The Lungs of the Earth

Bunchgrass defines the grasslands of the intermontane west. It is not, however, the main story here. It is only the canopy forest. P1590438The real grassland is here. It is far older. It lies dormant in the summer’s heat and grows and blooms in the complex snow-melt landscape between the heat sinks of the grass almost all the winter long and into the spring.P1590415This is the lung of the earth. It is a skin that allows water and air to pass into the colonies of microbes that live beneath the soil and which dissolve it into minerals for plants.
P1590407 Where it has been killed off, the earth has an entirely new skin. It changes the seasons and uses water in simpler ways. This is cheat grass, shown below with some russian thistle. Good companions. The cheat grass takes the water in the spring and translates it into thatch in the summer, which lets a little rain through for the thistles, which bloom just before frost, when the cheatgrass has seeded itself in the droughted ruins of its spring rush and is growing again, as it is in the picture of a December thaw below.P1590330

It’s less a lung than an artificial breathing apparatus that, not surprisingly, matches the compost-based, blue-water-based soil renewal understandings that colonial culture teaches its children. Compare that to a natural grassland slope, responding to water, sun and air in minutely fine-tuned patterns, however compromised by neglect.

P1520181 After 140 years, the image below shows the limit of cultural understanding of this grass, which has been achieved by colonial culture.

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No, that buck is not grazing there. He is passing through. We all are. Even if property title grants the illusion of the right to kill the earth. The image above is a social image. It is a reflection of society. This could be, too:

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At the moment it is only a remnant of one. Billions are spent dreaming of engineering Mars for life. I think learning how the earth works would be a good start. It puzzles me why there aren’t a thousand historians, scientists and sociologists walking out in this grass. Do they have a death wish? I don’t know. Here are two views of the vineyard these landscapes are woven through. First…

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… and next, only a few metres away …P1590477

 

I offer the observation that they are the same.

 

 

 

 

Human Life Under the Sea

Water is mysterious stuff. So is air. Sometimes air holds up water.P1510849Sometimes water holds up air.

P1580801But there’s something else going on. Mud.P1590280What you’re looking at here is the bottom of a mud puddle. It has settled, on its own, after being driven through a day or so ago. It has frozen and thawed a couple times. Look at the patterns!  No person or animal has walked through this muck. Whatever is present is a record of physical forces. The mountains and craters below, too.

P1590285 The river valleys and a volcano and little bits of boulder that have settled in, probably after ice melted up above.

P1590290 Now, here’s what that looks like after 12,000 years, give or take.

P1590294Glacial Lake Penticton Lake Bottom The Commonage, Vernon

The cliff line marks where the bottom sediments were washed away when the ice dam holding back the lake broke.

Again? Sure. Here’s what the Okanagan Valley looked like on the day before the lake flowed away:

P1590288Yes, these images are taken through water. (There are still 300 metres of this stuff below the floor of the lake.)

Now, to return to my initial image, a sea of water above the grasslands and the lake …

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Bella Vista Hills, Okanagan Landing

Home Sweet Home! 

Here’s my observation: if a layer of water over the earth has amazing effects, such as the ones in the images above, what effects does a layer of air have? Might it not be similar? Well, I think it is. I think it looks like this:

P1590212 Melted Frost on Blue-Bunched Wheat Grass

I think it looks like this, too:

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Muddle Puddle Grass Seen From Above

Looking a lot like anemones in the sea.

See that ice around the grass? Just imagine it is air… see that? The plants  are using the atmosphere as a sea. They do it by internalizing some of the processes of the sea, while abstracting others and leaving some entirely. They are undersea plants. They are atmospheric plants, not earth plants. Here’s an ocean bottom apple orchard.

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It’s commonplace to note that plants left the sea long ago, as did land-based organisms such as humans. As I was walking through a grassland bright with drops of molten frost on the seed tip of every stalk of bunchgrass, I saw that we haven’t left.

P1580475Cat Tail

Don’t be fooled by the water. The plant is under the sea, but the water on its stalk is not the sea. In the ocean, sure, but in the atmosphere the sea is the air. Water is a sediment. Water is this stuff:

P1580702More Mud!

Imagine the layer of water here as air and the bottom mud as water, and the earth below it.

Water is pretty good at transferring energies and states. Look how it transfers the molecular energies of the freezing process to the mud it is blended with.

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If we weren’t at the bottom of a sea of air we would not witness these effects. They are, in other words, atmospheric effects, including the pressure effects of the depth of the air itself. This is what those effects look like. Even, ultimately, this:

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After all, the glaciers that ultimately formed these old post-glacial lakeshore clays are sediments from the air, which moved their water around and deposited it according to its own patterns. That cliff is, ultimately, a cloud, hugging the hill just like this:

P1580292And the lake? Well, since it is sediment, it is, ultimately, mud.

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Mud taking an image of the sun through the ridge line trees.

 

 

Imaging Making Beyond Photography

Photography is a means of recording temporary effects of light. It began by a process  in which light energy created structures of silver crystals on a glass plate. Now it is created by processing input from light-sensitive censors. Let me introduce you to the early forms of a different kind of image-making, which records time and pressure, instead of light: the mud puddle. Three forces are at play to form its images: water, air and temperature, along with a possible initiating disturbance. Here are some of its images. Notice the tracks of the vineyard operator, going back and forth to check his thermometers, to see if it’s time to make ice wine or not.

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In each image, notice how the sun’s interaction with the puddle environment has created a water shadow.

P1570507 I think that’s a secondary form of image making.

P1570509 P1570517 P1570516 In the following image, note how the disturbance of the large pebble has been recorded by the gas structures of the puddle, extended across time.P1570513

And of course, in each image sun and tires have made their own shadow images. Precise records do not require precision technology. They require eyes.

Planet of Fire

This is no ordinary planet we live on. I think it’s best to walk outside and take a look …P1550050

 

There are many flames, new and old, in this photograph of Middleton Mountain in Coldstream: the spill of lava across the cap of the mountain, too hard for the glaciers to take it away completely, and which drops water onto the fir tree near the mountain’s crest, the rising sun itself, the autumn aspens in their yellow and gold and the choke cherries in autumn red, the dried wisps of the rest of the summer’s trees and grasses, burnt away, the sun caught within the dead chloroplasts of the grasses, bouncing back and forth and amplified, the sky on flame with light and turning blue from agitation, and that fir tree, which is water drawn into the sky by heat and the tree riding along with it and rusting into green flame. Under it all is the rock, cold now, but still directing water and light in the channels of its old flows, which came from the sea bed diving deep under the land and giving off pressurized steam that dissolved the rock and sent it up in flame into the sky.

Teleportation, Anti-Gravity and Art

Defying gravity?P1540796

It’s a trick of light.

bright If the sun had moved its substance to earth physically, there would be no water and no life.

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Reforming itself in a new form, that’s the trick.

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The process of the sun transferring itself is not finished.

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At the moment, it is both here, and there. Look at it caught in this old, exploded star that my ancestors call, variably, water and Wasser and wetter and wody.

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It is the sun, defying gravity and moving itself across space by turning itself into energy, and then, through the lens of the earth, turning itself back.

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Art matters.

 

Of Fog and Human Bondage in the Okanagan Valley

Fog up high.

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Fog down low. Yes, grass. It’s as much a pressure condensation as airborne water.

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Fog up high and down low together.

P1520380Fog in the gully (Bushes squeezed out of the grass by gravity.)

 

P1520857Fog in vineyard. P1520355

 

Note that the vineyard is not fog. It imitates it. In other words, it stands in for people, in the way that Nike and Imperial Shell Oil do. People all in a row. Tied up to wire.

 

Rain is Fun!

After three weeks of hot, hot weather, stretching the summer deep into the fall, gloriously, rain! Here are the first drops…P1490976 It’s like the moon!

P1490977 Why not. The moon came from here.

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And the scent that the rain and earth give to the air on impact!P1490988 Oh my! There’s just nothing like it.

P1490989 It’s like Proust and his madelaines, it is.P1490990 Now, here’s a cool effect: a tiny drop hits a rock and expands. I mean, really expands!P1490995 Oh, a bigger view (yes, I’m getting wet and hiding my camera under my shirt in between snaps)… P1500016 Neat, huh. Pshaw, that’s nothing. Look closely:P1500034Look how the earth just embraces that water, eh! That’s the way things are done on this planet. And from the other direction, so see how the light handles it:P1500033It handles it well! And pulling back again (because we can)…P1500022 Ah, we could delight in this moment all day, but it’s just that, you know, a moment. It passes. You have to enjoy it when it comes.P1500039 What a party it is!

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Whoo-hooo! That moment billions of years ago when the comets first struck the hot earth, well, it lives on! How cool is that!

Did You Lose Your Mind? Don’t Worry. I Found It.

Ah, the noble stag, majestically ruling its wild kingdom in parallel to the worlds of men. Here you can see a young mule deer buck framed against a hillside sculpted by humans into muck.P1500473 If you are a human and not a Google Bot looking at this, do notice the exquisite metal sky put up to keep the stags from floating up off the earth into the pinot gris. Majestic! Romantic, too.P1500524 Here’s a stag posing nobly beside a waterline that delivers water across the weed belt (Except for a couple sages, there are no native plants in this image.) into the gewürztraminir and pinot noir plots.

P1500512 Not just King of the Weeds, but King of the Weeds and the Muck!P1500504

Again, if you’re a bot, this is probably lost on you, but if you’re a human the scene will likely give you a sense of complete satisfaction. After all, that bottle of plonk you had with dinner last night was romantically created out of just this romance. Here’s the big picture: two stags wandering through the wasteland. Nothing to eat for miles, except some bushes down in a ravine and, um, well, the predators hang out there, too, so you’d have to be a porcupine to feed on anything down there.

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Locally, these are called problem deer. Here’s one of them 2 evenings ago, as the sun was going down, pulling the purple, red and orange colours out of the sage. As for the sage, yes, it’s native, but that amount of sage is a result of over-grazing and under-burning. Yup, you got it right: weeds, again. This is on the edge of that ravine no self-respecting deer would enter (you have to cross the freaking coyote trail just to get down into the deeps). You got it. Nothing to eat for miles.

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The kings of the wild are living in a new wilderness: Weed Planet! That’s what we have made. It is an image of ourselves and an image of the poverty of our social and scientific understandings. One might think human kind has completely lost its mind. No. Look. I found it. Yesterday!

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Yay!

 

 

 

 

 

The Technological Applications of New Scientific Thinking

I promised I would talk about practical applications for science based on observing the world in its own language. (This is commonly called phenomenological science, but I’m trying to find a simpler expression for that.) Better just to jump right in! OK, so here’s my wasp and her grub.

P1490820There are a bunch of different ways of thinking about her.

1. We could talk about the wasp laying her eggs in the living grub, so it can incubate her eggs and then provide food for her larvae. This is an evolutionary strategy. Discussions of this kind of science have so far lead to methods of using wasps for pest control.

2. We could talk about how the wasp is doing on a multicellular level what cancer does on a cellular level. This is an ecological strategy. It means a couple things. First, that the wasp has randomly found a successful approach that allows it to survive across generations by using surrogates. Second, that it is even possible to consider higher orders of life operating as cancers. Discussions of the latter kind of science will lead to technologies that use living hosts to transmit genetic material across boundaries that would otherwise destroy it. For the wasp it is winter. For humans, it is what we can imagine. Travel to Mars, perhaps. Deep sea travel. Who knows. Currently, such technology is most prevalent in cancer treatment and in computer virus transmission. Pretty aggressive military stuff. Note that the wasp does not have a military strategy. There are alternate technologies within that.

3. We could talk about the wasp as a wasp. It lifts this grub, with intent, and moves it through gargantuan expenditures of energy. To the wasp, this is not a grub. It is a reproductive chamber. It is its self and all its future. A human mother might look at a house in much the same way. The existence of a creature with this degree of intent, with, as well, a tiny nervous system and brain, should be enough to challenge human notions of identity and superiority. If the wasp can do all this with a tiny nervous system, what is our huge nervous system for? Variability? Potentiality? Is each of us all the wasps in the world?

And here I should stop, because it’s obvious what’s going on: in each case, technological application are easily applicable, yet they are always on the order of observing a behaviour, abstracting principles from it, and applying them to new circumstances, in machine-type ways. However, the wasp is just a wasp. The technology should be applicable in a wasp-fashion, or even in a human fashion, without resorting to technology. That’s just a language (and a powerful one at that.) What if there were a different language? What if we stopped thinking about the wasp and evolution and all that jazz? What if we looked at where she lives?

P1490841Kinnikinnik

The forest boundary berry of the Northwest. (Here, it’s growing on a lakeshore.)

Now we have three players: wasp, grub and kinnikinnic. Might as well throw in the stump, too. And the carpenter ants (no doubt) within it. And the grubs tunnelling (no doubt) under its bark. And the bear who comes by every few years, maybe, to shred the stump looking for them. If we think of them all together, then there is no evolutionary strategy, on behalf of the wasp, but, rather, a balance strategy. There are threads of energy in this environment. Evolutionary science reads them as competitive pressures, leading to temporary balances. What if they were balances, which led to temporary competitive pressures? Such an approach to science would lead to different medical technologies, one which included the artistry of its practioners. What if there were no individual species present here, but, rather, a constellation of species, that might be differently constituted elsewhere? Would not balance provide the stories, then, rather than evolution? Might it not lead to technologies which included points of balance? Usually, such technologies are called religions, but what if devices could be made that, in accordance with human input, could deliver individual results, depending on what a person needed? Would this technology be a kind of amulet? Yes, I think so, and I think this would, again, commonly be defined as a religion. Might it, not, however, be a form of psychology? Might the way forward for psychological science be not ESP and other measurable (or not) effects on matter, but on its ability to change the observer, so that he or she observed different material and thus had before himself or herself a different set of possibilities? Why not. Just a metre away from our wasp and her grub are the tiny fish among these stones, and the algae growing on them.

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Yes, there are fish. Look again, if you missed them. 

Lake and shore. Two different environments… or is that just a human bias? What if they are one, and the force that creates the wasp creates these young trout? What is their balance point? What is their surrogate, if they have one? The technology that comes out of such questions will lead to a healthy planet. We really do have to choose. Technology can be a set of mechanical tools. It can also be a set of energies. Those energies are not limited to the exchange of electrons to transfer electrical signals to effect certain results. What if the earth were your brain? What if its most important work were to stop action rather than to create it? That’s not a suggestion to stop action, by the way, but to transfer it into balance. This is why the scientist-poet Goethe said we should stop listening to Newton. That was 200 years ago. I think it’s about time. What are the technologies? I don’t know, but I promise, they are as large as the set created by Newtonian science. Some already exist. I’ll walk about some of those in my next post. Thanks for swimming with the fish with me!

 

 

The Secret of Life

Last week, I was speaking about alternative science. This week I am going to be talking about some practical applications of it. But first, one final illustration, because I find it so beautiful, and I like sharing beautiful things.

P1490763Sugar Lake, by Water

Here’s the scene as transmitted by air.

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Both are images of light. One is transmitted by water, and contains the energy flows within water. Life, of course, is carbon, water, and energy (or light). This is close:

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It just needs some carbon, to hold it in place. Yes, there is life on earth. It is the earth. That’s the point. To find life on Mars, one must first understand Mars. What one finds will be totally alien. That’s the point. Life on other planets? Earth is another planet. That’s the point.