How the Mind and the Earth are One

Thatch and sod grass rising.newgrassBunchgrass rising.

grass Water bunch grassing.

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Sky bunch grassing.grasssky

 

Lichen following the gaps between the bonds of water (which are part of water.)lichen

Balsam root lichening (in a tension between gravity and evaporation, which is one of the bonds of water).P1680716

 

Light balsam rooting (following the bonds of water, which are a form of light.)ripply2

Light bonding with water in tension with gravity (the race is to catch the coming rain, not with thatch but with dead, upright stalks not crushed by snow.)

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Gravity and shadow are one.

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Their alternation acts as a pumping mechanism.

balsamsproutsBalsam Root Rising

It’s a vertical equivalent of the way air is caught along the stalks of the dead, water-soaked grass below. In both cases, gravity is being denied.

grassbubbles These ecosystems of gravity, carbon, water and light, which mine the lines of tension between them are complex.P1680677 We have eyes that are formed from the same process, and which are capable of measuring them to a high degree of refinement, not outside of the process but within it, as part of it.

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Culturally, that gift is called “an appreciation for beauty.” We say “I have found my creativity” when we tap into it, but it was there all along.

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Only words hid our selves from us. With a new vocabulary, we can follow more complex conversations, although built on the same grammar. Look how light is laid on the ground of the mind in tension with gravity and water!

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The Future of Life

Life is the ability of self-replicating organisms being able to react to the environment. Life is also a quality of an environment. When an environment is said to have life, it means it is energized, which is a way of saying it holds enough energy for dynamic growth and change. It is an older use of the word “life”, but not a use that has been superseded, and not one which is purely the business of poetry.

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A Living Landscape

Spring runoff after a frosty night.

I think it is possible to join the two senses and to say that environments are alive.

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As the German philosopher Martin Heidegger argued in the 1920s and the anti-nuclear activist Jonathan Schell argued in the 1970s, life is future potentiality, and only secondarily present realizations of it.

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Lichen and Moss on Sagebrush Trunk

(Steep hill.)

In the image above, the future of the living sage is its current ‘dead phase’. It has shed one form of life, but retains another, which is expressed environmentally. There’s only one thing that separates such life from individual biological life, and that is independent action. The action is there, but it comes from without, often by accumulation.P1680298

Black Birch Twigs After a Night of  Spray

In biological science, accumulation is not “life”, because individual life forms can move into the environmental space and out of it, while the space remains. Yes, but the environment does not. What’s more, this characteristic of life as “individual action” is a reflection of a science based on individual observation, which is based in turn on Christian faith, which places an individual, Christ, at the meeting point of heaven and earth. At that point, neither one thing nor another, Christ bears witness, as do all others who follow him. The German philosopher Gottlieb Fichte put this relativizing sense of the individual awareness at the core of scientific procedure in 1793, at the University of Jena, in what is now Germany. I am neither a pre-Romantic German philosopher nor a practicing Christian, but I respect the power and integrity of this belief and recognize the profound structural force it has in Western thought. Christ, however, is only one manifestation of God. The environment, surely, is another.

P1670865Grassland Dirt Actually Does Look Like This, When It Is Healthy

Is it not within an environment that an individual can be an individual? I mean, if we took away the environment above, we would all be dead. Surely, then, it’s appropriate to say that it is us.

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From an individual point of view, the seeming three dimensionality of the above image, the framing of its elements, the relationship between them, the qualities of light caught by the camera, all these things are human signatures on the environment. From an embedded, environmental point of view, they are the way we fit into an environment: seeing the thin-ness of the grass because our minds are coded to track thin-ness and to see in it the mind and thought; seeing the roundedness of the water because our minds are coded to see in it bodies and movement; seeing the intersection of these forces, because our minds are coded to notice boundaries and difference and have the capacity to either unify or divide them in complex ways. Collectively, we have created complex systems of science, including profound and dynamic systems of psychology, which map out many of the dimensions of such mirroring, yet, even so, they are all based on Fichte’s replacement of Christ with the critical, empirical, individual self, on which the definition of life is based. The neatness of that correspondence is troubling. Being in the world can be an antidote to that.

P1680415 Literally: being in the world …P1680098

 

The images above were made in a riparian zone one kilometre west of this one.

 

… not just in an individual body.

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Trolls in the Okanagan and Iceland

It’s nice to meet old friends. Here’s an Icelandic troll I found at dawn on Easter two years ago.


Here’s the Okanagan version I found on Kalamalka Lake four days ago.P1660646

 

Here is his neighbour’s head.

P1660427 I figured if there was an old village site (Kekuli Bay Provincial Park), there’d be ancient ones in the rocks nearby. It’s pretty much a standard across the Fraser and Columbia Plateaus. Here’s another.

P1660387Closer?

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Here’s a similar one from Dimmuborgir, Iceland.

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Sometimes water is involved. Here we are at Kalamalka Lake…

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And here we are in Iceland…

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The skulls and eye holes, and the troll lurking behind water, seem to be a theme. If you want to read the collective unconscious, just look at the world. We are walking through our minds.

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For the Love of Water

Light is pretty great stuff.P1670572 Add it to grass and it’s even greater.P1670571 Water helps.P1670568 A lot.

P1670567 Some forms of life are the embodiment of the energy of the intersection of water and light.P1670562 Algae, for instance.P1670561 And grass.P1670559 Look how the algae holds onto air.P1670552 Other forms of energy also get blended in. P1670550 Water is indeed amazing stuff.

P1670547 Really amazing.P1670543 Can you imagine life without it?P1670542 I don’t mean, without hydrocarbon strings, I mean without the essence and flow of water.P1670541 Doesn’t life flow in the same way?P1670540 Isn’t life water meeting earth?P1670538

 

Meeting air?

P1670582 Meeting sun?pattern

Save the Earth, Save Yourself (Seeing in the Dark, Part 3)

I promised to write about the environmental and scientific consequences of reading the land as darkness, in an embodied science, rather than as light (the kind of science we have today). I meant no criticism of science or of the strength of its method, only a method for working with (and even viewing) what it cannot apprehend because of its initial assumptions. Here’s one.P1660066 Ah, over to you…

You: Harold, you’ve been taking blurry photos in the fog again, haven’t you? What is it with you and the fog?

Ummm…

You: Oh, you poor crazy thing. OK, I’ll play along. What is that?

Ah! I thought you’d never ask. It’s this!

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You: So, a bluff above Kalamalka Lake, in Vernon, British Columbia. In the fog. Harold. It’s rock. In the fog.

Well, it’s a story, see. A rocky mountain sheep, with two lambs and a trickster rabbit.  It changes every time you look at it. That’s the story. By looking at it, you are reading yourself.

You: HUH????

Well, here you are… P1660051

You: Another rock? Harold, this is not science. This is weird poetic geology.

Awww, look at you, lying there, staring up at the sky in front of the herd of sheep. Talk about story! Look at that fir tree growing out of your navel!

You: Oh good grief.

The story’s quite complex, really. Especially when trees get involved. Trees are time. The rocks are timeless. There’s enough there with which to read most human social and physical needs, aspirations and struggles. Look at that, um, rather feminine cleft on the ridge line.

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You: Freud would have a heyday with you, boy.

Freud didn’t know how to read the land like this, but he was going in the right direction, because if the land, viewed by a human, is a map of the human’s self, then reading the clues of the human self should give you a a rough approximation of the land. The only difference between Freud’s method and this more traditional one is that Freud’s was scientific, in the terms of the science of light, in that it predicated itself on the point of view of the individual, and then sought to define the world according to the images cast up by that mask.

You: What on earth is the difference?

Perspective and point of view, for one. These images are actually written in the physical world, not just in body images developed in the mirroring of psycho-sexual forces in childhood. They require the surrender of the self and an acceptance of identity in place. Freud’s require an acknowledgement of the primacy of human biology. I think we’ve grown beyond that. It is so, like, 1890s.

You: Huh? I mean, Huh??

Here you are now. (Below.) Or, at least, you your own ancestor, with your cougar friend (middle foreground).

P1650966 In stories like this, motion is represented by distance and fog — by layers of light, so to speak.

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Psst! Note the red mountain goat mid-image.

Forget logic. This is how your body apprehends the world. Either you accept that or you abandon it and try, like Freud (and his science), to sublimate your experience of the world and of your self-in-the-world.

You: Harold, we call that childhood.

So does Freud.

You: You’re supposed to grow out of that.

Yes, according to narratives of light. In narratives of the body, though, time, or narrative drive, is also represented by trees, especially in their multi-generational growth and succession.P1650943 By birds, too, like this raven checking me out.

P1650892 Either you are a part of the world or you aren’t. You can’t play it both ways. The consequences are actually real. For example, people who thought this lump of rock was only a geological formation, a volcanic burp, so to speak, the core of an ancient volcanic plug lifted up into the sky by subduction, cut a highway through it, which entailed a lot of blasting and the obliteration of the formation’s connection to the lake below, and much of its story. Now, the story contains holes, just as the geological science did when apprehending this behemoth, and contains as well the record of that invasion and disruption. That is part of the story now, too. It is, however, what it is. It can’t be covered over.

You: Well, not unless one rejects your thesis.

Yes. That is the great covering over. That is the colonial moment.P1660004

You: Colonialism is the highway? Come on, it’s just there to move Mexican lettuces into the British Columbia Interior.

Yes.

You: What is wrong with that kind of colonialism then? It sounds to me like progress.

Yes, it’s that, but it can’t tell this story.

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You: Harold, Harold, Harold. That’s not a story. That’s a hill.

Actually, it’s the twin of the rock bluff we saw earlier. As you walk (or drive) through the Commonage south of Vernon, it shifts position in relationship to you. By moving, you provide the narrative to this story. Characters change position. They interact in different ways. The hill becomes grass, then becomes stone, and then you enter its story.

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Ancestors in the Rock (in the mind)

In light-thinking, you enter it’s map, like this:

kalmap

 

It doesn’t map stories. It maps a system of logic and the distancing from story.

You: The growth of childhood into mature adult identity. Yes.

Or the avoidance of responsibility and adult identity. Here, look at it again.

kalterrain

And again. The red circle below is the stone bluff in this narrative. The yellow circle is the grass hill.

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You: What is that industrial site hiding behind the bluff there?

Ah, that’s the landfill. Anything that people don’t want in town goes there, is processed into compost, is burned, or is buried in gravel. Right behind a sacred, ancestral hill. Right behind your mind, actually, and you, lying there with your sheep friends. Today, if you climb the grassy hill, in addition to a view of the extended narrative of the bluff, and what it can tell you about yourself and your relationship to the land, you also get a view of the dump, and garbage, and the kind of activity that mapping does to the land. Things are what they are. You can, however, sublimate it all and hire a psychologist to try to put the pieces all together.

Freud: I am in the business of building selves, not doing jigsaw puzzles.

So am I, Sig.

Freud: So, tell me about your mother.

She was in the business of building a family. That was her identity.

Freud: Tsk, tsk, tsk.

This isn’t all poetic thinking here. In the image below, for example, these principles can be seen working out ecologically. Have a look.P1650797 This is a grassland hill in the Commonage just a bit to the south and west of the grassy hill— a little higher, and on the north-facing slope. What you’re seeing here, geologically, is post-glacial or peri-glacial deposits of gravel, eroded by water into gullies, likely immediately after the glaciers melted. Those gullies capture snow drifts, which retain water as the winter melts away, extending the reach of water into the coming dry season, and providing not only habitat and water concentration (which allows for richness of riparian life, a vital part of the grassland ecosystem) but a system of heat-cold water pumping through the landscape and into the wetlands in the hollows along the highway below, where people like to throw their unwanted refrigerators and kitchen stoves and one man keeps bees. Here’s another view.

P1650799 This, too, is a story, and an ancestral face no different than the figures in the bluff above, or the lake below the bluff. These ones, however, aren’t in human or animal shape.

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They are the shapes that humans and animals move through.

 

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Nonetheless, map intelligence, based on the human-self-centric methodology of light-based science, focussed as it is on the empirical and using the self to remove body-based knowledge from the pool of empirical data (this is called ‘growing up’ and “mature understanding” in science-based or individual-based culture), puts roads into this ecological body (in the sense that a biome is a life form) and destroys, or at least vastly alters, its ability to function. The road becomes a part of the biome, and its intrusions alter the flows of energy in the land. Compare this …

P1650543 … to an un-roaded section just to the left of the above image.P1650544

 

In the road image, the riparian area (the shrubs in the left bottom corner of the image), and its ability to harvest water and support life, has been transformed into a road, and its ability to harvest water and support social threads. Each is an image of the intellect that approaches it and its attitudes towards self and the body. One leads to a living earth. One leads to a dead one. In the dead one, this landscape is known as “brown” and “a desert”, yet look at it up close, yesterday. (Below) Here’s a riparian area storing water. Note that the highway below has already shed its water, hastening drought rather than building capacity.

P1650825Similarly, here is the lower face of the dynamited bluff, above the lower highway that separates it from Kalamalka Lake and the old Syilx villages below. Notice the lichen, slowly rebuilding the land’s capacity, which has been set back, in evolutionary terms, 10,000 years. That’s 10,000 years of complexity in your mind.

You: Huh?

You’re that rock.

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Here is what that (you) should look like.

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You: It’s a tide pool!

Yeah, not a desert at all. This is a better model for your mind. What’s more, it’s mine at the same time, and the earth’s. And hers…

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The alternative is Mars.

1280px-Martian_landscapeSource.

4 billion years in the past.  That’s four billion years of your knowledge and identity obliterated. That is personal and ethical erosion. It is the ultimate self-negation.

 

Greenhouses Made Out of Snow

The coyotes come on by in the fog.snow8 Heavy coyote traffic, really.

snow12coyote Birds trit trot through.snow1Mule Deer stalk along.snow3

And the grasses and sages use the energy from these travellers and peck-peckers…

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… to cast their seeds on the snow.

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Lots of seeds.

snow2 It’s easy to see how the melting snow will carry the seeds into places on the soil crust of mosses and lichens that capture the water, making for germination, but there’s even more going on. It’s a fascinating microclimate down at snow level. The snow surface is surprisingly warm. It melts and refreezes daily, soaks the seeds, freezes in complex crystal shapes that then focus the sun like lasers, adding intense heat, and then thaws in a repetitive cycle, breaking open the seed cases— all modulated by water’s temperature range.snowseed

 

Now, that’s a beautiful thing.

 

 

 

Two Ways to Turn Winter Into Summer

1. Pines, Sun and Water

Look how this ponderosa pine’s needles are designed to radiate heat. This helps for cooling in the summer. In the winter, the design helps the tree to collect water from the air in the cold of the night, and then release it in the warmth of the day (when the fine needles are unable to retain cold, fill with sun, melt frost and drop it to the tree’s base instead of allowing it to blow on by.) Just because there’s snow doesn’t mean it’s not still a desert!

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2. Sage, Sun and Water

Look how the sage does it! It melts its way out of the snow. Here’s how it starts …

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Look what happens a few days later, from this small beginning, deer tracks and all:

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See how the sage has made a sphere of heat around itself and melted the snow as if it were on flame? No? Here’s a better image, perhaps:

sage

 

Any snow that melts within the sage’s sphere of heat (a re-formed sun, after it has been transported by photons across cold space) goes to the community of mosses that cover the soil…

microbial

…which provide a lung-like interface between soil and air. After that, the water passes on to the roots of the sage itself. The sage melts snow, in other words, to take a breath. This is not a conscious action, but it happens just the same.

Beautiful!

 

Air: The Primary Human Habitat

Our earth is not just a glob of rocks …

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spinning around the sun, and not just vast seas of water sloshing around at the pull of the moon …

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… but is also an air. Like the ocean coast…

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Heron at Willow Point, looking East. That’s Quadra Island to the left.

… the air has a shore.

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We are intertidal creatures on this shore, like these fellows at Willow Point …

seastar and blob

It’s not just us. The sagebrush, bunchgrass, trees and weeds here…

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… are also intertidal creatures on this shore, reacting to pressures of light, air, wind, atmospheric water, and heat (and to human reactions to them.) It’s easy to think that those are all instantaneous pressure effects, but I don’t know. Look at this snow:

 

P1610800It fell all at once, flat as could be, but it’s melting now, according to patterns, waves shall we say, of wind, and how that has driven the snow, partly in reaction to energies of air and ice crystals, but also to minute edge patterns of heat…

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… and in reaction to the forms of the bunchgrass below the snow, which shapes the snow as much as the wind does, and both through this shaping and through the heat tubes of its stalks, shapes the way in which the sun is drawn into it.stalksnow

 

And not just that! Here’s the snow itself…

snow

 

 

Every grain of snow repeats these effects of sun and shadow, acting in concert, along the vectors of the wind and the other vectors of the hidden grass, to create waves and rivers of focussed light.

timesnow

Snow is time. Here’s an image of the snow above once the patterns of melting have been integrated into the patterns of the grass itself.

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And wouldn’t you know it: grasses, too, are creatures of the wind. This shorescape, this lightly breaking and focussed sky, is the primary human habitat.

 

 

Spring Has Sprung In the Okanagan

Spring is here, friends, and it looks like this.P1610691 That’s some mighty fine fog rolling over from the “Head of the Lake Indian Reserve”, isn’t it.  That falling action, though, that’s part of spring. So is the rising up. You can see them both in the image below, with the mustard, russian thistle, salsify, and, gasp, some native Big Sage.

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No? Don’t see it? Ah, let’s go walking in the snow and see what we can see. Despite all this fog, there is a sun, see?

sun

 

Not only can it make it through the fog, but it can make it through fog’s daughter, snow, to catch in the dark twigs of the big sage beneath it.

P1610672 And use that collected heat to dissipate the snow.

sage1

Faster and faster.

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In this way, it teases it out from that weight of gravity, at first slowly …

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… then more and more rapidly …
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…until it breaks free…

sage2

… and rises to the light, shaking gravity, and winter off.

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And it is spring.

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Don’t let the snow fool you.

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That’s just gravity. It’s no match for the sun. At the base of each of these molten patches, water is already entering the soil, and is already being drawn up into the plants, as they prepare for increasing heat. The cylinder of absent snow (gravity) around each stalk of big sage, in other words, is this…

sun

 

There is no winter. There is only a slowing down of time. Beautiful!

Snow and Bunchgrass in the Okanagan, or This Ain’t Mexico

Look how the wind that takes the Okanagan’s water away in the summer creates drifts around the bunchgrass in the shape of its mounds, effectively concentrating the snow where the plants can gather it most efficiently.P1600963

 

This is not a chance event. The grass evolved to harvest these effects. Snow is no stranger to this country, nor is water. It is only a stranger to people who spend the wet season in Mexico. Here, the water and the grass are wind.