Balance

Today, words in praise of bunch grass.
P1230555The roots of this blue-bunched wheatgrass fill the space between the plants.The soil is their sky. They reach out into it for the clouds of water that flow down through the soil, and still it. They then reverse that gravitational flow and let the sun draw the water in to their new spring leaves and stretch them up into the air. In this act, they reverse the direction of sunlight. They climb it. At the same time, they move water between the atmosphere below the soil and the one above it. The sky is their soil, as much as the earth is. They reach out into both and feed, using the energy of gravity to draw them down into water and the energy of the sun to lift themselves with it. This is what balance looks like. The particular distance between plants on this hill is the result of the steepness of the slope and the correspondingly quick flow of the water down through it, coupled with the damage to the soil’s protective crust by a population of deer trapped into repetitive motion by the constrictions of housing and fences, that allow for few areas of downward and upward motion on the hillsides. The grasses are so efficient at capturing water, that in this, their wet season, the soil is dry powder to a human hand and serves as a barrier against evaporation from the roots, enabling the plants to concentration the inevitable evaporation of this climate into their stalks.

 

Okanagan Easter Meditation

This is what Easter looks like here.P1230637 Do you see that? Yeah, no people. Canada is an urban country. It views its land as a resource, to be used to create more urban space. It doesn’t live in it. It remakes it. Then it’s Canada.

P1230626Earth Crushing Machinery on the Horizon, The Rise

Canada is a construction project. People live in it. Here’s one way it’s done:

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Bed Rock Becomes Road Gravel

The author Margaret Atwood once described this as a kind of fortress syndrome: early “settlers” lived inside a palisade, surrounded by hostile territory. The palisades still exist, and are the chain of a dozen large and medium-sized cities (and a few dozen smaller ones, plus a host of small towns, all of which could fit inside suburban Toronto) which are Canada. Around them are places where no one lives, like here …

P1240013Bella Vista, Looking Over Okanagan Lake to Ewings Landing

It is to be looked at. One building lot, set to appreciate the view above, on the hill above my house, is currently priced at $750,000, and rated for a house of no more than 7000 square feet. That’s a village in most parts of the world, but for Canadians the appreciation of a view of this nature requires space and silence and a sense of exclusivity. It must be private, and must contain, within that private space, all the amenities of urban space. Each house is a fortress. The people live privately, in rows of fortresses within housing areas called “subdivisions”. Here is the approach to Canada in these parts …

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It’s the West, though. Tumbleweeds still blow. Here’s a modern cowboy, out riding his steed in the orchard just below, between Good Friday and the Resurrection…

driftSpray Drift in an Apple Orchard, Bella Vista

The operator wears a moon suit. The wild bees, that he will soon need for pollinating his trees, not so much.

Do you see how that works? Everything is inside of boundaries. If things cross boundaries (bugs, for instance), they are “wild” and need to be organized. Well, people are like that. There’s no using fighting it. Here is some prime human habitat in the nearby urban centre. You can see that it is highly organized.

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Vernon Restaurant Back Patio and Rail Line

Note the incursions of the “wild” earth. They are called “weeds”. Occasionally they are beaten back with applications of poisons, called “herbicides”. The application of them is called “improving property values” and “urban beautification”.

Here is the human habitat it replaced:

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Somebody messed up. There are understandable reasons. Humans are like that, for one. Christ was crucified, after all, and that was a nasty business, too. But he rose from the dead.

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Shooting Stars, at the Rise

Have you ever spent Easter in Germany? They eat white asparagus to celebrate Christ’s ascension, with cured ham, yellow potatoes, and hollandaise sauce, or with morels, or venison, or, well, pretty well anything, really, and it goes on for months, in every pub, restaurant and café. It’s an ancient tradition that goes back to the myths of death and renewal in ancient Greece. The ancient traditions here in the Okanagan are older. And newer. They’re not ancient, you see.

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They just don’t contain a concept of “inside” — or one of “outside,” for that matter. And that applies not only to space but to mind. This, for example, is mind:

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Saskatoon Blossoms on a Marmot Perching Rock

This, too:

P1230752Cottonwoods Blooming and Sprouting at the Same Time

Mind. Not something observed from social space, or from a view window, and not “art” but mind’s location. In the body. In the world. Beats me how that is different than Christ’s message, or why the settlers and developers of the notion of Canada in this place felt it needed to be replaced, except, perhaps, this one thing:

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Balsam Root Slope at Easter

They don’t live here. If they did, they’d thin out this ingrown sagebrush with fire, rather than calling it a natural process of succession, and preserving that to preserve its “wild” qualities. There is no wild in the Syilx world, and we’re not talking about something that happened in ancient Athens or pre-Alexandrian Aramia, but something that’s still present. In a region in which the landscape has been humanly altered to allow for the greatest possible diversity almost since it was washed clear of the glaciers after the last ice age, there is no so-called ‘natural process of succession,’ except a succession of urbanization over a culture of human devotion. As soon as the Syilx culture of being present in landscape is discredited, the use of such terms as “natural succession” is much the same as saying that the replacement of the Syilx people by Europeans was a natural process of succession. No. What it was a lot clearer than that. It was theft. And racism. You can even easily tell where the theft took place, because anywhere there’s anything that is called wild, like this…

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Biscuit Root below the Bella Vista Church Cross

Bread anyone?

… you know there’s theft, because before words got thrown around here like buckshot, words like “wild” and “wilderness” and even “land” as things separate from people and consciousness and story, there was nothing wild, because there was no inside or outside, and all people were the people, including this fellow:

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Western Mountain Bluebird

Making a living between worlds.

Wasn’t that Christ’s message, too? To be manifest in the world? Well, you’d think so, wouldn’t you. In 2008, I walked out of the museum of Orthodox icons in Recklinghausen, Germany one spring, and ever since everything on earth has been springing forth, out of the soil, in a perennial energy of resurrection and birth that Christ tapped into and the ikons mediate. That’s not the Canadian way, though. In Canada, where the church is an urban space, resurrection and birth take place within the individual body, within a group of individual bodies, within a spiritual space they create within a building that symbolizes their faith: a church. Christ wasn’t a man for churches, though. He was in the world. To find him, look here:

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Choke Cherry Opening on Stone

Here’s the strangest thing: if one people doesn’t want the land I’ve shown you above for any other reason than the disrespectful one of grazing cattle on it, which pretty soon leads to sagebrush ingrowth and the deterioration of pretty well any usable grazing capacity, why is the only form of resurrection of its capacity to give and affirm life that of replacing it with urban structures? There are thousands of other possibilities. Why don’t people just start raising Syilx crops on it instead? Or, heck, give it back to the Syilx, since they created it anyway? Does God have to be named to be God?

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Wild Lettuce Resurrecting on a Gopher Mound

That’s how the grassland seeds itself: right where it is. No labour is required, just attention. It shouldn’t be wild lettuce, though. That’s a weed brought on by grazing.

Actually, if you name something as God, it’s most certainly not God.

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Is This Vineyard Water Pipe God Speaking?

No. I think God likes shooting stars.

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It is just as dangerous to live inside words. They were originally used for Christian and Hebraic texts in order to keep God unknowable and thus ever-present. Something went quite wrong with that over time. Now a huge amount of effort has to be spent to break the spell of words themselves and the wine made from this land, that used to be known as the blood of Christ, vital for ceremonies such as Easter, and which was grown in the vineyards of the Rhone a hundred and fifty years ago as the water of life itself that would see you through your day labouring on the slopes, is called today …

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… “a patio sipper.” For those of you not from Canada, that means “a fruity white wine, light on the palette, that is perfect for drinking from acrylic glasses on your deck or patio while enjoying the sun and your view over the lake while chatting with friends.” Given that these grapes are grown on Syilx land, that’s disrespectful. That’s just not a good enough reason to suppress and disenfranchise a people and to convert 9,000 years of human environmental history into a collection of weeds. It’s also not a good enough reason to pick up a couple shovels and a garden rake and to go to the last remaining strip of native grassland growing between the weeds in a public park up above your house and dig it out to make a bicycle racing track for your own use.

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But that’s how you make a Canada out of a wilderness of your own making. That is part of the grief of Christ’s death. Tough stuff. But, hey, this is no longer Good Friday we’re talking about, but Easter, and not only that but the day after. In a fortress culture, the image above is the resurrection, out of the stuff of the mind. I think Christ would have preferred food for the people, maybe like this:

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The capacity of the land to feed people doesn’t have to be owned. Change the terms just a little bit, to “spirit cannot be owned”, and you can see, perhaps, how Christ’s resurrection can still find fertile ground here. It’s happening all around us. Look!

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Apricot Tree Gone Wild

Well, that’s the term for it. A better term is “naturalized”. Here’s another:

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Naturalized Apricot Tree in a  Subdivision “Wild” Landscape Feature

It is leading the way.

Greetings from the Easter Marmot

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Happy Easter!

You can trust an animal that goes underground in August and comes up again Mid-April: sun, sun, sun and more sun!

Today’s is the 700th post on Okanagan Okanogan. You have responded with 52000 views and have taken the time to write to me 1050 times. Thanks, all of you, for sitting on the rocks for awhile in these volcanic islands between the mountains. The book this is all leading to, Atomic Okanagan, is halfway through its second major draft. I am so excited, it’s hard to drag myself away to all the other pressing work of spring. I’ll be finishing up another section for the Kelowna Art Gallery early in the week. Many other pieces are coming together. Without your continued support, it would not have been possible. Thank you, dankeschön, merci beaucoup, takk fyrir, and, well, here…

yellowArrow-leafed Balsam Root in the Easter Marmot’s Garden

That other rodent just brings chocolate wrapped in aluminum. 

Industrial Agriculture is Unethical

Earth, or machine. One increases diversity. One reduces it. P1220995Or is it so? When the Syilx managed these grasslands with fire and selective harvesting methods, they increased species diversity. The species-rich landscape that the first Europeans found here was created. The settlers called it wilderness and set out to tame it, perhaps in the way one would break a horse. Now that it is domesticated, or broken, as one would say of a horse, most of the species are gone in the wild land and the tamed land produces energy only with the input of fertilizers, water, capital, labour, petroleum and poisons. Two notes on that:

1. with the removal of one year’s intervention, the tamed land reverts to weeds and a desert — the true wilderness; with the removal of Syilx attention, the land is still reclaimable after 120 years.

2. making the survival of the land, which gives food for people, totally dependent upon the banking and petrochemical industries is to cede the power of the people to those industries; a people which has done that can only survive if the power of those industries remains unchallenged; any break in the chain leads to the poverty and starvation the first European settlers encountered on this land when, surrounded by hills literally covered with food, they proceeded to starve to death.

In this light, the vineyard above and the royal gala apple planting below are unethical behaviour.

P12200403 Species out of 1000: Grass, Dandelions, Apples

When the apples die, that leaves 2.

Such behaviours are reckless and are based upon structures of profound disrespect. Nothing good will come of that. Sadly, once the capitalized farming model collapses, as it has done here numerous times in the last 150 years, the land is broken up into smaller pieces, resulting, eventually in its complete removal from the earth-sun cycle and its use as housing. That, too, is a dead end. Currently, the food and water deficit created by this removal and the resulting overpopulation in the Okanagan is supported by the import of food from Mexico and other areas in the so-called developing world, which are currently transforming their earth into industrialized agricultural land, while the people harvesting the crops largely go hungry. Such behaviour (the use of the earth’s energy to amass power for humans and their social structures) is unethical. It has an end-date. In the short term, it embodies an ethical trade-off: a living earth for huge volumes of food now. However, since it retains no capacity for renewal after its inevitable collapse it is as unethical as the Battle of the Somme. It has a certain beauty, though:

lineVineyard Gravel Pit with Water Line

Does a vineyard need a gravel pit? The question is a red herring. They are the same thing. They are both forms of desertification and erosion.

 

 

 

Badgers: Gardeners of the Sun

The balsam roots are tossing in the wind.P1220733This grassland is on a hill because it is created by hills. Wind and water never stop moving there, powered by the turning of the earth among the stars.

P1220708Badgers help. They go into the hill, hunting marmots that live inside the hill.

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Balsam roots and badgers get along famously together. Here’s a nicely tilled seedbed, ready to go.

P1220762And bees.  They dig holes into the hills, too.

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Badgers, marmots, balsam roots, the turning of the earth among the stars, and bees. All on an ancient seabed ground up by a glacier.P1220745

 

On a hill. What a stupid place to build a house.

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The Ethical and Environmental Role of Poetry

Here’s an image of one ecological niche filled two ways, both of which move water into light. One creates biological life. The other creates electricity, in support of a custom of social life called “Public Safety”. One creates new social and biological niches. It is called “ponderosa pine”. It lifts ants up into the wind and draws deer and birds for shelter. And the porcupine. Each of its cones is an earth on its own, flush with species that live nowhere else. The other relies on the the drowning of millions of social and biological niches and the semi-annual slaughter of millions of others to keep its transmission lines clear, to have the power to create social niches in a non-physical sphere. It is called a street light. One creates the earth. One turns away from it. It is a contemporary belief that they can co-exist. No. Not really. The effort of passing from social technology to biological life and back again eventually leads to the belief that the biological life fills a social niche within human society. Sure it does, but that’s not its primary role. This is what medieval discussions of the knowability or unknowability of God or his manifestation in time and space in the body of Christ look like today. They have been cast into the subconscious for too long. It is time to bring them again into the light, for Christians and non-Christians alike.

P1220014The Price of Hydroelectricity

It is also time to bring in understandings of this niche between earth and sky, or water and light, in terms that come from non-Christian culture, such as that of the local Syilx culture, to which lone trees like this in the grasslands are seen in a shamanic context, as bridges to the sky world (and the setting of many a randy story and much good laughter). There is the real power: the one that both the Cross and the Hydroelectric system draw from. Poetry has the ability and tools to make these connections. The marginalization of poetry within contemporary Western culture is one of the reasons that the flow of power between such images is not better managed and why the efforts of civic planning and environmental protection often go wrong. Somethings need to be repeated over and over again, gently, and in a multiplicity of living contexts. This is one: landscape is ethics.

 

Walking With Coyote and Looking at the Stars

Walking through the bunchgrass.P1210816 Walking through the sagebrush. P1210803Walking over the bed of an ancient sea. P1210820Looking at a supernova. lupinstar Looking at planetary clusters. lupinstar2 Looking at the solar system. lupinstar3 Looking at the starry carpet of the night sky.P1210802 Meeting a red dwarf on the path. Stopping for a moment. P1210823Meeting the sun beside Coyote’s trail. P1210504 Spider lives in the sun. P1210168 Walking an old story. People call it poetry now. It’s not. Neither is this an insect. P1210633People call this nature now. P1210620 It’s not. You can’t walk with Wasp if you call it nature. P1210621 You can’t walk with the earth if you call her Nature.

desertparsleyDesert Parsley Between a Rock and a Sage Brush Stump

And yet there are all these words.

P1200245They’re not Nature. This is Nature:

P1190860Here at the bottom of Coyote’s trail is the Milky Way.

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That’s not poetry. This is poetry.

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Human Version of a River

That’s not Nature. This is Nature:

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Pigeon Guarding its Barbecue Along the Rail Line

Nature is beautiful.p1210118So is poetry.

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What a Lot of Words in One Place!

This, though, is an older story. This is the star road. Here’s a star being born.

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Here’s the sun. We are within him, yet he has shape.

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And words.

flybeeAnd children.

P1210126There’s the moon. Really. There she is. (Click to enlarge, if that helps. It could be that the technology you are using is not very good at seeing the moon.)
P1210474The earth is dying, because the words are about people now. Oh, she’s not dying all at once. She still feathers.

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She still stars.

P1200878She still yellow bells.

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In all the green cheatgrass stealing her water, stealing her words away, she is still among the stars.

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Still standing still. Ancient.

P1170423Here’s some images of her I made early one morning in March, when I mistakenly flipped the wrong switch on my camera, and found it was the right one. Here she is among the stars.
P1170547Here’s one of her words there.

P1170514 There were human words for this once.

P1170489Ancestors in the Rock at Vaseaux Lake

 There still are.

Why Art Matters

Refraction is the process of light bending when it strikes the edge of a translucent medium, such as glass or water. What you see below on the lupines in my garden is refraction, if you wish to limit the world to those terms. If you wish a broader sense of the world, then it’s not refraction but the nature of materials to echo their form in water and of water to amplify materials it touches. That’s not precisely refraction. In the pre-scientific world (which was, by the way, no less complex than the scientific one), the spirit of water and the spirit of lupine touch and form a new combined energy. This is, of course, the spirit of art, and was why training in art and poetry were essential parts of a courtly education: the administration of people, land and states was done on these artful lines. It is also why art remains important and why the scientific world view alone will not bring about a living world; it is artful energy that brings two things together into a new form. As the things to be brought together become ever more complex and distant, the need for art increases rather than decreases, and not just any art, either, but art that can touch the earth as well as contemporary human and urban concerns within a scientific, technical and bureaucratic apparatus. It is also why I have linked nature and ethics in previous posts on this site. Every photograph is an act of ethics. Every moment is an act of artfulness. When not, the failing is not that of the moment.

waterWater and Lupines Remaining True

For more on truth, please see my post today on earthwords.net. Please click here.