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Red Willow Spirit: A World Awash In Color, and In Light

Rainbow 1 Resized

Yesterday’s photo meditation focused on the rainbow: literal, metaphorical, metaphysical, one not physically present on that day as an arc in the heavens, yet here nonetheless in the sunlit world around us.

The imagery comes from monsoon season, a time only a couple of years past that, here at Red Willow, would have been confined to the summer months. That has changed — while the rainy season is still a product mostly of the warmest months, the weather patterns that drive it have begun to appear intermittently nearly year-round. In other words, we may not get much rain, but the form and shape and track of the clouds now assume a monsoonal identity and flow.

Even in winter.

Now, though, it is spring, the world only now greening up anew. We find ourselves at the mercy of this land’s customary winds, gale forces that bring no storm but dust.

But we also find ourselves in a world awash in color, and in light.

Rainbow 2 Resized

We have had more gray skies this year than in any spring either of us can recall. We have had more rain and snow, too, than in all of the winter just past, at least if one measures by inches fallen and accumulated. This was the driest (and direst, spellcheck notwithstanding) winter in memory, and it does not bode well for the future, near- or long-term.

Climate change, like so many other phenomena, points up the essential poverty of our metaphors. In the dominant culture (and many others, too), say something is dark, and everyone knows instantly that this signals something bad. The same is true of the language of the storm. Dark, night, gray, black, storm, rain, snow, cold . . . all do regular duty as stand-ins for bad experiences.

And yet, here, at least, our most immediate danger is their opposites: too much heat, too much light, too much drought and day; too little rain and snow, too little storm amid the benefits of cooling night. Our small world is burning up, slowly, inexorably, a victim of what scientists have called a 500-year drought. Translated, the phrase means that (since the end of the last century) we are caught up in the worst long-term drought in 500 years, not that the current drought is expected to last that long . . . although given the apocalyptic pace and force of current changes, the latter interpretation is not outside the realm of possibility, either.

Change is not just on the horizon — it is here, fully birthed, fully formed and articulated, and our own impending changes are born (and borne) along with it. Things will get much worse, and in our lifetimes, but they are unlikely to get darker; rather, they will get brighter and lighter, hotter and drier. The shimmer of heat waves will supplant the colorful iridescence of sun dogs and rainbows, washing out the landscape in the sere silver air of the hot high desert.

We will need to take our beauty where we find it.

Rainbow 3 Resized

For the immediate future, of course, there will still be rains, and so there will still be rainbows. They will arc through darkened skies like a bridge from the spirits to us mere earthbound beings, not so much a ladder to facilitate our emergence as the simple touch of more powerful forces, reminding us that they are still here with us.

Our world is changing, and our lives will, too: in some ways, for the worse; in others, simply different. Humans are fundamentally creatures of habit and memory, and the latter shades the former with a facile ease and beauty that the reality never possessed in the first place. But in this place of stark and ever-harsher extremes, there is beauty here even among the ash and dust of drought. There may be no storm clouds on the horizon, no rains and multicolored light, but the indigenous plant life has awakened and begun its own emergence, creating a rainbow upon (and of) the land.

These are early days yet for spring, but already, we inhabit a world awash in color, and in light.

~ Aji







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