Each time I photograph the desert, I think of my late Masanii (My maternal grandmother). I like to attribute my fascination with plants to her. Here's a story of how it all began...
I had wondered to the other side of the “giant” hill. We weren’t allowed behind that hill unless Grandma MJ was with us. I’ve been on that side many times with her. I remember leisurely roaming the desert with her. Grandma MJ would name the plants in Navajo. She would describe its purpose and how to prepare them. I was always amazed with her botanical knowledge. As I continue over and down the hill, I thought, “Grandma would understand. I'm getting some wildflowers for her." It was mid-summer and there was a whole batch of them down below, waiting for me.
With a plastic tray in hand, I searched for the most “bloomy-ist” bunch of flowers. I spot some pretty white tip flowers. “Ahh, this will do!” I thought. But, instead of pulling at the stem, I hugged around the base of the plant. I've seen Grandma do that before. I gently yanked it out of the earth with a tiny bit of root attached. I plopped them into my tray and quickly head home.
When, I got home, I rushed to the kitchen sink to (over) water my flowers. Grandma MJ, who was already in the kitchen, stirring a pot of stew. She gives me and my muddy mess a quizzically glance. And tells me not to waste water. But, I continue to tend to my dying plant. Grandma wipes her hand with her apron and quickly follows me into the living room/bedroom.
She watches me as I placed my “mud pie” on the windowsill next to her bed. She chuckles first then starts to scold me in Navajo, “What is this? Why did you dig this up? Why is this here? This will not grow in here!”
But the thing is, even though she sounded harsh (first of all, Navajo is not a romantic language and second I had made a huge mess), I knew she took delight in my gesture.
My late grandma MJ loved to receive flowers when grandkids came to visit. I like to think I started this tradition.
As for that mudpie mess, well, it didn’t last a day. The flowers quickly wilted, then shriveled up and finally got crispy, like dried kale. All in one day! (I was so offended, haha!) So naturally, grandma MJ made me toss it out. And to this day, I cannot grow anything botanical.
My love for the desert is deeply rooted and stems (no pun intended) from a grandmother’s love for her grandchildren and...plants.
Love and miss you!