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Red Willow Spirit: To Show Love, to Seek Wisdom, to Live Well In the Light

These are dark days.

Oh, the day is beautiful enough: The sun is shining, the air is warm, the winds mild . . . but the undercurrent that runs through the seasons like a contaminated river will not be ignored. Our world is under siege on multiple fronts, although for our peoples, they all flow from the same invasive original sins.

Now, though, the rest of the world is being forced to notice it.

I’m disinclined to write much about the horrors our own people know so well, whitewashed out of the history books, the public record, and the American mind near whole and entire. For more than half a millennium now, our peoples have been engaged in a simultaneous campaign of resistance and rebuilding, attempting to stanch the genocidal flow so that future generations are not amputated from the culture, all while doing the often harder work of healing, the work of reclamation, reintegration, reconstruction.

That work has been made more difficult than it should be — more difficult yet in the last year and a half than before. We labor too often in an enforced and artificial darkness, cut off from the most basic of resources, exiled, it seems, from the very light itself.

The light is still there; we have to recommit ourselves to finding it.

It’s not enough, of course, just to notice it; we have to put it to use. These days, it’s a concept with newly-practical applications once again.

Here at Red Willow, we live at some 7,500 feet above sea level. That’s the elevation here at the foot of the peaks; venturing up into the mountains themselves will take one far higher. The result is that, while this land is classified as high desert, it’s susceptible to greater seasonal change — and also (normally) to far greater levels of precipitation — than what most envision by the word “desert.” Here, spring, summer, fall, and winter are all their own distinct spirits, or at least usually so. And we are about to enter the rainy season now.

Or so we hope. Last week, the extended forecast predicted rain for us all week long; now, it’s one long column of goose eggs for the next two weeks in the “precipitation” category. The two days of brief rains we were granted a couple of weeks seem all the more valuable now, as we watch the planting season unspool toward its practical end before us.

We have a seemingly limitless supply of brilliant sunlight. What we need more are the colorful lights of the rainbow arcing through banks of dark clouds delivering the rain.

But such opportunities have been in short supply for a while now, and if the existing patterns hold, we can expect them to get much shorter before we are done. Indeed, our winter snows were shorter than the fragment of the rainbow that appeared momentarily to hover in midair between the peaks, along with its shorter, paler companion, before vanishing on the evening breeze. I’m not sure that we can expect the summer rains to last longer than the snows.

But since we do have sunlight in abundance, we have made one drastic change to avail ourselves of its benefits: We designed our home to maximize its passive-solar properties. We also returned to what are here the oldest of ways in its construction: real adobe, the sort that has stood the village houses in good stead for a millennium and more, and whose insulating effects are long-established. Our nights are still cold here, and the adobe holds the warmth in even as it cools the house by a good ten or fifteen degrees during the heat of the day.

Small things. Important things.

But as I said yesterday, light is not enough; it is illumination that matters. Light without wisdom does nothing but render the world blind. We need a visionary world, one that sees clearly and deeply, a line of sight both wide enough to encompass the present and far enough into the future to enable us to build a better world for it.

Just as the storm is always welcome here, sometimes low light enables to see more clearly.

Because sometimes, we need to see with our other senses, with our hearts and our spirits.

Here at Red Willow, the light changes character by the moment. It is a quality both frequently measurable and just as often too subtle for the human mind to perceive, but it is there. And it is in the contrasts that our eyes must and do adjust, enabling us to grasp our world from different perspectives.

Absent the storm or the rainbow, my favorite light is that of the indigo hours: dawn and dusk, when the world may be soft and gently muted, or lit with neon fire. It is also, apparently, a time preferred by certain other spirits, too: messengers, many of them; dreamers and visionaries in their own right who share their insights with us.

Flicker is one, he of the coral-colored feathers and clarity of song. The gift of his tailfeathers we turn into prayer fans; his sharp clear voice brings messages from the land of the spirits. And occasionally, he comes to us at dawn to sit upon the pole and impart whatever wisdom his own dreams have delivered.

Flicker is a spirit of the light, one who glides upon its arc as he travels across the earth. He reminds us that, we, too, are such creatures, though we cannot fly. In this place, we need not ascend to the skies to seek illumination; the spirits send it to earth to light our way.

In this place, it is possible to perceive it, to engage with it, to use it to build a better world. In these dark days, it is a time to watch, to listen, to pray — to show love, to seek wisdom, to live well in the light.

~ Aji

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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