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Monday Photo Meditation: From the Earth

Summer — the official start of the season — is now just under three days off. Three days to a shortening of the light.

How odd, the way we humans classify things (or at last how the dominant culture does it, frantically sorting and labeling and categorizing and pigeonholing): The first day of summer, the season of the long light, is the same day in which the light again begins to die.

None of it has anything to do with death, nor even precisely with length, of course. No, the solstice is all about the angles.

At 4:07 AM local time on Thursday, the angle, or degree, of the earth’s tilt upon its axis during its rotation will put it closer to the sun (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere) than at any other point during the year. The sun will appear to be more directly overhead, and its light will last longer on that day than any other.

It will be a day of high illumination and long shadows, but for us, what matters is their effect upon the earth.

We mean that in a very literal sense, too: not merely the global concern for relative stability in the seasons, ensured by axial tilt and orbit, but for us, here in this place, what summer means for the very earth upon which we walk.

For our lives are measured, in large part, by the earth’s moods and phases and stages, by the richness and texture of the soil, by the degree to which it is ready to use the season’s water and its light. Our planting season is foreshortened now, a casualty of climate change, and in this drought, neither growth nor harvest is assured.

In the village, too, this is a time to focus on the earth, in a way very different but no less personal. This is the start of mudding season, the time when the thousand-year-old homes undergo exterior repairs. It is a time to build and rebuild, to bring forth structure from the earth, to turn sandy clay to mud, thence to adobe, thence to brick and mortar, and finally, to walls.

As the green of new and renewed plant life emerges from the soil, so, too, do renewed facades and flanges, the roofs and walls and cornerstones of the most ancient of homes. They dance together in the lengthened light of summer, the one birthing shadows upon the other, both transformed into something unearthly, something extraordinary, by the magic of the light.

Across Turtle Island, our peoples have innumerable origin stories: some were lowered from the heavens; some came from the stars; some arose out of the waters; some emerged from the earth itself. Regardless of our first ancestors’ origins, we all share one quality in common: a braiding of our spirits, eternal and unbreakable, with the earth of our ancestral lands. For some of us, that braid has been forced to grow in length, much like the light, to cast a shadow upon other lands: Whether through collective or individual removal, by way of the reservation system and/or personal assimilation/urbanization, many of us are now linked to our own lands through an attenuated braid, one that has grown to encompass the land upon which we now walk as a direct link to those of our origins.

Beneath the surface, it’s all unbroken.

As we count down the few remaining days of lengthening light for this year, as we move into the deeper heat (and, we hope, the rains) of summer, we return to first things, to the land, to our collective Mother.

Because we are from the earth.

~ Aji







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