The Navajo Country imprinted
me a long time ago. In 1939, without knowing that we were violating
something sacred, three friends and I made the first ascent of
Shiprock. It took months of planning and four days of climbing,
none more enjoyable than the third day. As it ended we bivouacked
not far below the summit and looked out over the desert as the
shadow of the peak reached east and died, to let campfires twinkle
under the stars -- scores of campfires, scattered over the arid
vastness we had thought empty.
I found myself feeling
an empathy I had never felt before. Who was around that fire,
the other fires, the farthest one? What had the winds told them
that day, the vast sky, the sacred mountains? What tradition,
being understood and enjoyed around each fire, had kept these
people so well in touch with their land for so long? . . .
David R. Brower