We Are Not Alone


Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone

It is not biology that makes us into individuals, seeking to find Nature from behind our masks. How do I know? Because Nature is a cultural artefact, too. This is art:


Actually, it’s a bit of Frankenstein, really, because what makes it look like art is framing, and if the framing is done right it looks human. Without that, it might look like Frankenstein, like this:

wrongIn the second image, the framing pushes the image away from the sky and its water, decontextualizes the new snow, and draws the human eye into shadow, then drops it out of the bottom of the frame. The result is not human. In an age of images, these are the tricks. It’s not that we need to make bad images, to remove human-ness from nature, but it might be that we need to explore that opening. We are doing something, that is way beneath human consciousness, yet collectively we are doing it billions of times a day. So, look at the first image again (below), looking east from Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. This is nature.


It is a created artefact, not just because a balanced image makes it into Nature, which it does, but also because, beyond the artifice of the image, the landscape it “represents” (but doesn’t) has been stripped of its human inhabitants, rendered “empty”, and then filled with people writing images of nature upon it. Sometimes it’s the emptiness above, and the revealed fire and energy cycles within it. That’s a valuable thing, but it’s as much a human image of a human as the spiritual image that previous inhabitants found within it. Sometimes it’s this:


Bison were reintroduced to the park, to restore its wild beauty. Despite all the warnings from park staff that bison are wild and dangerous, this isn’t exactly wild. This is a human-bison combo. It’s no different than a photograph. So, what’s to do? Objectivity is no answer. That has led us to this Frankensteinian impasse in the first place. Removing the viewing “I” is one possibility. It’s possible to do that by introducing bison. It’s possible to do that by allowing the land to find its organic energy rhythms. Those are artworks, too, but not the only ones. Deconstruction, the process of removing the everyday expectations from things and displaying their hidden structures, is one way of doing it. Another, though is contextualization. It’s the art not of following a narrative line, which will always be biased towards one cultural form of human activity, but of erasing the line …

P2070199 … and still being there, not going out to meet Nature, but coming in from it to the point where there is no nature and no self …P2070480… but something else entirely.

Something there are no words for. Poetry is the art of finding the words, but you can’t force poetry. For the moment, I give you the gesture.


Spring is Way Too Early

The choke cherries are waiting for the bear to come.P2080575

Not all of them, though. The tent caterpillars had their way with many of them in July. Ate all the leaves away, they did. Here’s a photo from back then.


Now, roses (and cherries are roses) like a nice winter before they start growing again, but when you’ve lost all your leaves for months, it’s kind of like sort of the same thing. You sprout, you bloom, when you should not be doing any such thing at all.

P2090170 I tell you, no good can come of this.P2090173

Spring is going to be rough, I think. Oh wait, it’s spring now…or is it?


Cascadia: Land of Fire

Cascadia rises out of the seabeds of the continental plains, where a hot, conductive current rises from deep in the earth and shears and curls around the impenetrable ancient rock of the North American Craton. We call this column of fire Yellowstone.P2040102It is a wave of energy and resistance that creates mountains.


They rise from fire and create zones of cold, commonly called snow, in the ocean they made into the dry prairies of the Upper Missouri River. So are rivers born out of mist.


So is winter born out of summer air.spill It too pours in rivers over the plains.livingston It reaches out.fog1

Rivers are everywhere in this ripple in the sky. They squeeze the sky onto the dry earth.


Just as they are squeezed by rock that is still rising in a massive wave.


Not all leave the fire mountains, having molten the sky, or at least not yet. First, they pour through the caldera of the volcano, in a country of fire.


The fire here is green, but it burns just the same. These are the great fire pines of the North West. They are born in fire and die in it.P2060570And are born in it again.


They live on the caldera wall.wall Look at them lick with flame among the bones of their mothers.P2060583 Look at them drink the molten sky.P2060606 Look at them grow on the ash of old volcanoes.P2060622 The fire is not still. It still drives hot water out of the deep earth: snowmelt and rain and water squeezed out of the beds of ancient seas.P2060527 Here, too, fire pines burst into flame from the soil…


…and the water …


…grow old in the sky…P2050485

… and return to the fire.


It is not a linear wave. It is happening all at once.

P2050346 The fire does not consume.P2050370


It is the fire. We who walk here are in the fire.P2060276 It is the water. We who walk here are burning water.P2060145 And it is the sky. We who walk here stop, as the land has stopped, and give ourselves over to new forms.pool Some volcanoes erupt very slowly.P2050790

This is one. In it, water and fire are one.


In it, we live, who live in Cascadia.


Nature is a foreign word in this fire country. As soon as you see nature, you know you are not here.



As I was making an image of the pines below …


… a woman walking past looked up and said, “I don’t see anything there. Just a whole lot more pines.” She didn’t see this…


… or if she did, she didn’t see that this lone aspen is this hot pool…


… or these splashes of magma…


… or that there are creatures …


… who eat this fire …


Calling it nature makes it random and wild. Look at it…


… it’s not random. Look at it …


… it’s not wild. Humans have the capacity to be this energy.

pool2 When they are not this energy …prismatictres

… they invent nature, where, before, the fire rose up…

P2050800 … and rose up higher …P2060145

… and sang.


Without poets, we would be living on a dying earth. We would be dying and contemplating turning ourselves in to machines. That is the age that abstract culture has made in its own image. This is the world that humans live in…

P2060042 These differing worlds are equally abstract. They are equally simple.P2070086

But you do have to choose.


I have. I hope you can find your way to the earth, too.

The Music of the Sun at Yellowstone

Here are some images of music (or mathematics) from Yellowstone.


I know, we’re all used to hearing music, but look:


Dramatic stuff!


And we’re used to viewing photographs as visual artefacts, I know, but isn’t this music?


We’re used to seeing stuff like this as art, but look at those patterns. I can hear them, without sound.


Or, rather, isn’t the earth here the sound?


And the seeing?


Maybe it’s not the hearing that makes music. Maybe it’s the music in it.


At any rate, I’m glad of this physically embodied music…


… and awed to be standing within it. I don’t need to hear it.


I am music. The men below are not just fishing. They are music.


The Fire Hole River below is not just water.


This hot spring singer is not just giving voice. His body is as much the voice as his trill.


His body is the trill of the hot spring below.


All of it is song.The sun is composing it.


And playing it.


And rising up.


If we are to have a science, let us begin with the sun’s music, not mathematics.


We will arrive at the same place, just deeper within ourselves.


And that makes all the difference.


Life at Yellowstone: Past and Present

Above the Yellowstone Hot Spot, deep in the caldera of the super volcano, Mammoth Hot Springs cover hundreds of acres of ground — just a tiny corner of the heat coming up with water through the broken stone.P2040951

The story told in scientific culture is one of hot water that flows through deep cracks and rises as superheated steam to make hot springs. I no longer think that’s quite it. Sometimes it helps to look up.


Look at that, eh. The grass is catching the same light — it, too, is heat. In fact, the age of the rock here, from mineralization through fire pines to grass, and the hues of light they attract and repel, their heat, so to speak, can be read, easily. This is time we’re looking at. Everything here is a hot spring, including the stone, including the waters, including the calcium carbonate, including the trees and grass and the singers …P2040513

… and the life colonizing the hot springs and giving them colour …


… are a weave of time, that all exists at once, and is still opening. In the caldera, the past is also present. Call this life. I do.

Little Bear in the Kinnikinnick

This spring cub is about to meet its first winter.

First, berries.


There are a couple of species of “bear berries” in our mountains in the Northwest, but these sparse ones are the only ones that escaped the spring frosts. Kinnikinnick  is also known as arberry, bear’s grape, crowberry, foxberry, hog cranberry, mealberry, mountain box, mountain cranberry, mountain tobacco, sandberry, upland cranberry, and uva-ursi.