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Friday Feature: A Lesson as Clear as the Waters

Micaceous Turtle Flask

The water came.

For days, the pond has been as dry as the soil on the land surrounding it. With temperatures hitting ninety, hot high winds, and the smoke of a nearby wildfire settling close upon the land, our small world here has been positively arid. The long-range forecast speaks of drought, a zero-percent chance of rain as far out as the predictions extend. As I noted here yesterday, while this week’s focus in this space on Serpent and the waters that are his to hold (and on his reptilian extended clan) was already long-planned, our words here have transformed into subliminal supplication to his kind for relief: a prayer to bring the waters.

Last night when I walked up to lock the gate, I noticed a trickle of water had entered the main ditch. Not enough, in either speed or volume, to reach the pond or much of the land, but a small flow nonetheless.

On this morning the pond, bone-dry last night, is now half-full of beautiful clear water, grasses and banks and tree roots emerging from it like plates on the shell of Grandmother Turtle.

We have used this Friday series this month to feature the traditional micaceous pottery of other Taos Pueblo artisans, and as with yesterday’s throwback spirit, today we turn to on that summons the spirit of another of the water serpent’s extended clan: the reptile we call Turtle. From its description in the Other Artists:  Pottery gallery here on the site:

This classic water flask was hand-made many years ago by Wings’s sister, Cynthia Bernal Pemberton (Taos Pueblo).  Made of Taos Pueblo’s iconic micaceous clay, the flask is pristine but for the turtle carved in relief on the front.  It hangs from a white deerhide thong. Stands 7.5″ high by 6.5″ across at widest point (dimensions approximate).

Micaceous clay
$325 + shipping, handling, and insurance
Requires special handling; extra shipping charges apply

Given the week’s themes, this work is fitting in other ways, too. Traditional mica pottery is made the old, hand-coiled like Snake’s own body, then smoothed and polished and fired. And in this instance, it’s built for a specific (metaphorical) purpose: to hold water, the same water that is the domain of the Horned Serpent, the same water that sustains all life.

In a very real sense, carrying a flask such as this holds both the water, and the spirit that holds the waters in turn. That it should do so with the aid of she who holds the world on her back, who saved the First People after they emerged from the world beneath the waters that threatened to give them not life, but sure and certain death, only adds to its power.

It’s a work that holds a lesson as clear as the waters themselves: We are clan and culture and community, and we all have a role to play in holding the Earth in safety and harmony.

~ Aji






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