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Spirits of Shelter and Path Surround Us

I speak regularly of the great gifts of autumn here, of the [usually] perfect clarity of the air and the otherworldly light. What’s perhaps less obvious to those not from here is the magic and medicine that are made when the two combine.

The light here is always a wonder, but it varies substantially with the seasons, the weather, and the time of day. It’s always beautiful; the question is merely one of what form it will take. But it is undeniably at its best in fall, when the clear air at this elevation lend it an ethereal quality found at no other time.

The autumn light is beautiful at sunset, but in truth that’s the least of it; the clear skies make for a flawless gradient of color with green at the midline, and for the early visibility of stars etched sharply against the not-quite-fallen night, but the fact of the matter is that as sunsets go here, it’s rather plain. The true phenomenon that is the fall light occurs at dawn, when the clouds that have moved in to blanket the peaks overnight are just lifting, stretching, reaching for distant skies before drifting away upon the chill morning air.

And from the spot where we leave, the autumn sunrise gives us a gift not found at any other season, its angle perfect to set the ridgelines alight: No thunderhead trail of summer, this; in fall, this is the light road.

The former is the name of today’s featured work, but in truth, the latter would fit it just as well. We are situated in a place where both storms and light surround us in all directions, spirits of shelter and path simultaneously. This piece captures them all in its own hand-forged valley, a microcosm of the one in this land that keeps us safe and well. From its description in the Rings Gallery here on the site:

Thunderhead Trail Ring

The foundation of traditional cultures exists in the stories and lessons found in ancient symbols and patterns.  Stories writ small carry large symbolism, like the thunderhead:  A sign of rain, water in the desert, it can represent fertility, abundance, prosperity, harmony, well-being, and a host of other virtues and blessings, all entwined and interconnected.  It can also represent power at its wildest and most fierce. Here, the stories play out in matched thunderheads that form a trail of power and balance, centered amid the gently sloping sides of the anticlastic band. A random scattering of stars lights the trail of the inner band; the finger-cuff design keeps it fully adjustable.

Sterling silver
$255 + shipping, handling, and insurance

The thunderhead motif is one that has always informed Wings’s work — unsurprising, perhaps, in a place water is not merely life but breath and love and the first of all the medicines, the gift that keeps our small world alive, and us with it. But one of the distinctive features of his work with this symbol is his penchant for joining it to another, two such motifs arrayed together, touching at their open bases, to evoke a space of the sacred: safe within both cardinal directions and ordinal points, safe at the center of any storm . . . and with spokes beckoning us to venture outside, to continue onward on the path that the spirits have set for us.

In our way, we talk of the Red Road (and non-Natives tend to insist that it has only one very particular meaning, and they could not be more wrong; I can think of at least three discrete uses of the phrase that span cultures and traditions and circumstances, but they always apply, only and forever, to Indigenous people; it is not a path white people can walk, and they need to stop coopting the language). The “red,” of course, refers to the reclamation of the misnomer visited upon our peoples by colonial invaders, a descriptor that we turned inside-out and made wholly our own by both meaning and use. But the road itself, in any of the phrase’s meanings, is in fact a reference to the way of illumination, of wisdom, of, as my people would put it, going well through life or a life lived well — in short, the light road.

It becomes, sometimes, the thunderhead trail, it becomes a passage of storm and snow, at times it’s beset by heat and cold and wind and darkness and obstacles of more human origin. But like the ring, like its form and shape and pattern remind us, the spirits of shelter and path surround us and remain with us along the way. We need only commit to the journey.

~ Aji








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