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The New Lines of the Winds

At last, sunrise is at a normal hour for the season. Despite the now seemingly early dark, we have no love for so-called Daylight Savings Time;; it’s merely one more layer of colonial, capitalistic artifice imposed on a world that would do well to cease trying to control elemental forces. [And yes, what you’ve heard about DST being instituted for the benefit schoolchildren and small farmers is hooey, but its corporate and utterly capitalist origins are a subject for another day.]

For this day, it’s a relief to see temperature and light both more in accord with season and time. If the forecast is to be believed, the weather won’t last; at the moment, snow is predicted for Wednesday and Thursday, although that will likely change roughly hourly between now and then. Still, a lenticular shelf has appeared behind the peaks to the east, and the wind is already more active than these last few mornings. Warmth is relative, and a change is in the air.

There was a time, and not so very long ago, either, when our seasons, our weather, our highs and lows and the direction of the wind, were far more consistent, even predictable. Spring was the season of gale-force winds driving hard all day long from the southwest; summer monsoons came from the same general direction, occasionally more from the west and even more occasionally from due south, with the periodic mid-storm circling from north and east. Fall was near-always a time of perfectly clear skies and temperature swings of as much as fifty degrees, the only real winds those that would bring us our few early snows from the west. Outside, of a rare monsoonal vortex, the cold winds of the north and east were mostly confined to winter storms.

Now, all betts are off. This has been an unusually windy autumn, filled with hard early freezes delivered on trickster winds. We’ve had holdover rains and early snows both, as like now to descend from the north as from more usual directions. This is, of course, climate change brought home, up close and very, very personal. But it has completely upended our usual patterns and all the planning that goes with them.

And this a place where you need to plan for winter.

The onus of adaptation is all on us now; there will be no adjusting of the Earth to human needs. It was precisely this sort of colonial foolery that brought us all to this pass in the first place, the notion that humans have authority, dominion, as the text of the primary colonial religion here puts it, over the natural world at all.

A culture built on racial [white] supremacy, instituted and enforced via genocide and chattel slavery, perhaps naturally assumes that it can control the elements, too. It certainly will not have any respect for them, and the wages of these centuries of dishonor have now come due for us all.

For Indigenous peoples who still live with the earth instead of in opposition to her, it’s doubly painful: not merely to be paying for the sins of those who sought our own extermination, not merely to have witnessed the harms inflicted in real time, but to know now that in too many ways, it is too late for reclamation. Our own lifeways are increasingly upended as a result, and we are being forced to find new ways of interacting with our world, of living in it, that both do the least harm and offer some chance at healing as we seek to ensure our own survival, too.

And that requires coming to a new understanding, one that re-envisions our relationships with the elemental powers and forces and spirits, one that does not require us to discard our traditions but re-imagines a way to adhere to them within the constraints of this new world, neither brave nor undiscovered but inflicted nonetheless. For us, that begins with our immediate world: patterns of temperature and weather and wind, learning to predict anew when the drought will deepen and when the storms will come. It means wasting little time in lamenting the changes, instead embracing the fact of their existence and learning how to evolve and adapt.

And it means, in very real terms, learning the new lines of the winds, their shape and track and intensity. Here, the winds can deliver drought or abundance, or both at once, in a matter of days or weeks. We have to reorient ourselves to their pattern and paths, to recognize the gifts they bring even as we guard against their deleterious effects.

Today’s featured work reinforces this lesson in beautiful form, a wearable reminder of their force and power. From its description in the relevant section of the Bracelets Gallery here on the site:

The Four Winds Cuff Bracelet

The Four Winds move and shape our world, within the storm and without. In this cuff, Wings honors their elemental power with this return to one of his own informal signature series and an old classic, traditional Native style of silverwork. It begins with a beautifully simple band of heavy, solid nine-gauge sterling silver, hammered by hand on both sides in the old way, with hundreds of strikes of a silversmith’s hammer, to create a spectacularly refractive surface. On the inner band, a long line of directional arrows traces the length of the center, some consecutive, others reversed, still others pointing outside their slender line, representing the wind’s own changes of direction, sometimes capricious, sometimes intentional. On the band’s surface, its sole adornment consists of four square bezel-set lapis lazuli cabochons set next to each other at the center, each stone lightly domed and the brilliant cobalt blue of deep waters and stormy skies, each represent one of the winds of the Four Sacred Directions. Ends and edges are all filed by hand, with each end rounded and smoothed, also by hand, for comfort. The band is 6″ long and 6/16″ across; each lapis cabochon is 6/16″ square (dimensions approximate). Side views and a view of the inner band shown below.

Sterling silver; lapis lazuli
$1,675 + shipping, handling, and insurance

Change is always hard for humans. Harder still when it’s fraught with risk to our very existence, brought upon ourselves by our collective bad behavior.

But for half a millennium and more, our peoples have perforce dealt with such existential threats. For us, now is no different save in the details. We have had to adjust our patterns and paths to survive an invading onslaught. We can learn the new lines of the winds, and learn to live — and thrive — within them.

~ Aji








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