By Jeremy Wade Shockley
Broken glass littered the slope surrounding a deep fire pit, faces both familiar and unfamiliar greeted me as I stepped across the multicolored, pebbly surface, barefoot-ginger. The glass bits were now worn with time, or use, interwoven into the stones and earth that made up the surrounding hillside. A great dome sits, on the level, to my left, worn canvas covering the menagerie of blankets, a frame work hewn of willow limbs, a product of longstanding tradition and expertise.
Conversations were lighthearted among the men and women who had invited me on this occasion, a few stray sparks lifted from the rocks as they were ceremoniously carried inside, collecting together at the heart of our presence. Circular. What was said next, the songs that were sung, and the great blessings are private. They belong to those who were there, and those before them. I will say no more.
Blackness enveloped me, one set of senses traded for another, the sweet smell of herbs overpowering my nostrils. Mind, body and spirit set free- alert. The cool earth to my back, under my palms, the feeling of soft quilt on bare skin, the heat rising upwards, prominent and powerful from the start. Time has no place here, I search my thoughts and consider my future. I am present.
The light is blinding at first, strength and fatigue occupy my body at the same moment as I stand. Slightly bent, I move to the left, slowly, gathering my thoughts and paying respects, I travel towards the light in a clockwise fashion. I straighten myself as I step back into the cool morning air, humble and lighthearted. It was a good sweat.
I look back at this image and consider much as I reminisce about my time in the so called underdeveloped countries of our world. The pace is slower, the day to day survival has a very tangible value, and while there are many worries, there is without question less stress.
I have devoted my weekend to looking back into the archive, and that journey has taken me into Lesotho, looking back on so many of the adventures I have had there, the love of culture and those who shared it with me.
This image evokes so much of that in a way that I find surreal and equally calming. Do you look back at an assignment, or through personal photographs and often find something that has taken on a new meaning, importance to you…but only after the passing of time?
Such is the nature and beauty of imagery, the love of people and places which have passed out of our lives, but not our memories.
Denver March Powwow followed by the 45th Annual Hozhoni Days Powwow in Durango and off to Gathering of Nations next week in New Mexico! Indeed powwow season is underway! Scroll over and click on the highlighted text above to see each of the photo essays published in the Southern Ute Drum!