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Monday Photo Meditation: Love In the Shadows of Iron and Dust

Horseshoe Heart Resized

Love lives in the unlikeliest of places.

We abjure shadows and soil, dirt and dust, but there is beauty in hard work and honest sweat. This time of year, we are given plenty of opportunity for them all.

Much of the weekend was spent building an enclosure for two half-feral puppies, newly spayed, the better to protect them from the immediate dangers of their own kind’s brand of love. It involved metal and wire and word, labor in the teeth of the winds and the heat of the sun until our faces and clothes were coated with dust. But the work is done, and the dogs are safe.

Most of the work around here, the day-to-day labor, involves exposure to and engagement with the elements. Earth, air, fire, water, in differing degrees and dimensions, sometimes pure archetype and others, distillation and transformation synthesized by human hands. It is more true at this time than any other, these late days of spring rolling slowly, inexorably into summer, like a derelict handcar drifting across the tracks of the oldest Iron Horse. Now, we dig and burn, water and till, turn and cultivate, build and mend, trim and tend.

This is the season less of renewal — this world, often all, has already rebirthed itself once again — than of rehabilitating the old structures that hold it in place, the old robes that attire it and the shoes that protect its feet.

At the same time, we rehabilitate our hearts and spirits.

Winter here is long and hard, even in the midst of such a drought as we have now. Spring in this place is often less a season unto itself than a series of increasingly protracted last gasps of the cold spirits, spinning themselves out in a fury of wind in their futile annual effort to live just one more day. By the time summer actually arrives, we are all exhausted, humans, animals, plants, the very earth itself.

And it is not here yet.

There is much more to do in the days and weeks before Summer, all proper name and capital S, appears like a haughty queen on a green carpet. More digging, more tilling, more trimming and pruning and planting of seeds of various sorts. These will be weeks of blistered hands and sun-browned faces, of muscles stretched to the aching point and sunstroke headaches narrowly avoided beneath the brims of hats. It will be a time of tools made from metal and wood, of shoulders to wheels and backs into the plough, even as the digging now is mostly done at a remove from palm to pick and spade.

It will be a time for resting standing up, for finding shade where it sits and wiping grime from hands and face before returning to labor beneath the sun.

It will be a time to find the love in the labor itself, in the preparation of the soil and the planting of the seeds and the nurturing of what is now still more hope than promise, more dream than existence.

Because love is there: It’s why we do these things, year after year, come late blizzard or early drought. With what we build and grow, we feed ourselves, each other, the land, the ancestors. For all these reasons, we build and repair, with earth and iron and wood, in wind and sun and shadow.

And occasionally, we look down at our work, and we see something else: that love made manifest upon the land itself. In the dirt and the grime and the gale-force winds, the signs are there, symbols of love in the shadows of iron and dust, love alive in the green that stubbornly, insistently flanks the tracks of the old Iron Horse now turned hard black ribbon, alive in the green that extends above the dusty verge up into the mountains where it still feeds the buffalo.

And sometimes, Wings captures its image, its very self, and he sends it to me with his own message of love, and I remember why we do this.

We remember who we are.

~ Aji








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