Environmental Poetics

If sun …P1480038


Trembling Aspen

… or shade …


Jerusalem Artichoke

… were continuous …



… or even divided …

P1470919 … there would be no life.P1470912They act as a pump. They pump time…P1470842

Saskatoons in Summer Drought

… together …
P1470771 Staghorn Sumacs (Male)

… and bring fruit …

P1470490Star King Red Delicious Apples

… and allow the mind to see itself …

P1470473Summerland Red MacIntosh Apples

… out in the world.

N0000303.RAW Poplars, Mud Lake

Poetry was once the language that could mediate these energies. Environmental science needs its tools, because within it the body is the earth and the earth the spirit.

P1410986Blown Salsify

Just blow and the wind catches it.


In the next few days I’m going to try to assemble my posts that support this idea, to have something special for our 800th post together here.



The Unity of Plants vs. Human Hate

The science based on Darwin holds that plants evolve over time to fit various ecological niches. This bunchgrass, for example, evolved to take advantage of hot, windy climates.
P1470833 The science based on Goethe holds that plants have an essential nature which exists in potentiality within plants and expresses itself in response to varying conditions in a manner similar to the evolving relationship between the first rounded leaf of spring and the long, deeply cut leaves of Autumn.


Dandelions, or Lion’s Teeth

Note the rounded leaves at the left and the older, deeply cut leaves in the individual at the centre of the image.

The difference seems to be an attitude to spirit and time. With Darwin’s science, time is a line, that is always pushing forward. With Goethe’s, time is a continuum, that opens out of itself, like this arrow-leafed balsam root, a gorgeous yellow sunflower, at the end of its season.

P1470855 Diversity is certainly key. This Scotch Thistle expresses the same tendencies to leaf as the dandelion or the balsam root, the same sense of extension, and the same tendency for individual stalks. Like the wheat grass, which lays down seeds in a balanced pattern and at set intervals, it lays down spines. It expresses these tendencies differently, but as Goethe might have pointed out, they are the same tendencies.P1470693 They are the same ones in these old, twisted sagebrush stalks…

P1470827 … and in these jerusalem artichokes…P1470779


Where Darwininan sees a ladder of being, Goethean science sees an opening of potential in response to conditions. Neither is wrong, but perhaps it would be good to give Goethean science a real try. Through exposure to it, society might transform itself into a field of energy in which, say, Sunnis and Shiites, or Ukrainians and Russians, have the ability to express their common potentiality, rather than their differences and their points of historical divergence. The thought that this yellow clover …P1470857


(Yeah, yellow! Go figure!)

… is essentially the same plant as that sagebrush above gives me pause to marvel, and to consider that the great philosopher of potentiality (He called it “being”.), Heidegger, has often been dismissed as a Nazi (He was, for a time.), although his philosophy held within it the potentiality to diverge from Nazism (which he did), while the deterministic philosophies of those who have dismissed him hold within them the potentiality to grow into rigid, top down societies, such as was the 1930s German Nazi state, and such as is the IS state in Syria and Iraq, which is currently dividing and killing people on the basis of points of rigid, evolutionary diverge of social forms. To talk about Nature is to talk about ethics. Maybe it’s time to take the long view, like this:

P1470768A Photograph of Being

aka Dandelion

Gravity is Relative: The Wisdom of Wasps

To humans, gravity means you keep your feet on the ground. Not so for wasps.P1470539


For them, it’s all fine to act that way when flying, but when you stop flying you react to what presents itself to you.

ladyNot Just Wasps!

Sounds like space flight, doesn’t it. It is. To effect it, don’t have bones, that require gravity to settle out and rise up like the towers termites build out of sand. Have an exoskeleton! Thought of the day: perhaps we should send our sisters to Mars.


Try This on Mars, I Dare You

Life in the sky…
bee…  vanishes (This is a form of ripening.)

subtleAt first it is nowhere to be found. Bones are everywhere. The sun has burnt everything away.P1470323Not everything. There are bee caves.



And this year will come again.


Hang on!

Beautiful Tent Caterpillars

It’s the time of year when tent caterpillars are in their glory, making art out of the choke cherries in the roadside ditches, along the walking trails, and in the creek beds running down through the sagebrush. They are looked on as pests, but I think they are exquisitely beautiful. In their honour, I share them with you. If you click on any image, a larger image will open up.

Pretty amazing, eh!

Garter Snake Fishing

Meet the fisher.

headupLook how beautiful she is. (About 3 feet long.)


Inspect her fishing tackle.


And her hidey hole. She looks like a beaver peeled stick lying in the shallows.


Note the two 3-inch fish in the foreground. They are edging quickly closer.

Note the expanded technique. She (he?) held this position for 30 seconds. No luck. Note the fish edging in from the left.

twofishTotal time underwater: about 4 minutes. Fish caught: 0. But it was very close. Amazing!

All pictures: Conconully Lake, Washington


Life (and chipmunks)

Fire comes from the centre of the solar system. fire1Water comes from the edge of the solar system. waterThey meet on earth. P1410986You would think they might extinguish each other, but no. P1420013 Here on earth, they are both the same thing. weeds2 That’s our planet: a meeting ground. weedsThat’s what life is.

dragondrPhoto: Diane Rhenisch

The voice of the solar system.



P1420004And sun.

chipmunkAnd chipmunks, bless them.


Why Good Science Matters

Yesterday, I wrote this:

It is time to stop taking the world apart and to acknowledge that what we seek is what we will find. It is that kind of universe.

I would like to clarify that. When I said “what we seek is what we will find” I did not mean that what the Christians, let’s say, in Iraq, are seeking under an invasion by the Islamic State. Broadly speaking, those people are seeking security, peace and even life itself. All are perilously close to collapse. That is serious, even heart-breaking, business, as all things are when one is dealing with top predators (homo sapiens). My heart goes out to people being preyed on by other humans, in the name of spiritual principles, or for any other reason (and there are many). What I was speaking about, however, was the dominant spiritual and cultural force in the human world today, the world of science. I was pointing out that the dominant Western scientific tradition was not a representation of “reality”, as it wishes to see itself, but, rather, of a cultural reality, and that is quite a different thing. Scientific philosophy is not a trivial thing, but if not acknowledged and challenged it can in extreme situations lead to such horrors as the chaos of contemporary Iraq. To be fair, as far as cultural realities go, contemporary North American cultural ethics are not bad ones. We can, however, make them better, and it is the duty of every citizen of any state that wishes to call itself civilized to work towards the ethical goal of improving the operation of its state, because states and their belief systems determine to a large extent the lives of their citizens. This is serious stuff. The states that govern (a term loosely applied at times) my part of the earth (the intermontane grasslands of the North American West), namely the United States and Canada, can and must do a better job. The alternative is the chaos of Iraq, the Ukraine, the Gaza Strip, Liberia, and… really, the examples abound (for which these states do carry some blame). This is just one of the many reasons I argue for a re-imagining of science and a re-ignition of the relationship between humans and the earth. In social terms, worse will follow if we don’t get it right. In ecological terms, the situation is even more clear. To that end, let me restate my comment from yesterday:

The universe appears to be arranged on a principle of energy, that enables any conception that is brought to it. If one wishes to see an empirical world, one will see that, one will be given proof, and one will be given a society based on empirical models. If one wishes to see a spiritual world, one will see that, one will be given proof, and one will be given a society based on spiritual models. These are just examples. The principle is infinite. Because of this energy flow, all attempts at codifying reality should be viewed with caution, and that includes, even, scientific principles “proven” by mathematical and experimental procedures. They are true, but they are only one of many truths, and the real truth is beyond them.

That is, more or less, what I meant to say. For the sake of my companions on this earth …

deerdr … and its waters …


… I just wanted to make that clear. (Photos by Diane Rhenisch)