The claw-foot tub sat at the edge of a pool fed by hot springs spilling from the rocks above. Steam rose off the water in defiance of the desert heat. Juniper and Blackbrush crowded close, offering seclusion.
"Lord have mercy," Grace breathed.
"My old boyfriend and his buddies dragged the tub up here last summer, thinking it would impress me."
Rose angled her a sly look. "For a time."
Their laughter filled the waning daylight. It felt good, two sisters sharing a bond. Grace felt the tension in her shoulders begin to ease. "Do you live here year round?"
"No. I teach fourth graders on the reservation during the school year. This is my summer resort." She said summer resort with a lah-dee-dah air that drew another laugh from Grace.
Rose piled the things she brought from the hogan onto the clothes in Grace's arms – capris, canvas shoes, her last clean blouse – and retrieved a section of plastic gutter tucked in the brush. She used the gutter as a flume to transfer hot mineral water from the falls into the tub. When the tub was full, she lit the fat, white candle sitting on a nearby rock and held the smudge in its flame until the herbs smoldered.
Grace recognized the smell of sage, a cleansing herb. When Papa took her and Joe to the Navajo Nation, they were invited to a storytelling circle. Everyone bathed in purifying sage smoke to drive out bad spirits that might try to influence the stories. The storytelling went long: Diné legends of Coyote, Spider Woman, Monster-Slayer. The experience taught Grace a deep respect for the spiritual traditions of her ancestors.
Rose coaxed the sage smoke over herself with a gentle sweep of her hand. She chanted soft words in her native tongue as she bathed her entire body, beginning at her feet and working upward in a figure-eight pattern. The hot springs splashed and played in the background. Grace watched the smoke climb and dissipate in the evening air.
"I release all negative energy," Rose finished, then motioned for Grace to step closer. "Allow the sacred smoke to cleanse your body and bring your spirit peace."
Grace stood quiet as Rose fanned the sage smoke over her. She closed her eyes and felt the Navajo woman's chants like balm on frayed nerves. She breathed deep, a lightheaded calm overtaking her.
"Let go of stagnant energy and allow light and love to protect you in the present," Rose said. She lingered a moment on Grace's heart area, then placed the smudge on the stone, next to the candle. "You have come a long way, my sister. Let the water heal you."
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