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Friday Feature: As Summer Meets Fall, Earth Meets Water, Air Meets Fire

Micaceous Turtle Flask

These are strange days indeed: one coast drowning in water, the other up in flames; earthquakes from the continent’s southern tip to a land across the sea. Even here, our weather patterns and seasonal trajectories continue to defy all historical precedent, and the wind that circles around us at this moment, sometimes from opposing directions simultaneously, is both eerie and ominous.

Or perhaps not so strange at all, but the inevitable result, as summer meets fall and the winds dance and do battle together, of human mistreatment and mismanagement of that which the earth has given us. Still, there are peoples and cultures who need to be saved now, who need waters and flames alike to recede, to allow the air to clear and the earth to rise again.

Our ways are rife with ancient stories of cataclysm, of apocalyptic events that threatened whole cultures and peoples, and of the ways in which both have been saved, time and again. Some such stories go back to the first days, the days of the void, before the First People were ushered from the netherworld into this plane of existence to take up the stewardship of this world as their home. Such tales were often marked by danger and by fear, both common to the processes of birth and rebirth. Inevitably, the people found or were given a way to survive, often through the direct offices of other beings with whom we share this space and place. And now, in the face of the maelstrom afflicting the world now, a vortex of raw elemental power whose tendrils reach across the land, some carrying the deluge, others the inferno, I cannot help but think that it will be the spirits and these same beings who save the earth once again.

Today’s featured work is one that incorporates those same powers, writ small, true, but no less real for that. To create a piece of pottery, to midwife its beauty into being, requires the cooperation of all four: earth, air, fire, water. With today’s manifestly traditional work, they come together beneath and in the body of on of those beings who saved the First People: Grandmother Turtle, she for whom this land is named because she holds the world on her back. 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

It is a spectacularly simple, beautiful piece: earth mixed with water (and designed, moreover, to hold water), tempered by the fire and strengthened in the air. Its form and shape resemble a small world of its own, a microcosmos, perhaps — one on which our Grandmother walks and swims, she who is a spirit of earth and water simultaneously, and in turn, who carries our own small world in the shell upon her back.

At this unsettled season, a time of elemental fury when summer declines to make way for fall and the winds come crashing together with all the power of storm and fire, it is perhaps a perfect work to remind us that those same forces may be brought together for good, and that the same beings who saved this world before may be the ones to show us how to do it once again. As summer meets fall, earth meets water, air meets fire . . . and as much as they destroy, so, too, may they be used to build.

~ Aji








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