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Earth and Light Cuff Top View

We have spent the week just past on small transformative spirits: butterflies, and their capacity for metamorphosis and emergence, transformation and transcendence. As metaphor, we tend to focus perhaps overmuch on the third of those acts, regarding the preceding two as necessary but by themselves insufficient conditions for it.

We forget that the effect  — and perhaps most often the goal, as well — is the fourth.

The dominant culture is addicted to and afflicted by labels. Ot likes to sort and categorize and compartmentalize, all of which make the twinned tasks of colonizing and capitalizing that much easier. It’s reflected in the idiom of the dominant language, one that likes to describe, often via shorthand, appearances, giving short shrift to behavior.

It’s no accident that so many of our languages are built around acts.

It’s why, in my own language, birds are named not for the usually more colorful appearance of the male of the species (and thus erasing the female, a practice the dominant society does not confine to birds), but for the behavior common to both — all — genders. Our ancestors knew that while upon a first encounter a being’s superficial characteristics might be the only  clue as to identity and character, that being’s praxis, its manner of living and being, was what truly identified one, for good or ill.

But this larger society’s habits are not confined to labeling of people and things; it’s a practice that bleeds over into all aspects of life. It’s fitting, of course, for a world both corporatized and capitalized: slogans, brands, catchphrases, slang that can be purposed or repurposed as edgy and hip, all serve the function of fast turnover: of attention, of dollars, of wealth. And so the slogans themselves become the goals. Act! we are told, as though any inherent movement is always and forever better than a moment of stasis, or even of quiet contemplation. Better yet, in this brave New-Age world, Transform! and become something, anything, different from who and what you are, appropriate and co-opt and steal outright to use what is not yours and then discard it like last year’s fashion when it no longer garners attention or money.

But the whole point of transformation is not change simply for its own sake. It’s entirely possible — indeed, in a broader culture such as this, probable — to change for the worse, not the better, at least if one’s only goal and motivation is change for its own sake. Turning oneself clockwise or counterclockwise does not purge old and problematic habits; it simply lets them loose upon a new set of targets.

The whole purpose of transformation is betterment: to transcend the confines of one’s old self in a way that improves not only one’s own life, but the clan and community and world, as well.

It’s what caterpillar and butterfly know, hardwired into her DNA: To keep the world spinning properly on its axis, to ensure its health, to secure the survival of her own kind, she must do her work, including achieving the altered state that allows her to transcend the very form and shape of her own existence, so that she may carry her work forward around the hoop.

Today’s featured work calls this task to mind. Given its name, it no doubt seems unlikely to most, but look closer: There is meaning here. From its description in the relevant section of the Bracelets Gallery here on the site:

Earth and Light Cuff Cabs 2

Earth and Light Cuff Bracelet

The earth warms and grows beneath the light. Wings honors both with this cuff made of sterling silver triangle wire, slender but solid. The apex of the band is accented with dozens of small stamps, rows and rays flanked on either angled side by a chased pattern of rising suns. At either end, the band is hammered into a smooth oval disc angled gently inward. At the point where the apex begins to slope downward, each side is set with a tiny round cabochon of soft green jade, the color of new grass, nestled in a saw-toothed bezel. Beneath each jade cab rests a brilliant oval cabochon of tiger’s eye, also set into a saw-toothed bezel, each stone the warm rich brown of the earth, shot through at the center with a chatoyant line of golden light. Other views shown below.

Sterling silver; tiger’s eye; jade
$825 + shipping, handling, and insurance

The caterpillar is a creature of the earth; the butterfly, on of the light. And yet, they are the same being, the same soul or spirit embraced by a body able to transcend its very form. Its transformation is absolutely necessary to the propagation of the species, but also to vast parts of the earth’s many ecosystems, small (and large) worlds within worlds that require their help for the harmonious survival of the whole.

Look again at the image at the top. Look closer. The apex is a segmented line, flanked on either side by inverse rayed crescents, sunrise and moonglow alike, like the wings of a dozen butterflies and more. They migrate in either direction, depending upon one’s point of view, in either case heading for green earth and brown soil touched by chatoyant light.

Earth and Light Cuff Cabs 1

And the brown and the green remind us that the plants upon which the butterflies feed . . . they, too, transform from dry seedlings into lush fertile growth reaching for the sky. They undergo their own metamorphosis, they emerge, the transform, they transcend their earlier selves, becoming, becoming, inevitably becoming that which serves its own purpose of survival, but also the survival of the world beyond its form and self.

And this, perhaps, is the lesson above all else of the butterfly, of the spirits of summer.

This is transcendence.

~ Aji




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