The call of the land sounding strong in his soul, John Kimmey responded long ago, back in the 1970s. That’s when he made his initial pilgrimage, becoming acquainted with the traditional elders of the Hopituh Shi-nu-mu (Hopi) at Hotevilla, Arizona.
The Hopi are a tribe of about 7,000 people located by the heart mesas among the Four Sacred Mountains of the Four Corners of Turtle Island — northeast Arizona, North America. Hopi culture traces back well over two millennia, making Hopi people keeper of one of the oldest, extant agrarian expressions of life on North America. The Hopi developed a system of dry farming. In relation with arid, exposed, windswept land, they learned and passed on through generations successful ways to grow a variety of crops, including squashes, beans, sunflowers, tobacco and maize (corn).
At the request of some traditional Hopi elders, John settled in to assist them in communicating with the House of Mica (United Nations headquarters). In the 1970s he became a student and traveling companion of the late, widely respected Hopi messenger, Grandfather David Monongye.
“When I associated with Native American elders, they encouraged me to grow gardens,” John explained when I interviewed him for The Call of the Land. “Grandfather David gave me Blue Corn seeds and asked me to grow them out. He said ‘I want you to experiment. The first experiment is to divide the seeds, then to grow two separate plots: one right next to where you are camped, the other further away, out of earshot.’
“I planted both plots of corn on the same day, and did normal cultivation and irrigation with both. Grandfather told me to sing to just one of the plots, the one closest to where I slept. I awoke each morning at dawn and sang to the crop nearest, and I also sang whenever I cultivated.
“I asked what song I should sing, and Grandfather said to sing any song that is meaningful to me, and to sing every day.
“As it turned out at harvest time, the sung corn matured a week earlier than the control corn, with more ears per stalk, and the ears had transformed from the more typical dull blue to a rich, vibrant purple color. I went back and gave Grandfather David the results, and he nodded with understanding. He said the ancestors always sang to their crops, especially during drought. ‘Song makes them stronger,’ he said.
“Grandfather David said that your cultivars – the seeds you save and grow – become part of your family. ‘Treat them with the same love, care, and attention that you show to your children.’”
I just found your blog via a post on Sanet. This account of the corn experiment was very touching and I’m likely to be singing to my gardens from now on. The call of the land got me when I was a kid and it took me a while, but I’ve finally responded.