We are lizard people... moving over stone

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Photo by Nathaniel Walker

Photo by Nathaniel Walker

Sometimes it is better to observe rock art and wonder

I'd been living in Flagstaff, Arizona, at the edge of the Navajo Reservation, on the road to Hopiland. A great bouldering spot — Turkey Tank — is in range of my two-wheel aluminum mule. On the basalt walls of this canyon are many petroglyphs, some are snakes, others are lizards. Hopi and Anasazi symbols. Important links to Mother Earth.

I am now in Kingman, AZ, riding my mule west. I slept under a boulder and now at sunrise am sitting on a "Lounge Lizard" portable chair studying the rock patina, the petroglyph lit up by the solar spotlight: a lizard. Then, no lie, an iguanid scurried over that image. This coincidence got me thinking.

When I lived in Flagstaff, I saw lizard icons often. It is a common southwest Native American aesthetic — spiritual — object. I witnessed kestrels and road runners capture these little ectotherms as I wandered over the desert looking for natural history. Horny toads were a common site. Banded Geckos and Gila Monsters, too. My Hopi-Tewa friend, when we talk about rock climbing, calls me lizard. As a capstone to all this, a weird reptilian thing happened at the Flagstaff ranch I was staying at.

A traditional Hopi wedding was performed and I was blessed to see such an event. Me, a white boy — belagana to the Navajo — privileged to be part, given an eagle feather as a gift by the groom, the ceremony performed in front of replica thousand year old kiva ladder I constructed out of the most knarly old aspen and cottonwood I could find. Wow.

After this event I was at the house computer where I have an elegant southwest Indian tile of a lizard. A Hopi friend who is a master weaver with work in the Smithsonian Institute commented on this ceramic art, "My clan, we are lizard people."

We are lizard people.

Have you ever studied a lizard moving over stone?