Sunday, January 24, 2016

Eggs for All--Letter # 70

Dear Governor Ducey,

            I think I told you I’m writing a book about egg for a series of books called “Object Lessons” by Bloomsbury. “Hood,” “Hotel,” and “Remote” are some of the other titles. Each author writes about the object from whatever angle they see fit. I’m writing from a creative/destructive point of view. I try to incorporate as many clichés as possible: “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” And, this one is for you: “I always feel like I’m walking on eggshells.”
            For part of the book, I asked people to tell me their first memory of eggs, their moms’ stories about eggs, what idiomatic expressions they used. I had people from China, India, Ukraine, Argentina, Korea contribute stories.
            I asked one of my former students for stories about eggs. She is Diné and had been in my poetry courses. After she graduated, she got a job in Navajo, New Mexico where there was only one store. The produce aisle was half an aisle long. “Did they only have bananas?” I asked. She said, “Not even that, sometimes.” She was last hired so first fired when the budget cuts hit. I asked her, “It’s as bad in New Mexico as in Arizona?” “No,” she said. “Just for Diné.”
            Now she’s back in Flagstaff. She said she didn’t have that many egg stories—just one about how her grandpa wouldn’t eat chickens because they were related to dinosaurs, which are monsters in the Navajo creation stories, similar to the snake in Garden of Eden stories. There’s evil in the snake. You don’t want it inside you. “The Warrior Twins fought monsters, which we’ve come to think of as dinosaurs.” She said, “He was kind of right. Chickens are related to dinosaurs.”
            She had one other egg story that she heard while on The Walk. One of her fellow walker’s grandfather also didn’t eat chicken or eggs because he too thought “dinosaur.” I asked her what The Walk was. She told me she and other Diné people her age walked from sacred mountain to sacred mountain to call attention to resource extraction across the reservation. The four monsters of our time: fracking, copper mining, oil drilling, uranium mining. “We’re kind of fighting dinosaurs ourselves. Dead, fossilized dinosaurs.”
            They hiked for 200 miles between some of these mountains. There are four sacred, cardinal point mountains to the Diné: East, Tsisnaasjini' (Mount Blanca) near Alamosa in San Luis Valley, Colorado, South, Tsoodzil, (Mount Taylor) near of Laguna, New Mexico, West, Doko'oosliid (San Francisco Peaks) near Flagstaff, Arizona and North, Dibé Nitsaa (Mount Hesperus) near La Plata Mountains, Colorado. Lyncia and her group trekked four separate Walks. MTV wanted to broadcast the walk but the Walkers would need to agree to let NIKE sponsor. Some people thought that would be selling out. Lyncia and I agree that sometimes, you need to sell out a bit to get the word out about your cause.
            Post Walk, post teaching, Lyncia’s new job is to develop Food Sovereignty Curriculum. I told her about a Navajo student of mine who is farming on the reservation.           “Where does he get the water?” I wondered. “The Little Colorado?”
            She said, “Where does anyone get anything? I think we’re at the breaking point.”   “There are just not enough resources. No access to water. To the Internet. To education,” I said.
            “Or food.” Lyncia reminds me how on the very edge of subsistence some of her people live. “I used to think,” she said, “that I would go to high school, then college, then get a job, with, you know, dental care. But now that seems impossible.” The gap between those with resources and those without widens. She’s so brilliant and yet she feels like things are getting worse, not better.
            Here’s the thing: I want her to come back to school. I want her to get her MFA. Her MFA will help her teach. It will help her write. It will help her broadcast the troubles on the reservation: The resource extraction. The lack of resources. I told her there may be support for Navajo students but with the budget cuts, the support for students who need it most is drying up. I feel like I should be able to help people achieve their goals, to find resources for them, to support their teaching and their writing but the resources are becoming as scarce as water in the Little Colorado.  


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