Driving along the road to the first outlook, I wondered if we were on the right road. The landscape to the left and right of the road looked the same — low level sagebrush. Yet when we pulled into the first overlook: BAM!
The Canyon is at the center of the Navaho Nation, physically and spiritually. The red sandstone has worn away into beautiful shapes, some with circular waves that were impossible to photograph. The Canyon floor is flat, and you can’t go down there without a guide, thus simultaneously creating jobs for the community and safeguarding the privacy of the 40 or so families that live there. It’s a space that encourages silence and reflection.
At the next overlook, I walked across the flat rock, pockmarked with puddles, watching my step carefully on the uneven surface. Going up to the edge was a spiritual experience, both in connection with the surroundings and in the “holy god please don’t let me lose my footing and fall off this cliff” sense. It is not as deep as the Grand Canyon, maybe 1500 – 2000 feet, but that’s deep enough. I watched the clouds as they came across the plains, heading towards us.
I pushed the BF because I wanted to get to Spider Rock before it rained.
We got back in the car and drove for another 10 minutes, bypassing two overlooks in my hurry. We were on our way to Spider Rock, where Spider Woman spun the web that wove the world into existence. The most holy place in the Navaho nation, it is respected by Zuni, Hopi, and other tribes in the area. We parked in the parking lot and I rushed ahead, down at 200 yard path, seeing only trees and sagebrush until I rounded the last corner.
I stood stock still, and I could see the rain coming down the canyon.
Mesmerized by the sacredness of the place, I watched for a while, soaking in the energy, then moved down the path. Then it began to snow.
The snow was a dry, spring snow. The flakes were fluffy and blowing around. I pulled my cap down and the hood of my cape up to bundle myself against the wind. The the snow started coming down in earnest. It was beautiful and holy. I was alone. The other tourists hurried back to their cars and the BF was following me on the path. When he arrived, I saluted him, then started making my way back up the 200 yard path to Toa and warmth.
The BF said later that the snow came UP to him as he leaned over the canyon, like the ancient ones were blessing him for coming to see them.
There’s a plaque at the overlook, telling the legend of Spider Rock. It’s scratched and weathered by time, but I will translate it the best I can for you.
Smell the pungent juniper.
Feel the gentle power of beauty
Ancient Black Rock hunches on the distant horizon
A dark could above means rain will soon be upon us.
The awesome monolith at your feet is Tse Na’ashieeii — Spider Rock. Holy Spider Woman is an important diety in Navajo mythology. It was she who taught the People how to weave.
There is purity and strength here, and places sacred to the People
Places strong in the oneness of earth and sky and of all things.
“I am indeed her child.
Absoulty I am earth’s child.”
Next Stop: Sante Fe
Start the Journey: here
What a beautiful peaceful place.