Spiraling through time

The first time I felt the tug of a spiral was in the late 1970s, when I was still in college. The object of my attention was the Spiral Jetty, a land art installation designed and built by American sculptor Robert Smithson.
Completed almost 55 years ago, the Jetty, located on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake, is built of mud, salt crystals, and basalt rock. Its spiral fascinated me, and I remember feeling there was something deep, visceral, almost magical about it.
Not long after my introduction to the Spiral Jetty, I was walking through a regional mall in Farmington, NM back when malls were a thing.
In the central foyer, with clothing stores and candy shops all around, I stumbled onto a Spiral Wishing Well, which was a fundraising project for a local charity.
As I stood looking on, people dropped their coins in a slot, and the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters circled round and round, ultimately dropping through a hole in the bottom of the well.
I was once again captivated, and at the first opportunity began inserting my own coins, which continued until my financial resources were fully exhausted.
It was then I recognized just how captivating spirals can be and how essential they are in our everyday lives.
After returning to Bluff in the late 1980s, I discovered spirals in numerous rock art panels located throughout the Desert Southwest. Many anthropologists and archaeologists argue spirals are universal symbols that speak to some profound, almost primal emotion in us.
These individuals say spirals are the oldest imagery found in spiritual ceremonies and that they represent migration, a journey, and the many changes occurring as life evolves.
Others point out that spirals represent a goddess, the womb, fertility, and life-force energy. They are found in human and animal physiology, plant-life, minerals, cosmic formations, and even weather patterns.
These people agree spirals are sacred symbols representing life’s ever-changing quest for meaning.
Not long after Twin Rocks Trading Post opened, and years after I discovered the Spiral Jetty and Spiral Wishing Wells, I was working hard to sell a ceremonial basket to an older Navajo woman.
She pointed out the spiral format in Navajo coiled basketry and told me this story: “The basket is viewed as a map through which Navajo people chart their lives. The central spot in the basket represents the entry, birth, where Navajo people emerged into this, the Glittering World.
“When the people arrived, all was pure. The inner coils of the basket are white to represent this lightness, a new beginning. As one travels outward on the coils, he or she begins to encounter more and more black. This represents struggle and pain, the darker side of life.
As you make your way through the darkness you eventually reach the red bands, the blood rings, which speak of marriage, mixing your blood with the blood of your spouse, and the creation of family.
During this time there is no darkness, the red is pure, clean.
Progressing out of the familial bands one encounters more darkness. This, however, is interspersed with white light, which represents increasing enlightenment, knowledge, wisdom.
This expands until one enters the all white banding of the outer rim, which is the spirit world, where there is no darkness.
The straight line from the center of the basket to the outer rim is the spirit-line and is there to remind us that no matter how much darkness one encounters in the world, there is always a pathway to the light.”
As Smithson is known to have said, “Nature does not proceed in a straight line, it moves in spirals.”
Those patterns determine fertility, our life-force, spiritual ceremonies, migration, and our pathways.
Smithson is also known for saying, “The journey is as important as the destination.”
The Jetty, spiral petroglyphs, and even the Spiral Wishing Well remind us that we are all hurtling through our personal adventures in an ever-evolving, often chaotic, and ultimately rhythmic flow.
Enjoy the ride, you never know when your coin will drop, sending you out the spirit-line and into your final coil.

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