Book II - She Faces Her Enemy

By the age of fifty, I had sold my computer consulting business to follow a childhood memory that would take me back to the Navajo Reservation. My husband retired from his corporate position, we moved from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Durango, Colorado, and I started a new business, The Durango Trading Company.

The mission of my new company was: To promote American Arts through the sale of Amish quilts and Navajo weavings.

Book II of the Double Doll Series chronicles the many trials, tribulations and victories faced along the way.

Episodes and excerpts from Book II follow:

She cupped a hand to cover a smile
and sat in front of her loom.
Thuds of her comb as it beat down weft
became the voice she knew.

 Yesterday they’d come with a backhoe
and dug the grave deep.
A pendant of turquoise, a basket of grain,
treasures for her to keep.

 The scent of burning piñon
blew cold across the bluff.
How many more would die from yellow poison
before we say enough?

The road down was steep and slippery,
old ruts were filled with mud.
Her smile was but a memory;
on the loom an unfinished rug.

Grace Yazzie and Anna Mae Hoskie display the weaving that was the signature piece of the Durango Trading Company and still hangs prominently in my home.

“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do.” My husband and I sat at the kitchen table finishing our coffee and were once again arguing over finances. “I’ve made . . .” The jolting ring of the telephone broke my statement in mid-sentence; a call was coming in on the business line.

“Good morning, Donna Wilson here.” The voice on the line was clipped and professional, with just a hint of a New Jersey twang. “We met in Las Vegas at the Surface’s Expo. I talked with you about exhibiting Indian art in Hannover.”

I vaguely remembered talking with a woman from a German company, but with over fifteen-thousand people in attendance, it was impossible to recall a face or the circumstances. Besides, what she had said in Vegas sounded too good to be true. Gripping the phone between my ear and shoulder, I rummaged through the business cards I’d brought back from the show. “Yes, Donna, what can I do for you?”

“I represent a German company. Their business is about sponsoring international trade fairs.” She paused only for a split second as she drew another breath. Her briskly spoken, to-the-point dialogue flooded me with memories of fast-paced business, East Coast style—the countless presentations where every word had to be direct and precise. Time was at a premium, and you had only one shot at making a sale.

“I’ve gotten approval from my management to invite your company to represent the United States as a featured event at our textile fair in Hannover, Germany.” She stopped abruptly, and the other end of the line fell silent, waiting for my response.

“Hello. Are you still there?”

Sonya Bitsinnie & Hannah Bluehouse in Hannover, Germany for the 1997 Domotex International Trade Fair

Commissioned Tree of Life weaving by Ron Nez

“Sharleen . . . I need you to come.”
The sound of voices and cars in the background meant the call was coming from a pay phone at the trading post. I frequently got calls like this from Crystal, but this was a male voice.

“It’s Ronnie Nez.”
“Is everything okay?”
“Just come to house today.” Ron’s voice was strained.
“Hafta go now.”

During the two-hour drive to Teec Nos Pos, I tried to think of what the problem could be. It had been a month since Ron had started on the weaving; by his estimate, he should be about halfway. My mind kept coming back to the similar call from Crystal when her mother feared I would not let her go to Pennsylvania because she hadn't finished a weaving.

Upon arrival, a dour-faced Ron led me into a small room with an empty loom stand. On the bed lay a bundle wrapped in a Pendleton blanket. “Needs ceremony,” he said and motioned for me to sit in a nearby chair. “My niece. . . . She’s only four.” As he spoke, Ronnie sat on the edge of the bed, and his hand moved slowly from side to side across the length of the bundle.

“Scissors. . . . My fault. I left scissors, an’ she cut cords. Only way is ta have a ceremony.”

It took several explanations before I could fully comprehend what Ron meant. The warp cords his niece cut are the backbone of the weaving. Damage to them would require a total redo of all the work that had been done. But it wasn’t until he mentioned the spirit line that I fully understood the need for a ceremony.

Life changes must be made
Fifty years of tears stuffed inside
Moldered and rotted my heart and mind . . .
I never cried.

Then I met Grace
Her smile was dazzling, her laughter shy . . .
From her heart she wove fine tapestries
And listened to quiet as life passed by.

Her death came hard for me
There was much Grace had left to do . . .
And much I still needed to learn
Uranium’s yellow poison took her too soon.

I continued on alone . . . blundering, stumbling
Trying to remember the lessons she taught
But I fell back to my old ways . . .
It was the quiet that I forgot.