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The Greening of the World


The water came yesterday: a trickle early in the morning that by dawn barely covered the bottom of the pond, a more rapid flow later in the day that had filled it by dusk.

On this morning, it had already overflowed the banks.

The water is especially welcome this year, given how sporadic our actual precipitation has been. Oh, there have been plenty of storms, but the real downpour occurs elsewhere. For two years now, the clouds that carry the rain (and the snow) have mostly parted upon reaching this area and moved around us, thence to coalesce once more beyond the peaks to the east. We have our own ideas as to why that might be suddenly the case, ideas that fall within the cosmologies of our own traditions.

But it means that what we have now, at this midpoint of May, is a fragile greening: The earth continues to send up its blades of grass, call forth its leaves and flowers, but they remain at risk of a hard freeze. We had such a freeze last night. The green is a gift of the earth, a sign of her generosity toward us, but it is one that we cannot treat carelessly or take for granted. In this mountainous desert climate filled with extremes of weather and season, respect is required in the best of times. Thanks to climate change, these are not such times.

And so, as I write this, Wings has hauled out the pump, attached the hoses, siphoned the old gas and replaced it with new. The land can ill afford waste now, and the water that has collected in the pond cannot be left to evaporate.

It’s a reminder to us to treat the greening of our world as the great gift that it is: one of beauty and renewal, yes, but more than that, the gift of life itself. For it is in the greening of the world that we may plant, and cultivate, and harvest; that we may grow that which will feed our own; that we are given the additional gift of medicine growing wild and unrestrained by all save the elements themselves.

It is that medicine, allowed to flower on its own, that informs today’s featured works. They are two of a kind, in one sense, and yet they were created to represent aspects of very different virtues: the first, of generosity; the second, of wisdom. Even so, each embodies both, and more, fully inhabiting the seasonal gift of the green and all that it holds and carries with it.

The first, as noted, was designed to represent a facet of generosity — the generosity of the spirits and our duty of thanksgiving to them, and the parallel duty of generosity to our fellow beings. Our cultures believe in honor, respect, and reciprocity, in recognition of favors and blessings and the importance of acknowledging the gift even as our efforts to return it remain stubbornly meagre and mortal. This work’s identity stems from that recognition, that acknowledgment, one marked by the giving, or the sharing, of the medicine we call tobacco. From its description in the relevant section of the Bracelets Gallery here on the site:

Tobacco Coil Bracelet

The spirit of generosity compels us to offer a gift when we seek a favor; it shows respect. It’s customary, when seeking the blessing of the spirits or the assistance of our fellow man or woman, especially an elder, to offer a small gift in the form of tobacco. It shows respect and gratitude, and assures the recipient that his or her assistance is not taken for granted. in our cultures, indigenous tobacco is its own plant, or mix of plants, and Wings summons their spirits with this coil bracelet in the colors of the plants themselves. Dark green fluorite nuggets, as deep in hue as raw emeralds, trace the center of the spiral; to either side, crystalline nuggets of bright lime green peridot, the color of the new plant, stretch outward; and at either end, the strand terminates in tiny green turquoise chips. Each segment of gems is separated by a short length of brilliant amber that glows like the lit bowl of a ceremonial pipe. Beads are strung on memory wire, which expands and contracts to fit nearly any size wrist. Jointly designed by Wings and Aji.

Memory wire; green fluorite; peridot; green turquoise; amber
$325 + shipping, handling, and insurance

Today, many of our peoples use commercial tobaccos for ceremonial and spiritual purposes. It is tobacco, and it has overtaken the old mixtures in popularity and availability. But some of us still use the old kind of tobacco, when we can: sometimes one herb; sometimes a mixture of several. The most basic form is bearberry, also known as uva ursi — rich green leaves and bright red berries. But many of our cultures have long mixed a variety of herbs for smoking, as a means of making the experience more pleasurable and also as a way to enhance its medicinal value. Some include willow bark or other such substances; many of them are known to relieve pain and inflammation. When used in this way, they are dried and combined into a fine mix, one whose color ranges from light green to dark green to assorted shades of brown; when lit in a pipe, the glow is as golden as the fire of amber, the color of the sun.

Not all mixtures are used for the same sort of “smoke,” although the goal and purpose may indeed be the same. Some mixtures are designed for smudging, for creating the sort of smoke that purifies and sends prayers to Spirit. It’s inhaled more tangentially, but no less medicinally. Such mixtures often include cedar, sweetgrass, and/or sage. They are tools of ceremony and spirit, markers of wisdom and gifts of gratitude.

There are different kinds of sage, too: classified into divergent families, and even within specific families, both genus and species vary substantially. There is a misconception among outsiders that white (or California) sage is the sage used for ceremonial purposes. That is probably for the peoples indigenous to its own indigenous lands, but here, ordinary desert sage is by far the most common among the actual indigenous population. It grows freely on our lands, entirely in the wild, and in the last month has begun to bloom lush and full. And when the rain does come, it bestows an additional gift by way of the sage’s scent.

Today’s other featured work, as green as the last but with its own unique identity, is one whose name crosses cultural lines. It was designed as a symbol of wisdom, but without the emphasis that non-Native cultures put upon the individual; in this instance, the focus is on its relationship to Spirit. From its description in the same gallery:

Sage Coil Bracelet

Sage Coil Bracelet

In some cultures, a sage is a seer, a spiritual leader revered for his or her powers of wisdom and foresight. In ours, sage is equally mystical, a medicine given to us in the form of a plant by which, dried and lit with flame, we cleanse our world and ourselves, and seek the wisdom of the spirits through the prayers its smoke sends spiraling skyward. Wings pays tribute to this medicine of wisdom with this coil bracelet, one in the greens and browns of the plant itself. The coil is anchored at either by a short segment of old-style copper barrel beads; another short segment of tiny green turquoise nuggets emerges from it, as though arising from the earth itself. It then flowers slower, first in the soft spring green of peridot, then in the mysterious hues of nuggety green fluorite, from only a silvery sage-like hint of green to deep teal shades like raw emerald. at the center are seven Eyes of Spirit, glowing oval orbs of diamond-faceted smoky quartz, the source of wisdom and power that the sage’s smoke seeks. Fifth in The Wisdom Collection of The Seventh Fire Series. Designed jointly by Wings and Aji.

Memory wire; smoky quartz; green fluorite; peridot; green turquoise; copper
$325 + shipping, handling, and insurance

This work, too, reminds us to be thankful, but it also reminds us that our obligations go beyond mere gratitude. Our ways are active ways: Pretty words are just that; unbacked by action that puts them into practice, they are nothing more than the wind now soughing through the branches, skimming the surface of the pond.

Seen in the context of our duties to our world, this charge fast becomes concrete, especially in these days of anthropogenic climate change. We are, and have always been, tasked with stewardship, with caretaking, but even that is not enough. Now, we must anticipate and adapt to what the world has wrought upon the earth; we must resist that which will damage her further even as we persist in building a better world for the generations yet unborn.

The greening of the world is a gift, one we are given anew each year. It is an increasingly fragile one. Now, more than ever, it is our charge to protect it.

~ Aji






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