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