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Friday Feature: A Fragile Green

The last storm has not been quite so eager to leave us, perhaps feeling the pressures of an impending change in the calendar. Yesterday’s clearing became hail-like sleet in the evening, and turned eventually to soft flurries; this morning, the flurries continued in a sparse, spare, almost diffident way. Even now, as the skies clear, the air refuses to warm in the overhead light.

Calendar or no, winter will not loose its grip entirely for some weeks yet. Such spring-like conditions as we are granted are those kernels that produce faith, that give us hope and cause to trust in the promise of the green to come.

And green there is, yes, but it is still a fragile green: blades of grass, slender, solitary, insubstantial. The snow has not even melted yet on much of the ground’s surface, an artifact of chilling winds. For now, a brown earth dominates the landscape, and while it is the same soil that will foster growth, for now, it consists mostly of the kind of ice-cold mud that pulls boots inward, and dreams of warmth with them.

It’s at this season that we most need reminders of what warmer winds will bring. Today’s featured works, not a matched pair but part, so to speak, of a family, work well to help us remember. Each is part of a larger series of works in the specialized style of one of the Pueblo’s featured artisans, but these two embody an essential fertility and femininity combined with even more elemental motifs of the wisdom that accompanies longevity. Both take the form of a grandmother, but each highlights different aspects of the feminine nature of the earth. We begin with the first shown, above, one in which Grandmother sings to the corn that appears on the shawl wrapped around her shoulder (and around the bowl of the cup itself). From its description in the Other Artists:  Pottery gallery here on the site:

Grandmother sings to the corn plants as she works, her head and voice rising from the side of this old-style handle-less mug. Brought forth from the body of this hand-coiled micaceous mug by Jessie Marcus (Taos Pueblo), she wears her hair tied back in the traditional bun, bangs on her forehead. The corn plants she nurtures are incised into the mug’s front. Stands 3.75″ high on figurative side (dimensions approximate).

Micaceous clay
$125 + shipping, handling, and insurance

The first of the Three Sisters, corn is perhaps the most essential of our summer plants, one that fulfills multiple functions the whole year round. Corn is food, decoration, offering, ceremony — child of the earth for children of the earth.

Of course, plants are not the only earth spirits of this place. Others are far more organic yet — Earth herself, in ancient form — sometimes dust, sometimes sand, sometimes slate, sometimes whole mountains as old as time, birthed in their way by the first waters that carved this landscape out of the void, creating a land for the Ancient Ones. The second one, also in the form of a grandmother, pays tribute to the earth that birthed us all, this time in the form of the sacred peaks that stand watch over the village even today. From its description in the same gallery:

Grandmother emerges from within this traditional mug as though from within the mountain etched on its front. Made of traditional micaceous clay by Jessie Marcus (Taos Pueblo), the mug is hand-coiled, the side merging into the woman’s blanket, wrapped around her figure arising from one edge. An image of the old village, sacred peaks in the background, is incised on the exterior. Mug stands 3.75″ high on the figurative side (dimensions approximate).

Micaceous clay
$125 + shipping, handling, and insurance

This work brings together ancient and modern in a place where even “modern” has seen the passage of a millennium and more. The peaks themselves, newly crowned again with white, are nonetheless evergreen year-round upon their slopes, as though Mother Earth has wrapped herself in a shawl of eternal pine and fir. Before long, there will be other, brighter shades to join them: the spring shades of the aspen leaves, the summery emerald of the grassy lower meadows.

For this day, faith comes hard; the wind carries a scalpel’s edge and the calendar feels like a cruel cosmic joke. But even in the bitter air, a fragile green persists, and soon enough, the warmer winds will join an earth made lush with spring.

~ Aji








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