Clouds were naught but tendrils; tossed across an azure canvas as a Bad Company tune played grandly in my mind. “…the color of the sky I’m told.” And Saguaros resigned to towering pines as the miles whined on beneath our wheels.
Long before we’d reached our destination, I decided that the sky, the color of the sky; that wistful, winter blue, was the reason for the pesky anxious feeling of impending…well, I had no idea. Then.
But on this recent quick trip to our favorite mountain town, we picked up a copy of their regional newspaper and learned some astounding facts. It seems the wooly worms have spoken in no uncertain terms of the likelihood of a harsh winter ahead. They are, in fact, parading around without their stripes!
Further collaboration was offered by the observation of the insect population, which has taken of late to traversing single file instead of the usual willy-nilly, non-pattern method. It does seem like ages since I’ve seen a Ladybug, and do those ant hills look a little higher this year? I hadn’t noticed an increase in the number or elaborate construction of spider webs, but you can bet I’ll be on the lookout now!
I was stunned to realize that I had missed this. Me, the consummate observer, had missed the signs of winter! Was there some secret code I hadn’t learned? Well that, and perhaps the close proximity to the Navajo nation, prompted the ponderance of Code Talking in general and to wonder was it only understood by plants, animals, insects and Native Americans?
Ans so it was, quite in keeping with my often unusual mind, I was still thinking of winter and Navajo customs and legends when the sun could no longer warm my skin through the trees. In the waning light, I gazed toward the Mystery Forest from whence strange sounds are routinely reported and shivered. It wasn’t remarkably cold on the deck where I stood, but it would be pitch dark soon. And I thought about the Skinwalkers.
In life as in legends, Navajos rarely speak of them. If ever. Supposedly, doing so would bring harm to yourself and your family. Yet a number of encounters have been reported, though not by the Navajos themselves.
Skinwalkers are essentially humans with supernatural powers, as in the ability to transform into any animal or other person they desire to be. Unfortunately—and evidently not always a deterrent, one must first commit the evil deed of killing a close family member in order to become a Skinwalker.
This likely explains why, unlike other tribes, Navajos do not wear animal pelts except for ceremonial occasions; in which only sheep or buckskin are worn.
At any rate. these skinwalking entities are considered extremely evil and therefore, highly dangerous. Seen always at night and often near high country backroads, it is considered prudent to not turn your back on one and to speak the skinwalker’s full name out loud (if you happen to know it!) in order to dispel its powers and basically, save yourself.
On a lighter note, the Navajos have a host of engaging winter games. For instance, a game called “Shoes” or the game of Silence, where the last child to speak wins.
And of course, the String games, which are only played in the winter “when the spider sleeps”, lest a spider sew up your butt. ( I swear, that’s how the story goes!)
Are you seeing signs of winter in your area? Have you ever played String games?