March 19, 2013

The Process of Making Turquoise.

photo by Jenna P Lyons

If you look down in the sand, they are sitting there waiting for you to pick them up and hold them in your hands.

I was born in Portales, New Mexico and though I am a mix of European ancestry, I have a deep appreciation for the art, stories and landscape of the desert and of the peoples that inhabit them.

The desert is sacred to me.

One of these landscape features is Mount Taylor—Turquoise Mountain (Tso odzil )—which is sacred to the Navajo, Zuni, Laguna, and Acoma people. It lies within the San Mateo mountain range, towering at just above 11,000 feet.

Though there are several differing stories about the cosmogony of the mountain, the simplest story explains the mountain as a feature created by First Man, who fastened it to the world with a stone knife. He sprinkled rain over it, threw white corn on it, covered it in dark fog, and made it female. Most importantly, he put a basket made of turquoise with two Bluebird eggs on the highest point.

The symbolic color of the mountain is blue and it marks on of four cardinal directions. Turquoise Boy and White Shell Girl live there, protecting the area around the mountain. They have flutes with twelve holes, and they make the tides turn and the months switch. They work together.

If you walk through the sand, you will find tiny blue stones everywhere—they are pieces of turquoise.

In Leslie Marmon Silko’s memoir, The Turquoise Ledge, she writes about little stones she finds in the sand during her desert strolls: “Turquoise doesn’t originate deep in the Earth as many precious minerals and gems do. It forms when certain chemical reactions take place during the weathering of surface minerals.” 

To me, turquoise and the color blue is a symbol of peace and of strength; it reminds me of the place I came from. It reminds me of the sand that I came from, the sky that presses it down into the ground, and the water that polishes those sacred stones into things that are small, yet beautiful.

I think that growing up and learning to love others is a lot like this process…the process of turquoise-making.

We undergo much weathering, hardship, hurt—pressure. And in the end, we emerge from the depths of everything that has happened. And we shine. Each turquoise stone is different. Sometimes you’ll see a stripe of it in the arroyos or the cliffs. It combines with other minerals. Its color takes on the qualities of its surroundings; it absorbs the things around it.

You do too.

And regardless of what you do, the flutes still play and time still goes by…each day creating new turquoise—new beauty. Someone is carving you, someone is polishing you, and someone is admiring your beauty, your laugh, your talents and your smile.

Always shine on and show your colors, no matter how hard things are. Listen to the bluebirds sing. Let the sand run through your hands. Remember that there is a sacred story behind the creation of all that is you.

Making Turquoise.






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Ed: Bryonie Wise



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