Nez Perce Mystery of LIght

Clouds sailing across the Palouse do this.P1850322

Above Chief Timothy’s Camp

That’s not a hill of coal. It’s not burnt. It’s just a way in which the sky and the land are talking. In fifteen minutes it will look like the others. This too is part of the same conversation.

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Lolo Lake Raven

Heart mysteries here. Upliftings of spirit. Moments of wonder.

Matisse and the Nez Perce

Reading the sky, I’ve just realized, is not a matter of translating the dramatic movements of clouds and light into words or ideas, but reacting to them in the manner of responding to art. This moment, in other words…

P1960203 … is like this one …

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Henri Matisse (1869–1954), Open Window, Collioure, 1905. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The differences are ones of culture, not differences in kind. Translating this kind of knowledge into words is not going to lead to understanding, but it does lead to windows, which can be opened. However, they’re not the only ones. In the Matisse, the contrast between the two-dimensionality of the canvas, the scene that is rendered on it, the three-dimensional techniques of the painter and the three-dimensional brush work opens up entire universes of body-mind-spirit experience. You don’t have to translate it. You just have to enter the edge of those brush strokes. There’s life there. The same with the image below, from the Snake River in Idaho.

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Note the depth of the palette of the dune forms in this ancient medicine plant field, from the sand dunes on the hill (brought to view by light-coloured weeds brought on by over-grazing) to the bunch forms of the wheat grass in the foreground, to the domed form of this sacred rock (like a sweat lodge with a mouth). The patterning opens many doors which can be apprehended and read without language. It was this presence in the earth that was one of the things that made it so hard for the Nimíipuu to accept agriculture when Henry Spalding, the missionary who tried to lead them to a gentle image of Christianity by whipping them, tried to bring them to in 1836. Putting a plow to this would have been like slashing this …

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André Derain (1880 – 1954), Mountains at Collioure,1905. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

… with this…

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It is an incredible degree of violence, that Henry David Thoreau equated with slavery. It was industrial agriculture which he saw as the threat to the success of democracy in the United States. In the image below, we are on the Fort Bethold Agency in North Dakota in 1941, just months before the United States entered the Second World War after pushing the Japanese into a corner with sanctions.

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Source.

The image below, also from the Snake, which shows the moon trapped by a road cut (inhabited by swallows), an abandoned fence and a community of weeds, is the view from one of those windows I mentioned. This one is the window of history.

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Walking back is not possible. Walking forward is. Art is a path with great potential. Hey, it might lead us here…

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… to Buffalo Eddy, where Matisse would feel at home.

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I do.

When Quail Leave the Grass, It’s Time to Party

P1950598Ah, the sweet berries of June!

P1950621This is the best year in a decade for saskatoons. They are so sweet.P1950619 And so juicy. Even the ground birds have left the cover of the grass for these ones.

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Ain’t that the truth.

Lazuli Bunting: the Jazz Singer and His Band

Ladies and Gentlemen, the concert hall. Note that the violin is strung, and that the player has taken an unusual position.P1950785

Stéphane Grapelli wouldn’t have done it like this, but then he wasn’t a vocalist.

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And Lazuli Bunting is! Each of these males becomes mature when it creates its own song.

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It’s worth repeating, even if the wind ruffles the breast feathers!

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The songs are learned by listening to uncles and fathers, memorizing their licks, and then combining them into a unique sequence. Applause is earned.

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Darned wind. We’re still waiting for the violinist, though.

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No, not him!

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He’s just another vocalist. Besides, lazuli buntings are rare. We don’t want the red-tailed hawks to be getting any ideas. Oh oh!

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Not to worry, he passed on. Ah, here’s our violinist!

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It’s all in the balance.

It’s Getting Crowded Out There!

Welcome to the wavy leafed thistle, the bunchgrass thistle.P1950194Beloved of insects.

P1950055Often because it’s the only native flower left.

P1950051But also because it provides a solid landing pad. Very kind.

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And it’s a great place to hang out and look for beetle love.

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Most of the thistles are gone, mistaken for invasive scott thistles, which are more like artichokes gone mad, but when you find one, ah …

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… drama is soon to follow.

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There’s really nowhere else to go.

redbugsThistle: the earth on a stem, raised up to the sun.

Beetles: sky travellers and star dwellers.

~

Photos in McLaughlin Canyon, Washington and (the last 2) John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon. Note the colour variation!

 

Cascadia’s Flower

In Lewiston, Idaho, the mariposa lilies are beautiful.P1900393

In Chelan, Washington, they are different altogether.

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And here in the North Okanagan, they have two shades. First, the lilac, slightly brighter than in Chelan, a bit more translucent and with brighter pistils…

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… and this (about 5%, on the hill above my house), which brings that intense colour out to the petals…

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One very useful map of Cascadia would layout the variations in mariposa lilies, and then map that to variations in human culture and language. A parallel map would follow the changes in the scents of rabbitbrush and big sage, which grow harsher and sharper with every drainage north. Here’s a mariposa lily growing in the shade of a Big Sage. Note how deep the colour is when the sun is off of it! Note how the sage stays bright.

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These are deep mysteries.

The Power of Two

This is a land that divides.

P1840124 Or is that upon this land people divide? Here we are on the Colville Indian Reservation, looking south across the Columbia River, as it begins to flow again after being stopped dead by the Grand Coulee Dam, off to our left. The red seeds of the invasive chick grass, that has rendered the short-lived farmland colonial culture made out of productive grassland into not even a place for birds and rats, speak well for the social divide here.

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Ruined “Ranch”

I’m thinking of something in the land itself. Here’s the most famous divide in the North West, the Wallula Gap. When the last ice age melted and filled the valleys of Idaho, Montana and British Columbia with water, it all released at once and took 60 hours to pour through this break in the Columbia Basalt and cut the Columbia Gorge to the sea.

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Looking South from the Hudson’s Bay Company Fort Walla Walla

Water cut this rock in two. This rock in the Grand Coulee, as well, where the water flowed before the ice dam on the Columbia broke.

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The water cuts the rock in two, then in two again, then in two again, not because water is a divisive energy, but because the rock is crystallized, and divides on divisions between crystalline structures deep within the rock. Here, on a hotter day, at the edge of the Columbia Basalt in Lewiston Idaho is a glimpse of what that looks like.

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Water, frost, and even plants find the spaces between the crystals and pry them apart. The result is Coyote Rocks, like these on the Colville Reservation.

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And, as more water gets a grip on the rock, this:

P1840124And that’s where we began. Note how the initial basalt flow was cut into a residual butte, which was cut into two, then into two again and two again. That these remnant stones have animal characteristics is because they are being read by an animal mind, which sorts those kinds of things out of the world. That’s a serious business, but for the moment, just look at how these animal shapes are paired. That’s what this land teaches. It is narrative formed of unified terms that divide, and divide again, in groups of two. Here is an image taken from the same spot, facing north, away from the little narrative of the Coyote rocks above.

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You can see some Coyote rocks up on the left. The major landform here, though, is a divided valley, with a central mound, around a welling shape (laid by water.) It is an image of birth. The land gives forth landscapes like this continually as well. Usually, the largest, most dramatic ones form the backdrop of a village site, or a fishery site (as this is). This one, of course, has had a child:

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That’s right, the Coyote Rocks! Those are the children of the earth, and the old ones to us, although not as old as the body of the earth itself. There are mysteries here that our bodies understand better than our minds do, but any art that comes from this land will follow these principles, or it will wither.

P1840172Division can be a positive or a negative force. One’s original intent carries through to the end.