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Red Willow Spirit: Rain, Work, Result

After days upon days of stormclouds bearing a promise of rain mostly unfulfilled, today has dawned utterly clear and blue. Now, at midday, the thunderheads should be building, preparatory to moving overhead, but there is not a single, solitary cloud in the sky, on any side. It makes for a beautiful day, full of bright sun and a gentle breeze, but it’s not what the land needs this time of year.

At this midpoint of the year, what we need are the elemental extremes of the monsoon season.

This is a land of extremes, harsh and unforgiving of human carelessness and disrespect. Visitors from more temperate regions, or those with more stable and consistent patterns of weather and warmth, often find themselves woefully unprepared for the time here: The mercury can swing fifty degrees in the space of an ordinary day, and what begins with a clear and cloudless sky can turn rapidly into icy flash-flood conditions, only to shift yet again to warmth and light before sunset. Outsider often wonder what it is that makes this place so beloved of those of us who live here, but there is a method to seeming madness of its climatic patterns, a rhythm to our seasons that is simultaneously melody and harmony, prosody and polyphony, an elemental and elevated existence that is both science and art.

After all, it takes a harsh force to penetrate a hardened surface, and such is our earth absent the rains.

Wings captured the image above some years ago, at a time when the weather still permitted us to plant on an ordinary schedule. That has not been the case for at least three years now; drought and unseasonal cold have combined to prevent it. Where once we maintained multiple gardens in a year — one given over entirely to corn, one for other vegetables and fruits and legumes, one for medicinal and other herbs, sometimes even one for a concentrated profusion of wildflowers — now we are lucky to get one small garden into the ground at all. last year, we had none, for where once those small wild rivers of water upon our land were the norm, last year saw virtually no drop of rain at all through the summer months.

Today, though, the water has come — not a lot of it, yet, at least, but some. In a day where rain is an impossibility in terms most literal and absolute, that alone is a gift. It may not be enough to plant in the ordinary way, but it means that the hay in the fields will revive a bit, the grass will stand a little taller, the wildflowers will bloom a little more brightly. It means that, derelict rains notwithstanding, we shall be granted at least a few of the petals of summer that more usually ornament our world.

And that is the name of today’s featured work — name, and identity, too. From its description in the relevant section of the Necklaces Gallery here on the site:

Petals of Summer Necklace

The petals of summer paint a warming world bright and new. Wings evokes the greening world and the gentle pink of the summer wildflowers with this bead necklace, a graduated collection of orbs and nuggets in shades of rose and jade. The strand is anchored at either end by tiny chips of brilliantly translucent peridot, highly polished yet still freeform and wild as the new growth of leaves. Each section leads to a short length of four round beads of green garnet in ethereal shades of gold and green and rose and wine, each small orb aswirl with shimmering inclusions. The garnet flows into textured nuggety lengths of rhodochrosite, lightly polished chips like geometric petals flowering of their own accord. The rhodochrosite beads flank the bold center section of the strand: sixteen perfect round spheres of unakite, small worlds marbled in the green of summer grass and the antique rose of Indian paintbrush. Beads are strung on sturdy but flexible wrapped bead wire and held with sterling silver findings. Strand is 18″ long, excluding findings (dimensions approximate). Designed jointly by Wings and Aji. First in The Beaded Hoop Collection. Coordinates with From Smallest Seeds earrings. Long view shown below.

Bead wire; sterling silver; unakite; rhodochrosite; green garnet; peridot
$375 + shipping, handling, and insurance

The focal beads in this strand, the unakite at the center, were a gift from a friend — more properly described as family, really. Knowing that Wings had expanded his inventory to include the coil bracelets a few years ago, on one visit she brought with her several strands of beads that had been in her family, pieces she would not be wearing but wanted to be put to good use. These were old necklaces, hand-knotted strands of beads featuring expert lapidary work, and among them was the strand of unakite: a form of jasper manifest in a rich mossy green marbled with shades of peach and antique rose. Examine the beads closely, and it’s clear that the lapidary work was done by hand; no two are perfectly identical in size and shape, with all the slight imperfections in texture and surface that ensure their provenance as natural stone and make them particularly valuable in terms both market-based and more sentimental. They are stones of summer, all green grass and rose petals in miniature, wearable form.

And the rains are responsible for their colors here. Even the hardest downpour releases the blade and stalk, leaf and petal from the arid bondage of summer. It is true, of course, that such storms occasionally inflict their own damage, but for the most part, the plant spirits of this place are as hardy as the climate is harsh. They understand each other, these plants and the weather patterns that sustain them. Humanity to learn a thing or two from their relationship — about acceptance, about adaptation, about what it really means to thrive.

Because here, this is how you do it. We thrive not by fighting against the elements, nor by complaining that they are not something else, but by working with them in concert to keep the land healthy and whole. Yes, I know the old joke about having nothing to talk about if we didn’t have the weather to serve as the basis for complaint, but the fact of the matter is that these days, we have brought it upon ourselves (or, to be entirely accurate, colonial culture has inflicted it upon us all). These are new and different extremes, and we who have adjusted and adapted ourselves to the former patterns now perforce must evolve again to meet changed forces and conditions.

Even so, it’s eminently doable . . . for the moment, at least. It requires us to alter our own behavior, to work not merely harder but differently now, but some truths still hold. The green that blankets the land today, and the flowers, too, all rise from smallest seeds, and the same is true of the fruits of our own labors.

It’s a commitment that finds expression in the earrings that coordinate with the necklace featured above, by name and by the spirit infused within them. From their description in the relevant section of the Earrings Gallery:

From Smallest Seeds Earrings

From smallest seeds grow the leaves and petals of summer. Wings combines seeds and blades and blossoms alike in this small stream of pink and green. Each drop is strung on sterling silver wire and anchored by sterling silver earring wires. At the top is a length of four brilliant peridot chips, tiny nuggets like little leaves, followed by a single round translucent green garnet, traced with golden yellow and coppery red inclusions. Beneath the garnet hang eight chip-like nuggets of rhodochrosite, each an antique rose banded and matrixed with bits of white and brown. At the bottom of each earring rests a single large round orb of unakite, shades of peach and pink like wildflower petals marbled with the rich green of the summer grass. Earrings hang 2″ long, excluding wires (dimensions approximate). Designed jointly by Wings and Aji. Part of The Standing Stones Collection. Coordinates with Petals of Summer necklace.

Sterling silver; unakite; rhodochrosite; green garnet; peridot
$155 + shipping, handling, and insurance

The design of these earrings strikes me as a useful guide for our own growth, as well. They begin with the tiniest of green chips, seeds, yes, but nothing that could properly be called so much as a leaf, and certainly not a flower. As they grow, they accrete color and mass, shape shifting with the process, a little gold- and rose-colored light filtering into the root ball, then the bright pink asymmetry of new buds. Finally, they flower, petals bright amidst the green of lush and healthy leaves.

And they remind us that it is possible to hang together, unified and unbroken, even in the harshest weather.

Because, inevitably, that weather will come. We here at Red Willow know this better than most. Last year’s drought may have been long and unrelieved during the summer months, but when the storms finally came with any substance, they came with a vengeance. Of course, the one shown above is from years ago, in an ordinary summer, but already the extremes were intensifying, even then: No longer content with a simple cloudburst, the storms that year inflicted ice in the form of hail as temperatures plunged thirty degrees in a matter of minutes; the hailstones stripped green leaves and pink blossoms from trunk and stalk and branch alike, polling them all in a frozen rime of colorful beads at our feet.

In a place such as this, alertness is a must; where weather can change in the blink of an eye or the beat of a bird;’s wing, one must always be ready for the unexpected. But it does no good to fear it, and indeed, a healthy respect is mostly antithetical to fear anyway. Respect for the elements necessarily includes, in its veery definition, preparation — for the unpredictable at least as much as for that which norms tell us to anticipate.

It’s how we live our lives here. To say that we do so in harmony with the natural world is too trite, too facile, too coopted by colonial interests; what we do today involves no more than best efforts, but given the damage done, it will always fall short. Still, we make that effort, knowing that the reward, even in such imperfect circumstances, is worth it. In this context, it means harvest, abundance, prosperity; it also means, in simpler terms, sustenance, shelter, medicine.

And that last is the point of today’s final featured work, name, identity, and spirit together. And it signifies no mere result, nothing automatic here; it is the embodiment of what is possible, if we put in the work. From its description in the relevant section of the Bracelets Gallery:

Medicine Coil Bracelet

We find truth in medicine, from the plants and the animals and more ephemeral spirits. Wings pays tribute to the power of traditional medicine to heal the body and restore harmony to the spirit by way of this coiling, curing circle of color. It begins at either end with the first medicine, water, that which gives and restores and is life itself, as embodied in bold bright blue nuggets of the Skystone, in the form of Sleeping Beauty turquoise. The water flows into the world of healing plants, beginning with wild freeform nuggets of malachite that become round polished malachite orbs. Small spheres of beautifully translucent jade stretch toward the large globes at the center, an expanse of small worlds in the form of unakite, gems manifest in the brilliance of new green aswirl with the red clay of the earth. Memory wire expands and contracts to fit nearly any wrist. Designed jointly by Wings and Aji. part of The Coiled Power Collections.

Memory wire; Sleeping Beauty turquoise; malachite; jade; unakite
$325 + shipping, handling, and insurance

Medicine here is the rain itself — water, the first medicine. It is light, too, and labor, and the plants that result. On a good day, in a good year, there will be abundance at the end of it all.

Tall green stalks of corn arrayed against a blue sky, eventual ears in all the colors of the rainbow — these are the ultimate gifts of summer. None of it comes easy. Rain, work, result: This is the cycle, and when the first is reduced, we must make up for it with the second if we are to reach the third.

The weather is now outside of our control. What we do with it now? That’s on us. So is what we bring out of it at season’s end.

No rain is forecast util this weekend. there’s plenty of work to do in the meantime.

~ Aji








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