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Red Willow Spirit: Beckoning Sky

Montana may lay claim to the proper name, but as a descriptor, this land has always been big sky country.

Here at Red Willow, the heavens are a vast blue vault, a bright cornflower expanse spread out over peaks and valley alike, its sheer scale dwarfing everything beneath it. More days than not, the blue reigns, although its color shifts all day long. But among the blues drift other colors, and other spirits, too.

Right now, our skies are not this shade of lazuli meadow flowers; they’re more that color that used to be called “baby blue,” bleached pale by the midsummer heat. Unlike yesterday evening, the gray of the wildfire smoke is gone, a gift of shifted winds, but white clouds are busy self-building their towers all around the horizon. By afternoon, though, some of the blues will begin to darken again, and a gray of a different sort will put in an appearance, even if it amounts to nothing on the ground.

Here, the sky holds altered/altared status: home of sun and moon and stars, host of the turquoise hie that is proof against evil, that which births both the jewel of the rain and the gem called the Skystone.

We climb ladders to the roof;  not quite to the heavens, but it seems that we can touch them anyway. Here, the earth rises around us in the form of shelter, adobe walls of ancient construction; even when, as in our home, the clay is new, the methods and skills are as old as this place. Upon them, it is possible to do that which has not been granted to our kind: to stand between earth and sky, feet firmly planted on red-brown clay even as we reach upward to the azure expanse.

We put the blues around our windows, paint them on our doors, beckoning sky to protect the places where we dwell, that evil may be confined outside the walls, constrained from entering to do its work.

We build arbors and fences with the same latillas that form our ladders, the anchor posts stretching impossibly high, as though they have the power to pierce the clouds and send the rain cascading earthward.

And beyond the walls, beyond the arbors, beyond the rooflines and the posts lie the mountains, their peaks high enough to beckon sky in literal terms, wrapping shadow and cloud alike around themselves like a shawl made of rain. At their elevation, our prayers are still answered, if with less frequency and regularity than in years past: The rains still fall, and perhaps it will be enough to send a little down the ditches in our direction.

Today, the blues are too pale, the clouds too white and distant; we are unlikely to see much, if any, precipitation from their kind. Tomorrow’s forecast, should it hold, is more promising.

For now, we make our prayers and our offerings, supplications and invitations, a process of beckoning sky.

~ Aji






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