28 Mar 2019 Terramotional

By Natalie Northrup, Mission 2022 

I believe that emotions are the most powerful manifestation of meaning in life.
Exhilaration, anguish, fear, fulfillment, joy and many others build our set of emotions; they help us define our life.

Coming on the Terrascope: Mission 2022 trip to the Navajo Nation has evoked in me emotions deeper than I’ve ever experienced on campus. Pride, courage, content, belonging, love, and shame are just some of the emotions I’ve experienced so far, and we’re only halfway through this beautiful adventure!

I could tell you about all the emotions I’ve experienced on this trip and the exact situations in which they’ve occurred, but in lieu of time, I think I’ll save that for my personal journaling.

Natalie greets the camera as her classmates appreciate the landscape.

Yet I’m going to share with you one particularly meaningful experience:

During our visit to Canyon de Chelly, we had the opportunity to hike into the heart of the canyon, stopping for lunch at the meeting place of the north canyon and Canyon de Chelly. During this pause, Percy, a native to Canyon de Chelly and our guide for the day, told us a story about colors. This was one of the most beautiful stories I’ve heard, and the setting only made the story hit harder. We sat on an expansive slab of red sandstone, all 30+ of us grouped together with open eyes focused on the speaker before us. The wind blew softly through the canyon, keeping us comfortable under the warm rays of sun shining down from a sky perfectly demonstrating the Crayola color “Sky Blue.” With close friends surrounding me in the most beautiful of settings, an incredible feeling of connectedness wetted my eyes in face of the fact that all of us had enough respect for the canyon that we chose to remain silent.

Then the story started. He started talking about his family, anecdotally sharing all the values instilled in him through the teachings of his mother and grandmother. He began talking about colors and their origin on this planet, opening our eyes to the fact that the colors that we wear in our clothes, jewelry and makeup are all borrowed from things in nature: the blue of our jeans taken from the sky; the white in our shirts taken from the clouds above; the green in a jade earring taken from the trees. I felt guilty for all that I had, and often continue to take for granted. I have the wild fortune of getting to spend a week in one of the most beautiful places on the planet with some of the most thoughtful and respectful friends I have.

Percy continued to tell us about the gifts given to us, like sight and hearing, and he made a statement about speech that stuck with me. He reminded us that our voices are not blades. We should not use them to cut; we should not lie, gossip, curse or hurt with our voices. With voice, we have the power to educate, share our passions, form relationships and tell our stories.

The rock Natalie describes.

There on that rock, with people I had within the past three days formed everlasting bonds with, I felt so much love and belonging. Not only was I with people who would respect the words that came out of my mouth, and honestly share their words back, I was in an environment that helped me process my passions and hopes and dreams for the future.

In this moment I cried. Because sometimes you fill yourself so full of emotions they just have to leak out the top. This is how I know my life is meaningful. This I how I know that the things I love in life are so strong; I’m full to the brim with happiness at sharing beautiful experiences with amazing people, sadness at the absence of my family in sharing this experience with me, content in breathing the clean air in a distraction-free environment, and pride that I can help the nation with its water through the work that I do.

Percy told his story, and walked me through mine. Care deeply for your people, listen to the ones you love, and always say thank you for the gifts given to you every day, he told us.

So I’ll tell you: let yourself fully experience the special little moments in life; let yourself bubble over with emotions, wherever and whenever, and treat the planet with respect, it’s the only earth we’ve got.