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Friday Feature: Earthrise By Moonlight

Today’s featured work is one I have always associated with winter, for obvious reasons: not only the work’s name, but the clear cool colors, an earth seemingly blanketed in snow, and the shaggy winter coats of the buffalo themselves.

Now, though, as our world turns beneath a slowly waning moon by night, a hot dry sun by day, the painting’s cool illumination feels welcome even in this season that, for all practical purposes, is already summer.

It is certainly summer wildfire season: A fire broke out about 2:00 PM yesterday some 45 miles east of here, as the crow flies; by evening, it had jumped the highway, and by 6:30 this morning, it had exploded to more than 8,000 acres. A massive Chinook helicopter has been circling overhead off and on all day, ferrying water and fire retardant to the site. Worse, in the middle of old-growth forest that is both a popular tourist attraction and now a perfect tinderbox, the winds have whipped themselves into a frenzy. They are blowing the flames away from us, but everything in its path risks catastrophe.

In this heat and wind and relentless sun, I have no doubt that those battling the blaze could use the cool of night (and not a little of the snow on the ground in the painting).

The earth could use it, too.

And that’s not just here — the earth whole and entire is steadily warming to a dangerous degree. It is our own selfishness and folly that has led her to this pass, of course; now, it will be up to us to solve it if we can, but that is no sure thing any longer.

Apart from the imagery of winter snows and attendant cool temperatures, there are four primary spirits that inhabit this small painting by one of the Pueblo’s masters. From its description in the Other Artists:  Wall Art gallery here on the site:

Winter Buffalo Painting

A herd of buffalo approaches over a snowy horizon in this small painting by Frank Rain Leaf (Taos Pueblo). A full moon rises in the frigid winter sky, reflecting off the icy ground beneath their hooves, while a single golden eagle keeps watch over their path. Unframed; 9-7/8″ high by 7-7/8″ wide (dimensions approximate).

Acrylic on canvas stretched over wood
$225 + shipping, handling, and insurance

If it’s not clear from the description, the spirits are all symbols of wisdom and signifiers of courage and strength of various sorts: Buffalo; Golden Eagle; Grandmother Moon; and Mother Earth herself.

Buffalo teaches us to be steadfast, no matter the conditions. He also provides us with everything we need to survive: food, shelter, clothing, medicine. Golden Eagle, sometimes called the War Eagle, is the largest of our raptors and one of the fiercest, one who flies vanguard in any battle, shoring up our courage even as he shares strategic wisdom with us. The qualities of both of these spirits will be much in demand for those engaged in the immediate battle of the day, and for all the rest of us in the much longer, harder fight to save our world.

The other two spirits are a bit different: less closely related to us than the animal spirits, older and far more powerful. Grandmother Moon brings us wisdom in the hard times, illumination in the dark hours. Mother Earth, though . . . Earth, even wounded as she now is, has much to teach us about survival, about tenacity, about strength, about bravery against even the longest of odds. Frank’s depiction is of earthrise by moonlight, a world that turns inexorably in the light and dark, summer and winter, fire and ice.

It will require the same bravery and strength and tenacity of us to ensure her survival, and our own.

~ Aji








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