In 1968 at the age of 28, with honors and an MA from Stanford University, Noël Bennett went to be with the Navajo. She stayed eight years. She stayed because she was learning what Stanford didn’t teach: What it is to be woman in a gender-balanced culture. How to honor the elemental energies of Mother Earth and Father Sky. The power of Story. The sacredness of Silence.
Particularly Noël felt kinship with Dinetah–the land—mesas rising up against the clear distant horizon. And she felt kinship with the Navajo worldview, hozhoji. BeautyBalanceBlessing. Her immediate sense was: “Here I see so far beyond myself. I see that far within.” Only much later did she come to understand that in Navajo way, hozhoji is at once the default natural order of the universe as well as an internal state of being.
To Noël, this nature-based way of seeing/being profoundly mirrors the human psyche. The human soul. Over the next five decades, with hozhoji as personal gyroscope, Noël gave national conferences, keynotes and workshops on the art of Navajo textiles and weaving–within their cultural context. She established the Navajo Textile Restoration Center and published ten books on Navajo weaving and history. She painted canvases that speak for hozhoji. Later she received a National Endowment for the Arts grant to study architecture at one with nature and collaborated in the building of two structures that embody the philosophy.
Noël’s eleventh book attests to the applicability and essentiality of hozhoji in Western daily living. It will contain 75 John Running photographs of the Navajo and 40 Noël Bennett paintings honoring hozhoji.
Noël paints and writes from her studio and home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.