Balsam roots and badgers get along famously together. Here’s a nicely tilled seedbed, ready to go.
On a hill. What a stupid place to build a house.
Balsam roots and badgers get along famously together. Here’s a nicely tilled seedbed, ready to go.
On a hill. What a stupid place to build a house.
Here’s an image of one ecological niche filled two ways, both of which move water into light. One creates biological life. The other creates electricity, in support of a custom of social life called “Public Safety”. One creates new social and biological niches. It is called “ponderosa pine”. It lifts ants up into the wind and draws deer and birds for shelter. And the porcupine. Each of its cones is an earth on its own, flush with species that live nowhere else. The other relies on the the drowning of millions of social and biological niches and the semi-annual slaughter of millions of others to keep its transmission lines clear, to have the power to create social niches in a non-physical sphere. It is called a street light. One creates the earth. One turns away from it. It is a contemporary belief that they can co-exist. No. Not really. The effort of passing from social technology to biological life and back again eventually leads to the belief that the biological life fills a social niche within human society. Sure it does, but that’s not its primary role. This is what medieval discussions of the knowability or unknowability of God or his manifestation in time and space in the body of Christ look like today. They have been cast into the subconscious for too long. It is time to bring them again into the light, for Christians and non-Christians alike.
It is also time to bring in understandings of this niche between earth and sky, or water and light, in terms that come from non-Christian culture, such as that of the local Syilx culture, to which lone trees like this in the grasslands are seen in a shamanic context, as bridges to the sky world (and the setting of many a randy story and much good laughter). There is the real power: the one that both the Cross and the Hydroelectric system draw from. Poetry has the ability and tools to make these connections. The marginalization of poetry within contemporary Western culture is one of the reasons that the flow of power between such images is not better managed and why the efforts of civic planning and environmental protection often go wrong. Somethings need to be repeated over and over again, gently, and in a multiplicity of living contexts. This is one: landscape is ethics.
Walking through the bunchgrass. Walking through the sagebrush. Walking over the bed of an ancient sea. Looking at a supernova. Looking at planetary clusters. Looking at the solar system. Looking at the starry carpet of the night sky. Meeting a red dwarf on the path. Stopping for a moment. Meeting the sun beside Coyote’s trail. Spider lives in the sun. Walking an old story. People call it poetry now. It’s not. Neither is this an insect. People call this nature now. It’s not. You can’t walk with Wasp if you call it nature. You can’t walk with the earth if you call her Nature.
And yet there are all these words.
That’s not poetry. This is poetry.
Human Version of a River
That’s not Nature. This is Nature:
Pigeon Guarding its Barbecue Along the Rail Line
What a Lot of Words in One Place!
This, though, is an older story. This is the star road. Here’s a star being born.
Here’s the sun. We are within him, yet he has shape.
There’s the moon. Really. There she is. (Click to enlarge, if that helps. It could be that the technology you are using is not very good at seeing the moon.)
The earth is dying, because the words are about people now. Oh, she’s not dying all at once. She still feathers.
She still stars.
In all the green cheatgrass stealing her water, stealing her words away, she is still among the stars.
Still standing still. Ancient.
Here’s some images of her I made early one morning in March, when I mistakenly flipped the wrong switch on my camera, and found it was the right one. Here she is among the stars.
Here’s one of her words there.
There still are.
Refraction is the process of light bending when it strikes the edge of a translucent medium, such as glass or water. What you see below on the lupines in my garden is refraction, if you wish to limit the world to those terms. If you wish a broader sense of the world, then it’s not refraction but the nature of materials to echo their form in water and of water to amplify materials it touches. That’s not precisely refraction. In the pre-scientific world (which was, by the way, no less complex than the scientific one), the spirit of water and the spirit of lupine touch and form a new combined energy. This is, of course, the spirit of art, and was why training in art and poetry were essential parts of a courtly education: the administration of people, land and states was done on these artful lines. It is also why art remains important and why the scientific world view alone will not bring about a living world; it is artful energy that brings two things together into a new form. As the things to be brought together become ever more complex and distant, the need for art increases rather than decreases, and not just any art, either, but art that can touch the earth as well as contemporary human and urban concerns within a scientific, technical and bureaucratic apparatus. It is also why I have linked nature and ethics in previous posts on this site. Every photograph is an act of ethics. Every moment is an act of artfulness. When not, the failing is not that of the moment.
For more on truth, please see my post today on earthwords.net. Please click here.
Yesterday, I showed an image of the heron rookery in Vernon, which is, truly, a beautiful thing, and called it Oh to Be a Heron in the Springtime. Click here to see the heronry if you missed it. Today, we’re going back to the same site 4 weeks ago, before the nests were so fully occupied.
… and, well, ahem, cough cough, the herons were not alone.
And if someone drops a frog on the way home for dinner, well, the anticipation is half the reward.
The Okanagan hosts the world’s only urban heron rookery. Things are full of action there at the moment.
The Rookery, Vernon
The rookery, however, is on private land, surrounded by tire dealerships, a walled housing village, and various mechanical shops. Currently, the “owner” of the land is protecting the herons’ right to this, their space, despite the protests of neighbours about the danger these trees present. If life is to survive the industrialization process in the Okanagan, land ownership rules will change to give priority to these birds, in the way that agricultural land uses are currently protected. When all thrive on this land, all thrive. Blessed be.
On Friday, I felt like the earth was one butterfly and one flower away from death, and showed you an image of a single butterfly larva on a single yellow bell… on the brink of extinction. On Saturday, I was heartened to find a colony of yellow bells farther up the hill … still highly endangered (the area is slated for house-building), but, somehow twenty plants is a far better feeling than one, even though it is still a long way from 20,000. Here are the beauties (you can open the image in a new window for a better look) surviving in the invasive cheatgrass and the remnants of a bunchgrass and balsam root community.
May the butterflies find you.
There is hope. Small hope, but hope nonetheless. My spirits are lightened. Yours, too, I trust.
I went up the hill, and I found one sagebrush buttercup. Take a look, so you’ll be present in this scene. It’s important. It’s about the state of the earth and the state of Canada.
Two weeks ago, it bloomed in the south of the Okanagan, north of the US-Canadian border. Two weeks before that, it bloomed at the south of the Okanogan, at the confluence of the Okanogan and Columbia rivers. Two weeks before that, it bloomed at Horse Thief Butte, above the drowned centre of the world at Cellilo Falls. Drowned? Yes. There’s a power dam and shipping locks, you see.
What a welcome sight! An indigenous flower, in the spring. In the European story, life springs from the dead land, and a beautiful flower spirit dances in the wind among the blades of fresh new grass. It works in Europe. Here it is the death of the earth. In the Okanagan story, sagebrush buttercup is used to tip arrows, to make them into poison arrows, for hunting small game. That’s still not right, though, because this particular sagebrush buttercup was not alone. Three insects were living off of it: a tiny fly a few millimetres long, something smaller and quicker that I only saw as a flash as it scurried out of my way, and one young crab spider trying to make a living off of them. Here’s the spider…
Crab Spider, Hiding
The green grass here is an invasive weed. Grass at this time of year should not be green.
Do you see her? Upside down below the sagebrush buttercup and with her life hanging by a thread? Here, look again…
So, let’s put that into perspective. Out of a dozens of square kilometres of hillside existing as a bit of waste land between a vineyard and its mechanical yard and a walking path in the bed of an old irrigation canal, above orchards, abandoned orchards and houses planted in orchards abandoned earlier, the indigenous insects of this place are trying to survive on one tiny sagebrush buttercup. Well, so it seems, but no, no. That’s too rash. This community of hangers-on has company. Look at her, just up the slope and only a metre away from the gravel dribbling down from an expansion of the vineyard mechanical yard above …
In the European story, yellow bells are pretty fairy spirits that are one of the first signs of spring from Alaska to California and which scent the air with the purest of all spring scents. In the Okanagan story, however, this is a food crop. The bulbs of this little lily mean the difference between dying after a long winter or regaining one’s health and strength in the spring. Food and health, and by extension the health of the land are the same. That’s why the people indigenous to this place call themselves the Syilx. It’s not a term descriptive of a biological or social group of humans. It’s a term descriptive of a group of living beings who care for all living beings in a place, equally, as they are but one of them and as dependent upon the unity of them all as any others. To the Syilx, this yellow bell is also Syilx, and they are it. It’s the same thing for this guy, chewing on one of the yellow bell’s leaves…
Butterfly Larva Lunching
She is yellow bell and yellow bell is her. Not to mention the flowers she will pollinate a little later in the spring … if they come up.
So, there you go. Out of dozens of square kilometres of hillside that once fed a people and supported a host of insects, butterflies, birds and mammals, there is one little yellow bell left, and one butterfly trying to make a living out of it. It breaks my heart. In the European story, of course, or, rather, the story of Europeans who have migrated to this place, ignorant of what they are stepping on and picking for posies in the spring, this observation might be worth a shrug, because there’s no economic benefit to be made out of it. Not so fast. Here are two observations about that: 1. If this yellow bell were in Switzerland, a farmer would be paid to ensure that it survived, at a rate far in excess of the profit he would make on surrounding land, and 2. It does matter economically, not in and of itself but in what the lack of Syilx identity costs. Here’s what I mean:
Do you see how that works? A living, productive environment capable of supporting thousands of species has been reduced to dead soil, in which is planted a day lily, which is misplaced so that its bed becomes a footpath and a convenient receptacle for chewing gum and cigarette butts, because, get this, people respect the sidewalk, which is made out of concrete (a mountain ground to dust in the Rocky Mountains east of Banff and then mixed with gravel and water). And this is not just a single instance of the lack of Syilx thinking. The above image is from the landscaping around the Vernon Public Library. Here’s the landscaping in front of Okanagan Spring Brewery. The highlights include expensive composted earth, tulip bulbs from Holland (no butterflies eating those), a sock, a few footsteps, a cigarette butt…
Oh, and some bark chips. And here are some more of those, at the library…
For some reason, the application of ground up trees, a kind of social waste made out of trees, bushes, weeds and grass collected by truck from urban lawns and mixed on a sacred part of the Syilx grassland (still under land claim, as it has been for 120 years) is considered to be caring for the planet, because burning it would contribute to global warming. Hunh? The earth is dying now, and we are worrying about it dying in the future? The future is now. This, too, is part of the same phenomenum of which global warming is a part, and the real name for it is murder. Oh, by the way, the small plants sprouting among those bark chips will be hoed up later in the spring, as part of the contracted responsibility of the landscaping company hired to maintain this aesthetic perimeter of grasses. As for aesthetics, well, here’s the brewery’s take on that:
Okanagan Springs Brewery Staff Lounge
A little break in nature.
And here’s the library’s challenge in this regard:
Many of the grasses are dead. They aren’t, you see, native here. Even the live ones are quite simply in the wrong place. They are planted in an ashtray. You and I and the wonderful people at the library (and they are: smart, educated, beautiful, caring, hard-working and kind — no doubt exactly the same as the dedicated people at the brewery) might not want it to be an ashtray, it might make for an incredible fire hazard as an ashtray, but there’s no getting around it: in terms of the culture of this place, this is an ashtray.What’s more, it is built infrastructure and dominates, in a way of thinking that sees nature as a thing that can be planted in the gaps between the really important infrastructure (concrete) to satisfy the ancient, heritage physical needs of the bodies that carry around the identifies of the people who are the citizens penned (civilized) in this concrete world. All this takes place in a country (Canada), which considers art and culture as being ‘heritage’ activities, which make its citizens happy and more productive at furthering the role of Canada as a global economic power among its peers, other global economic powers. In this world of the Europeans who have taken over Syilx space, the Syilx concept still applies. It’s just that rather than being applied to life, it is applied to tenuous things like identity (to be defended at all costs, but rising only from autonomous individuals, not individuals in relationship to other species) and economic infrastructure. They are all considered a unit, and fearlessly defended. The only thing is, it all leads to this:
That landscape cloth under those rocks cost lots of bucks. It is designed to keep things from growing. You can’t stop dandelions that easily, though.
Mouthwash for the Alcohol Addicted and Coffee for the Caffeine Crowd. The stones are meant to be a stream, but, as you can see, after a few years no one can afford to maintain that kind of thing anymore and it is given instead to the homeless crowd.
All of this landscaping, these attempts to turn living space into a concrete one that mirrors rigid lines of economic power costs a lot of money, much of it in the name of beautification and green, environmental values. A people who lived in this place would just plant yellow bells and live among the butterflies, bluebirds and meadowlarks. It would be surrounded by an environment full of beauty and food and no one would be hungry or homeless. This place is not like that now. This place is a machine, the same machine that grinds up trees into infertile tree bones and calls it topsoil, installs plants into it that have no hope of surviving, and calls the whole thing environmental care. This is a society that doesn’t live in this place, but devours it as a resource and replaces it with an image of itself. This is a place in which any person who actually lives in this place is rendered homeless. This is a colony. Wake up. The spring is supposed to look like a bit more like this here:
Sagebrush Buttercups, Two Weeks Ago at Vaseaux Lake
Meanwhile, off in Kelowna tonight, 45 minutes to the south of my sagebrush buttercup and an hour and a half north of the one at Vaseaux Lake, an art exhibit is being launched to display what the “citizens” of the “Okanagan” are thinking about in the contemporary culture of this place, as displayed through the images they post on FaceBook. Let me make this really, really clear: the sagebrush buttercups are citizens of this place; the humans are citizens of a global non-place. And that is why the earth is becoming a non-place. The colonization of this place didn’t happen a century and a half ago. It is happening right now. Tinkering with the niceties of social culture in this place and the free expression of individuals is a great thing … for the colonial image. It helps to perfect it and helps to perfect the individual ‘identities’ of the biological bodies of humans in the virtual space called “The Okanagan”. But that’s it. Here, let me show you how that works. In the image below, the bright colours painted in the window are there to address your body, which then sends out chemical signals, which influence the behaviour of your ‘identity’.
I feel this language in my bones, but it’s not in words…
… or mathematics, as is this one, but what different mathematics they are! (And they’re not about numbers. You have to read them with your body, with the same aha! you have when in the presence of a lover, or with art. And, yes, it’s art. And love. So too is this complex mathematics laid down by waves driven by the turning of the earth, which is driven by the creation of the solar system, which is ultimately driven by the creation of the universe ….
They call it a Big Bang, but, sheesh. Look at it. It’s a turning and a flowing, that’s what it is. It’s music.
That is the power of water, of course. Fish came from the scale-patterned mathematics above. Trees, with their roots and crowns, come from the one below.
Crows know all this.
The earth is alive. A definition of life that excludes that is a parlour game. You cannot, however, write equations for this mathematics.
You don’t need to. Your body knows.
All images were taken on the beaches of Tofino on Vancouver Island.