From: (David Sewell)
Subject: San Juan's Day: an essay and blessing
Summary: How I spent this San Juan's day, and assorted meditations
Date: 25 Jun 1995 06:19:11 GMT

Finally this year I determined to wake up early enough to make the sunrise San Juan's Day Celebration and blessing of the crops at the Native Seeds/SEARCH gardens in Tucson--it helps that this time I live only a couple of miles away from the Botanical Gardens, where they're located. I was going to be ecologically correct and bicycle, but then considered that my white Toyota, "Cewagi" (i.e., "cloud" in Tohono O'odham), might supply some sympathetic magic to help bring the monsoon rains, which is the main point of the San Juan's Day festivities, and so I drove.

Somewhere between one and two hundred folks were there to make a circle around the demonstration plots of corn, squash, amaranth, peas, beans, and chiles, as Mary Luna of Yaqui/Pima heritage led the blessing, speaking an invocation, then sprinkling water on the ground from a gourd shell, finally waving eagle feathers to the four directions and smudging anyone who wished to receive an individual blessing with cedar smoke. Then to the food table for an amazing breakfast: whole-corn bread and cookies, tepary beans with green chile, fry bread, posole-and-bacon stew, fresh corn tamales, watermelon. Lehi Bird Dancers down from Salt River doing ceremonial dances in the meantime, in a clearing among the creosote bushes. There was going to be a ceremonial water fight (the Native Seeds/SEARCH version of the tradition of throwing people in the irrigation ditch), but I had to leave because...

I'd signed the family up for an 8 a.m. tour of the Sabino Canyon Hohokam ruins. This is an archaeological dig that has just this year been reopened on private land mostly owned by a boarding school between Sabino Canyon & Bear Creek. It's a medium-sized settlement that was occupied from about 1100-1350 AD. Back in the 20's and 30's it was mapped and rather haphazardly excavated, but now a private archaeological outfit is beginning a more careful dig, training amateur excavators as part of an archaeology-school project, and leading small-scale tours of the site. Nothing has been rebuilt or reconstructed; all there is to "see," in the tourist sense, are a couple of places where collapsed adobe or stone walls are being painstakingly dug out; no aboveground features remain, except the general contours of the sites, and a double line of rocks that may mark a canal. All of which is exactly what I wanted to see, since I always feel something missing at restorations, whether of pre-European villages or Colonial settlements: the sense of the reality of time, the time that melts adobe walls and covers cornfields with cholla and mesquites. Maybe the problem is growing up near the "restored" Matterhorn at Disneyland and never quite seeing the difference between building a fake mountain and, say, rebuilding the Tuzigoot pueblo practically from the ground up.

Once back from the tour, I decided to make a run out to a local nursery that specializes in desert-adapted plants; bit by bit I'm transforming the yard of my house's water-prodigal former owner into a place where you can see bare ground in between the plants (my general definition of appropriate terrain); that dwarf peach has pretty flowers two weeks out of the year, but it drinks like W. C. Fields and has got to go, for example... So of course it turns out that Desert Survivors is selling beautifully thriving chiltepines in one-gallon pots, already bearing fruit, while I've been painstakingly raising four plants from seed since April, the tallest of which is not yet two inches high and won't have fruit till next year, but I decide that I've earned botanical karma by doing it the hard way.

Get home and finally conk out, nap for an hour to catch up on sleep; by the time I'm fully awake I'm feeling too lazy to do a run or a bike ride, so I decide on the fallback, an hour's urban walk. First, inspired by the morning's breakfast, I throw a bag of frozen okra and a bag of black-eyed peas in the crock pot, then just kind of toss in whatever I find that looks interesting: garlic, cumin, a couple spoonsful of chile powder from the Santa Cruz Company down Tucamcori way, not quite up to New Mexico snuff but pretty decent, chives and some kind of sage from outside, and finally a couple of crushed chiltepines from a packet I bought at Native Seeds; they'll blend in so well that my chile-avoiding wife won't notice. Set it all on high to cook & then do a four-mile loop through my good old mixed northeast-central neighborhood, where yuppie-restored adobes sit next door to the kind of trailer park that you expect sooner or later someone who blows up a Federal building is going to turn out to have lived in (as I pass a house that I have privately nicknamed "Redneck Heaven"--I know, it's intolerant, but you would have to *see* the artistry in junk-collection we're talking about here--I notice that one of the residents is out in the front yard where there are four or five dogs and an Animal Control officer, and as I pass I hear the latter looking at some papers and saying, "I'm sorry, but if you gave the rabies shot yourself it isn't valid," and I walk on wondering what the rest of *that* story is...). Then at roughly the halfway point, I stop to perform my own private ritual on city walks, namely buying a Gatorade at a Circle K and drinking it whether I'm thirsty or not (today it's cooling from a high of 107 or so, so I'm thirsty)--and the miraculous thing, of course, is that like holy hermits in the forests in Arthurian romance, there is always a Circle K at the halfway point of any walk you take in Tucson.

This one carries El Monitor Hispano, a free newspaper, so I take a copy and learn as I head home that Radio Pantera, KTZR, the most popular Spanish-language station in Tucson, is going to keep on going even though its owners were just convicted of using the station to launder money from drug trafficking. "Es imposible que maten a la Pantera," says one of its announcers. It's good to know that you can count on at least one thing besides Circle K's. (I listened to the most patriotic 4th of July address I've ever heard given by a KTZR announcer, in Spanish of course, while I was driving down Speedway a couple of years ago; he spent a good ten minutes interrupting the music to outline the history of the American Revolution and the rights embodied in the US Constitution, and concluded by talking about the importance of standing up for those rights in a political environment where diversity was increasingly being threatened. There used to be a tradition, in 19th-century America, of reading the entire Declaration of Independence at picnics, before TV and beer kegs were invented; that KTZR speech was the closest thing to it I've ever heard. I wish Pete Wilson had been listening.)

I had just time before dark to water the devil's-claw seedlings out back (of course, Desert Survivors had potted ones of those too, but I've got two different varieties and I'll bet they'll flower more profusely); they're doing well but they really want the monsoon rains to begin to be happy. So I thought, as darkness fell on this San Juan's day, that if I spread some of the morning's blessing out over the Net, and if enough people respectfully asked the clouds to come, we might get enough rain come early July that I can go off somewhere for a couple of days without everything shrivelling.

D 'ac O'odham c 'ia dadha c ñenda ju:ki
We are the O'odham and we sit here and wait for the rain
The last line of Ofelia Zepeda's "D 'ac O'odham / We are the Papago": but since O'odham means "people" it's all of us sitting waiting.

Happy San Juan's Day, Southwest, from water-wasting Las Vegas to the thrifty acequias in New Mexico, from the lush Phoenix lawns watered by Colorado River water to "Yaquitepec", the house on Ghost Mountain in the Anza-Borrego Desert east of San Diego, where in the 1930s Marshal South, trying to live off the spare desert only, built cement cisterns you can still see around the ruins of his house. Lush or dry, whether you know it or not, the San Juan's Day prayers are for you.

David Sewell  *   | "Where the earth is dry, the
RADIOCARBON, Dep't of Geosciences, U of Arizona |  soul is wisest and best."
  WWW:    |           --Heraclitus
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