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Earth Armored, Defended, Alive

Every day, we are reminded anew of our charge to protect the Earth — and of the new urgency of that task.

We may not be the primary offenders, nor even at all significant ones, but that obligation still applies to those of us to whom these various lands were given. For a very long time, we were able to treat that charge as ordinary, an everyday thing, but that time is past. The injuries are far too great, far too visible, and they are still ongoing, as pipelines scar the land and corporations drain the freshwater lakes to their own profit, as the seas rise and the fires rage and the earth scorches a little more each day.

We are witnessing not merely climate change itself but its effects in real time, and the results are as damning as they are terrifying.

On this day, our weather remains hot, too hot for what should be the rainy season. August rarely sees the mercury surpass the mid-eighties, and then only in the first half of the day. But where yesterday was relatively clear, today the air hangs heavy and oppressive, gray with smoke from fires near and fire, but not enough gray clouds to relieve either heat or haze.

In a place known for its clarity of air, it has become dangerous to breathe out of doors.

In a story from the lands whence I come (and others, too), this world that was given to the First People at first remained dangerously out of reach, a place in which humans could not survive, there being no land above the waters sufficient to accommodate them. Had it not been for the intervention of a small and humble spirit able to divide her own existence between land and water with equal ease, the ancestors would not have survived. Grandmother Turtle lent them her shell to form their world, and she carries us all, of whatever origin, upon her back on this land mass we call Turtle Island in her honor.

It is not, of course, an origin story of Wings’s people; theirs is very different, specific to these lands and their spirits. But Turtle Island has become a pan-Indigenous name for this land that colonizers call “North America,” and so for all the Native nations of this continent, the story that undergirds the name now connects to us all, and, indeed, connects us all.

And so it should perhaps be no surprise that Wings finds his own work inspired by the image and symbolism of Turtle. These humble beings have their own meanings to the peoples of this region, meanings often rooted in their proximity to water, that most precious of desert resources. But for a traditional artist who himself lives exceptionally close to the land, whose baptismal middle name conferred a personal obligation for its stewardship, the essential, elemental link between this small being and our broader world becomes inescapable now.

That dynamic is reflected in today’s featured work: a piece that embodies earthy protection and the simultaneous need to protect the earth. From its description in the Pins Gallery here on the site:

A Shield For Mother Earth Pin

Grandmother Turtle saved the First People by creating for them a world on her back. Now, it is our turn to protect her with a shield for Mother Earth. Wings summons both into being in the form of a pin — big, bold, earthy, and strong. The turtle is cut, freehand, out of a single piece of sterling silver, with articulated toes and a curving tail. She wears her own spiritual armor by way of her scales and plates, the former formed from a repeating pattern of hand-stamped feather symbols around her neck, legs, and the base of her tail; the latter are created using a motif that symbolizes, simultaneously, the warrior’s arrowhead and the defending shelter of the lodge, all pointing upward and inward toward the center of her back. Atop her shell she wears a shield, a teardrop-shaped overlay of sterling silver adorned with overlapping crescents at the sides and a single butterfly, that emissary of the spirits, at the top. In the center, resting gently in a scalloped bezel, is her shield’s hard protective center, a bit of earth and sky and water combined in a stunning high-domed, freeform oval cabochon of high-grade blue ribbon turquoise, the blue bisecting the warm neutrals of the host rock like a near-opalescent river of rain. The pin stands 2-3/4″ long by 2″ across at the widest point; the cabochon is 15/16″ long by 5/8″ across at the widest point (dimensions approximate).

Sterling silver; high-grade blue ribbon turquoise
$1,225 + shipping, handling, and insurance

Though much of the world fails to realize it, we are at war now: not with the Earth herself, but with what we have created through our abuse and neglect of her. It is not a single battle, nor even a campaign, but the longest, most protracted war this world will have ever seen, a fight not to the death but to avoid it for us all.

And this is our fight. We owe her our protection. She is a warrior, too, but it is up to us to see Earth armored, defended, alive.

We have a long campaign ahead of us. Grandmother Turtle can show us a thing or two about survival.

~ Aji








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