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Red Willow Spirit: The Fire In the Light

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Our small world here has finally gotten down to the business of winter.

In this place, it means snow high and dry, fine powder that melts beneath a noonday sun just enough to turn hard and crunchy before dark. It means surfaces slick and shiny, blind eyes and sliding soles. It means that trickster thief we call the air, stealing your breath to drive its own wind ever onward, through the steep passes between the peaks and on over the plains to the east to roil and roll and gather up the snow for a new storm elsewhere.

It means the fire in the light.

Here at Red Willow, the light is a spirit, a physical being, a tangible thing. It comes and goes in many guises, sometimes several at once, an ethereal dancer of the seven veils, a literal Janus whose faces trade dawn and dusk at whim or will.

It helps, of course, to have an architecture of place, one rooted solidly in the earth that rises insistently into the light. They were the first skyscrapers of this land — earth built upon earth, brick upon brick, until a roof of sufficient height permitted those charged with the task to ascend to call back the light.

And that is no small task here, not at this elevation and extremes of weather and climate. All across this land mass, various peoples’ histories tell of a sun stronger in summer, weaker in winter, an orb that needs our help, and our prayers, to make its journey across a colder sky. It’s easy to believe here, too: One need only watch Father Sun’s herculean effort, in the indigo hours of an icy winter’s dawn, to transcend the ridgeline of the peaks to know that the day will be short and cold, sun wan and wind scalpel-sharp. In the too-brief hours between rise and set, his unobstructed path will end in a low bust of light behind the line of lesser peaks.

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But the fire in the light turns the world to silhouette, transforms simple ladders first to spangled steps and then to cinders, as though the snow itself rises to engulf them in the dark. It doesn’t, of course; the white blanket remains spread, still and silent, over the body of the earth, there to catch what sound is foolhardy enough to emerge, hold it, wrap it in a muffler made of a million million tiny diamond flakes that turn to gold in the waning light.

And the walls and ladders stand firm in the cold twilight air: strong, silent, steadfast. They will stand as long as we leave them in place, save that rare spring wind capable of picking them up and hurling them here and there with the randomness of a child’s whim or a trickster spirit. Golden pine will eventually weather to pewter, lashes weakening, rungs splintering. For now, though, they still stand, blackened by the fire in the light.

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Eventually, neither wall nor ladder will be visible, their light-limned forms now hidden by the gathering dark. And yet, the light remains — sunset and afterglow, a fire in the sky that outlasts the rise of the early stars, that stubbornly shares space with a nascent moon. Both will still be there, of course, if hidden in the shadow of night. But in the waning moments of the January twilight, only the tips of the tallest tree limbs appear in silhouette, bare and skeletal arms reaching one last time for the fire in the light.

On this day, a crescent moon will appear before the sun is fully at rest. Her light will be so bright, so cold and fierce, that it will show the dark side of her profile, edges clearly visible against a darker sky. They say her light comes from her husband, the sun with whom she trades places at night, a pale reflected glow of his furious red fire. Perhaps it’s true, but I prefer to think of her light as her own; whence it comes matters less than that it falls upon her face, is absorbed and held and sent back out into the cosmos by her own design.

Occasionally, in the indigo hours of the dawn, her own light takes on her husband’s reddish hue. Most often, though, hers is the cold fire, his the open flame. And on this night, as the silver turns to gold and thence to molten copper, we will sleep secure in the knowledge that midnight blues will give way again, at dawn, to the welcoming warmth of the fire in the light.

~ Aji










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error: All content copyright Wings & Aji; all rights reserved. Copying or any other use prohibited without the express written consent of the owners.