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Monday Photo Meditation: Indian Summer Blues

Boarded Up Bell Tower

It is that time of year again: the season the dominant culture names explicitly for us without the faintest idea why. Many pixels have been expended in guessing, most having to do with pre-autumn/early autumn hunting or other visible presence, but I suspect it’s more basic than that.

Our peoples have always, in the colonial mind, been associated with autumn: with the electric colors of changing leaves and the jewel tones of Indian corn, with the bright blue skies of sunny days and the winds and warm fires of stormy fall nights, with motifs of cornhusks and pumpkins and great pots of speckled dried beans, with buckskin fringe and buffalo robes and beaded moccasins. Why? Because of the artifice taught as fact in the schools and in the national mythos of the so-called “First Thanksgiving.” And so these last days of summer, when the earth’s robes belie the warm winds and sunny skies, become “Indian.”

No matter. We, like many of our fellow Natives, enjoy the notion of a warm and abundant subseason recognized as our own.

And still, for us as much or more as anyone, there are the Indian Summer blues.

For some we know, it’s blues as motif of melancholy: that inarticulable mix of enjoyment and sadness bound up with nostalgia; the recognition that the first few leaves to fall are only the beginning of the avalanche; the recognition that the bright colors of today will be the dull browns and grays and snow-white shades of tomorrows too soon to come.

For us, it’s blues at their most electric: the snap of a clear turquoise sky superseded by the sizzle of a late-day storm; of cornflower heavens reflected in newly-filled pools and ponds, and the last few petals of the cornflowers themselves; of indigo dreams and cobalt visions as the space between worlds opens, just for a moment, at dawn and dusk.

Our blues are the melody of the wind and the harmony of the light, the elemental forces that weather humankind’s hubris until it erodes as surely as the surface of adobe walls and ancient woodwork, until it oxidizes blood-red like the once-silver sheet-metal roofs of churches and bell towers and every other construct that would supplant the cathedral of the Earth herself.

Our blues are the morning air, so clear and sharp it hurts, just barely, to draw a breath; they are the murmur and cry of the storm wind’s song. Our blues are the dawn road westward, the way through the melancholy and the path to other worlds.

Today has been a day of our blues: of clear skies and stormy ones, too, of changing hues and visits from small spirits. In a world far more resilient than sheet metal and wood, far more sacred than the oldest church or grandest cathedral, the Indian Summer blues are a reminder that we inhabit a space of beauty.

~ Aji





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