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Friday Feature: The Everyday Presence of the Bright Blue Sky


There is very little turquoise to today’s sky; too much gray haze, the smoke of fires insufficiently distant, hangs heavy in the air.

Only a few of the wild birds have decided to brave such conditions: a couple of tiny finches, the occasional blackbird, our magpie regulars, a small number of ravens and crows. Even the larger birds are not happy with it; in recent days, I’ve witnessed both magpies and ravens panting openly in the hazy heat.

Still, their presence, their willingness to brave oppressive heat and toxic air to walk about in what is most assuredly their world, gives me hope.

Experts on such matters speculate that corvids are the smartest of birds, although what they mean, of course, is “smart” in the way that humans tend to measure intelligence among themselves. Wings and I tend to think that it’s less a matter of “smart” and more a matter of human ignorance of what other beings, within the inherent logic of their own existences, are truly capable.

Still, the corvids are a welcome sight here: They were here long before the first humans, after all, and their active presence assures us that, in a world fast turning upside-down from climate change and other human-generated horrors, some things remain stable. In its way, I suppose, it’s the same kind of reassurance a child seeks from a parent . . . or that humans generally tend to seek from more powerful spirits, the sort of comfort we find in the everyday presence of the bright blue sky.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that one of the more powerful kachinas should embody these wingéd ones: Crow Mother, who at Hopi is said to be the mother of the katsinam. And on this last hazy Friday in June, when we can take no comfort in a blue sky, she appears as our featured work to stand in its place. From this work’s description in the Other Artists:  Wall Art gallery here on the site:

Josh Aragon (Hopi/Laguna) is best known for his katsinam, figures carved in the traditional fashion out of a single piece of cottonwood root. Sometimes he puts his carving skills to work in other media, creating carved paintings on wood instead of canvas. In this one, Crow Mother stands within her traditional case mask, wrapped in a blanket accented with ancient symbols. The paints used include natural dyes; the piece stands 7.25″ high by 6.25″ across (dimensions approximate).

Wood; paint
$125 + shipping, handling, and insurance

As I’ve written here before, Crow Mother’s role is said to encompass nurturing, training, and discipline, not only for young spirits but for young humans, as well. Hers is a discipline wielded with love, a maternal, parental instinct to protect, and to ready the young to meet their world with strength and courage, with a well-trained mind and a good heart.

As fires of all sorts burn around us, obscuring the blue of both literal and metaphorical skies, we could do with more such readiness in our world. Now would be a good time to return to the old lessons and traditional ways, ways that would go far to helping us ensure, once again, the everyday presence of bright blue skies overhead.

~ Aji








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