This memoir is the true story about the life of a young Anglo woman, Erica Elliott, who comes to the Navajo Reservation in 1971 as a newly minted schoolteacher, knowing nothing about her students or their culture. After several blunders and misunderstandings, and beset by loneliness and despair, Erica makes a determined effort to overcome the barriers of language and culture. From the moment she begins learning the Navajo language, the people open their hearts and homes to her, inviting her into a world that will profoundly impact the rest of her life.
Erica falls in love with her Navajo students—along with their enchanting land, healing ceremonies, and rich traditions. She witnesses many miracles during this time, and experiences her own miracle when the elders pray for her healing. She survives fearsome encounters with a mountain lion and a shapeshifting “skin walker.” She learns how to herd and butcher sheep, make fry bread, weave traditional rugs, and more.
Years later, Erica returns to serve the Navajo people as a medical doctor in an underserved clinic, performing emergency procedures and delivering babies. When a medicine man offers to thank her with a ceremony, more miracles unfold.
Erica Elliott is a medical doctor with a busy private practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A true adventurer, she has lived and worked around the world. She served as a teacher for Indigenous children on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and in the mountains of Ecuador. She taught rock climbing and mountaineering for Outward Bound and led an all-women's expedition to the top of Denali in Alaska. In 1993, Erica helped found The Commons, a cohousing community in Santa Fe. She raised her son Barrett in this safe and happy environment. Known as the "Health Detective," she treats mysterious and difficult-to-diagnose illnesses at her clinic within The Commons. Erica is also a public speaker and has given workshops at various venues, including Esalen and Omega Institute. She is co-author of Prescriptions for a Healthy House. She blogs about medical insights and stories from her life at www.musingsmemoirandmedicine.com.
"Dr. Erica Elliott's account of her life among the Navajo people is a story of high adventure that surpasses the wildest fiction. Elliott's willingness to transcend her cultural conditioning and enter another complex society is an act of great courage, and reveals her boundless empathy and compassion. This book is sorely needed at this moment in America, when divisive voices incessantly warn us of the other, the foreigner, those who 'are not like us.' Mystery and Medicine in the High Desert: My Life Among the Navajo People reveals how diversity, inclusiveness, and tolerance can enrich our own society, which is a lesson on which our future may depend"--Larry Dossey, MD, author of One Mind: How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters
"What a wonderful book! Elliott's voice mesmerized me. For weeks after, I thought about her time with the Navajos. Such an inspiring, life-affirming, yet tough tale, woven through with a strong drive to realize one's life path. Beautifully written. Elliott is an exciting new voice."--Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones and Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home
"Erica Elliott writes fearlessly with an original voice that grabbed me from the first page. Her true adventures on the Navajo Nation as a teacher, a shepherd, an emergency room doctor, and best of all, an open-hearted student immersed in a spiritually rich culture, make a great story. She leaves the reader with something to ponder: The abiding importance of reaching out to others with joy and respect. I love this book."--Anne Hillerman, author of the NY Times bestselling Leaphorn/Chee/Manuelito mystery series
"This is a powerful and personal book that is about courage and compassion. Reading it, one is drawn into the web of Dr. Elliott's extraordinary life of service and learning with the Navajo of the American Southwest. We are fortunate to be able to accompany her on her remarkable journey."--Rev. Joan Jiko Halifax, Abbot, Upaya Zen Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico and author of Standing at the Edge
More info about the book and author can be found at www.medicineandmiraclesinthehighdesert.com