The First Principle of Creation

Let me show you something beautiful. Call it bunchgrass if you like. P2210255

The form of these  is a balance between all the forces acting upon them. Their spacing, for example, is a function of rain fall, slope pitch and root system extension. These are not so much at individual grass plants of great age but multiple instances of force and balance, all related to a central set of energy flow patterns. In effect, this is the world, deep in time and space, where time, space and identity are one. That that appears different from the ponderosa pine needles below, part of the same community …


… means only that together they make a more complete picture of the totality of presence in this place. Creation is a glimpse of unity, not of difference and not of a technique for generating difference so it can be removed. It is not in the head. It is not a game. Here, let me show you:P2210020

That’s a view looking Northwest into the Coldstream Valley from the north shore of the Commonage above Kalamalka Lake, if you like. It also shows a continuous grassland, in which one slope catches the sun and another catches the clouds. There’s a hidden dimension here. Here’s a clue:



The young ponderosa pine above, far more ancient than the grasses in the foreground, has hollow, grass-like needles. Look how it catches the wind that catches the lake. It is water, wind and grass in one. And just look up onto Turtle Point, right in the sun’s path:


The ponderosas and Douglas firs are vanishing into the sun, just as the lake is, and the trees are as broken up into waves as the waves themselves. It would be easy to say these are just illusions given by the inadequacy of cameras and the human eye, but that would be to miss the creativity in the scene: it is the biological bias of human perception and cognition that creates the narrative of connection that binds the scene together. That is the same balance that the form of the grass expresses, or the differences in sun capture in the interlinked slopes below.


Grassland Cob

That moment is  the complex living organism called Earth. We (and I include deer, porcupines, bunchgrass, pines and other people in this) are not part of this organism. We are this organism. Any creativity that does not come from such unity comes from the stripping away of self-imposed barriers to reveal it. The unity was already there.


The earth — the unity — does the stripping away, through unity. These are bodily responses. Contemporary science, art and religion, which were created out of an old unity of thought and to express an identical individualizing impulse can not speak of this response. It is what we bring to art. In that space, there is no creativity, because it is everywhere. Tomorrow I will talk about the possibility of staying there.


Water and Air Pollution in the Okanagan Valley

This is the bottom of Okanagan Lake, in 15 centimetres of water, in Vernon, on a public beach.
yuckI know the green stuff is algae, that shouldn’t be there, but what is the purply white stuff? Would you drink that? Would you let your kid swim in it? Would you even let your dog swim in it? The image below is from Okanagan Centre, twenty kilometres down the lake. It shows what those stones should look like: old volcanic cores gouged out in the over deepening processes of a melting continental glacier.P2200050

Unfortunately, I had to search for those stones. The image below shows what it really looks like, for kilometre after kilometre, at Okanagan Centre (below.) These stones are covered in green slime (like in the picture from Vernon above) in the wet (summer) season.


Look, I know I’m as old as the hills, but I think it’s completely beyond acceptable that this has happened. In 1970, you could drink this lake. The water was clear for three or four metres, at least.  You could swim in it. Now people do this:


You could make soup out of that junk, but would you spoon it up?

This is in Vernon, by the way. The  slime and weird whiten and purple crud photo at the top of this post was taken to the left of this image, where the brown resort apartments meet the lake. The current $900,000,000 (!!!!!!) water improvement project for Greater Vernon includes dumping millions of litres of treated water into this arm of this lake, letting the lake miraculously clean it, then pumping it back out again and spraying it on lawns, orchards and vegetable fields. From beginning to end, this is obscene. Ah, you think that is bad? Well, the image below is no better.P2190102

That’s the main channel of Okanagan Lake, ten kilometres north of Okanagan Centre and forty kilometres north of Kelowna. What you see is cloud, and below it a layer of smog blowing up from the city. In 1970, this air was so clean, there were no impurities in it at all, and certainly not brown smog blowing in. I remember the first time I saw smog in the Okanagan. It was in 1980, rolling south from Kelowna. Now, many people say,

that’s progress,

or even …

You can’t stop progress.

That’s bullshit. It’s a crime, that’s all, pure and simple. I know. I have the memory. I carry the grief within me. Just look at this!P2170755

That’s four days ago. Look at the brown smog in those clouds. Chances are it has blown north from Seattle or Vancouver: hundreds of kilometres away. It does that. Look at the lower level of smoke drifting up the main body of the lake, moving north from Kelowna, 35 kilometres to the south. Look at how it pools in the Shorts Creek Draw (in the middle right of the image, between the two low white clouds.) For the love of all things decent, hundreds of people get their drinking water from that creek!

Beautiful Balance

The bubbles of air that have been drawn by wave action concentrated by an opening and closing gap on the ice of Okanagan Lake, go no further than the crack. Under the water, their air was stronger than the water itself; in the crack, the surface tension of the water is stronger than the air, and so they remain, both air and water at once, in balance.

If you measure either, the moment breaks and neither one is there. They are not a substance, but a relationship. So, beautifully, are we all.

At Home in the Earth Community

Like the grass on the Big Bar Esker below, I don’t live in the straight beams of light. I live at the continuity of points of intersection with them, which bend in the wind.


The flows of water and time create the same effect. The image below shows them in action, at the old Secwepemc village site along the Bonaparte River, alienated by the Hudson’s Bay Company long ago.

The forms of the land intersect with water and light over the seasons here, to create patterns which lead game animals down to the river, and to the people who live at that intersection. Those of us, all of us, who live on this earth live right there: humans, deer, bears, porcupines, eagles, whoever we are. I’ve provided a second image below, for a closer look. When looking at it, I suggest a close look at the ridge line, the boundary between snow drift and sun drift. Note the game trails that follow those crests, and the meltwater trails that break down the faces of this volcanic ash.


In that dance with water and light, I live too. There are many other patterns here. Here are just a few…


Green Water Zone (Low Gravity): plants move water so slowly across the slope that it, and the gravity that intersects with it, essentially pool, like lakes; as the sun mixes with them, they are also lakes of the sun. The esker grasses I showed you express this zone well.

Vertical River: Douglas fir trees take excess water up out of the energy field, as transitional gravity engines.

Gravity Brakes: Douglas fir trees catch the water at the base of high volume flow catchments, and are, essentially, a continuation of the flow into life. In effect, life concentrated in high energy systems takes on secondary living forms (such as Douglas fir trees)

Movement Zone (High Gravity): in this zone, water, earth, sun, wind and time move water rapidly from the pooling of the low gravity green water zone to the pooling of gravity, movement, and all other boundaries in the …

Horizontal River (Boundary Gathering): low pressure zone. Here, where all forces (and game) come together, humans, the boundary-dwellers, naturally collect.

Cold Pole/Heat Pole: the high gravity Movement Zone is powered by the alteration of the earth across seasons (time), across hot and cold faces, an effect extended between the cold and hot seasons of the year by the storage of snow on the cold faces by the wind, which is then released throughout the hot season, not as wind but as water and cold. This pumping action creates the details of the topography of this zone, which is an expression of life (ie boundary) energy.

Game Trail (cold-heat ridge): At the high altitude boundary zone between heat and cold effects, where sight is possible and wind created by the boundary zones, and by larger ones in the mountains and valleys around, animals, which are the expression of crossed boundaries, flow.

Stream (cold-heat sink): At the low altitude boundary zone between heat and cold effects, water and mud not animals flow. This effect is the concentration of the…

Sloughing (Moving Boundary): At this boundary, the energy of the cold-heat ridge is transferred down to the cold-heat sink, in the same manner as gravity brakes. This energy will flow, eventually, to the Horizontal River, which is an expression of all these forces concentrated together, quickened, and alive in the most complex form. In that web of boundaries, the boundary dwellers, are alive.

Together these energy transfer points add up to a living landscape, as complicated as the photosynthesis in a leaf or the flow of blood through a body.


A “human” body? An “earth” body? An “ecosystem” body? No. A “human-earth-ecosystem” body, or, better put, a community, living, together. They can be separated, but separation will diminish them. Separation will, in other words, also diminish humans. Taken together, its body forms are not human, but human body forms are linked to them. The Big Bar Esker, for example.


The big heads of the Okanogan, for example …


Chopaka Mountain and Hurley Ridge, in the Lower Similkameen…


The power forms of the Snake River …


… which take many forms…


The story-telling cliff faces of the ancestral Nimiípu villages along the Kooskoosie River ..


… or above the Snake, where cloud colours the hills …


… and so many more. Humans can live in any boundary zone, even artificially created ones, and can extend those boundaries into yet further boundaries. The spiritual boundary pools of Buffalo Eddy, on the Snake, for example…


The transportation boundaries of North American cities, such as Vernon below …

Industrial farms, such as this one in Okanagan Landing …


… and many more.


Nonetheless, the richest possible boundary zones bring the richest possible life. At the mouth of the Yakima River (below), for example, where its water meets that of my lake and most of the Northwest, flowing on its way to the sea…


…or here at the sacred Peshastin Pinnacles, above the Pisquouse (Washaptum or Wenatchee) River …


The alternative is a war against life, within monocultures. Its romantic, sure, with gas masks and capital risk and male sacrifice and courage but that stuff coming out of that sprayer is poison. It kills life. We can talk about the ethics of that, weighing risks and benefits, for a hundred years, but the end of it will be just these simple things: it kills life and it creates only the simplest of boundaries, manipulable by those boundary-dwellers, humans, into harnessing the planet to feed them alone. Note the fence to keep out deer.


Industrial Apple Orchard in Bloom, Okanagan Landing

Where do you live? Here?

Moose at the foot of a Big Head on McLaughlin Canyon Road.


Spraying a Cherry Orchard Above Swan Lake






These are not just lifestyle choices.


Next: the self-identity boundary.

Beauty, Art and the Self

Beautiful, isn’t it.

This, too.

Note the patterning in this kind of thing.


Sure, it was carefully framed, but oh so many frames were possible.


They all have pattern.


They’re all beautiful.


The patterning is the gift of human observation. In order for there to be thought separate from the world, the kind of sensory connectivity shown in the images above must be separated from the world. It must have an observer and a thing observed. It’s a game, designed for certain ends. To achieve them, the actual connections between the two, that unite them into presence, must be given a name, separate from the moment of presence, or the separation cannot take place. This word is ‘beauty’. Just up from the water, for instance, separated from it by the frame of contemplation, is a rich community of water plants that have adapted to living in air …


… and just up from them, a bearberry plant that is living in the heat gathered by a boulder left by glaciers, like the ones in the pond above.

It is the same moment. It can be studied, contemplated and used to further many ends, including human security and culture. The great discovery of scientific thought, a form of book culture, is that this unity can be divided into pages, which can be studied one at a time, as if they were words, discrete and without connection to others, yet look how the carpet on the soil adapts to minute changes in circumstance and light, such as in the image below, beneath a fire pine taken down by beetles.


Those subtle changes and continuities are part of human presence. By people who have learned to inhabit a tool called the self, a kind of cognitive freeze-frame camera, they are beauty, an enjoyable aesthetic frame that pleasurably satisfies an ancestral, genetic self. Yet it is the world. Look how it changes, as recorded by the image below. Note that these are not discrete moments, as the photographs suggest. They are connected. They are a flow of energy. You know how to read them. This capacity is called beauty. It is a profound order, an inhabitation of order, a being, a being there, here:


A camera is a tool that can create the separation required to sever this human connection, so that the remaining physical or cognitive material can be used to create a secondary, virtual world more suitable for severed selves to inhabit. The camera can be used for other purposes, but it is a constant battle to do so. The machine freezes time and uses that moment of freezing to recreate ghosts of bodily presence. That’s what it’s for. Take a look at this sequence. It is three views from one kayak at one moment in September, looking to the north, to the east, and to the west, all within about a second or two.

P2020534 P2020548 P2020549

Such descriptions of time are meaningless in the moment, but are of great use to the self that is a book. Just a moment away, the forces of energy and matter and time that those photographs render into images, look like this:


It is the same moment, but extended differently into spiritual space. This, too, up on the shore.


Presence would be better served by a term other than beauty, because that term does not differentiate between the book self and the human capacity to be present in a continuum. To the book self, the continuum is meaningless, and can only be intuited by yet more divided knowledge. To presence, the divided knowledge is a machine, a device, a tool, and not identity. The need for better differentiation is clear. The word that keeps getting in the way is “creativity.” This, for instance, is not a creative photograph:


Nor is this:


To be creative, it must serve the expansion of the virtual self and the replacement of the world of presence, and the infinitely gradated ability of the human body to read and extend that presence, through the combination of pre-existing elements. This would be creative:





Those are beautiful things. They represent the colonization of the world of the self by the world of presence, its humanization, shall we say. It is another representation of the ability of the human body to find spirit, wherever it may be found, and in whatever form its presence may take. We should be very clear about the differences and similarities between that and this eagle (below.)

The world, and other people within it, have become prey. It need not be so. Ah, here you are at last.


The Beautiful Math of Soil

Here’s what I’m talking about.


Look how the sun and its shadows are interacting with the slopes of this ravine to create wet and dry, cold and warm zones (which alternate with seasons and time of day) to move water (and life) through the soil. If this irregular surface were flattened (the same as if DNA were flattened, or the hydrocarbons of leaves were flattened), the potentiality of such activity would be shifted to some other point of boundary between these forces, at the valley bottom, at the lake shore, at a stream bed, or some point fifty kilometres away, wherever the boundary was. Here’s also what I mean about the beautiful mathematics of soil: P2160057

Notice how the flat, packed surface is impervious to the sun, and retains its snow, while the grassy slopes lose snow quickly. It’s not just about slope. Here’s another reason, grass:


Each blade of the grass, adept at collecting light for photosynthesis in the summer, can also collect heat, transmit it downwards, concentrate it in the increasingly-dense mound of the grass, and not only melt the snow but deliver its water to the roots of the grass, which soak it up. The surface might be a boundary to visual creatures, like humans, but it is an exploited and manipulated space by the grass: infinitely malleable; a place that can gather sun and water. Here’s a grass that specializes in this surface manipulation more than most, blue bunch wheatgrass:


She knows the power of resonance effects well. Now, I know, I promised to talk about soil, so let’s not forget that this is not soil:


That is glacial clay laid down rapidly 10,000 years ago as the glaciers melted away. It has been bared to the air for a decade now, with not even the tiniest weed to show for itself. It’s just ground up mountain. Plants have no use for this stuff. This is soil:


Here all kinds of “life” have modified their mineral selves by self-replicating and climbing towers and conduits of water tension manipulated by surfaces and the sun, and have create new and far more complex surfaces in the process, concentrating water tension in the same way that the blue bunch wheat grass above concentrated the sun into resonance patterns within their mounds. We could talk for a long time about the complex biological processes involved in this work, and it would be a great pleasure, but it’s joyful to also celebrate the simplicity driving it all: surface. It not only creates this…


… which can be represented by this…


… which is grand stuff, or viewed as it is in the material universe (in the same level of beauty and complexity, but using different factors, as read by bodies not cognitive systems)…


And, let’s remember, that this story of surfaces continues deep underground and that if a cloud passes overhead …


… the bacteria that make up the soil, breathing the underground atmosphere and the life-giving breath of plant roots, react to it with a complexity equally or exceeding this:



(x2+y2)2 + (z2+w2)2 + 2b(xz-yw)2+2c(xw+yz)2 = 0

And remember that we all, all of us, have the words for this. There are many of them. Here are three: elk, sumac, and pond.

P2050845 p2090315 P2010650

It’s not that mathematics can be rendered in presence and dance but that there is presence, and there is dance. They are all extensions of soil.

The Earth Puts Her Roots in the Sky

I want to draw a correspondence today between leaves and soil. I think it’s pretty cool. First, here are some leaves doing just fine without soil. Welcome to mullein.


When it finishes its second year, it looks like this:


Notice as well, how the seams of quartz and agate in an uplifted and dynamited bedrock wall, create tracks of water and gravity which mullein (and its friends) love.


The sand and clay kicked down by deer following similar patterns through the rock face as they skitter down is not what the mullein below has spent the summer growing in. Instead, it has thrust its roots deep into a seam in the rock, and is using the film of water and minerals between the two walls of that seam, drawn towards it by gravity and the capilliary action of the sun on the hot rock face, which draws the water out like wire.


Here’s what that space of surfaces and the water between them, drawn outward and upward by the sun, looks like when it becomes self-replicating. The wasp is a bonus!


Now, one more ingredient: within all life, including this guy …



… DNA strands are folded in just such a way that they are open to receive just the right genes, in order, and no other. Leaves are extensions of this principle as well.


Cottonwood, Vernon, British Columbia

They extend this precision folding in a way that transfers chemical molecules and photons of light in a specific order, rotates them to expose their weakest electron links, and pressures them to transfer electrons across a membrane. Out of these transferred electrons, they recombine hydrogen, carbon and oxygen in specific ways to create sugars. The biosphere is powered by these sugars, just as the earth is powered by the sun.


Fire Pines in the Yellowstone Caldera

To recap: the root in the crack and the leaf in the air are doing similar work; the root is tapping into minerals transferred from deep in the rock by the molecular bonds of water drawn into the sun; the leaf is using folded, replicated pieces of bonded hydrogen, oxygen and carbon to allow electrons to drift out into positively charged space, and be stored there in sugars, from which their electrical charges can be released later. It can be a beautiful thing to watch. There is, for instance, more sunlight in the sumac leaves below than there is in the air around them.


Male Staghorn Sumac After Flowering

It works both ways. Those leaves are roots in the sun.

Rowan, Opening in the Spring Sun

The plant is a point of balance: the membrane, or series of surfaces, given form.


Next: the beautiful mathematics of soil surfaces.

Living Soil

Here’s some soil:

It’s a series of shelters, which capture water, minerals and heat, and amplify the conditions for light and seed germination, in the warm area in the first millimetres above the earth’s surface.Yes, I know, this isn’t “soil” as the dictionary defines it:

The top layer of the earth’s surface in which plants can grow, consisting of rock and mineral particles mixed with decayed organic matter and having the capability of retaining water.

But look at this:


That image of moss fulfills this definition of soil (the 5th of five in online dictionaries):

 place or condition favourable to growth; a breeding ground.

Such a breeding ground can become complex:


That’s definitely soil, and is full of life. It’s also a growing surface. The common definition looks like the corn (and tomato) field below:


Note the chopped up cornstalks, and the chopped up and shredded plastic sheeting, designed to heat this ground up to achieve a similar effect to the one the mound of moss in the image below does on its own.


Mounds have been shown to dramatically raise the temperature of their environments and are the chosen form of plants in extreme environments. Notice how the mound above has a fellow traveller, a sprouted flowering plant putting out its first leaves. The flat, warm surface of the earth has been amplified, and in this heat, with the water that is trapped in the moss, like this water caught between these pine needles, …

… the plant has many basic needs fulfilled. Rather than flowing away, the water is held by the tension between two surfaces, at which point its own surface tension, amplified by the support of the surfaces around it, is stronger than gravity.


The “agricultural soil” that is “the top surface of the earth” is doing no more: the soil has one surface, but beneath that surface all the grains of mineral of which it is formed amplify that surface area many millions of times, and allow that water to bind and defy gravity. It makes a web not that dissimilar from the multi-year complex of this stag horn sumac:


Plants pick it up from there. Above ground, none of that is visible. It looks like “soil” is a magical mineral and compost mix, not that that is a clumsy approximation of a complex life-giving environment.



This subterranean story is not much different from the moss story except that the agricultural version of this soil is a simplified, manufactured material. Plant growth is chopped up and tilled into a mineral substrate, along with its plastic heating technology; simple bacterial and fungal growth, feeding off of the petroleum-based fertilizer which has provided nitrogen, essential for plant growth (and otherwise obtainable from the atmosphere, at least in complex living environments) decays that material into water-absorbing cellulose filaments and releases trace minerals, which another generation of plants can use. It’s an intervention.


It’s not pretty, though, and it’s a very simplified system that, without the application of nitrogen fertilizers or industrially-grown and sown seeds, produces only simplified weed cultures, of little value to anyone.



It is a new age of the earth. No-one knows what these weed ecologies are doing, because no-one is watching them. Certainly, they are building soil, and that is most true, but what, then is soil? The manufactured, mulch product, such as this desert landscape with unpicked tomatoes?


No, it’s far more. It is recreating life. Here’s a clue, from the shade under an old sagebrush plant on the hill.



Soil is a complex environment of fungi and bacteria and other microorganisms. They are the living things that cluster around the roots of plants like these blue bunch wheat grasses…


… or around the roots of larger plants like this robin-rich cottonwood …


… and recreate the living soil surface in the complex weather patterns of the underground atmosphere. Yes, there is one. When the air content of soil goes below a certain threshold, through either compaction or water saturation, everything dies. Air is key. After all, these plants couldn’t tolerate drowning.


Neither can their sisters underground. The atmosphere above the soil is turbulent. In it, water is released from saturation into precipitation and is taken back up again to balance the pressure of the air.


It’s the same underground, except there the process is expressed through the work of up to 1,000 different species per cubic metre of grassland soil; there, water, clinging to the mineral particles of the soil, attracts minerals, extracted not from the clouds by the sun and the cold, but extracted by microorganisms, and passed onto plant roots, which provide them with oxygen, which they breathe out. The large cousins of these microorganisms on the surface are doing this work, too. There we call it photosynthesis.


Each leaf is the earth. The earth is a leaf. Soil is not mineral. It is a living process of breath, as is the way leaves breathe the sun and the air and make stone move and bloom.

P2070619 P2020335 P2110471


Next: more on the relationship between photosynthesis, soil atmosphere, plants and the sky.

Soil and Water: Children of the Stars

Within a slope constructed at the angle of gravity, that’s to say at the angle that is the balance between the earth’s spin and the concentration of that spin at it’s core, water flows downhill at a rate balanced to the evaporative potential of the air above it, and the plants (in this case bunchgrass) that represent it (and mine it). When these lines of energy are cut, such as by the Grey Canal (now a walking path) in the centre of the image below, the balance is changed, water pools, and wetland life colonizes it. The seeds drifting on the wind that created the cat tails below are blowing everywhere through the valley. They materialize as a new wetland only when there is a wetland to materialize in, which is dependent on alterations to the balance of pressures between the atmosphere and gravity. The Earth is a child of the stars, and we can harvest their energy, should we watch and pay attention. Soil is the story of this balance. So is life.


Tomorrow: the beauty of surfaces within the story of soil.