by Robert Coats
“The Navaho word hozho, translated into English
as ‘beauty,’ also means harmony, wholeness, goodness.”
—J. Ruth Gendler
Notes on the Need for Beauty
Hiking in the Grand Canyon
down Permian dunes
of the Coconino Sandstone,
red rubble of the Supai Group.
It’s a good place for restoring one to hozho,
and I’m thinking about the kid from New York.
We drove past him yesterday, headed east.
In his right hand he lugged a boombox
over his left shoulder he’d slung a pack and jacket
and his baseball cap was turned backwards.
Returning in the afternoon
we passed him again, noting his progress:
five miles in four hours under the desert sun.
At park headquarters, we saw his photo
on a missing person flyer,
told a Ranger where we’d passed him.
He said they were searching hard—
his parents had found a suicide note.
As I hike deeper into the canyon
I imagine him hurling himself
off the Kaibab cliffs.
Or sitting beneath a juniper
watching clouds build over the North Rim,
the swoop and glide of ravens.
EPILOGUE: I checked back later with the Ranger, and learned that the boy was found and returned to his parents.
PHOTO: Grand Canyon, April 1995. Photo by Robert Coats.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Coats has been writing poetry for more than 40 years. Aside from four poems previously published by Poetry and Places, his poems have appeared on the Canary Website, in Orion, Zone 3, Windfall, Song of the San Joaquin, in two anthologies (Fresh Water: Poems from the Rivers, Lakes and Streams and Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California), in the hand-printed and bound book Gathering Black Walnuts from Cedar Fence Press, and in his book The Harsh Green World, published by Sugartown Publishing. He is a Research Hydrologist with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Hozho is said to be the most important word in the Navajo (Diné) language and is loosely translated as peace, balance, beauty and harmony with nature, oneself, and others. To be “in Hozho” is to be at one with and a part of the world around you (from Wikipedia.org). To hear the pronunciation, visit this link.