During our October class, we had some great visits with people from the Navajo community. Barbara Jean Teller Ornelas dropped by (but, drats, I was gone) and Charlene Harvey visited with her son, Kyle (see them in the picture at right. When you talk with the weavers, you come to understand how important this craft has been in enabling people to provide for their families. Today, Charlene works at a school, but when Kyle was small she wove a large rug every month to keep a roof over their heads. I’ve often heard weavers talk about how they have been able to provide for their families through their work at the loom, even if sometimes they thought that the trader or buyer didn’t really pay them enough money for the finished rug. In fact, if weaving were only done for money, I’m not sure it would have survived. Weaving, however, is integrated into the whole life of the weaver and the whole life of the Navajo people.
The loom itself is a metaphor for the world; the loom is a little world for the rug. The rug itself has a spirit that will live as long as the rug is intact. To weave is to follow the Beauty Way, to seek harmony and balance. Jennie Slick says that when she puts the first row into a rug, she submits herself to the rug and “the rug just pulls me through. I’m just as anxious as you to see how the rug will turn out”. Some elders say that weaving chases away the evil spirits of poverty, that it is a good way to provide for your family; if you know how to weave, they say, you will never go hungry. Even as life in the Navajo community becomes permeated with satellite dishes and mp3 players, there is still an appreciation for weaving, which in the Navajo context encompasses everything from the sheep to the rug. There is still a desire to keep the craft as part of life, even among people who have no economic reason to weave. Weaving, it is said is a good way to make a living. Weaving is a good way to live.