The level of generosity and kindness was truly astonishing while Andrew and I drove across the country. We were on the road for almost four weeks, and every person we stayed with along the way opened his/ her home and heart to us in ways I did not expect for such short visits.
We were showered with gifts, hearty meals, comfortable beds, and even a full tank of gas. I was given necklaces, pottery, tobacco seeds, a medicinal plant book written by a Laguna Pueblo woman, handmade bags, and paintings. None of these items I asked for, only given as a blessing for making the journey.
What I am now able to see is the infinite spiral of giving and receiving. What does it mean to truly receive? Similar to our digestive process of food, our bodies know how to assimilate nutrients and pass on the waste. The wisdom from Milk Thistle plant spirit captures it so well:
For me, really allowing myself to feel the blessings I was given on this journey means trusting that I am worthy of each gift. The moment I forget my true worthiness, I am not only bringing a dishonor to myself, but also to the giver. Breathing deeply while looking into the eyes of the giver and saying, “Thank you,” is creating space in my heart for the gift. And, the more I receive, naturally, the more I want to give. What if our world was built on this level of gift-giving and gift-receiving?
Particularly in Navajo Nation, I recognized a pattern of emptying our gift box to the many hosts along the trip, then filling it back up before our departure. Our box would never be empty. Loading the car up with even more gifts than when we arrived became tradition. It was not an expectation, it was a surprise.
One evening, after I handed a tin of home grown tobacco to the Laguna Pueblo Grandparents we were visiting, the Grandma turned around and brought back tobacco seeds in a small container. “Here,” she said, “these are from our garden to yours. I hope they grow.” Tears formed on the edges of my eyelids like clouds swollen with rain, eager to water those seeds already.
We brought our hosts, or relatives, as we began referring to each person, ground Painted Mountain and Hopi Blue Corn from our garden in small pouches for prayer and offerings. I watched the Grandpa receive the corn by first blessing his own body. He held the pouch up to the sky and then the earth and then his heart, dabbing a taste on his finger, inviting the medicine to enter his body. Grandma showed us her grinding stone, then they took us outside where Grandpa offered us a very large flat volcanic stone from the yard. “Here,” he said, “now you will have a stone to grind your corn.”
Grandpa goes on to tell us the stories of women singing songs while grinding corn for ceremonies. Tears welled up once again, reminding me of the dozens of stories Andrew tells about meeting relatives during his walk across America when he was 23-years-old. “It’s happening again,” he says, referring to the endless generosity washing over us.
The next evening we had dinner with a father and son who met Andrew during his walk in 2012. Not only did they bring him a bag of Snickers bars and water bottles while he walked across the unforgiving desert, these relatives flew to California where they greeted him at the ocean upon completing the 4,000 mile journey. Then, they led a ceremony for him back on the East Coast at Andrew’s starting point to symbolize the entrance into manhood. They said, “When you walked through our land, we called you ‘boy who walks.’ Now, you have a new name, ‘man who walks for us.'”
Andrew hadn’t seen these uncles in six years. When we arrived to their home north of Window Rock, they wrapped a beautiful wool blanket around us, sprinkled corn pollen on our heads and pulled us in for a long hug. To be in honest, I was thinking, “Is this really happening, again?” Complete “strangers” just wrapped me in a blanket in a place I’ve never been before. I now know that family is every where. And we’re all just like corn pollen, floating through the wind, hoping to land somewhere full of love, generosity and kindness. The more we can receive the love, the more we can give others.