by Lyla Johnston, ’12
This is a poetic translation of the Dine (Navajo) word, “Hozho.” There is no direct translation into English, but perhaps a close one would be: ‘attaining harmony with the exquisite song of the earth.’ My tribe, the Dine (Navajo) Nation, holds within its language certain conceptual keys and solutions for the activist’s dilemma. Through Bikeh Hozho (The Beauty Way) the Dine people lived and thrived for thousands of years without jails, judges, or social hierarchies. It is through the appreciation of the divine design of creation that we found peace within our communities. As an anthropology major I have found that, through the study of indigenous culture, we can uncover social tools and cultural mechanisms that have already been invented and perfected over thousands of years of evolution that foster the exchange of unconditional love. With the translation of a single word from Dine Bizaad (The Navajo Language) I hope to show how the Dine people can offer us ways of being healthy and happy activists.
Listen to Lyla’s spoken word piece, “Wake Up Time,” here:
It is dawn.
The sun is conquering the sky and my grandmother and I
are heaving prayers at the horizon.
“Show me something unbeautiful,” she says,
“and I will show you the veil over your eyes and take it away.
And you will see hozho all around you, inside of you.”
This morning she is teaching me the meaning of HOZHO.
There is no direct translation from Diné Bizaad,
the Navajo language, into English
but every living being knows what hozho means.
Hozho is every drop of rain,
every leaf on every tree,
every feather on the bluebird’s wing.
Hozho is undeniable beauty.
Hozho is in every breath that we give to the trees.
And in every breath they give to us in return.
Hozho is reciprocity.
My grandmother knows the meaning of hozho well.
For she speaks a language that grew out of the desert floor
like red sandstone monoliths that rise like arms out of the earth
praising creation for all its brilliance.
Hozho is remembering that you are a part of this brilliance.
It is finally accepting that, yes, you are a sacred song that
brings the Diyin Dine’é, the gods, to their knees
in an almost unbearable ecstasy.
Hozho is re-membering your own beauty.
My grandmother knows hozho well
For she speaks the language of a Lukachukai snowstorm
the sound of hooves hitting the earth on birthdays.
For my grandmother is a midwife and she is fluent in the
language of suffering mothers
of joyful mothers
of handing glowing newborns to their creator.
Hozho is not something you can experience on your own,
the eagles tell us as they lock talons in the stratosphere
and fall to the earth as one.
Hozho is interbeauty.
My grandmother knows hozho well
for she speaks the language of the male rain
that shoots lightning boys through the sky,
pummels the green corn children,
and huddles the horses against cliff sides in the afternoon.
She also speaks the language of the female rain
that sends the scent of dust and sage into our homes
and shoots rainbows out of and into the earth.
The Diné know what hozho means!
And you know what hozho means!
And deep down we know what hozho is not.
Like the days you walk in sadness.
The days you live for money.
The days you live for fame.
The days you live for tomorrow.
Like the day the spaniards climbed down from their horses
and asked us if they could buy the mountains.
We knew this was not hozho.
But we knew we could make it hozho once again.
So we took their swords and their silver coins
and melted them
with fire and buffalo hide bellows
and reshaped them into squash blossom jewelry peices
and strung it around their necks.
Took the helmets straight off their heads
and turned it into fearless beauty.
Hozho is the healing of broken bones.
Hozho is the prayer that carried us
through genocide and disease,
It is the prayer that will carry us through global warming
and through this global fear that has set our hearts on fire.
This morning my grandmother is teaching me
that the easiest (and most elegant) way to defeat an army of hatred,
is to sing it beautiful songs
until it falls to its knees and surrenders.
It will do this, she says, because it has finally
found a sweeter fire than revenge.
It has found heaven.
It has found HOZHO.
This morning my grandmother is saying
to the colors of the sky at dawn:
beauty is restored again…
It is dawn, my friends.
The night is over.
Lyla Johnston is a super senior studying at Stanford. She is so madly in love with the earth and its inhabitants that it’s hard for her to get down the street each day without falling over in euphoria. She would like to help bring the healing salve of love and truth to a world wounded by painful confusion and illusion.