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Red Willow Spirit: Spirits Rising, Of the Water and In the Light

The forecast this morning was for clouds, and we have a few: not the kind to give us the fiery dawn of yesterday, but enough to make the light of the rising sun seem mysterious and frankly otherworldly. It’s nothing like those of the images above and below, either, but we’ll take what we can get.

After weeks of too-high temperatures and months of no precipitation, nor any in the forecast, the predictions have changed suddenly this morning. There is now a better than decent chance of rain or snow on Sunday evening, and even more on Monday. No, it’s not today, but it still feels like a gift to me all the same. It’s certainly answered prayers, especially with a fire raging and still utterly uncontained just over the southern ridgeline.

I said here yesterday that that day’s photos would be of a piece with today’s: the panoramic shot then; that same perspective broken up into two closer views now. It’s the same series that I post every year at this time, because their essential autumnal beauty and mystery have always felt like a gift to me, one that weds the colorful, stormy beauty of fall in the homelands of my birth to the stark seasonal scapes and the medicine of the light animating the lands that are my home now.

As I also said yesterday, this series, too, is a reminder of better times, before anthropogenic climate change caught us in its death grip, wringing every last ounce of water from land and sky and leaving us to weather into ash and bone beneath the glare. It was a time when October snows were still common and fog visited us semi-regularly at this time of year, a time of gradually-turning gradients of fiery color punctuated by the beauty of the storm. We talk of this time as the season when the spirits walk, but in truth, here at Red Willow, it was once a time of spirits rising, of the water and in light.

I always use this day to feature personal favorites, witness my annual selection of imagery for this week year after year. And today’s featured work of wearable is certainly that, one I have coveted since its creation. But more than that, it’s the perfect piece for themes of day and week, one of a piece with the photos that preceded and follow it. It’s a pair of earrings that embody ascension literally, the water and the light as well — a pair of wholly Indigenous spirits that rise, like the fog, that are of the water and seek the light. From their description in the Earrings Gallery here on the site:

Ascension Earrings

The Water Bird is a figure simultaneously sacred and a part of our ordinary lives, one whose spirit has long appeared in Wings’s personal tradition and one that he has also long infused into his work. These representations of this powerful wingéd being seem to belong wholly to the winter season, feathered spirits able to transcend the snow and ice and early dark, capable of ascension to the light. Cut freehand of sterling silver, each is wrought in classic symbolic shape, head pointing upward, wings arched, tailfeathers spread. A pair of hand-stamped crescents placed back to back give form and shape to the head and hint at otherworldly vision; a single arrowhead point defines the tail. Body feathers are represented by a trio of longer points, while hand-chiseled lines form the upper tailfeathers. Long, elegantly rayed mountain motifs are spread gently atop the wings, articulating the layers of covert wing feathers. at the heart of each water bird rests a fabulously adularescent oval cabochon of rainbow moonstone, perfectly translucent and refracting rays of cobalt blue, as thought each water bird carries with it the light of pure illumination as it ascends to the place where the spirits dwell. Small silver jump rings hold them securely to sterling silver wires. Earrings hang 2″ long (excluding jump rings and wires) by 1.25″ across at the widest point; moonstone cabochons are 1/2″ long by 3/8″ across at the widest point (dimensions approximate).

Sterling silver; rainbow moonstone
$725 + shipping, handling, and insurance

These are spirits that embody the shimmering silver-white of the fog, the blue slate shades of the peaks their flight path transcends. The rainbow moonstones are unusually refractive with beautiful hints of blue and purple; the silver settings, all cut and stamped entirely freehand, make the colors of the cabochons glow with a subtle cool fire.

It’s the perfect contrast to the hot amber fire of the foliage now, and perhaps that’s one other reason why I love this photo series so much.

It shows the richness of this land in all its glorious contrasts: still plenty of remnant green from summer, but all the fire of fall already spiraling through the trees, the impossible blue of the mountains’ slate and evergreen wrapped in the ghostly white of fog and snow.

Yes, All Souls’ is barely eleven days away now. Yes, this is the start of the season when the spirits walk — in our ways, a season that last throughout the cold, hard, bitter depths of winter.

But it is also a time of spirits rising, of the water and in the light. And as I begin my own new year, their presence gives me hope.

~ Aji








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