom was afraid he would want to buy it, and she wanted to save it for you."
We also visited Matthew, who got a new knee before the pandemic. His other one is bothering him now, and he is considering replacing it. He worked for years at the San Juan Power Plant before retiring to take care of the family sheep. They have been married for over 60 years and have raised a wonderful family. At their 40th wedding anniversary party, their daughter Teresa told me it had been an arranged marriage.
The first day Matthew and Marie met was the day they got married.
I asked her how that had worked out, and Teresa said, "He still brings her coffee in bed every morning."
Shawda and her sister Julia live with their parents. A UNM graduate, Julia works at a Farmington medical lab, and Shawda oversees the family home and sheep. Teresa is a Navajo Agricultural Products Industries accountant and married James, a minister, and rancher/farmer. Their son, Sherman, and their grandchildren live in Albuquerque, where he works for Sandia Labs.
It was a beautiful day with a beautiful family, and we picked up a lovely weaving.
Howard and I headed home through Farmington and treated ourselves to Lotta Burger double cheeseburgers New Mexico Style (with Hatch green chili). It's one of New Mexico's highest-rated culinary creations, and I can't recommend it highly enough!
It was a good day!