It is only a long way from rock
that we see rock,
and two thousand miles
from the rainbow
where its arc burned the sky
as if defending my life.
It was lightning, water, air,
prisms of refracted rain.
Now its stories are echoes
in stone trees.
I have bought them with time,
with pieces of my life,
and must arrange them in my mind
before I can tell
the new things I have seen:


a tall beetle in the desert grass
at the foot of a cactus pear,
its spike legs swift and scurrying,
beetle armor hard and clean,
and a lizard,
calm in its wide table world
on a dry sea.

As this loom light
falls on me,
I turn to live my passing flesh,
go out where the rainbow is,
like the hawk soaring after rain,
to gather the stone rings
of stone trees.




I have become at last
what we are--
migrant, visitor, passerby.
The mountains
hold me, the sharp smell
of juniper in my hand.
I will shape them--my sight
will go out to them and return,
full of light.






This is the gift: to see
the standing rain,
its dark warp woven with sun
where the twin bow falls,
the earth a mist of clouds opening,
the trees stamped with air
and the rocks with wind--

the beetle on its high legs agile and quick,
the striped salamander hurrying,
the trees turned stone,
the stone turned dust.

Ancient Greek terra cotta clay loom weights, on left, with a sand dollar design, possibly a direct impression.


Riding Within the Rocks, Tséyi'*

the horses' feet unbind
and lift the canyon floor
with its mud and water,
its brush and birdsong,
high as the ravens
hunting above,
high even as the hawks--
and the rocks standing in their places

The black wing of one bird,
a crow, dances in a white circle,
dances down from the blue
widening to yellow,
to leaves and sand,
and the ochre mouths of the rocks
that open and close.

There is nothing easy in the grass
or hollows where the sun lies
drying out the clay--
at the stones' opening
we follow them
to the same hard place.

*Tséyi' (known in English as Canyon de Chelly) means "within or inside the rocks" in Dine' Bizhaad (Navajo).





Wool and Stone

Stone grows to the sea
like a plant,
fossil fern deep within it,
a heaviness of trees
worn in green and burnished air
sharp with the tang of tannins
far in a dry place.

Canyons rise and slant,
their stripes flowing
from the sea's drag, scrape, retreat
to whorls of seashells caught
in thorny places and the whorls
of fingers sifting out the sand.

ground down to its colors,
the sand lies yellow and blue,
as the dawn house
opens a white door
to the sun's horned face.
From the black lake
life climbs its ladders.

When we look on the canyon walls
and see that they are woven
from the hard bones of ancestors--
the smallest trilobite a stitch
in the side of time--
we see the first spinning that is done
and the last that is undone

while wool like wind unwinds
from the hand into striped rock
and the rock dyed with juniper
softens around the body
like a plant.


Helen Kirk (left) and Mary Lee Begay (right) weaving at the Hubbell Visitor Center, Ganado, Arizona, September 1995. A recently finished textile by Mary Lee Begay's mother, Grace Henderson Nez, is on the ground.

Weaving of a Dine' (Navajo) summer camp by Louise Nez, 1995.

Chart showing some of the plant sources of Dine' (Navajo) vegetable dyes, by Helen Yazzie, 1995. Plants shown are red juniper bark, Navajo tea, corn husk, gambel oak bark, sage brush, brown onion skin, red onion skin, rabbit brush, Brigham tea, and canyaigre dock root.


Poems fromWeaving the Light © 1997 Carol Snyder Halberstadt. All rights reserved.
Photographs © 1997 Carol Snyder Halberstadt. All rights reserved.

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