Wake Up Time

702 total words    

3 minutes of reading

 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,
“Try it.”

“If you can then there is a veil
over your eyes and I will take it away
You will see hozhó all around you.
Inside of you.”

This morning my grandmother is teaching me the meaning of hozhó.
There is no direct translation from Diné Bizaad,
the Navajo language, into English
but every living being knows what hozhó means.
Hozhó is every drop of rain
every leaf on every tree
it is your every eyelash
it is every feather on the bluebird’s wing
Hozhó is undeniable beauty.

Hozhó is in every breath that we give to the trees.
And in every breath they give to us in return.
Hozhó is reciprocity.

My grandmother knows this well.
For she speaks a language that grew up and out of the desert floor
like red sandstone monoliths that rise like the arms of the earth
reaching into the sky and
praising creation for all its brilliance.

Hozhó 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.
Hozhó is remembering your own beauty.

My grandmother knows this well.
For she speaks the language of a Lók’aa’ch’égai snowstorm.
She speaks the language of hooves hitting the dirt on birthdays.
For my grandmother was a midwife and would
gallop to the hogaans where the women were in labor.
Now she is fluent in the
language of suffering mothers,
fluent in the language of joyful mothers,
fluent in the language of handing a glowing newborn to its creator.

Hozhó is an experience.
But it is not something you can experience alone
the eagles tell us as they
lock talons in the stratosphere
and fall to the earth as one
during courting season.
Hozhó is a form of interbeauty . . .

My grandmother knows this well
for she speaks the same language as the male rain
which shoots lightning boys through the sky,
pummels the green corn children,
and huddles the horses against cliff sides in the early afternoon.

She also speaks the language of the female rain
which sends the scent of dust and sage into our homes
and shoots rainbows out of and into the earth.

Us Diné, we know what hozhó means!
And you, you know what hozhó means.
And deep down we know what hozhó does not mean.

Like the days we walk in sadness.
The days we live for money.
The days we live for fame.

Or like the day that the conquistadors came
climbed down from their horses
and asked if they could buy the mountains.

Now, we knew this was not hozhó
because we knew you cannot buy a mountain
but we knew we could make it hozhó once again.

So we took their silver swords
and we took their silver coins
and we melted them
with fire and buffalo hide bellows
and recast them into squash blossom
turquoise and silver jewelry pieces
and strung it around their necks.
We took the silver helmets straight off their heads
and transformed it into a fearless beauty.
We made jewelry.
Hozhó is the healing of broken bones.

Hozhó is the prayer that carried us
through genocide and disease,
It is the prayer that will carry us through global warming
through this global fear that casts shadows on the walls of our minds.

This morning my grandmother is
teaching me something very important!
She 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 hozhó.

And so this morning my grandmother is talking
to the colors of the sky at dawn, saying:


Which means:
beauty is restored again . . .

It is dawn, my friends.
Wake up.
The night is over.

  • Lyla June Johnston

    Lyla June Johnston is a musician, public speaker and internationally recognized performance poet of Diné (Navajo) and Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) lineages. Her personal mission is to grow closer to Creator by learning how to love deeper and to support and empower indigenous youth.

Scroll to Top