Riding Across the Face of the Sun: the Case for Beauty

A sail is a solar-powered device, which inserts itself within the intersections of solar, aquatic and atmospheric energy, all of which ultimately formed either by the sun or by the forces of gravitational attraction which created the solar system and which remain in the spinning of the earth.P2010217

Sailing On Lake Okanagan on a Smoky Afternoon

A sail acts, in other words, like water tension, as demonstrated yesterday in the shared (although reversed) mechanisms of the water strider…

… and the leaves of the big sage.

If you missed that post, you can read it here: click. For today, here’s another creature riding the winds of the sun.

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I know, solar winds are winds of energy, photons an waves, ejected from the nuclear processes within the sun. My point is that once they strike the earth, a planet in which light, stone and the orbiting water of comets (they crashed) are unite in matrices, much like water tension, called life, a planet in which the sun joins with atmosphere and water to lose its straight lines and flow in new form, wings, sails, splayed legs and leaf hairs are all devices for moving through the sun. Your lungs ride boundaries in much the same way. So do these sumac leaves:

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They too are walking on water. They too are riding the winds of the sun. I point this out because the world is beautiful, and this conception fits with the beautiful order of the universe, but also because it can lead to new technological breakthroughs that will bring technological science closer to the universe and technological civilization farther from the impoverishment of the earth. Beauty matters. It can change the world.

Sagebrush and Global Cooling

The image below shows a water strider. It uses the intermolecular bonds of water to hold itself up. If you look closely you can see the water bend beneath it, as if these creatures were walking on a film. They are: a film of energy.Meet the dry land water strider: big sagebrush.P2010108 The leaves of this aromatic plant are covered in tiny hairs.P2010101 These hairs trap the water which the leaves breathe out while they’re making sugar by eating photons from the sun.P2010096 They hold it in place by using those hairs in the way the water strider uses its legs. The result is a bond between the hairs of the big sage and the intermolecular bonds of the water.P2010095 This provides a high water atmosphere above the surface of the leaf, so it doesn’t lose water in the heat of the day, by augmenting the surface tension of the water — water’s own energy — to prevent the movement of water molecules across the barrier.P2010093

Just as water striders use the bonds of the water to hold themselves up in the air. This has been a summer of drought and fire. We would have gone a long way towards preventing it if we had adapted this technology and made membranes for our open water five years ago, or even this spring. It has the same effect as shade.

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In an atmosphere in which the loss of water, even from human skin, to the atmosphere creates heat, global cooling can start with the big sage.

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Sometimes walking on water means holding it still.

Chopaka: the Holy Mountain

At the height of the Cascade Mountains, at the lip of the North Pacific Rainforest, two rivers rise: the Skagit, which flows on through a dam system to provide water for Seattle and seeps on through its delta to overwinter the snow geese of Russia; and the Smlqmx, or the Similkameen, which turns off the other side of the source pebble shared by these two flows and snakes east, down into the dry country and past the sacred mountain at the centre of the world. This is the sacred mountain of the Syilx, the Smlqmx and the Sinlahekin, and all their brothers and sisters in this winding valley. This is the centre of the world, on the ancient Obsidian Road to the shield volcanoes.chopaka

That’s where I’m coming from. Those are my bones. That river is my blood. That air is my breath. My ancestors come from the foothills between the Polish plains and the mountains of Bohemia, and fill me with joy in northern and eastern Europe, but they’re awfully happy to have found the centre of the world, too. Ancestry, spirit and place. Why should those essentials be in conflict?

Return to the Snake River at the End of Time

High above the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, in the southeastern reach of my plateau homeland,  the Camas Prairie catches the sky. The camas once bloomed in blue fields here. Now wheat transforms ammonium nitrate into bread.P1860323And bread into guns.P1860349

Below these fertilized heights, the Snake River flows, in a canyon more than a mile deep.

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It’s a beautiful place.

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I took a boat trip up the Snake in June. The guide said, “The Nez Perce [Nimíipuu] didn’t use this canyon much. There wasn’t much here for them.” He told stories of gold miners, prospectors, steamboat pilots, and sheep farmers. Lots of sheep farmers. Sheep eat grass. Beautiful grass.

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No sheep there now, though. For that, you need sheep farmers, and for sheep farmers you just don’t need your own government dropping this on your head…

That’s “B Reactor” at Hanford, on the Columbia to the west. It produced the plutonium for the Trinity Test and the Nagasaki Bomb and a lot of other warheads as well. Along the way, it produced a mess of nasty isotopes, which were experimentally released into the air, to see what would happen. It killed sheep farmers is what.

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No sheep, see? The remaining sheep ranches have been turned into US Park Service sites. As for the Nimíipuu, well, it’s not true that they didn’t use this land, either. After all, this the trail that Joseph and his band from the Wallowa used to take down to the river, where they overwintered (for half of every year [!!!!!!!]}

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And why? Well, look. A spirit rock.P1880663

 

Spirit rocks, formed by spines of old rock thrust up in the volcanic regime, are great places to fish. In indigenous earth, story and practicality join, but spirit comes first. You can pick a fishing spot by its spirit stories and know there will be fish there. 12,000 years of experience helps.

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And what better place to fish than the mouth of the Salmon River? Here it is, entering the Snake. It’s best to think of it as a living thing.

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In Joseph’s time, and in the time of his ancestors, the Snake (in the foreground) would have been ten times the strength of the Salmon. Now its flow is controlled by dams upriver. It would have backed up into an amazing fishing eddy, rather than the simple curl of a rapid it ends in now. Here it is looking down the Snake, just south of the confluence. Picture look a bit wobbly? Such is boat life.

P1880839 Here is the foreshore of the Nimíipuu winter camp. The mouth of the Snake is to the immediate right.P1880827

Hardly an issue of not using the canyon. Modern roads …

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… are not so smart, like this one slashing across the spirit path down this draw and through the ancient story of stone at its mouth. Here it is closer…

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Talk about being unable to read the land, or the water. The image below looks north, up the Snake. The Salmon is entering from the left. Does it look like we’re eddying in circles?  Such is also boat life.

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Was there ever a better space to spend half your life? The salmon caught just downriver here at the next series of spirit rocks in the Snake sustained Lewis and Clark on their return from their big scientific [spy] journey [reconnaissance] to the Pacific in 1804. They were camped on the other side of the Camas Prairie, along the Clearwater River, at the Heart of the Monster, the place where the Nimíipuu began and, still, the centre of the homeland (well, except for the Camas Prairie, perhaps).

They were starving, because they had tried to pass the Rockies to the east too early in the season, against advice. Three men went to the fishing camp on the Salmon, a hard two days’ journey either way, for a handful of fish, all rotting except for one by the time they got them back. At the camp, they had to stand in line for their fish. It was very early in the fishing season. The few fish that were being caught were released to people from all the bands of the Nimíipuu on a needs basis. The Americans had to wait their turn. That doesn’t sound like an unused river to me. This is what a river looks like when it is used.

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This is what a river looks like when it is unused. Yes, that’s the ruin of a sheep ranch.

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And this is what a canyon land looks like once sheep have trashed it. Not a scrap of bunchgrass in sight.

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What astonishes me is that once the settlers have proven that neither they nor their government can really look after the land, it is not returned to its people and their spirit rocks.

Dunno. I guess the boat guide calling the images at Buffalo Eddy, like the one above, “crap” is a clue. One first step, now that the river is being viewed not as a spiritual story but as a physical one, one of geography and nature…

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Moon Above the Weeds, Asotin

… is to regain the spiritual story within that nature. I don’t mean some New Age world of charms and crystals and good feelings, although that can be beautiful enough. I mean, reading the life energy again in the land…lone

… and rebuilding memory out of it. Right now, B Reactor is forgotten, the Nimíipuu are forgotten, Lewis and Clark are remembered poorly, the Snake is forgotten, the fishing sites and winter camps are forgotten, although it is out of memory that thought and identity is made. Without them, there is no consciousness. The Snake is conscious, in its riverine way. Can you read it here at Buffalo Eddy?

be Shouldn’t all culture be as conscious as that? And with as much life as this:

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Eventually one has to leave the Snake …

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Eventually one has to go back. Next time, let’s go together. Let’s go deep. Let’s go to the river of stone that falls from the sky.

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Let’s start with that.

 

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What Exactly IS Global Warming Anyway

The earth is warming, globally. There are many factors for this warming, including carbon emissions, methane emissions and urbanization (which changes light absorption patterns), among others, likely even including long-term non-human cycles, but it’s not really warming that’s the issue. Warming is a consequence. Simplicity is the problem.

vineyardhill Vineyard in the Smoke, Vernon, British Columbia

Smoky Gurty (Gewürztraminir), Anyone?

From coastal flooding, increased storm activity, warmer winters (which increase insect damage to forests), to accelerated summer drought and resulting fires, the change is really a change in atmosphere. The sky contains more carbon. Lots more carbon.

P2000756 BX Creek Mouth, West Arm Okanagan Lake in the Smoke of the Washington Fires

It is a different earth, capable of hosting life differently. It is also a fire planet, rather than a water world. The life that lives on it is an artefact of the past. Well, sort of.

loontrees Female Common Loon and Chick Among the Reflections of Beetle-Killed Pines

Otter Marsh, Big Bar Lake

That’s still not the source of the problem. The last time Earth was a fire planet, Antarctica froze over, creating global “cooling” and cycles of wet monsoons and dry summers. Grasses were the expression of this new earth, and intensified it. They grew at fantastic rates at the edges of forests, in the wet season, and fuelled dry fires in the dry season. They survived those by seed and root. They even looked like flames.

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Couch Grass Gone Feral

Within two weeks of a fire, it will be back, resolidifying the carbon its burning stalks gave off to the sky.

The trees that had sheltered the grasses did not survive. What was left was an edge ecosystem, of grass, without trees to be an edge of, but remember, the grass’s signature is fire. What was left was an ecosystem of fire. Fire is not the problem.

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Blue-bunched Wheat Grass in the Smoke

Each one is a point of fire, shall we say.

Eventually, elephants and apes (among others) evolved to colonize the last edges of trees living as islands in the grass — or, shall we say, they evolved to colonize fire and the combustion of carbon. Eventually, that led to this kind of thing:

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Later, in the Miocene Age, when so much ice was in the poles that sea levels sank drastically and the maritime ecosystem crashed, horses, the pure creatures of the grass, evolved for the treeless landscape.

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Horses in the Walhachin Weeds

All of these creatures, elephants, humans and horses became the edge, that was once provided by trees. As long as these edges were contained within the landscapes of which they were part, all was well. The image below shows an edge of this kind. This is the Fraser River, the last great salmon river of the West, deep within its fault at Chapman’s Bar.

P2000134The image captures an ancient, Indigenous Nlaka’pamux salmon fishery, as you can, perhaps see below. The colour of the water comes from the glaciers to the north melting away…cut

… and settling as silt.P2000200

This is an edge in many ways: it is the boundary of cold and heat, wet and dry, summer and winter, ocean and grass, humans and water, forest and tide, and much more. The richness of trees on the western bank of the river indicates how close we are here to the rain forests on the other side of these mountains, yet even so this is where the grassland begins. Old photographs from the beginning of history here, in 1858, show half the trees that are here now. You are looking at grassland weeds, that grew in when fires were suppressed. The image below was taken close to the one above. It is 115 years old. That’s not a rainforest in it, though, or even close to one. It’s a transition zone…

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… rather like this one today:

P1980287The Big Bar Eskers

These are the bends of a sub-glacial river. They are made out of ground-up, subducted and uplifted seabed from the age of the birth of the grasses.

Let me clarify. I’m not re-defining global warming to discredit its seriousness. I’m trying to show that there’s more to it than a simple story of warming or of carbon alone. Fixing carbon will give us a chance to fix the behaviours that are exacerbating global warming. Eliminating fire is not the way to do that. We are fire. That being said, here’s an old savannah on the north edge of the eskers. (Warning: it’s in poor shape.)

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There are two tall firs there that are savannah trees that probably grew in the grass, alone, in a wet summer about 400 years ago. Kind of like this:

 

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Young Douglas Fir in Dog Creek

Or maybe like the following image of pines and firs in the scree on Puddin’head Mountain in Keremeos. Note the burn on the valley wall on the edge of the Ashnola in behind.

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Every year some trees go up in flame. Every year, the excess trees are fire waiting to happen. It will happen. They are weeds. They are the result of human intervention in the fire landscape. The thing is, that human intervention maintained that fire landscape for something like 4,000 years. Here’s why:

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Interior Douglas Fir Crowded Out by Scrub

Yeah, her daughters, really. This should be grass.

Like I said, this savannah is not in very good shape. If this thing burns, the old trees are going to go up like rockets, and the young ones will burn way too hot. The place will become charcoal. Traditional burning maintained these savannahs in a juvenile state, for food. Fire burnt through quickly, left the big trees, took out the small ones, and made the grassland young again. Biscuit root grew…

Commonage, Kalamalka Lake

… and balsam root, also edible …

… and mariposa lily, also a staple…

… and so many more, even quicker to benefit from fire than the grasses they grew among.  By burning, humans, who are fire, ate the fruit of fire. Like these plants, they live in edge environments: complex interactive zones between modes of being. In the grasslands, such boundaries often look like the riparian zone below, which shelters deer, bears, porcupines, grouse, and many species of birds, which either feed here or out on the grass, and at the same time provides food sources for birds that live out on the grass: it is as much the grassland as the grass; a kind of contained edge or elongated savannah moving through zones of altitude and maintain life sources across seasons. It is not separate from the grass.

Without edges, contained within systems, without a depth of zones of resiliency and variability, edge-system creatures cannot survive. Here is what human society and technology and culture in the Okanagan grasslands has made out of these edge and savannah systems today:

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Royal Gala Apple Plantation, Bella Vista

Note that the grass has been removed from fire, the savannah ingrowth has been controlled by pruning and wires, and the ecosystem has only social edges and edges with weather and atmosphere. Water from the high country maintains this system, and animals and insects are kept out with poisons and fences. It is not a monoculture, but it’s close: trees, dandelions, one species of grass, the occasional pheasant or robin, and humans. Weather and water are the sole determiners of success here. Renewal is not done by fire, but by human intervention, as in the image below:

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Those are spartan apple trees I planted in Keremeos in 1973. They have been replaced by cherries, grown for the Chinese market. Humans are the fire here, and the edge is within them. From this perspective, global warming is not about carbon, but about the simplification of fire and of the interface of living systems with it. When fire comes now, it wipes out overly-simplified ecosystems, and renewal does not include humans. That’s logical. Humans have so taken on the role of fire that any fire outside of human boundaries becomes the human enemy. That’s actually insane, because this is a fire planet. It’s covered in oxygen, which is like a bomb. The solution is not to ban fire, but to act proactively against any fire which simplifies complexity, and that means any social system which prevents such proactive action. For reference, this is complexity:

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Grassland Soil

A hundred species per cubic foot.

This is simplicity:

Golf Course at the Rise, Bella Vista

Two species. It is an edge, yes, but the edge of a desert. It is not contained within the grassland. It is an exception to it. The desert here is not the wounded sagebrush and cheatgrass grassland, but this green grass. Life’s drive for complexity must be beaten back with petroleum-based fertilizers and weedkillers, with the end result that the earth is simplified and turned into a machine. There are consequences to that.

Compare my front lawn.

As the grassland on the hill above my house (and that golf course at its crown) is simplified by the absence of fire and renewal, the native insects of the hill have increasingly fewer places to go. This small field of flowers, some 400 square feet, provides space for something like 50 species of bees and wasps, who come down here from the grass, and about five species of grassland birds. In imitation of fire, I collect seeds every summer, scythe down the stalks, and reseed this plot every spring. I also find it beautiful. The human world is a social one, but that does not mean that Earth and its creatures are not part of the social group. Here’s what the Syilx, the grassland people, have to say:

The word “Syilx” takes its meaning from several different images. The root word “Yil” refers to the action of taking any kind of many-stranded fiber, like hemp, and rolling it and twisting it together to make one unit, or one rope. It is a process of making many into one. “Yil” is a root word which forms the basis of many of our words for leadership positions, as well. Syilx contains a command for every individual to continuously bind and unify with the rest. This command goes beyond only humans and encompasses all stands of life that make up our land. The word Syilx contains the image of rolling or unifying into one, as well as the individual command which is indicated by the “x” at the end of the word which indicates that it is a command directed at the individual level. The command is for every individual to be part of that stranded unified group, and to continue that twisting and unification on a continuous basis. It is an important concept which underlies our consideration of the meanings of aboriginal title and rights.

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As the syilx point out, nature is not something present by accident. It is something created by the intent of those creatures of fire and grass when they maintain edges by weaving them in to community. Here, take a look at something known as a global warming catastrophe, the haunt of the Mountain Pine Beetle:

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Most of the ingrown and replanted forests of British Columbia, and expanse of fire pine with an area larger than most European countries, has fallen to the beetle in the last ten years. We have all wept. I made firewood, because we all thought fire would come, and I wanted to protect my house.

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But look, today:

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Not only did the grass, which had become ingrown with trees since burning was stopped in 1920, come back, but so did the forest. Wave after wave, fire to grass to fire to grass, in a process of continual renewal. The lesson is that in a fire landscape, with fire grass and fire pines, the fire of beetles and the slow fire of rot are as much fire as flame or human intervention, and the forest is neither the trees nor the grass but their weaving. Maintaining edge systems in relation to each other is key. Here’s one, essential to the grasslands:

P1970943 Rocks are islands of cold in the heat of the grass. They catch water, initiate savannahs, shelter animals, catch heat, and disperse lichens, which maintain the soil. Here’s another:
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Vaseaux Lake

Here the great desert of the American West meets the snow.

Water provides edge habitats where the water planet and the fire planet meet and continually create new life at the intersection. I don’t mean directed life, like this:

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I mean this:

The grasslands survive because of wetlands like this. Water savannahs, let’s call them. The wetlands survive because of grasslands like this:

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Conconully

Wetlands and grasslands are two sides of the same thing. They are two sides humans, who live at their intersection, as do all savannah and riparian creatures. Simplification is not the answer. Adaptation to survive boundary events is. Right now, global warming is a huge boundary event, one in which the forests have been turned into latent fire, the grasslands have been tilled and sown with wetland water, the wetlands have been paved and filled with burnable wooden houses and the only thing that keeps this going is petroleum, the burning of fossil carbon. The only thing that powers the orchard below, for example, is fertilizer made from fossil carbon and tractors powered by fossil carbon and fruit delivered to cities by fossil carbon:

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The fires that have filled the air here this last week are the result of this oversimplification of what it is to be a human habitat. A human habitat is not a village. That is only a substitute for a savannah. It is only an attempt to keep one from burning. It will burn. The challenge is not to stop global warming but to adapt social systems to allow for fire. That might include stopping global warming, if by that is meant a rise in mean atmospheric temperature due to the greenhouse effect of atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, but the base change is to become syilx, quickly and thoroughly. The real global warming happens when fire and water are removed from living relationships. Carbon follows.

Let’s Get Serious About Global Warming

Sure, the story of carbon emissions is the global warming story, but there’s also the story of the warming that comes from urbanization, and there’s the story that comes from the warming that results from being blind to the wisdom an experience of indigenous knowledge of the land. For example, this:

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Well, no wisdom except a the view from a Smlqmx village site in the Similkameen Valley, with a history of many thousands of years. This is fire country. Fire is natural here, not a disaster, or an aberration. Look, for instance how the smoke through the snout of the mountain into relief. I tell ya, on a non-burning day, you don’t see that, because there are other mountains in behind. When it burns, though, the story is highlighted.

P2000673Global warming, that’s a tricky thing. Huge sums of money have been spent fighting fires this year. This smoke comes from Washington, in the USA. It has blown north and west to come here, in Keremeos.P2000663 Thing is, this village site invited the Hudson’s Bay Company to set up its horse ranch on its boundaries, and a métis packer for the company settled on it, and then an Austrian scout from the Apache wars bought it, and in the third transaction after that, my father bought it. Now, two generations have passed. The old stage coach road I remember is gone. This is serious farming country now. The image below shows where the stage over Green Mountain pulled in and crossed the Keremeos River, which has been downgraded to a creek.

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Here, too.

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These old black locusts (and honey locusts) were planted to grow without water and provide fence posts that would last 100 years. Here’s what’s left of the orchard I planted on the village site (not knowing it was a village) in 1973, out of the trees I learned to graft on:

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That’s right, out of 120 trees, four remain, and next year the one on the left is going to be toast. Here’s what’s left of the fifty acres of trees I planted when I was twelve years old. Yes, in the smoke.

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That’s global warming, too. An orchard my father planted eight years earlier, out of the same varieties, is still productive. The warming here, is a measure of human incompetence. If the farmer who “owned” these trees had known what on earth he was doing, they would have still been alive, and would still be producing. So, when you see smoke…

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…look for the coyote in the rock or the marble on the hill …

P2000661 … see it? …P2000652 That’s Chukuaskin’s grave. He tried for a fair deal for his people. He got a graveyard excavated for a gravel pit, now grown over with weeds.

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Disrespect leads to global warming. If we’re going to turn this around, then respect for the ancestors of this place is the way to do it. I don’t mean my ancestry in the orchards. That’s factory land now.

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I mean the foraging that we referenced with our orchards two generations ago. Here’s some foraging land that has suffered from the warming created by the extraction of capital from it in the mouths of cows that didn’t belong there.

P2000774 And here’s the sagebrush (in the smoke) that represents that warming. This stuff burns like gasoline, and it’s the result of overgrazing.P2000760 What’s to do? Burn it! The hill in the back in the image below burnt three years ago when a kid started playing with a lighter on the corner where a “land developer” (sic) blasted out an 8,000 year old rattlesnake den to build a road to a subdivision and a golf course no-one wants. No sagebrush there in back. Fire would blow through it in a few minutes and fizzle out.  There’d be no smoke.P2000773

Of course, this excess of carbon in the landscape, this warming of the landscape, holds the carbon of the industrial age, in the grass, where it doesn’t belong. Burning might be extreme until the situation is stabilized, but you could cut this damn stuff out with a pair of clippers for 1,000,000th the cost of fighting wildfires and replacing houses that went up like aviation fuel. We could do this. We could bring the grass back, and cool the land. I can see no reason why we should be the holders of the carbon of people who don’t respect people like Chukuaskin. Here’s his vandalized grave three years ago, when the world wasn’t burning.

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Remember, this is the centre of the Smlgmx world. 2,000 people lived here for 10,000 years. Ignoring their knowledge is suicide. It’s horrible that people are losing their homes these days. It would be more horrible if it ever happened again.

Weeds at Work

Say hi to Queen Anne’s Lace.P1990727

 

It is listed as a noxious weed. I mean, try grazing a cow in this pasture.

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Still, who defines these things? Not the lettuce plants that grow better in the cooling microclimate below these flowers. Not the tomatoes that are more productive beneath them. Not the carrots (a selected subspecies) and onions which grow with fewer pests because of the predatory wasps that come to pollinate these flowers. Certainly not the wasp (left) and ladybug (right) below.

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Maybe it’s not all about cows.

P1980883 Maybe? P1980867

 

 

Native and Settler Apples on the North West Pacific Shore

Welcome to the fuscas!

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 Malus Fusca: Pacific Crab

110% of life size.

Here’s a domestic apple, descended from Caucasian stock, for comparison.

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 Liberty (Macoun X Purdue 54-12; Geneva, New York, 1955)

40% of life size.

The Voice of a Great Cascadian River

Chapman’s Bar: a gravel bar in the Fraser River.P2000130As the heat breaks, the rain begins in the ancestral homeland of the grassland peoples.

P2000161 Some rocks never dried out. The spring river made a nest around this one.P2000171 The rain washes off the muck of logging that has come down the river from the plateau.P2000177 Rocks are life. If you think with the earth.P2000174 Beautiful life!P2000223

 

Beautiful rocks!

P2000146Volcanic rifts, volcanic islands, subductions, stratovolcanoes, plutons, island arcs, metamorphoses, uplifted seabeds carved by glaciers and all rounded by water: ah!
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This is the river talking and taking us home.