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A Winter Earth Rising

Our small world here has changed dramatically overnight. Sunny highs into the sixties have given way to skies of pewter and lead, clouds heavy with the snow that will arrive tonight. The winds of the last several days have turned most of the trees to skeletons, their branches now bare bones reaching for remnant warmth and light.

The ground, too, is mostly bare now, save for a temporary carpet of dried and curling leaves. Autumn feels mostly absent, leaving behind a world of antler and bone, of hard cold metal unbejeweled. It is a winter earth rising to meet another year’s end, to prevail over and transcend it, too.

This is the time of bear and turtle, who set the example for us of slowing down and living quietly within our bodies’ means; the months of the horse, for whom the cold brings the joy of the race and the dance. It is the season, too of the elk and buffalo, the winter spirits, those who not only teach us how to survive the cold but give us the tools of food and warmth and shelter with which to do so.

And it is the season of the earth reborn.

Today’s featured work embodies two of these spirits, and all they represent: Buffalo as medicine and shield both; Turtle reflecting the Morning Star on the skeleton of her shell and the world on her back. From its description in the relevant section of the Bracelets Gallery here on the site:

Earth Rising Cuff Bracelet

It is a time of elemental change, Earth rising to link past and present and future in a sacred hoop of protection and survival. Wings links them in more tangible ways with this spectacularly complex cuff, one that fuses one of his very early pieces into a whole new work that honors elemental powers, sacred numbers, and ancient spirits. It begins with a solid sterling silver cuff, scored freehand into eight separate lines, the number of the cardinal and ordinal directions. At either end, a sterling silver overlay in the shape of Grandmother Turtle, she who holds the world on her back, climbs steadily upward. Each turtle is cut, freehand, with a tiny jeweler’s saw, articulated head, legs, and tail each stamped with traditional patterns to form scales and provide texture and dimensionality. Each turtle’s shell is gently scalloped with stampwork around the edge, a Morning Star stretched across the shell’s center. Wings brought old to new and melded them together at the top of the cuff with the addition of one of his very early pieces from his personal collection: a hat pin in the form of a medicine shield that doubles as a medicine wheel, cut freehand and centered by Buffalo’s skull, our Elder Brother of the Earth. The horizontal spokes of the medicine shield are sculpted and stamped in the shape of a ceremonial pipe, eagle feathers suspended at either end. The entire wheel is overlaid onto a backing of hand-hammered sterling silver. Cuff band is 7″ long by roughly 1-1/8″ across; turtle overlays are 1-1/4″ long by 15/16″ across at the widest point; buffalo medicine wheel overlay is 1-7/16″ high by 1-3/8″ across at the widest point (dimensions approximate). Other views shown below.

Sterling silver
$1,900 + shipping, handling, and insurance

This has been, from the moment of its birth, one of my all-time favorites among Wings’s inventory of work. It’s the style and substance, the spirits and symbolism, too, all brought together in a glowing band of precious metal that is much more, and more valuable, than the sum of its parts.

Its stark beauty has always reminded me of this season, when the light is short, the dark long, the cold deep, and the world mostly bare of adornment. It’s a reminder that there is great beauty in nature’s seasonal minimalism, and great power, too.

It’s also a lesson in how we perceive the world around us. Humanity tends to measure everything by its own comfort and convenience, and to assign a value accordingly. Thus, summer becomes an object of desire, and winter one of dread. But our own survival depends upon a healthy cycle of the seasons, and winter, far from being a time of death, is in fact the moment of the world’s rebirth.

Outside the window, the mercury falls; the clouds lower and the sky goes grayer. The snow is not far off now. And on the wind we can hear its song, a lullaby for sleep and birth alike. There is a winter earth rising, waiting to be born.

~ Aji








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