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Friday Feature: Open to Transformation

Olivia Martinez Mini Pots 2

Metamorphosis is a cycle, a circle — in generational terms, no longer any definitive beginning, and no foreseeable end. In that respect, it is like our own existence, our traditions and beliefs and ways of understanding our world and our role in it: a sacred hoop, eternal and unbroken, connecting us forever both with the ancestors, and with the generations yet unborn.

And yet, we, like the caterpillar and butterfly, walk two hoops: our own individual hoop, from the emergence of birth to emergence of a very different sort, into the spirit world; and that small arc of the larger circle of being that is our own, one part of the hoop of our peoples’ entire existence. We all play a role not only in our own lives, but in a larger collective identity, a communal way and fact of being.

And within both, we walk a path only partially set for us. Oh, there are the usual markers of birth and death, flanking rites and stages large and small: coming of age; passage into adulthood; for many, marriage and children and eventual elderhood. But along the way, we are offered choices to make and new roads to take, and what we do at those pivotal moments alters not only our own lives but the lives of those around us.

Those moments are often forbidding, even frightening.

The butterfly knows: It knows the time to emerge from its cocoon, that it is its time to do so, that it must do so — ad yet, how hard must it be, how terrifying, to leave the warm enclosed safety of the chrysalis for the unknown dangers of the outside world?

It’s a bit like human birth. And, no doubt, death. And also like all those many intermediary stages, a roiling mix of obstacle and opportunity that requires action of us, even if that action exists as a negative, in refusing to take it.

On this last day of June (and the last day of this blog’s third year of existence; it enters the first day of its fourth year tomorrow), we have come, in a sense, full circle. We close out this feature for this month with works from the same artist with whom we began it. And these two works, as small and unassuming as miniatures are, prove to be unusually apt for the week’s themes of metamorphosis, of change, of transformation, and of the power of small things. From their description in the Other Artists:  Pottery gallery here on the site, excerpted from a narrative that describes the larger group of miniatures as a whole:

All are fashioned in the traditional way from the Pueblo’s iconic micaceous clay: The tiny pots, bowls, and ollas are all hand-coiled in the same manner as full-sized pieces, their only ornamentation the glimmer of the native mica, and fired to varying finishes. . . ($30 each). Fluted plate is 1″ high by 3″ across; bowl is 1″ high by 2.25″ across (dimensions approximate).

Both of these works in miniature are by Taos Pueblo potter Olivia Martinez, the same artist who created the full-sized pieces featured here on the first Friday of June. Those were, in a sense, transformative works also: wedding vases, signifying the union of two beings, two spirits, one from two and one that is two.

These are different — and yet, there is commonality, too.

These two works seem to me to be of a piece in their own way, an unmatched pair that nevertheless belong together. Indeed, they remind me of the difference between caterpillar and butterfly: the one on the right, the plain simple pot, a tiny bowl with high sides and edges turned inward upon itself, closed to adornment of any sort; the one on the left, an example of what happens when that which is closed becomes open to transformation, spreading petals wide like outstretched arms to embrace the world and its possibilities . . . and thereby to become more complex, and more complexly beautiful.

There is great power in small things, and this, too, is the lesson of both caterpillar and butterfly. In this instance, it’s a lesson for us larger beings, as well: Not all of the path is set before us. As we traverse it, we may remain closed safely off to the world . . . or we may take the risk of emergence, of opening up and opening ourselves to the world and all it offers, to new possibilities and paths, to an existence of flowing and graceful beauty.

It’s a lesson not only for existence, but also for resistance.

The world is full of possibilities, large and small, of only we permit ourselves to be open to transformation.

~ Aji




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