Going, going, gone

I will be blogging throughout my time here at Banff. Check here to read about my adventures. I am also collecting moments at Banff in Instagram via #Navajoonthego.


I packed up my studio into two boxes, 55 pounds in total. Gifts and clothing went into my monstrous suitcases, each just under the 23 kilogram limit at the airport (but only after I sacrificed my shampoo and soaps to the airport gods). I become extremely aware of my body having to move my possessions. What I need and want is constantly evaluated based on its weight.

And this packing isn’t even packing to go home. I still have a few weeks away as I visit family for the holidays. Home has wrapped itself in nomadism. The people I love are scattered.* I keep smashing t-shirts and snacks into my suitcases in order to see these places that are part of my home-collection.

Banff itself is a nomadic place. The Stoney Nakoda, who are indigenous to the area around Banff, never settled in the valley around the Bow River. The Banff Centre even feels nomadic with a constant ebb and flow of artists and conference attendees. It never feels like a place to stay forever. Even so, the Sleeping Buffalo (or Tunnel) Mountain  was a sacred place for the Stoney Nakoda community. It says a lot to me that they would let such a transient place have such a special place in their hearts and minds. I only ever want to let places and people into my life that are constant and immutable–but that doesn’t really exist.

The mountain will be there for a long time, but it becomes much more ethereal when it’s part of a landscape where you’re only passing through. I’ve found myself afraid to let these ethereal places become important to me. I know I won’t live in San Francisco forever. Banff was only a six week adventure. But these (and others) are beautiful places where I have grown.

In my introductions at Banff, I found myself telling entire stories for simple questions like, “Where are you from?” Telling someone I live in San Francisco feels strange because I don’t have any roots there. I describe growing up in Virginia across the field from my paternal grandmother. I explain that my husband and I met in Ithaca, NY, and how we ended up in California. I’m Navajo, and there are often questions about that. I tell the story of my mother’s parents moving off the reservation when Che went into the Marines, and so my mom is also from California.

With my November and December travels, I’m not really arriving anywhere. I’m growing and experiencing new things and sharing them with my family and friends. There’s not really an end that I can see to being “on the go.” That’s why it’s felt strange trying to wrap up this writing project because I’m still lost in my suitcases. Sure, I’ll arrive at SFO and drive back to my little apartment; but not without these connections, memories, and yearnings for other places far away.


*Alphabetically, here’s where I’ve been:

  • Baltimore, Maryland — I was privileged to see the baptism of my goddaughter.
  • Banff, Alberta — My amazing residency. Banff has a little piece of my heart now.
  • Calgary, Alberta — I attended Stronger than Stone to hear beautiful discussions around indigeneity and monumentalism.
  • Chatham, New Jersey — Meeting friends in their new house with their new puppy and new baby.
  • Falls Church, Virginia — I stayed with a dear friend whose kindness and hospitality always amazes me.
  • Fredericksburg, Virginia — My beloved hometown where my family still lives.
  • New York, New York — I spent the day with another dear friend whose hopes to help others always inspires me.
  • Raleigh, North Carolina — A day trip to investigate future possibilities.
  • Stamford, Connecticut — Where my husband’s family lives, where I get to be part of even more family shenanigans.