I love living in Utah. It's a beautiful convergence of culture, but my favorite culture of the area is that of the Navajo (or as they call themselves Dine.) Salt Lake City has more Ute influence than any other tribe, but Southern Utah, like where I went for my super awesome January road trip, is teeming with Navajo culture. It's a world I'm thankful to be part of. My roommate, Derik, is most of the reason for this. I consider his brothers my brothers, his mother my mother; usually I call them my "adopted" family. When I moved there they accepted me as one of their own. And so it's thanks to them that I've come to be a part of this amazing culture and belief system.
Derik (on the left) and his brother LaMar, in 2009.
Derik's older brother Eric, and his girlfriend recently had their first child. Nolan is getting older, but he's still a tiny little baby. A tiny little baby who, for the first time this past week, laughed for the very first time.
The Navajo believe that although a baby is with its family at birth, its spirit remains with the Holy Ones and so the baby isn't fully "with" us. A laugh is the signal that the baby has become full, it has joined its mortal family here. It is from that moment, one of us. It's also interesting to note that in addition, the Navajo believe that the baby takes future traits from the person who makes it laugh first. Obviously, this calls for a ceremony (Navajo love ceremonies and perform them often.) The name of this ceremony is A'wee Chi'deedloh or literally, "The Baby Laughed."
Just like birthdays and other events we're used to, these ceremonies can be as small or as grandiose as the family prefers. You just need a few things: loved ones, salt, and food. Nolan's mom wants to have an official ceremony at her parents' house in Arizona, but since we were all together yesterday for Mother's Day and celebrated with a cookout, we had an impromptu ceremony there. Salt is placed in the baby's hand and blessed, then sprinkled on everyone's food. Derik's mom gave blessings in Navajo--needless to say I could understand only about three words, but the Navajo language is beautiful. It's a very contemplative and almost earthy language. I'm thrilled I was able to be a part of little Nolan's First Laugh.
So, welcome to earth, you little brown thing you!!! Here is to many more laughs, probably most at my expense!!!
Nolan's first cousin, Gabe, and Nolan sporting a Michael Jordon onesie (Daddy's a fan....)