Wednesday, May 28, 2008

off the subject

When people come visit New Mexico, it seems they often go straight to Santa Fe and/or Taos. These towns have a lot of to offer in terms of history, culture, interesting architecture, and much more. However, the state has much more to offer the interested traveler, especially the pueblos of the Native Americans. I bring this up because I went to a gallery in the northern area of Albuquerque, the Bien Mur Indian Market Center in the Sandia Pueblo. Their website,, is a good starting point. I bring this up not to advertise for this market, but to tell you about an experience I had there. Periodically, there are artists who come to the gallery and work on their art as people stroll through. This particular Memorial Day weekend, a Navajo artist by the name of Hosteen Etsitty was there. He does sand painting, an art form I had never been particularly enchanted by. However, I was drawn to the table where he was working so quietly and methodically on a complex painting with an incredible array of colors. His son was next to him, also working on a sand painting, though much simpler in content. We started talking to Mr. Etsitty about his work, and he explained the symbolism most eloquently. He talked about the spirituality of the world and our spirituality. He talked about interesting art shows he has done with Buddhist monks who also do a form of sand painting called mandala; he talked of his journey as an artist, starting with training from his elders starting at 17. Rarely have I heard an artist be able to describe the spirit of a work, not just the symbolism behind it (Wynton Marsalis is an example of one who has that gift). However, what struck me most, was the incredible attention his son gave to his father while he was speaking with us. I am sure he has heard his father address the topic of his art and spirituality before, but the obvious respect in his expression was incredible. I grew up being told to respect my elders, but on Monday I saw that in action like I never have before.

The image of the father and son together has stuck with me and inspired me to work on becoming a better listener and to listen beyond the spoken word. I would also love to be able to impress on the teenagers in my practice that their parents may have much more to offer them if they can just listen. I suspect all of this sounds trite, but in the high-speed world we live in, I think it is relevant to think about.

1 comment:

Candye said...

Modeling is such a great teaching tool. I have elicited very interesting stories from parents in front of their teens when I ask them about their past or similar experiences. Often they are stories quite untold before. It opens a new path between teen and parent. Compassion and empathy open all sorts of doors to forgiveness and understanding. good luck with your teen patients.
Candye, a ped in WI