The day is quickly approaching for us to celebrate the great men who raised us, loved us, taught us and sacrificed for us. I hope we can take some moments to reflect on those men and all they mean to us - whether they’re still here with us or not.
My own father was a professor of history with a deep love of his family, friends, storytelling, the American Southwest and very specifically New Mexico. As early as I can remember, my father excitedly led our family on road trips across the wide open Southwest, where we visited historical sites including Indian pueblos, shopped for inexpensive Native made turquoise jewelry, ate at New Mexican restaurants, and blasted country & western music on the way to our historic log cabin high in the rugged Sangre de Cristo mountain wilderness. This was my father at his happiest.
My father was strong and powerful in his considerable presence yet he loved fiercely and completely. He could guide a rowdy group of 55 college students through communist East Germany as adeptly as he could sit on the front porch of our log cabin tenderly nursing a baby hummingbird back to health. Dad taught me that gentleness ultimately speaks louder than force. He showed me the importance of a strong connection to and understanding of the distant past. He emphasized the idea that history is most often the story told by victors at the expense of the marginalized and the oppressed. Again and again, Dad demonstrated that empathy is the salve that reaches across divides and heals long-standing wounds. From Dad, I discovered that beauty persists even in darkness.
I always expected that my father would be by my side through much of my life, continuing to teach me, encourage me and love me as only fathers can do. Life had other plans, though, and I buried my father just one day after Father’s Day when I was only in my 20’s. What I didn’t yet realize on that devastating June day was that Dad would still be with me. He's there when I drive across the magnificent landscape of the Southwest listening to Marty Robbins on the radio, when I admire a piece of turquoise jewelry noting its connection between past and present, when my senses are overcome by a thunderstorm enveloping New Mexico’s high desert sky, and when I remember that empathy and love are the best choice.
I hope that you too are able to celebrate the incomparable gift that fathers can be. I hope that you felt that deep love and guidance that only fathers can give. And if you’re a father yourself, I thank you for all that you are.
In celebration of all the fantastic fathers out there and their special day, I’ve put together a select group of handmade Native American art that I know my father would have enjoyed. Please take a look and see if there’s any gifts that you think might honor a father that you know.
I leave you with a little excerpt from a beloved book, Tewa Firelight Tales. It details the immense responsibility that good fathers of all cultures hold in caring for their loved ones. In this piece, Red Tail of San Ildefonso Pueblo speaks, “My father used to scatter meal every morning, asking the Great Spirit to watch over our household. He sang and was very confident and happy, like his father and grandfather before him. That ceremony seemed to us to open the morning, and the spirit which came over us all was one of confidence, happiness and joy - trust in the Great Spirit, Manitou, God - He who sent the Sun to light and warm us through another day. All households began the day that way and it was music to our ears to hear the voices of our elders throughout the villages as they invoked the Great Spirit.”
Happy Father's Day!