“Inside the Bowl” (Asaayi Lake)” by Leeanna Torres, from WAVES: A Confluence of Women’s Voices
Today I will not be going to Asaayi Lake. Kitcheyan is going to Asaayi Lake, and I am not going with him. I miss seeing the shades of water during different hours of the day, the sun moving in its journey across the sky. I will not be going to Asaayi Lake, but I imagine what it will be like there – soft reds along the bluffs and a light wind.
Asaayi’s name comes from a Dinè (Navajo) word for “inside the bowl.”
I will not be going to Asaayi Lake. Kitcheyan is taking someone else to work with him, and it is no longer I that accompanies him on trips to conduct surveys on tribal lakes. I sit for a while in my own discontent, imagining the warblers and bluebirds filling the space between the chaparral brush and piñon-juniper. There are places I want to remember, places I want to return to.
Beauty is a noun on the shores of Asaayi Lake, the water touching the land in a way that is both ordinary and sacred. For the Navajo (Diné) people there is a concept of hózhó. “Hozho is said to be the most important word in the Navajo language and is loosely translated as peace, balance, beauty and harmony.”* I see the word written in red, a beautiful but unwanted graffiti near the tracks between Downtown and Montano Street in Albuquerque. Hozho, Beautyway. What is its significance? What does it mean in this moment in time? I see two men driving bulldozers. The afternoon wind is picking up. I am afraid that I will drink again. After the baby is born. I am quiet about this. I am silent.
If I could return to Asaayi Lake, would the beauty there save me, save me from myself? No. But I return to this kind of wishful thinking, convincing myself that beauty and or place can save me, will save me. But the truth of myself follows me wherever I go, and it would follow me there to Asaayi Lake, beauty and all. I can find comfort and beauty; but until hozho reaches me at my core, I remain a drifting seeker, always grasping for the next beauty in both ordinary and extraordinary places. These are the places I hide, the open spaces of the west like Asaayi Lake, inviting us to “enjoy”, but holding our truths like the wanderers we are. Inside the bowl is where I’d like to hide, safe and silent on the shores of Asaayi.
Today I will not be going to Asaayi Lake, and I simmer in the wake of my own discontent. Such an ugly place to be, caught up in a soup of self-pity. So I buy a Snickers bar and think of the color of water instead, sometimes blue, other times clear, but always inviting, always wanting. Beautyway.
Leeanna Torres is a native daughter of the Land of Enchantment, with deep Indo-Hispana roots in New Mexico. She has spent the last ten years as an environmental professional working in and throughout the West.Through her writing she hopes to speak with and from that sacred sense of place that is inherent in the great Southwest, that intrinsic relationship between people and place – el sagrado, the sacred.
* “Hozho is said to be the most important word in the Navajo language and is loosely translated as peace, balance, beauty and harmony.”
Drake, RS. Hozho: Dine’ Concept of Balance and Beauty. University of Arizona, American Indian Graduate Studies Program, Native American Religions and Spirituality. 2004. https://bluffutah.org/what-is-hozo-2/