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To Live In the Space of the Spirits

In autumn, this Earth delivers gifts found at no other time of year. After several drought-riddled years that have destroyed the ordinary process of turning leaves, and a summer and early fall this year shrouded in a suffocating pall of smoke, we at last have fall back in all its radiant color and fire and clarity and light.

If ever we needed a reminder that we, too, live in the space of the spirits, that time is now.

Part of the difficulty is that by now, every generation still alive has been raised immersed in the faulty understandings of colonial language. There is only so much our own words can do to combat that. The stereotype so beloved of that same colonial world is that we are mystical people who walk in two worlds, but that in point of fact is yet another way of diminishing us, of dehumanizing us, of erasing us. We do perforce walk in two worlds, and often far more than that, but there is nothing mystical about it; it’s a simple fact born of necessity, of survival’s demands in the face of an invading culture forced upon us that to this day seeks our extermination. Put in such flat, factual terms, it seems far less mystical, but it places the responsibility precisely where it belongs.

There are visible and deadly markers of colonialism visible here this day: a fire south and slightly east of here, apparently atop or just behind the ridgeline. It appeared around nine o’clock last night, bearing all the hallmarks of a plane crash: large fireball on the ridgeline, huge spreading plume of black smoke arcing from it. The sheriff’s office demurs, but there were many more than just one aircraft overhead yesterday, and at least one was flying far too low, effectively buzzing our house and land. As it stands, they have no way of knowing, and in fact won’t know until they can get close enough to the ignition source to view it, and that will be some time: By seven o’clock this morning, it had already consumed five hundred acres; by 8:40, that number had more than doubled. It’s one some thirty miles south as the crow flies, and while there appears to be a mountain in the way, if it is on the ridgeline, that will not bode well for those of us here below. This land is not a tinderbox; it’s already halfway to ignition, just waiting for a single spark of bit of hot ash.

This, too, is directly attributable to colonialism.

And this, too, is a desecration, a violation from without of the trust between our peoples and the land, and between us and the spirits who have charged us with its care. And it shows how colonial influences not merely distract from, but actually force a disregard of the sacred, of medicine, of harmony, of the fact that we live in the space of the spirits, and it is by their offices that we survive.

Today’s featured work, one of Wings’s newest, is that reminder made manifest in corporeal form, itself wrought in a gift of the earth, a precious metal that the outside world calls sterling silver. From its description in the relevant section of the Bracelets Gallery here on the site:

In the Space of the Spirits Cuff Bracelet

The storm dances and the First Medicine flows in the space of the spirits. Wings summons storm and rain and sacred space together into one wide shining band of hand-wrought sterling silver. Each edge of the band is hand-scored in a single deeply stamped line to create twinned borders. Within those edges, traditional thunderhead symbols point inward in a repeating pattern from either side, each one impossibly even, each throwing the negative space into sharp relief. Down the center, thunderhead symbols were initially stamped in a conjoined pattern, creating a motif of sacred space that points to all directions, then the silver within was excised, freehand, ajouré-fashion, to create an internal band of negative space that holds the mysteries of storm and spirit. At either terminal, a flowing water pattern sends the gift of the rain to its rounded, hand-smoothed ends. Cuff measures 6″ long by 1-3/16″ across (dimensions approximate). Other views shown above and below.

Sterling silver
$1,500 + shipping, handling, and insurance

People talk much of celebration and ceremony, of how they did something just right and how the spirits came, but in truth, that speaks to a blindness on our part. Perhaps a necessary blindness: After all, the origins of my people include the story of the moment when the spirits assumed corporeal form to bring the people teachings, truth, and prophecy. There were seven, and the face of one was so far outside the realm of what the human mind could perceive and still live that it was forced to cover its face, for all who looked upon it fell dead from the sheer force of its power.

But the truth, that truth, other truths, every truth is captured in the simple fact that our whole world, our cosmos, our universe is the space of the spirits. It surrounds us, embraces us, shelters us and keeps us safe, even as it fades from ordinary consciousness and perception.

But occasionally we are reminded.

Sometimes, it’s through what no one wants: the smoke, the fire, the danger that now lies just south of here at the ridgeline, moving fast and hungry.

And sometimes, it’s that one small moment of magic and mystery and medicine, as occurred last night when I stepped outside the west door, just for a moment, just in that moment before the brand-new sliver moon sets upon the horizon in chill air so perfect and clear that her whole dark side is visible to the naked eye. I stepped back inside for my camera, and time and the generosity of her spirit were for once on my side. And reviewing the photos some minutes later, Wings said to me that we are blessed, so blessed, to live in this place, to live in the space of the spirits.

And so we are.

~ Aji











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