Of Mice and Men

Under the snowdrifts, mice ate between the thorns.chew


On the Columbia River, men try to catch their salmon in the same way.



In the second image, however, you can see the wall of industrialization that attempts to write an end to life on earth, and the resilience of people to it. But let’s not romanticize the Yakama fishers. Here in the industrial West, all humans are weeds, like the cheatgrass in the retaining wall below.



This is the place left for us to inhabit now. The following image shows the same place:



The Vernon Heron Rookery in Light Industrial Hell

The following image, too:



The Okanogan River (left) Enters the Impounded Columbia

It is all industrial. Any of us who wish to live on our own planet now, must live in the weedy spaces between the constructions of the technological elite, but that’s nothing: the earth and its other creatures must live there every minute of every day. I showed you a giant Douglas Fir the other day…


This Quinault tree is one of what were once millions like it in Washington. They rose on the bones and bodies of salmon. Now it’s one of a couple dozen. The rest were turned into cities, which have already been torn down. Because the salmon are gone, trees like this will not come on again. What are left are the weeds we must live among, as the weeds we are. What is left to us is to make a new world. We have the ability to choose that world. These men, for instance, pulling one of the last White Sturgeon, the ancient ones, out of the Columbia in front of the mothballed military reactors of the Hanford Reservation, have that ability.


Why Do Some Fire Hydrants Play Cowboys and Mexicans?

Russian thistle was one of the first weeds from the Russian steppes to destroy the grasslands of the North American West. It became one of the dominant characters in Country & Western music, when it was still the music of this place and hadn’t gone commercial. To set the scene, here’s Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers crooning away.

And here’s some tumbleweeds doing their Russian thing in the Mojave Desert:

I’ve seen them do this trick many a time, including down Main Street in the resort city of Penticton in the winter snow. On the Hanford Nuclear Reservation a few Junes back, with the plutonium dust blinding me, they came up over the hill like a hiya moosmoos* of mustangs, galloping away, and I had to wait it out. They were on me about two seconds after I took the shot below. I’d pulled off to give them space. (*’herd’ in the Chinook Jargon trade language of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the language of this place)

moosmoosHere they are hanging out in Vernon. Now, what I want to know is … why this fire hydrant?
P1720334Why does all this history stop here and refuse to budge? Why, could it be because Roy and friends were playing at being Mexican vaqueros, in celebration of the absorption of Mexican Texas and California into the United States, in the way other white boy groups played Black music as if it were their own?

It sure looks like it. A good number of the first ranchers in the grasslands of what became the Canadian Northwest were Mexican vagueros dispossessed by legal sleight-of-hand in California, who drove cattle north to the gold fields in 1858. They never went back. Now the tumbleweeds, symbol of restless wandering in the Old West, have their hidden stories to tell, still. As Roy Rogers said…

See them tumbling down
Pledging their love to the ground
Lonely but free I’ll be found
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

But there’s beauty still.



And usefulness…



Please, let’s tumble no more.


When Volcanoes Crumble Flowers Come

When the earth is spoken of in its own terms it becomes poetry and is a language for spirit, like this…

When rock catches sun and snow, lupins sprout and sagebrush buttercups and desert parsley bloom. Meanwhile the rock draws water out of the body of the earth, cracks with frost, turns to salt, and feeds the soil, over a few thousand years.



The sun draws water through the stems of the flowers in the same process, while the flowers follow underground water, which follows subsurface stone, in the same way …



… and then comes the sun, as called …


If the flowers are stone that has evaporated as salt into the air, then the wasp is salt that has fallen as rain from the air to the suns that salt has made out of water.

This too is science. (It is not, however, erosion.)

How the West Was Won and Lost

Oh, here we are in the Hanford Reach, where we find a bit of Canadian Water going home. No, wait, it’s American water. No, wait, it’s everyone’s water! Oh, heck, just look…




Every day, a volume of water equal to the flow of the Okanogan River, one of the major tributaries of the Columbia, is piped into this irrigation system. This is what is left at the end of its long journey through the fields of the shrub steppe, returning to the Columbia at Richland, Washington. For this sleight of hand, which turns water first into a universal value, belonging to all, and then into a commodity, we have to thank the English Enlightenment philosopher John Locke, darling of the scripters of the American Constitution. Locke claimed many things, but one of them was that consciousness was the result of experience. At birth, we are blank slates. Perception, education, training and action create individuals out of that, says John Locke. The same applies to land and water: it is a blank slate as well, which only belongs to someone as the result of his labour upon it, which is what is called an “improvement” in the parlance of the Canadian and American governments: all the land of the plateau peoples did not belong to the plateau peoples because they had not built fences, barns, roads, telegraph lines and so forth upon it. Under the umbrella of Locke’s principle, the dispossession of the people’s land was all perfectly legal: a prospector or settler could move onto it, anywhere, build land and then instantly have the right to defend the privacy of that land with a gun. When objections were made, even if out of pure ignorance, there were more guns, and even the army, to keep the peace. The men who ran the army in the early days of this process went on in their careers to lead the Confederate Army in the American Civil War, to defend slavery. No lie. The thing is, we no longer believe that we are born without any character or identity, or that we are blank slates to be written upon by will, and yet we still consider private land, and privatized water, to be legitimate concepts, and they are still defended by armies. Amazing. One suspects that this bluff is what armies are for.

Why We Need Treaties

I live in a place that illegally occupied land, and signed no treaties for it. Here we are at an old village site on the Commonage Claim above Kalamalka Lake.




A parking lot! And when the rain falls here, where does it go?





The culvert is not really needed, but regulations are regulations, eh. Look how it’s full of bricks to … what? filter the water? Keep beavers out? And what does the water look like when it comes down from the campground above the parking lot, and the highway above that? Aha…




Gross. Respect is respect. Disrespect is disrespect. There is no way around it. If we had a treaty, this society would finally grow up.

Life is the Edge

… Here’s an image of water, made with light.



Here’s an image of light, made by water:


Nice game, huh. The real story is that both are edges, at which light and water mix. The way they mix leads to life … and other forms of crystallization, such as photography, or thought. The thing about edges is that they are amazingly variable. Here’s one….

sand2 Here’s another:


… and another …



… and here’s a whole bunch at once …



Same lake (Kalamalka Lake), on the Same Day

In each case, energy transfers across mixed states, part physical, part potential. Art is no different, nor is photosynthesis. Edges: the human habitat. It’s the way of the earth.



Water Brings Time to Life

…One of the moods of water, I suggested yesterday, is life. Here’s another:

sailing Okanagan Lake (Looking West towards Ewings Landing)

It still looks full of life. Now here is some of it on its way down to the lake…





P1690955 Yes, now instead of the blue of oxygen it has the green of cholorophylll. Here it is just metres from the lake.


Smooth Sumac

Still found inside life. Those rocks look like they’ve lost their water long ago. Life holds it. It slows it. The degree to which it does so, even when completely dried from coming through a winter, such as these sumac drupes on the shore of Kalamalka Lake…


… is another measure of the moods of water… in this case, its interface not with light or oxygen, but with time. Just as life can be seen wherever water is present, time can be seen in the organic compounds water crystallizes through the anti-entropy forces we call life.P1660803 In this case, the berries are dead but the seeds within them are alive. Nonetheless, it is the colour that speaks to us as life. In the lakeshore lichens below, we are drawn to the water pattern that life has solidified and held in time. P1660992Same with this oregon grape colony, spreading on a hill.

P1660987 A few years of water, recorded by life? Pretty impressive, but look at this below:p1240013

Okanagan Grassland Above Okanagan Lake

That’s six thousand years or so.


Life is a mood of water, I think we could say.. So is time. In fact, it would be fair to say that life is a mechanism of turning into time the flow of water, and of turning into matter water’s tendency to evaporate. In turn, water gives matter the ability to move, and that, too, is a way of manipulating time and space. So, not only is life a mood of water, and water a mood of life, but our eyes are able to measure these moods of water. We call it light, but it’s not really light we’re measuring.


We are seers of water and time.


Climbing The Waterfall

On Friday, I talked about The Moods of Colour. In short, I argued that the different plants, lichens and rock in the image below were all different moods of light, different levels of energy excitement, for instance, which humans like you and I can read very precisely. Notice how the red oregon grapes, the yellow lichens, and the green mosses are all tracking water across the face of the rock and in its crevasses. cliffred


The water, in other words, has taken on moods as well. We can talk about the diversity of plant life here, or the diversity of water, its moods, or that the oregon grape is climbing the water, rather than being washed down with it, as are the mosses. The latter sounds good to me.

Next: more on the tricks of water.



The Moods of Colour

Look at the colour of this water.P1680668

Pretty nice stuff, for sure. Look at the colour of this water.

lakeFun stuff, isn’t it. And this water.

bottomWhy, it’s hardly there! And this…P1670546It’s coming to life. And this …track

Glorious! We could go on all day with this kind of fun, but think of this: that’s two stretches of water, not five, on two separate days. Here, I’ll show you…



Of course, in the cultural manners in which we’re all trained today, I’m being poetic here. I assure you, I’m being something more than that. To begin again, my moment of awareness looked a bit like this …

P1660987and a bit like this …


… all at the same time! I realized in a flash that the images, of oregon grape (upper) and poison ivy (lower), were the same colour.


To unravel this odd (to scientifically-trained eyes) colour shift, maybe it’s best to go back to the water.


Ah, that’s better.

I know, I know, what we’re looking at here is light not water, and all of it interpreted by our minds, too, and by a camera, AND by an electronic screen set to parameters that pleased a designer in a cubicle in California one day, or perhaps that was India, but it’s still water, even so, or an image of it. Standard physics will talk about angles of refraction and reflection, clarity of water, wavelengths of light, electron excitement, and so on, which all add up to what we see above. Pretty brilliant series of deductions, really. Goethe was onto something different, though. Maybe this image will help get at that …


 Winter Grass and Water Cress in Mid-February

This image shows two moods of the colour green, or to break that down further, two moods of the colour blue. In the bottom one, blue is in a yellow mood (blue + yellow = green, right?)


Note: rather than speaking of moods of colour, classical physics talks of this:


Note how the colours are jazzed up to give our brains a good kick. This is just one of the many ways in which physics and psychology meet.

In the bottom image (below), the blue and yellow have faded to pale pastels. Both have shifted together into a red mood.


In other words, it’s like the sun casting shadows, or ever-changing ripples of light.


Perhaps, though, that is all illusion. The poet-scientist, Goethe, said as much in his treatise, “A Theory of Colour” (Die Farbenlehre) in 1820. Colour, he pointed out, is not light. Light, he pointed out, is white. When you break it up into a spectrum of colours you are projecting an emotional image of the device by which you broke it up. (Physics would call this “vibrations of energy” and would dismiss the “emotional” term as poetic. Both, you will note, however, are poetic terms.) Goethe’s version of the above image, in other words, would look like this (without the frame):


Except, of course, Goethe wouldn’t have made such an image in the first place. What he wanted to do was make images of those emotional states, and he wanted to do that to show the link between perception and God, as he conceived of God to be. That was, mind you, also the approach of Newtonian physicists, with their talk of wavelengths of light. To Goethe, the light was not colour, but illumination itself, which came through the human mind and saw its emotional states cast on the world, and the emotional states of the world cast within itself: a unity, in other words. To Newtonians, who used physicals tools of measurement, it was all physical. This drove Goethe to distraction. He stressed again and agai nthat Newtonian physics looked at qualities of light that had been technically manipulated, whereas the goal was to consider light in its totality, as no colours at all, only the effects of light upon the receiving apparatus (whether that was eye or cantelope), which caused certain vibrations, depending on the mood of the object. By ‘mood’ of, say, a hard-backed chair, he didn’t mean its psychological state. He meant the amount of energy it contained of a person in the world, as a radiation of divine energy. Now, you might be particularly interested in divine energy, fair enough, but Goethe was. Whereas the Enlightenment made a science out of folk knowledge by structuring it in a hierarchal fashion predicated upon objective, experiment-based measurement of physical phenomena, Goethe wanted to extend the Enlightenment, to include the part it left out as being too poetic to measure: God, spirit, emotions, what-have-you. The Enlightenment left that to art. Goethe was only pointing out that it stopped too soon, and that a fully ‘modern’, self-aware consciousness did not have to discard the knowledge of the past, or the dignity and power of human observation, or relegate them to other forms of investigation, such as religion or art. He went even further, in fact, to suggest that colours themselves were created by the human mind, but that is, perhaps, splitting hairs. The moods, though, can be read precisely. So, to look again …


The grass and the cress are the same. They differ to perception and measurement because they’re in different moods, recorded not by a camera (a device proficient at recording precise measurements of the spectra of light and thus registering them as difference colours, in accordance with the science used to envisage the camera) but by an emotional, water-based, organic creature — a human, in other words. Moods are what we have. Goethe pointed out that people are the absolute most powerful technology for measuring and viewing light, but he never said why. I think this is what he meant. When the grass is growing, it has a certain energy. When it is dead, it has a different energy. All colours are present, which is to say “light” is present, or illumination, but they vibrate differently, displaying the ‘state’ of the object struck both by the light and the observation of the light. Classical physics hands this one over to classical biology, which points out that these are effects created in a long series of incremental evolutionary changes, and do not, in and of themselves, have ‘meaning’ or ‘significance’. They are tools of manipulation and survival. Again, a brilliant series of deductions, based on millions of hours of observation, experimentation and deep thought. Nonetheless, we are the product of that evolution, and have a complex ability to register tiny nuances of energy in the landscape. Any discussion of their evolutionary purpose, to aid with hunting and gathering and survival, is secondary to that truth. We can do this. Here, I’ll put it another way:


All parts of the ponderosa pine above, bark, needle brushes and cones, are moods of blue. The needles are in a yellow mood. The cones are in a red mood. The branches are in a nearly purely blue mood. The differences in colour that I see in the image (I presume you do, too, unless you are a Google robot checking up on the humans today, in which case, Hi.) are contrasts. They’re like shadows of black and white. This observation doesn’t negate Newtonian physics and the marvellous world it has revealed to us all…


… but it has added this …P1660612


Think of the image above as a dark field, illuminated by a colourless “white” one. The boundaries between these energies, the points of intersection between them, creates an expression of the substance and state of the smooth sumac bushes here, the cliffs, the lichen, the moss, but also reveals characteristics of linearity, angularity and extension. Like the moods of the colour, those are moods as well. In those terms, the cliff and the bushes have the same linear (and angular and extensional) energy, but the way it manifests itself in them displays different tendencies, which are corollary to the moods of colour. Any tools we use to measure or analyze these effects are always going to be lesser than the mind that sorted them out of the world in the first place. Here’s another example:




Oregon Grape? Or water, collecting at the base of the cliff, rising up again, drawn upwards by the sun? In other words..this is a mood of water. I hope to suggest that this way of thinking has the ability to present as complex a model of the world as conventional science, and that it should never have been hived off of it. Our earth would be in better shape if it hadn’t. What’s more, socially it seems that by controlling the tools by which humans, such as you or I (Sorry, Google Robot, but I think you’re up to something different, but, hey, Hi.) individuals can be channelled into certain forms of social behaviour and political organization, to the exclusion of others. I don’t particularly like that. Do you? (Yes, Google Robot, I know how you feel about this, shhh, don’t scare the humans, would you?) Social parameters aside, there is still considerable ability in the human measurement tool, to precisely observe complex relationships, like this:


Colour, mood, linearity, extension, time, edge effects of myriad kinds, life, angles,and so forth, are all instantly perceived above by the human mind. Forget for just a moment about the social cues placed upon them, that see them as “beauty” or “water” or “gas effects” or “refraction” or “gravitational effects” and so on, and look at them. You see it all, instantly. That’s what Goethe meant about light. And so the four images of sumac below, display different moods. You can read them as well as I.

smoothshore smooth2 Remember, the only difference (in this line of thought) between these images is their mood …wall2 … the boundaries between forces, and their energy…P1660803 smooth


… and, of course, how you receive them, and what you do with them. Whatever it is, though, it’s not ‘nature’ and it’s not ‘science’. Goethe was trying to point that out, too. So was I, when I showed you this…



… and said, so to speak, hey, it’s this:



Put it this way, the difference between the energy of the bottom image and the top one, or the difference between its colours, which are the same, because they receive the same light (and absorb different parts of it, reflecting the rest), is what I mean by mood. Out of that mood (in the guise of reflected light), physicists can measure the precise chemical composition of either the poison ivy berries or the oregon grape leaves, and Goethean scientists can measure particularities of life energy within them, to the same degree of precision, or perhaps greater, because of the ability for creative interaction and inspiration. Here’s an image for next time …


I’ll be extending this discussion into “paths of water”.