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#TBT: The Last Ribbons of Summer, the North Star’s Rise and Fall

North Star Cuff Bracelet

Speaking of ribbons, that’s what the corn is today, or rather, the leaves on each cornstalk: Ribbons. We were hit with a truly massive storm last, one so extreme and intense that the hail it carried froze the air and battered the land, breaking window vents and shredding the corn into ribbons of pale limp green. On a night when much of the country was prepared for the simultaneous rise of the full moon and the Northern lights, our only light was that delivered by the Thunderbirds.

Today, we await more rain, which thus far has amounted only to a few sprinkles, but which holds overhead the promise of another intense storm. This one is less likely to produce last night’s rotation, ice chips, or lightning too close for comfort, but it will no doubt deliver ribbons of rain cascading downward in a silver torrent. Such is summer’s end and autumn’s birth in this place.

Given yesterday’s all new work featured in the space, it put me in mind of a very specific throwback for today: a cuff from about seven years ago that held some similar imagery in a much smaller space. Its name was The North Star, and it embodied the last ribbons of summer, the North Star’s rise and fall.

It was a deceptively simple-looking work, spare and elegant and seemingly without detail. In actuality, it was both layered and complex, not only in substance but in symbolism. As always, the work began with the band.

It was not a particularly large band — long enough to fit either a woman or a man, no more than perhaps three-quarters of an inch across. Wings scored its entire length freehand, with four deep, even lines that separated its surface into five long, flowing silver ribbons, like the waters of the Rio Grande or the monsoonal rains that fill them — and like the rays and ribbons of light from the stars that would find their way atop it.

He then returned to his sheet silver, and cut, freehand, three separate geometric shapes of slightly variable size, each vaguely in the form of a cross. In our way, these symbolize the Four Sacred Directions, a quick and instantly-recognizeable way of alluding to the whole earth, to all that is in the world that surrounds us.

He laid out the “crosses” on his workbench, then took a tiny stamp in the shape of a circle or a sacred hoop, and stamped it firmly in the center one. He then chose a stamp that resembles an ordinary chisel but for one feature: The line it produces narrows from the slightest of flares at one end to a sharp point on the other. It’s perfect for the spokes of a medicine wheel or shield . . . or for a star. In this instance, he stamped this simple shape four times on each “cross,” spokes emanating from the center hoop toward the Four Sacred Directions to produce just such a star.

In our ways, the stars have variable identities, and some hold more than one persona even within a single tradition. The old stories are rife with tales of Star Children (and adults), beings who wished to descend to earth to mingle (and often mate) with humans . . . and with the reverse, humans, often very silly ones, who thought it would be a wonderful adventure to become one with the stars (frequently to dramatically lonely and adverse effect). Then, too, there are the constellations, whose names and identities differ greatly between cultures, as does the galaxy that the Milky Way comprises. But some are relatively constant, even if their meanings and roles vary widely: the Morning Star; the Evening Star; the North Star.

In this instance, Wings chose to infuse this cuff with the spirit of the North Star, repeated three times: a smaller version rising at dusk, a full-sized one shimmering brilliantly overhead through the night, and again, a version that grows smaller as it descends toward the horizon of dawn. The cuff itself, as noted above, was named, simply, The North Star.

Last night, no stars were visible to us, nor were they at dusk or dawn. If the clouds moving in from all sides at the moment are any indication, we will see none again this night, either. It doesn’t matter; the North Star rises nightly irrespective of our limited view to preside over that space of the heavens unoccupied by Grandmother Moon.

On this night, as the rain delivers, again, the last ribbons of summer, the North Star will rise, take its place, and then fall gently to earth as morning comes.

On such spirits may we depend to watch over us and guide us, no matter the season or our ability to perceive their presence.

~ Aji







All content, including photos and text, are copyright Wings and Aji, 2017; all rights reserved. Nothing herein may used or reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the owners.

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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.