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A Season For Earth Spirits

Snow overnight — just a dusting, but driven hard on the horizontal of a harsh end-of-winter wind. A small flurry this morning succeeded it, but now, with a few hours of steady sun, all evidence of the storm is gone.

In its place is a slowly warming earth, and an intangible, barely articulable void, the empty space that seems almost to hold a form and shape of its own. This is normally a season for earth spirits, but our hoof-clan brothers, noticeably absent this winter, have run out of time to venture downslope, before the increased human activity of spring makes such a journey too dangerous.

Most years, the elk come: sometimes only as far as the fenceline, sometimes all the way into the hay barn. Young bulls have been known to brave the risks of encountering us to rub their antlers on the trunks of the aspens right outside the window; the scars are permanent. Sometimes they come because an unduly long harsh winter has reduced their food supply in the mountains to dangerously low levels; other times, drought accomplishes the same ends. But this year, it seems that the combination of a break in the drought and a mercury still too warm for time and place has kept them fed well enough to keep their distance.

It’s good for them, but it has been a noticeable absence in our usual winter days.

Today’s featured work is not, technically, an elk; it’s a reindeer, one of Wings’s bits of whimsy for the winter holidays. Red nose notwithstanding, however, he could very well be a miniature member of our local herd, all bold antlers and stubby-but-fluffy tail. From his description in the Pins Gallery here on the site:

Into the Winter Dawn Pin

Into the winter dawn and its fiery carnelian glow descends a tiny reindeer, ready for rest after a long night’s journey across a frozen earth and sky. Wings calls the a tiny member of the hoof clan into being to continue his ancestor’s tradition of giving via worldwide flight on a winter’s night. Like his famous grandfather, this newest reindeer red nose relies on his red nose to lead the way through the dark wintry night to a safe landing in the nascent light of dawn. Cut freehand from sterling silver, ears, antlers, hooves, and tail are all individually articulated, with sunrise symbols adorning the first and last; tiny wingéd butterflies dance across the tips of his antlers, perhaps the secret to the length and altitude of his flight. A stylized heartline stretches across his upper body, a pair of crescent moons to light the night terminating at either end in sunset and sunrise. His nose is a flame-red round carnelian cabochon, the color of the sun’s fire in the earliest moments of the morning. Reindeer stands 1-5/8″ across at the widest point by 1-3/4″ high at the highest point; cabochon is 3/16″ across (dimensions approximate).

Sterling silver; carnelian
$325 + shipping, handling, and insurance

If the forecast is to be believed, we may not be entirely out of luck yet; the experts predict snow for all of next week. For the moment, though,  bands of gray-white clouds are moving briskly eastward across a cornflower sky; what yesterday was still clearly a brown earth now shows the clearly visible presence of green. The chickens and the crows are all busy in pursuit of their own preferred small earth spirits, and the two half-feral dogs now spend much of their days with their noses down a prairie dog hole.


We don’t see deer down here this close to human habitation, but rare is the winter that the elk do not pay us a visit. Their absence all season has been noticeable, and noticed. They have always seemed to know instinctively that they have sanctuary here, on our land, safe from hunters and other predators.

But at this threshold that straddles winter and spring, this season for earth spirits, perhaps we shall still be granted that one late snow — the one that will induce them to visit before vanishing to the safety of the mountains for another year.

~ Aji








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