“I Won’t Live in a Birdhouse”

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I was talking with a friend of mine, getting to know her better. Telling me about her plans when she finishes college in a few more years, Sandra paused. Then she stated quite firmly, “But I WON’T live in a birdhouse.”

What? I was confused. (If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know by now that this is a frequent situation for us out here as we muddle toward a better understanding of the Navajo culture and mindset.) Why was Sandra talking about birdhouses? What did she mean?

typical Navajo "big" house

So I asked. Turns out she is in the process of completing all the paperwork to be allowed by the Navajo Nation to build a home on a piece of her family’s allotted land. She still has a few more years before she finishes her schooling and will be able to move back to the area. It will likely take that long before her application is approved and construction work can begin.

When Sandra talks about her plans with family members, they try to change her mind. They don’t think she should make such grand plans. There is no reason for an older single woman to consider building such a large, fancy house. She will be living in the same “camp” as other family members. She could certainly share the kitchen and living space with other relatives.

But Sandra is determined. She has calculated costs and made her plans. She will build a large house and start by finishing out only one or two rooms. She can complete work over time, as she earns more money.

On the one hand, this seems reasonable to me. But I wonder if she has been sucked into the “American Dream,” wanting a McMansion with a two-car garage, dreaming of a “city house.” So I ask more questions.

our "little house on the plateau" -- small to us, big to Navajo!

When I hear the answers, I again realize how different this world is than where I have lived most of my life. Sandra states very clearly that even though she is single, she plans to build a big house. Her house will be 24’ x 36’.

I almost laugh when I hear this. Out here a home that size (700+ s.f.) really IS big. But back in the suburbs I came from, many would say that Sandra is dreaming of building something not much bigger than a birdhouse!


I’m Thinking…

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I’ve been thinking all weekend about what to write for today’s post.

I took pictures of some of the roadside memorials to loved ones who tragically died in car accidents. But I don’t really feel like pondering on death and dying and grieving today…

I’ve done a lot of thinking about what I’m going to teach the group of four girls with whom I start working this afternoon during the after-school tutoring session. I have ideas but don’t yet really know what will “click” with them. So it feels premature to discuss my plans.

Jakob starts this afternoon as a volunteer chess coach during the after-school session for 5 or 6 very active, sometimes challenging boys. He’s worrying about what he will teach and how the boys will respond and what he will do if they don’t pay attention and, and, and… But ditto the above—there really isn’t yet anything to write about this.

I could write about the young man we met yesterday who is considering whether or not he is being called to be a pastor. And who is worrying about whether folks out here would listen to him because they know his wild-side past. But that reminds me of other older adult friends who are still being judged on what they did during their young years. And that reminds me of a beautiful young woman back in Ohio who felt such freedom when she went away to college because she was no longer put in a certain “slot” by small-town people based on who her family is. And all of this makes me ANGRY. And I don’t want to think about such frustrations and such unfair attitudes on such a beautiful morning.

This brings me JOY...

So I guess I will just post a photo I took this weekend. I love this picture. Maybe it’s the colors. Maybe it’s the reflections. Maybe it’s the old-fashioned look of an oil lamp in the window. Whatever it is, this picture brings me joy.

And JOY is what I want to ponder this morning. There is such joy in living here in a beautiful place. There is joy in the friends we are making. There was joy in hosting the Fellowship Sunday yesterday (where 4-6 churches gather together to share worship, food, and fellowship).

So…take a minute to find the joy in YOUR life. Celebrate that joy. And next post I will get back to telling stories of life here in Navajoland…I promise!

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