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Red Willow Spirit: Worlds In the Air

Into the Light Resized

Air is wind. Air is light. Air is the space between: earth and sky; this world and the world(s) beyond.

There are other worlds in the air, those that exist outside of our perception and reach — most of the time. But every once in a while, the spirits afford us a glimpse, a touch, a visit by way of visions and dreams.

Here at Red Willow, we are fortunate: On many more days than not, the air is clear, the winds brisk, the light intense. In seasons such as this, it carries the storm; at night, the stars, more brilliant and multitudinous than most will ever see. It is given to us to see the moon by day as well as by night; to see the full spectrum of the light; to see the storm and the clearest of indigo skies, often on the same day.

In this place, the air holds our dreams and gives us the gift of vision, it illuminates the path of this world and others that exist only in states both altered and elevated.

In this place, we occasionally get a glimpse of those worlds even in the day.

Sometimes it’s storm and light: Thunderclouds hint at their presence, yet hold them tantalizingly out of reach, bringing them just close enough that it feels as though if we climb a ladder, we can touch the world of the sky, or at least that of the light. And then the light emerges from the clouds, flows together and then just barely apart, creating the lines of the rainbow — an arc of color that allows the tallest latilla to touch it, not near enough to put it in our own hands, but sufficiently close to assure us that it is real.

Sometimes it’s the wind, turning the willows into webs worthy of Grandmother Spider, she who guards the hours of our sleep.

Wind In the Willows Closeup Resized

On some days, the wind spirits come very close indeed, sending the trees horizontal, wrapping our world in a blanket of dust.

Wind In the Willows Resized

The worlds at which such winds hint seem less inviting, even harsh and unforgiving. But a little lower to the ground, their benefit becomes apparent.


She-Wolf and Raven In the Wind Resized

They turn the hay fields into a sea filled with flowing waves of grass, a lush mobile meadow in which smaller spirits find great joy. The winds conceal even as they reveal, able to effectuate opposites at once as the cover the earth in dust and dirt, then wash it all away on a clean stiff breeze.

Then there are the more visible spirits of the skies, the moon and stars. Sometimes, our Grandmother shows her face during the day, although she may play hide and seek with her distant cousins the clouds.


The French have a better word for such days: cache-cache (literally, hidden-hidden, a phrase also used for the children’s game), and it fits our heavens admirably well. Even at the best of times, after all, we are afforded only glimpses of other worlds, but the sky spirits’ propensity for play assures us that such worlds are there.

At night, it’s even more possible to believe, especially when the moon shows her whole face:

Blue Moon 3 Resized

One of the effects of our unusually clear air (except, of course, in wildfire season) is what it does for celestial spirits. As a descriptor, “three-dimensional” doesn’t do it justice; it’s a phenomenon for which science no doubt has labels, but in ordinary language defies description. Objects like the moon are sharper, more clearly defined, and often appear closer as a result. They are sometimes limned in their own coronal glow, trailing wispy veils of clouds, or even so clear as to appear two-dimensional, a flat orb against a blue-black screen.

But they are very, very real.

In our way, Moon is our grandmother, much like Spider: The former protects us by illuminating our way with her glow; the latter, by guarding our dreams with her web. Both are gatekeepers of a sort, spirits that inhabit their own worlds, and the spaces between them, too.

Sunset Tipi

When we make space for sleep, we make space for dreams, and dreams give us entrée, however momentary and temporary, to other worlds, too. In my own tongue, the relationship between sleep and shelter is explicit, and our lexicon speaks specifically of the links between altered states and visionary worlds.

And while we are on the subject of the night spirits, who can forget the stars?


Yes, it’s true that what we colloquially call “shooting stars” are comets or meteorites, but while they are flashy, our crystalline air shows us whole constellations, entire galaxies beyond their arcing path. Here at Red Willow, there are nights when the Milky Way is clearly visible to the naked eye, a bridge of stars across the sky that spirits and ancestors alike have traveled on the way to the other world. The stars, and the communities and continents in which they amass and organize themselves, see their own worlds described with specificity in the old stories . . . and in our immediate perception, too. And in the summer season, so the old stories here say, the people occasionally witnessed those phenomena from far to the north that my own know and welcome explicitly as “Sky Spirits”: the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights.

But the sky villages show themselves in the daytime, too, especially at this time of year.

Elemental Skies Resized

The thunderheads of summer are their own world, their own community, their own elemental Pueblo in the sky. They build themselves, it seems, build and collapse and rebuild, expanding and contracting without fracture, multi-story dwellings in an ethereal architecture, forming towers and parapets and crenellations, doors and windows and portals. In this season, it’s not only possible to believe in worlds in the air: It’s impossible not to believe in them, confronted daily as we are with proof of their existence.

But back to the beginning of this post, and the possibility not merely of perceiving, however distantly, the possibility of other worlds, but of being granted the chance to scale their heights, to touch their light.

We conceive of our world, and our lives in it, as a hoop, but our days are filled with lines: roads and paths and steps and ladders, aids to progress ad obstacles to it simultaneously. But what if the the worlds conspired to give us, just once, a new way of emergence, a ladder to the light?


In this place, such worlds are possible, and so are the paths to reach them.

~ Aji






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