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Red Willow Spirit: The Glow of Golden Spirits

After days of snow and storm, the sun reappeared yesterday. This is the season when, according to the cosmologies of some traditional cultures, that orb is at its weakest — the time when humanity must help it make its daily journey by singing or praying it across the sky.

Today, as dawn breaks, three ravens fly through a pale golden glow arising over the southeastern horizon. It’s a clear and brittle sky, in stark contrast to the smoky inversion layer that hovers over the earth a few clicks of the compass to the south-southwest. Part of that gray haze is the ordinary fog from fireplaces and woodstoves that clings to the low-lying town every winter’s morning; part of it, much closer to us, is the remnant smoke of a house fire yesterday evening a scant mile down the road.

After Sunday’s events, the world stretches out before us, neither smoky nor foggy, but gray and bleak all the same. When our little golden girl, a small rescued dog, still half-feral, who found her way to us near a year ago, was taken from us in an instant, the light went out upon our world.

Here at Red Willow, the light itself is alive, an animating force and elemental spirit: a spectrum of fire that ranges from silver to scarlet and all points in between, against a background glow of indigo and violet, iron and jet. Gold, amber, russet, crimson — these, too, are the colors of the light.

Our girl embodied them, golden coat and amber eyes and a spirit as pure and bright as the sun itself.

Wings captured the image above six years ago, but it remains largely unchanged: sections of latilla fencing ornamented with dormant vines, a ladder propped up in deep snow, rising into the low coppery light. She rests within their shelter, beneath the wide-spread branches of the giant blue spruce.

And yesterday, as bleak a day as any in memory, we caught a trace of her spirit once more.

January seventh, the day after Epiphany, not a day we celebrate, but a seeming line of demarcation setting the holiday season firmly in the immediate past. It was the day I had planned to take down the Christmas tree. Something on it caught my eye, but in the haze of grief, my brain failed to process its significance. It was not until I climbed the stairs to lean over the banister and remove the upper lights that I realized what it was I was seeing: overnight, brand-new growth on a tree that had been, for all practical purposes, dead a month and more.

Yes, there were new green shoots on the ends of the branches. New tiny branches sprouting from the trunk. New life that had not been there the night before.

It seemed like Coyote’s last gift to us (for that was her name, the little feral Trickster girl who stole our hearts). She had, after all, loved the tree, lying stretched fully out beneath its lit lower branches in the evening, preferring at times to drink out of the tree stand than the dogs’ water bowl, fascinated by the chewable properties of the red towel that formed a makeshift tree skirt.

And so we took a chance. We dug a hole in the frozen earth a yard from her resting place, directly across from the giant blue spruce. We filled it with potting soil left over from summer, stripped the lower branches from the trunk, and planted the tree. It may not take . . . but then again, it might.

We might have a miracle, wrought by a small golden dog with amber eyes.

And when we finished planting it, suddenly, the world seemed less gray and empty. The sun had broken fully through the clouds, and the hollow void in my heart seemed . . . less, somehow. It was as though her spirit, seemingly vanished completely the day before, had found a way to reach us once again.

Now, the sun is fully up and the light washes over the land, its tendrils touching her resting place and the tree newly alongside it. The world seems alive in the glow of golden spirits. One of the most powerful belongs to her.

~ Aji








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