- Hide menu

Messengers and Migratory Paths

The sky is blue this day, though you’d barely know it. You certainly couldn’t call this day clear by any measure, despite the fact that not a single cloud yet dots the sky. For three or four days now, a new wildfire has been burning near El Rito, some small distance west and south of here, and despite the fact that no official entity of colonial government at any level could be bothered with public reporting, we have seen the smoke plume since it started.

Last night, the dark stank of smoke; today, its toxic pall veils everything.

Meanwhile, autumn continues to settle in, contending with the heat of summer’s end. There is no water, no will there be — we are likely condemned to a perfect aridity until the first snow flies, if indeed it does.

Even snow in winter is no sure thing here any longer.

But fall’s arrival brings with it an array of new spirits and bids farewell to those who fly warmer winds. We are seeing, in real time, how their confusion mirrors our own: Is it time to go? To stay? Are the old routes safe, or must we forge a new way forward?

As metaphor, it’s heavy indeed, but the greater jeopardy lies in the fact that none of this is symbolic. Oh, no, this is very, very real.

We can tell the health of the land here by the spirits who inhabit it, flora and fauna alike. The former are suffering heavily now; Wings is trying in vain to keep pace with the rate of die-off on the limbs of the trees, but it’s proving to be a problem superhuman in scale. For every limb he successfully prunes, giving the greater tree a chance at survival, two or three additional smaller ones turn yellow and die in the space of mere days. This is not fall’s turning of the leaves; this is the die-off of a drought delivered directly to our door by the forces of colonialism itself.

The fauna are faring similarly, if less obviously. We have seen only one coyote thus far in this threshold season, sleek and running fast along the south boundary to disappear into the sage and chamisa. We have seen no evidence of bears yet, although we have heard from others that they are abroad six weeks early and more, searching for something to sustain them through the long winter months of sleep. The birds have been forced out of their usual patterns for a year and more now: some here out of season; some staying the year round instead of heading for reliably warmer climes; some failing to appear at all.

And then there are the smaller spirits, our indigenous bees, ever declining in number; the dragonflies, mostly absent in the absence of the water; and the butterflies, beings at once fragile and determined, also declining drastically in number but still here at summer’s end all the same. They seem to be trying to set new patterns for themselves, new rhythms of residence while they plot new ways forward, too.

In that, they have much to teach us about the nature of possibility, and of many roads to reach a destination. We can learn much from, and of, messengers and migratory paths now.

Today’s featured all-new masterwork embodies messenger and message both, manifest in all the potential of many migratory paths for body and spirit both. From its description in the relevant section of the Bracelets Gallery here on the site:

Migratory Paths Cuff Bracelet

Butterflies, small messengers who travel migratory paths, teach us that there are many ways open to us on our journey, and that change can be a gift. With this new and powerful masterwork of multiple silversmithing techniques, Wings has summoned the spirit of Butterfly and the messages she carries upon her wings to show us the dazzling array of paths available and the endless possibilities they hold. The cuff is wrought of heavy, solid sixteen-gauge sterling silver, with a classic wide, hand-cut band; it’s edged with slender borders scored freehand and chased with a repeating diamond motif. In between the borders, more graceful arcs are hand-scored using Wings’s own hand-made stamps; each enclosed space is then stamped freehand in a distinctive repeating pattern of rows and roads, collectively representing hundreds of strikes of the heavy jeweler’s hammer, every path different from the ever other. At the very center of the band’s outer surface sits Butterfly as you’ve never seen her before, cut and stamped entirely freehand, overlaid securely onto the surface with scalloped wings that rise to flutter freely in the space above the band. Her antennae are individually articulated; her head, an old oval cabochon of sky-blue Kingman turquoise; her body formed for four hand-made sunbursts formed of sterling silver ingot. The band is 6″ long by 2.25″ wide; the butterfly overlay is 2″ high from highest to lowest points and 2.25″ across at the widest points; her wings rise 3/8″ above the surface of the band at the highest point; turquoise cabochon is 3/8″ long by 1/4″ across; ingot sunbursts are 1/4″ across (all dimensions approximate). Other views shown below.

Sterling silver; Kingman turquoise
$2,500 + shipping, handling, and insurance

It is an extraordinary work, a phenomenon of traditional Indigenous silversmithing techniques and equally traditional Indigenous imagery.

All of the lines in the broad heavy band are scored freehand; Wings created their graceful arcs using the stamps he made by hand himself. Within each informal pair of lines, no two shaped identically, another path is made plain. Each is different, each formed of its own unique motif or combination thereof: arrows; lodges; loving hearts; radiant sunrises; so many, many more. Each symbol holds its own set of meanings, and lends its own distinctive possibilities, its gifts and medicines, to the path chosen.

And each, all the hundreds of individual stamps that trace the surface of the cuff, vaguely resembles the power and spirit of Butterfly itself: aloft, soraing, capable of forward movement and hovering power, wings spread to navigate the winds ahead.

The butterfly itself is equally dazzling: The antenna are independently articulated; the body consists of its own segmented overlay, four distinctive tiny sunburst conchas, each wrought by hand from sterling silver ingot. And then there is the head — a perfect robin’s-egg in miniature, an old Kingman oval of the Skystone, manifest in the very shade of the late-summer sky itself.

But it is the rest of the silverwork that gives the messenger its message: all the saw-work wrought freehand; all the graceful scalloped edges, as well. More radiant motifs edge the wings on all sides, more medicine symbols, too, and the veining of their inner expanse is accomplished by traditional symbols of water and growth, love and life, the healing of medicine and the shelter of the sacred directions. And like the wings of its real-life counterparts, these wings rise, aflutter, hovering above the band, ready to lead the way.

Wings has created innumerable masterworks over the years, bringing to bear a lifetime of talent and skill and experience and work to do so. But this one strikes me as special in a wholly separate way, animated as it is by both a spirit and a message that the world needs so desperately now. The whole work is medicine: of messengers and migratory paths, of hope in its most essential form and of all the endless possibility that awaits.

~ Aji








All content, including photos and text, are copyright Wings and Aji, 2021; all rights reserved. Nothing herein may used or reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the owner.

Comments are closed.

error: All content copyright Wings & Aji; all rights reserved. Copying or any other use prohibited without the express written consent of the owners.