Rose B. Simpson

Santa Clara Pueblo

Curator Rose B. Simpson (Santa Clara) is an artist, public speaker, and mom.


Tribal Affiliations:

Artwork Affiliations:

Rose chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:

Santa Clara water jar

Santa Clara water jar
c. 1880–1900
11 x 15½ in. (27.9 x 39.4 cm)
Collection School for Advanced Research


In gratitude, please grant another reason to be grateful.

Every story began with a prayer.

First, there was a request. Then a pause for an answer. Maybe a glint of sunlight flashed from a stone on the nearby hill. Or a bird made shadow. Then she knelt and scraped at the earth with her fingers and a stick, moving the crumbles of dry clay into a fabric, then tied.

Soak. Hydrate. Little bubbles rise as the crumbs relax in their bath and soften.

Pull, push, pull, fold, push. Like dough, the clay is getting ready to nourish. Soft as breast against inner arm.

Maybe she worked in the morning sunrays, the kind that wash the night off. Kids already poking one another and giggling, running heels pad-hard against the bare ground, little smokes of dust tracks. Pressing, padding, she talked to the clay. Sometimes aloud, sometimes only a thought.

Be strong right here, don’t sag. There you go. See?
You’re so pretty.

She made up a simple song that matched the rhythm—the click rub, click rub, stone against surface, becoming smooth. She licked the stone to wet it, rubbed it on fabric against thigh, the taste entering her nose, becoming rain, returning dust from smoke to earth.

Heenchu—she pointed through the edges of the blazing and cackling sticks, the fire a small hurricane in an early windless morning. See the hip, the neck, the lip beginning to glow red. The coming of age, the initiation. The smother, the burning saa, a comforting aroma—home, industrious women. The blackest brown possible. A form so intensely home. That neck, that shoulder. That toe stand. That brave shoulder.

There is now a raw within, a slick without. A crown of balance: above woman, below sky. There is a work, a wait, a carry, a setting. A fullness, a dunk and roll in creek or spring, tinkle of poured seed and soft small hands holding rim, steadying each other. A tip, a crack, a baby wail.

Now only a chamber to echo voices. Trembly old voices, squeaky young ones. Changing languages, whispers, lovemaking, argument, secrets. The last time two hands touch. A last breath.

Atop a shelf high to the ceiling, some cash, signed papers. Emptied, and filled again. Tipped and emptied. A long and silent empty.

To both the answer and the yaw of an aching ask, listen. It is all here. The threshold between stories that began with prayer and those that began with a gambling hope.

Crumbled, still holding.