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#ThrowbackThursday: Spirits Strong Enough to Stand Without the Light

September has arrived on the waves of the storm.

No, I’m not talking about the Northeast, flooded with the fallout from Hurricane Ida, although there’s certainly that, too. But I’m referring to something much closer to home: yesterday’s weather here, extraordinary by any standard, but particularly for the first day of September. Normally by now, the monsoon season has just begun to ease off, and while in more ordinary years it was not unusual to have scattered afternoon showers into the middle of this month, it’s rare to have all the force and fury of the heart of the rainy season driving them at this late date.

We had string but soft showers yesterday afternoon, steady rains that soaked the earth without battering the land. That particular line of cells moved out, and we thought perhaps the rain was done; that would be a more normal pattern at this time of the season. Then, in early evening, the clouds gathered force and mass, and the skies opened with a vengeance: rain coming on the diagonal in hard, heavy, pounding torrents, bucketing out of the skies so fast that an opaque white blur hovered six to ten inches above every roofline. After thirty or forty minutes, it settled into a softer rain, long and steady . . . and when I awakened this morning, I discovered that overnight, the temperature had plunged so far that the raindrops were still frozen hard and fast to the screens on the west windows.

And yet, despite the battering force of the rain and the unexpected freeze, we still have plenty of fall blossoms reaching for the sun beneath a cool breeze now. There are those, of course, that release the pollen most in the dark hours, and they are a hardy lot. In a high-desert landscape, the dance of the night flowers is one of the gifts of this threshold season, a reminder that there are spirits strong enough to stand without the light.

It’s a lesson we need to internalize ourselves, for the light is vanishing rapidly now. Where once seemingly only days ago the western skies still held a faint glow even after ten o’clock at night, now it’s nearly full dark by eight. It’s colder, too, and today we have had to have a fire burning in the woodstove even now, when the sun is at its apex.

The hardiness of the night flowers, even in the face of rain turned to ice, reminded me of today’s featured work, one that was commissioned by one dear friend as a gift for another as a symbol of strength and healing. Its name was, in fact, Dance of the Night Flowers, and the purple gem in it was chosen specifically for the recipient.

Seven years ago, very nearly to the day, I wrote here of the genesis and history of Wings’s Warrior Woman signature series He’s been creating them for more than two decades now, and they have always been one of his most popular sellers; no two of the by now hundreds that he’s created are ever alike. But the key to them is in their origins, the first having been designed and created as a gift for his own mother, to honor her courage and strength and essential power. She was so taken with it that he was inspired to create more, each one unique, first in her honor and then in her memory, and always to celebrate the power of women.

This one is no exception.

As always, she was cut freehand from sheet silver in a set pattern:  head in profile, arms outstretched, with a crescent moon in one hand and a tiny jewel in the other; a great heart, tangible in this instance; traditional symbols on her dress and a serpent over her shoulder for prosperity. For this piece, Wings chose a simple, spare design, flowing and elegant, to create the folds of her dress and the fringe at her legs — a pair of flowing-water symbols, paired to form a vaguely hourglass shape, for the former, and a single upward-pointing fletched arrow for the latter. At the top of the water design sits a tiny heart, directly beneath the oversized repoussé heart, beating fast, that keeps her own spirit alive; over her right shoulder, tracing along her side, coils the serpent, formed of braided sterling silver wire, unity creating abundance.

I should note here that it’s not uncommon for a lot of the imagery that appears in today’s throwback work to be associated with women, or perhaps more accurately, with feminine spirits (in many of our cultures, gender has always been accurately perceived not as a binary, but as a spectrum of possibilities, sometimes with melding or overlap). Examples include water, particularly in its forms traditionally perceived as more gentle or nurturing, like a lake, a river, or a gentle rain; hearts, which are typically linked with love, but also with notions of sustaining and nurturing spirits; the moon itself, associated with feminine rhythms of existence and with a grandmotherly spirit; flowers, in part for the way in which they are understood to symbolize life itself, new, growing, flowering with beauty and countless other gifts.

And the flowers appear here in their wild form, large looping petals much like those in the millwork of yesterday’s featured piece, miniaturized at a scale that fits perfectly around the crescent of the moon in her left hand. There are six of them, each five-petaled, dancing around the arc in a repeating pattern. The moon itself suggests night, but so, too, does the jewel in her right hand: an amethyst of deepest purple, highly domed and shimmering from within by the essential glow of night itself. Dance of the night flowers, indeed.

This #ThrowbackThursday work dates back only to late June for its creation; it was supposed to be presented to the wearer in early July. With the disaster that bureaucrats have made of the postal service, with packages routinely delayed for months or lost entirely, we had begun shipping (at far greater cost) via Federal Express, and were guaranteed delivery in two days.

It took more than two weeks.

Even then, it was only eventually “found” where it languished in three different locations with no delivery attempts made because I made a pest of myself day in and day out until it was delivered. But fifteen or sixteen days for a two-day delivery? Needless to say, it was late for the occasion it was intended to mark.

Still, the shipping entities could not strip the piece itself of its essential power, and given that it was created for a specific purpose, its immanent spirit still holds. The wearer is one who knows well just how dark some days can be. But she, like this piece, is made of the bravery and strength this work is designed to honor, her spirit strong enough to stand without the light.

She has the light, too.

~ Aji








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