This year, for the first time, we had two high school participants, both from the central part of Navajo Nation. The level of hunger, engagement and truth put forth in the cowrites of these two young people, both of whom had never written a song before this retreat, became role models and beacons for the rest of the group of adult songwriters, ranging in age from twenty-two to fifty-five, teaching us to speak (or rearticulate) our own truths. The songs that emerged from these cowrites are exquisite: vulnerable and place-specific, they are windows into what it means to be a young person from a rural place speaking truth to power and laying plans for college, careers, navigating family relations and newfound senses of self.
As I write this on the Monday morning after the retreat, I remain humbled, deeply grateful, and experiencing the intense withdrawal symptoms one has after leaving a deeply connected group of humanity like the one created on Carson Mesa in this past week. It is one of the most profoundly connective and deeply humanizing experiences I know, and it reminds me as both songwriter and anthropologist why I write songs to begin with: to connect deeply with a small sliver of humanity, to open up broader avenues for intercultural and intergenerational understanding and communication, to heal and speak my own truth, and to break the isolation of my own daily routine by reminding myself there is, indeed, something bigger. And, to this end, we will not only hold a third retreat next May on Carson Mesa again (May 24-31 2019), but also one in Sardinia, Italy, in May of 2020. Ahéhee’, t’áá ano[tso, and e ci aggiorniamo, li!