I hold the piece of Mammoth tusk gently, examine the grain, the growth rings, the cracks & stains. It is a small miracle, a small piece of tusk, of Mammoth ivory, from an animal long, long dead. How old it is, I do not know for sure. 10,000 years? 20,000? Even 30,000 years old? Somewhere in there.
One blogger with chronic illness says we must find our “important work,” something creative, that we can work on slowly, as energy is available, a few minutes here, a few minutes there. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to finish something. What matters is that we do it.
I found my “important work” years ago. I carve, cut, and shape, pieces of ancient ivory, and sacred stones. I’ve long said it is what keeps me sane. Bringing the beauty out of a piece of Mammoth tusk, making a bead of a fossil walrus tooth, carving a Celtic knot into a piece of Preseli bluestone, this is what gives me the greatest satisfaction. Knowing I have created something beautiful, no matter how many days, weeks, or months it took, helps me feel useful, productive.
The Mammoth is so special. The tusks are emerging from the permafrost all over the Arctic, as the world grows warmer. The ivory hunters, often Native peoples, come across them periodically, and remove them carefully. Exposed after their long slumber, encased in ice, they will be eaten by rodents or simply disintegrate if not removed and carefully waxed, clamped, and allowed to dry very slowly. Some pieces are deeply colored, with red, orange, or even blue-grey, from minerals that were in the soil with them, that they absorbed over time.
I’ve had this small piece of tusk, of Mammoth ivory, for a number of years. Waiting for the concept of what it should become to be clear in my mind. It is finally clear.
Today I started working on it, and as the fine dust of the Mammoth’s ivory floated up & into my nostrils, it occurs to me that now, the Mammoth is part of me, it’s atoms meeting mine, becoming part of my body. The Mammoth will live on, through me, as other Mammoths have lived on, as the ancient walruses whose teeth I have carved live on, as the deer whose antlers I have carved live on.
I remember when this concept first came to me, when I drilled a hole in an ancient Dire Wolf’s tooth & I realized the dust was in my mouth, my nose. It is hard to explain. But I feel them, feel the lives they lived so many hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of years ago. Their species may not walk the Earth anymore, but they did not die. Not so long as their bones, teeth, and tusks endure.
So today I send prayers of thanksgiving to the mighty Mammoth & Mastodon, the ancient Walruses, the Deer, and the Dire Wolf. I am honored to be able to touch them, carve them, feel them. Let their Spirits live on through what they have left behind for us.