The Moods of Colour

Look at the colour of this water.P1680668

Pretty nice stuff, for sure. Look at the colour of this water.

lakeFun stuff, isn’t it. And this water.

bottomWhy, it’s hardly there! And this…P1670546It’s coming to life. And this …track

Glorious! We could go on all day with this kind of fun, but think of this: that’s two stretches of water, not five, on two separate days. Here, I’ll show you…

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three

Of course, in the cultural manners in which we’re all trained today, I’m being poetic here. I assure you, I’m being something more than that. To begin again, my moment of awareness looked a bit like this …

P1660987and a bit like this …

poison

… all at the same time! I realized in a flash that the images, of oregon grape (upper) and poison ivy (lower), were the same colour.

cashews

To unravel this odd (to scientifically-trained eyes) colour shift, maybe it’s best to go back to the water.

snag

Ah, that’s better.

I know, I know, what we’re looking at here is light not water, and all of it interpreted by our minds, too, and by a camera, AND by an electronic screen set to parameters that pleased a designer in a cubicle in California one day, or perhaps that was India, but it’s still water, even so, or an image of it. Standard physics will talk about angles of refraction and reflection, clarity of water, wavelengths of light, electron excitement, and so on, which all add up to what we see above. Pretty brilliant series of deductions, really. Goethe was onto something different, though. Maybe this image will help get at that …

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 Winter Grass and Water Cress in Mid-February

This image shows two moods of the colour green, or to break that down further, two moods of the colour blue. In the bottom one, blue is in a yellow mood (blue + yellow = green, right?)

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Note: rather than speaking of moods of colour, classical physics talks of this:

threecolours

Note how the colours are jazzed up to give our brains a good kick. This is just one of the many ways in which physics and psychology meet.

In the bottom image (below), the blue and yellow have faded to pale pastels. Both have shifted together into a red mood.

top

In other words, it’s like the sun casting shadows, or ever-changing ripples of light.

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Perhaps, though, that is all illusion. The poet-scientist, Goethe, said as much in his treatise, “A Theory of Colour” (Die Farbenlehre) in 1820. Colour, he pointed out, is not light. Light, he pointed out, is white. When you break it up into a spectrum of colours you are projecting an emotional image of the device by which you broke it up. (Physics would call this “vibrations of energy” and would dismiss the “emotional” term as poetic. Both, you will note, however, are poetic terms.) Goethe’s version of the above image, in other words, would look like this (without the frame):

white

Except, of course, Goethe wouldn’t have made such an image in the first place. What he wanted to do was make images of those emotional states, and he wanted to do that to show the link between perception and God, as he conceived of God to be. That was, mind you, also the approach of Newtonian physicists, with their talk of wavelengths of light. To Goethe, the light was not colour, but illumination itself, which came through the human mind and saw its emotional states cast on the world, and the emotional states of the world cast within itself: a unity, in other words. To Newtonians, who used physicals tools of measurement, it was all physical. This drove Goethe to distraction. He stressed again and agai nthat Newtonian physics looked at qualities of light that had been technically manipulated, whereas the goal was to consider light in its totality, as no colours at all, only the effects of light upon the receiving apparatus (whether that was eye or cantelope), which caused certain vibrations, depending on the mood of the object. By ‘mood’ of, say, a hard-backed chair, he didn’t mean its psychological state. He meant the amount of energy it contained of a person in the world, as a radiation of divine energy. Now, you might be particularly interested in divine energy, fair enough, but Goethe was. Whereas the Enlightenment made a science out of folk knowledge by structuring it in a hierarchal fashion predicated upon objective, experiment-based measurement of physical phenomena, Goethe wanted to extend the Enlightenment, to include the part it left out as being too poetic to measure: God, spirit, emotions, what-have-you. The Enlightenment left that to art. Goethe was only pointing out that it stopped too soon, and that a fully ‘modern’, self-aware consciousness did not have to discard the knowledge of the past, or the dignity and power of human observation, or relegate them to other forms of investigation, such as religion or art. He went even further, in fact, to suggest that colours themselves were created by the human mind, but that is, perhaps, splitting hairs. The moods, though, can be read precisely. So, to look again …

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The grass and the cress are the same. They differ to perception and measurement because they’re in different moods, recorded not by a camera (a device proficient at recording precise measurements of the spectra of light and thus registering them as difference colours, in accordance with the science used to envisage the camera) but by an emotional, water-based, organic creature — a human, in other words. Moods are what we have. Goethe pointed out that people are the absolute most powerful technology for measuring and viewing light, but he never said why. I think this is what he meant. When the grass is growing, it has a certain energy. When it is dead, it has a different energy. All colours are present, which is to say “light” is present, or illumination, but they vibrate differently, displaying the ‘state’ of the object struck both by the light and the observation of the light. Classical physics hands this one over to classical biology, which points out that these are effects created in a long series of incremental evolutionary changes, and do not, in and of themselves, have ‘meaning’ or ‘significance’. They are tools of manipulation and survival. Again, a brilliant series of deductions, based on millions of hours of observation, experimentation and deep thought. Nonetheless, we are the product of that evolution, and have a complex ability to register tiny nuances of energy in the landscape. Any discussion of their evolutionary purpose, to aid with hunting and gathering and survival, is secondary to that truth. We can do this. Here, I’ll put it another way:

pine

All parts of the ponderosa pine above, bark, needle brushes and cones, are moods of blue. The needles are in a yellow mood. The cones are in a red mood. The branches are in a nearly purely blue mood. The differences in colour that I see in the image (I presume you do, too, unless you are a Google robot checking up on the humans today, in which case, Hi.) are contrasts. They’re like shadows of black and white. This observation doesn’t negate Newtonian physics and the marvellous world it has revealed to us all…

ripply2

… but it has added this …P1660612

 

Think of the image above as a dark field, illuminated by a colourless “white” one. The boundaries between these energies, the points of intersection between them, creates an expression of the substance and state of the smooth sumac bushes here, the cliffs, the lichen, the moss, but also reveals characteristics of linearity, angularity and extension. Like the moods of the colour, those are moods as well. In those terms, the cliff and the bushes have the same linear (and angular and extensional) energy, but the way it manifests itself in them displays different tendencies, which are corollary to the moods of colour. Any tools we use to measure or analyze these effects are always going to be lesser than the mind that sorted them out of the world in the first place. Here’s another example:

wall

 

 

Oregon Grape? Or water, collecting at the base of the cliff, rising up again, drawn upwards by the sun? In other words..this is a mood of water. I hope to suggest that this way of thinking has the ability to present as complex a model of the world as conventional science, and that it should never have been hived off of it. Our earth would be in better shape if it hadn’t. What’s more, socially it seems that by controlling the tools by which humans, such as you or I (Sorry, Google Robot, but I think you’re up to something different, but, hey, Hi.) individuals can be channelled into certain forms of social behaviour and political organization, to the exclusion of others. I don’t particularly like that. Do you? (Yes, Google Robot, I know how you feel about this, shhh, don’t scare the humans, would you?) Social parameters aside, there is still considerable ability in the human measurement tool, to precisely observe complex relationships, like this:

ripply2

Colour, mood, linearity, extension, time, edge effects of myriad kinds, life, angles,and so forth, are all instantly perceived above by the human mind. Forget for just a moment about the social cues placed upon them, that see them as “beauty” or “water” or “gas effects” or “refraction” or “gravitational effects” and so on, and look at them. You see it all, instantly. That’s what Goethe meant about light. And so the four images of sumac below, display different moods. You can read them as well as I.

smoothshore smooth2 Remember, the only difference (in this line of thought) between these images is their mood …wall2 … the boundaries between forces, and their energy…P1660803 smooth

 

… and, of course, how you receive them, and what you do with them. Whatever it is, though, it’s not ‘nature’ and it’s not ‘science’. Goethe was trying to point that out, too. So was I, when I showed you this…

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… and said, so to speak, hey, it’s this:

poison

 

Put it this way, the difference between the energy of the bottom image and the top one, or the difference between its colours, which are the same, because they receive the same light (and absorb different parts of it, reflecting the rest), is what I mean by mood. Out of that mood (in the guise of reflected light), physicists can measure the precise chemical composition of either the poison ivy berries or the oregon grape leaves, and Goethean scientists can measure particularities of life energy within them, to the same degree of precision, or perhaps greater, because of the ability for creative interaction and inspiration. Here’s an image for next time …

reach

I’ll be extending this discussion into “paths of water”.

 

Land Claims in the Okanagan

To say that a land and its people are one, as the first people of my land, the Syilx, say, is to say that the following image is an image of the people. It defies Western logic, but that’s what it says, ravens and everything.P1690042 After the glaciers melted 10,000 years ago, the region’s nomadic hunters gradually developed the technologies to survive year long in this land, at the same rate at which salmon recolonized it after their glacial refuges in Mexico and its signature grassland biomes took shape, with human intervention. The land and the people became one at the same rate and often in response to each other. They accorded the same dignity to the other inhabitants of the land, because the land was identity and larger than them all. It did not belong to them as much as they belonged to it.

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It’s logical. Before the land took its present shape, it was a different land. Before the Syilx became the keepers of that land (for such is the meaning of “Syilx”), they were a different people. In terms of the land, and a consciousness based on the land, they have, in fact, been here forever. In Western terms, that’s like the discussion about the Big Bang. It’s not possible to posit a universe before the Big Bang, because the universe is the expression of the Big Bang. So is it with the Okanagan, and the Syilx.

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The Big Bang is Watching You

That the people and the land are one also means that human consciousness and the land are one. In Western terms, this is an emotional statement. In Syilx terms, it isn’t. (Remember: Syilx is not precisely a race; it’s a way of thinking.) The eagle’s face the sun carves out of the cliff below and the bald eagle above it are one. It is nonsense in terms of science. It means something in terms of a land-based consciousness.

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Nonetheless, Western thought recently was the same. The following image, for example, shows the Bockstein, the Goat’s Rock across the German Rhine from the holy city of Bingen, complete with a bit of Christian iconography speared into its heart and an elderberry bush to keep witches away (a remnant of an ancient believe in elves and animal spirits was interpreted in oh-so-Catholic Rüdesheim, to which the vineyards in the image belong, as a haunt of the Devil). A bit more than a century ago it was dynamited, to keep it from dropping rocks onto the rail line far below. As you can see from the carefully-tended spear and the surviving elder, the old beliefs haven’t exactly died out.

trolls

They didn’t die out in Christian tradition either. Here’s a kind of accommodation in Rüdesheim itself. Christ as a sun, at the intersection of heaven and earth, and, look, he’s really a wine cork, and the cross is really a grape plant, here where wine-making began as an act of  Christian devotion and commerce. Christ as a sun god? That’s not really Christ, is it, and those vines? Pure celtic.

sunwinecross2

Here’s one Okanagan equivalent.

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Cougar Above the Old Syilx Village on Kalamalka Lake

 This kind of view of the land didn’t start here in the land currently occupied by my city, Vernon, however. This was never the heart of Syilx territory, only one of its major extensions. The heart was here…

P1340441

Lake Lenore, Grand Coulee, Washington

The cave complex that looks out on this view here has been used by the Syilx for 8,000 years. It’s from here that they moved north, and here they learned to read spirits in the land, such as the human-faced mountain sheep above. It’s here that they hunted rhinos before they became the Syilx. Lake Lenore is about six driving hours south of Vernon, British Columbia. 

 When people came north, following the retreating ice, they found their stories from Lake Lenore written out on the land, with new variations, and they read them, and they settled where they were strongest. Yes, they were looking into their own minds, minds created by story which was created by land which was created by story, which was all, ultimately, created by ice and rock.

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It’s such a powerful and popular idea to call today’s age of the world the Anthropocene, the Age of Man, in which it is human activity which dominates the world, often badly. That’s a culturally-loaded assessment, however, because in the Syilx world, human activity had the same power with the world, but chose to use it for different ends, ends like this:

yellow-1Arrow-leafed Balsam Root

It’s not a pretty flower. It’s food. 

We’re not talking ancient history here. The takeover only began in earnest 150 years ago, when men were hammering the spike into the heart of the Bockstein. The cougar and the ancestral figures I showed you above, are from this complex cliff complex of two separate geologies in collision.

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They rise above this lake.

eagle

The story was once continuous. It led from the watching cougar, to cougars and turtles across the lake, in what is now Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park, and Cougar Canyon to the  south, but invasion came with a price. Men constructing Highway 97 to move traffic north from Mexico have blasted away the story, and the connections between the bluff and the lake and its own stories.

P1690411 The story now is Highway 97.P1690240

A Forest on the Way to the Plywood Plant

Or, rather, Highway 97 has highly edited the story. Here’s the old highway and the new one, together, looking north. That’s the city of Coldstream, a colonial outpost of north-eastern Scotland, on the middle right.

P1690362 Any story of being-the-land has to contend now with dynamite, hydroelectric power transmission, the petro state, and industrialization of the mind.P1680902 The culvert in the image below, for instance, is now part of the sacred story. There’s no way around it. You can’t make the road go away now.P1680901 What would you replace it with? The story is lost. P1680816 It took a lot of effort, as the bore holes for dynamite charges show below. Note the pink granite. That’s a more accurate colour for the rock (I tweaked for a long time to get it) than the yellow-white above, which is a function of camera processing and early morning sun.P1680797

It’s not just the road. It comes with other stuff.

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And it brings stuff.

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Lots of different stuff.

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The men and women who drive these trucks are just doing a job. They live within a complex net of relationships, which they have devoted their lives to further. It’s what’s called “Free Labour”. It means that a free man can freely give his body to economic and political structures, support and strengthen them, to be supported and strengthened by them in return. It was the ticket on which Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States (It’s important to this land, because our culture comes out of that election. It’s complicated.) in 1862, and was one of the pressure points that led to the American Civil War. It is as complex a series of relationships as the land-identity of the Syilx, but it comes at a certain cost. For one, it’s wasteful of land and disrespectful of it, because it treats it as a commodity and not life itself. Here’s the stretch of waste rock between the old and new highways, with the Syilx collective unconscious isolated in behind.

P1680882 It also make a lot of noise (all that traffic), yet leads to a profound silence. Because of the dominance of this wasteful highway construction on the land, it’s awfully hard to read even those parts of the Syilx story that remain, not to mention impossible to hear anything of the parts blasted away except for their profound ghost presence. Perhaps you can sense it in the following images of a much-simplified landscape, gone from hundreds of thriving species, to a few struggling weeds.P1680809

P1680881 P1690078 P1690113 One of the consequences of this kind of split between self and earth is disrespect based on blunt ignorance The image below, is what tourism pictures as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Here’s an adventure tourism guide featuring our blasted sacred bluff covered by text and an image of sacred Turtle Point, separated from it as much by the advertisement for adventure tourism as by the dynamite itself.

kalamalkaclassic Sometimes, it helps to move the photoshop sliders so far to the right that the lake looks like an acid trip, as it does in the official Vernon tourism photograph below. This image was taken below the blasted bluff. I took most of my photographs from the same place. Note that the image below doesn’t mention the Syilx connection. Neither does the one above, although its background does show the Syilx village site now filled with colonial infill housing.kalmalka

Another consequence is insanity. Here’s what the place looks like, outside of the need to manipulate the subconsciousness of potential tourists, to entice them, perhaps unknowingly, to spend their money in this rather butchered place. P1680955

See that? The excess sagebrush from overgrazing? The road fill in the foreground? The old highway, and… what’s that? Ah, look…

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Somebody has dropped off their household garbage here, and lots of it, to avoid paying the, oh, I dunno, $10 fee to move it 3 minutes away to the local landfill, which just happens to be straight up the hill, above the new highway. That’s where these ravens are going.

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That’s where these ones came from.

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Some background: this land has been the subject of a land claim by the Syilx since around 1895.  Since that time, the Canadian government has told the British Columbia provincial government, here far in the West, to take care of land claims and actually acquire legal title to its land. It has been 120 years of stalling, and it appears that the greatest degree of settlement of this outstanding issue of the legal underpinning of a state has been this:

P1690459Access Road to a Private Community for the Rich

As for ethical underpinnings, there aren’t any. That is part of the story now. Above my house, where the turtle story spills down to Okanagan Lake in the west, it looks like this:

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We don’t sit on this land lightly. The hurt that has been done to the land is the hurt that has been done to the Syilx, and the hurt that has been done to the Syilx has been done to the land, and through the land to all of us. That barrier is there to keep us out … from what? Well, from this.

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Coyote Rock Yesterday Afternoon

(Coyote rocks are petrified Coyote dung, which the trickster and cultural ancestor of the Syilx dropped behind him on his trails in order to have someone to talk to and to get advice from. This one houses marmots, which come out in late April, perch on the tip, and disappear again mid-August, to sleep the winter away.)

Is it a $750,000 building lot with the best view in Vernon? Yes. Is it a deep expression of human and ecological identity that can, in and of itself, lead us to a sustainable and ethical future? Yes. Can we really have both at once? Here’s an elf, part of the Coyote Rock complex, which my European subconscious sees mirrored in the land.

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Yes, we can have them both at once, right now. But the erosion continues, and the struggle for power, and in it diversity, resilience, history and sustainability lose their independence. In the image below, the road leading up to this subdivision for wealthy retirees from the petro state to the east, the missing cliff contains not only lost sagebrush buttercup habitat, but an 8,000-year-old rattlesnake den.

rtonowhere3

8,000 years! Destroyed to bring an image of Provence to people from Northern Alberta. Sure, we can create a future out of our imaginations, but destroying our deeper imaginations and capacities to do so, on land that is not even ours, well, that’s not a story that is going particularly well. It can’t be sustained. Note again, the overgrazed bunchgrass in the image above, and its replacement by green cheatgrass, which is of no value to anyone and destroys most values in the land. The only value left in the land, as this road and the culture that created it, imagine, is the visual, romantic value of ‘the view’.

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You just have to ignore the clearcut forests in the background, the ingrown grasslands at lake level, the forest fire burn, the blasting for the road cut at the middle left, and the reformed hillside, to provide housing lots, to capture lake views, below it, but that’s easy. When people (new settlers, all of them) ask me, “What are you photographing here?”, I tell them about the Syilx food crops and ancient gardens, in just this spot, and the remaining remnants of them, and they look at me as if I’m from another planet. Maybe I am. I’m from here. If I tell them I’m photographing insects (such as the green sweat bee on the native food plant, the mariposa lily below), they laugh.

closebee

No, I didn’t boost the colours with Photoshop.

That image of the bee is the same image as the one below.

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Just in reverse.  This story cannot be told separately. Only poverty and a loss of independence comes from that. All cultures that remain on either side of the reality of the contemporary story will erode. We have to work this out. Together. Now.

Amazing Grassland

I want to show you something amazing. This is the bunchgrass that made the West, and these are the deer that graze it. The grass looks brown, but that’s just the water-gathering stalks from last year and the year before. They keep the plant alive. The new shoots are rising, just days after the snow melted away. The deer are cropping them off. By the time settler culture gets itself off of the ski hills and gets its head wrapped around the idea of spring, the bunchgrass’s year will be over. That’s Kalamalka Lake in behind.P1650653

The grasses, as you can see, grow at a certain distance from each other. This allows their dead stalks to gather the rain and their massive root systems to spread out. Here’s a closer look…

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As you can see, the bunchgrass is about a half metre apart, on  a grid. But what’s that between the grasses? Soil, but not just any soil. Have a closer look.

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This is the microbial crust of the Intermontane Grasslands. Along with the soil beneath it, it contains about 1000 species before cubic foot, and works as the lungs of the earth, a seed plantation surface, and both a water entrapment and anti-transpiration device. Look closer.

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It even grows on bare rock.

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Amazing. And in the middle of so-called winter, yet.

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Isn’t that beautiful? Don’t let anyone tell you, ever, ever ever ever ever ever ever ever, that soil is dirt.

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It doesn’t even mind the snow! (It must be like a greenhouse under there!)

 

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.

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

kalterrainannotated

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.

 

Seeing in the Dark: A Meditation on Science, Art and Human Nature…part 1

I was walking the other day, as I like to do (it’s a way of thinking and breathing at the same time), when I felt myself walking into something and, you know, I knew the place. I walked right on… into where I already was.

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That’s right, the hill above my house. A bit of sagebrush, a few skritches of bunchgrass, a saskatoon bush, snow everywhere (cactuses under the snow, soil between the grasses, under the snow, and mariposa lily bulbs under the soil, with the voles), and some fine Okanagan Valley winter fog. But, no, that’s not what I felt myself walking into. I was walking into the dark. Here’s some dark…

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… yeah, I know, culturally it’s called light. That’s what makes it so fascinating. In light, the image above is an image of an apricot tree on a farm around the corner from my house, and a red-tailed hawk, on a fencepost (second post from the right), and some snow, and wild Canada goose tracks, too, honk honk honk. Note: they’ve given up on migrating. Circling and stomping around in the snow is more their thing now.

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The hawk doesn’t bother with them. Look at him below. He has his back turned on them of all things! He’d probably put in ear plugs if he could.

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But that image with the hawk in it there above is an image of the dark. Now, of course, in terms of light culture, there’s light in the snow and light in the grass there, and dark tones that have absorbed light in the fenceposts and the rose bushes and the hawk, and what they are is the absence of light. The things themselves we can’t see, in this light-world. We can only guess at what they are. Maybe as an extension of the puzzlement and joy-of-figuring-out in the image below…

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Things,

obscured by light (and fog and falling snow).

 

… and maybe not. At any rate, the earth is black. What we see is something else, a system of signs that unite us with the world we view. Here’s an image of blackness, consisting of shapes of gravity, molecular pressure, air pressure, and other forms of physical energy bonding.

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Obviously, the gull is using solar radiation just as we are, to make body images of its place in this dark, interpenetrating swirl of forces, just a few energies of which are the light energies which put the yellow in the gull’s bill and the blue into the water. We’ve all been trained in this story, and it’s a compelling one. You can see one of the major effects of using the sun in this way in the plum tree below.

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Is the dark the absence of light, or light the absence of dark?

(California Prune Plum)

Because of a couple centuries of big-time training in this light-trumps-all theory and the forms of cognitive calculations that accompany it…

Book Illustration Depicting Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in a Train Cabin

Watson and Holmes Figuring Out the Tricky Deceptions of the World

Every Intellectually-trained Human’s quintessential model.

…the big cultural story in town these days is that humans are visually-oriented creatures, who like the light and are cognitively adapted to making use of it. Few people point out that humans see things this way because they’re trained to. That’s right, seeing has become a highly-specialized, highly-trained art form. Is this snow-crushed grass after the sun melts the snow away, or art?

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It’s a good question, but as long as the “We are Light” theory of human nature is the main story in town, the question is unanswerable. After all, humans are so attuned to light, aren’t they, that at night they turn the dark into dreams, in technicolor, because without light the day cannot be laid down in memory. Perhaps that’s true.

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Are those drops of water on this bunchgrass memory?

The  plant lays down seed because of certain molecular pressures, which, held in place by time, attract water, which attracted me The complex processes of molecular folding which creates the photosynthesis used by these plants in the spring and summer, is scarcely different. It is all retained behaviour, binding future and past into the present. That’s memory, isn’t it? It is, at least, so in light theory. For humans, so the story goes, a glimpse into the light is a glimpse into the power of the world itself. There humans see themselves.

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Well, yeah, OK, they used to see God in images like that (and many still do), but a God who made man in his own image and woman out of a rib bone. Don’t worry about taking that too literally. It could just mean that male consciousness is oriented to light and female consciousness is oriented to touch and bone and blood and what you can hold in your hand, and that they are, ultimately, the same, in relationships worked out according to complex feelings of desire and rootedness.

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Elder flowers scaring away witches. Gruyères, Suisse

For Swiss country houses, this feature, the goddess’s flowers put to use for the priests of God’s purposes (on the principle that what the man of the house doesn’t know doesn’t need to hurt him, especially if you give him an easier story to divert his attention), is as important as chimneys. (That’s all kind of how humans work things out.)

But I digress. According to the theory that humans are attracted to light like moths to a flame, other conscious functions of the mind, so the story goes, are subjugated to the information they gather from light. Humans live in the light, it is said. We are light beings. We cannot see the dark (or in it.) Here in a weeping willow for instance, we are in the threads of light, all that yellow and orange and brown and pink and red, so pretty:

P1650007 Such colour! And look at the light collecting in the drops of molten snow that are collecting on the buds of these twigs! That clinches it! It’s light for us!

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Look at the colour the human eye can differentiate in light. Such molecular vibrations! We, the molecular vibration measuring devices, able to deduce birdness from colour, yay! And life, the colour of blood, just fantastic, too.

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Of course, the theory ignores the fact that the original meaning of the attraction to light was proof of the existence of God, to whom humans were drawn, as they were of the same substance, which is to say that scientific exploration was a pathway to God, but that’s the way of theories… you have to ignore some stuff to get a handle on other stuff. The result of this creature-of-light theory is an entire world of surfaces, which humans read in order to deduce their depths. Or, in the case of some human surface making, the surfaces of the surfaces of the surfaces of the surfaces of the surfaces.

warhol_Marylin_medium

Andy Warhol Being Norma jean Being Marilyn Being Marilyn Being Marilyn Being Marilyn

(Being Mechanized Pigment Application Processes)

According to this exploration of the world using surfaces, humans track meaning, given to them by clues of light. Without that, they’d be lost.

P1640713Any dog half worth his schnoz would be able to deduce a novel from these tracks by smelling them. Humans do it by looking at them.

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Ah, deer! We say, following a track up through the weeds to the vineyard where, I’m sorry to say, temporary foreign workers from Mexico chase the deer around on four-wheeled motorcycles, whooping. Hunters to the end, that’s the human soul, it is, in the world of light.

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Tracking Pheasants

Or is that what we’re doing? Perhaps these colours, and all this light…

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Cat Tails Soaking In Water and Light

…are really shades of darkness, not hues of light. Perhaps, the world is one unified thing and light is something else, something like the flight of birds, terrestrial creatures who live in air, or the branching of trees,

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Western Red Cedar with Hoarfrost

… that live in light yet are rooted to the ground.

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Perhaps the image of an abandoned fence line below is not an image of light but an image of darkness, and what is seen as colour isn’t an effect of light but an effect of darkness and form, created when light enters the darkness and darkness expresses itself in certain forms of radiation, or in reaction to them. We see darkness, agitated.

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Of course it is.

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I don’t think this is just a game of changing perspectives and renaming light as another thing, even as its opposite. That’s the thing I realized when I was walking. This is something that is within every moment. In the image of sagebrush and invasive cheatgrass below, which is brighter? The white light on the sage? The radiative colour of the grass? The darkness at the core of the sage brush?

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No, those are surface effects. They’re all equally intense. They’re all what the sun looks like on earth. Humans, however, are earth creatures, which is to say not just surfaces. In the image below, captured with a light capturing device (a kind of imitation human that is all eye) held to a human eye, there’s a lot of light, some of it in the form of light shadows of a few starlings, a honey locust, a rowan, some frosty firs in the distance, and some more of that Okanagan fog. Certainly, but note how the absence of colour in the high-contrast of the trees and the birds allows us to see something other than the story of the light in the willows above. We see form, and the darkness it lives within.

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In that image, light and dark become visible by contrast. This is scarcely a different observation than that of the poet scientist Goethe, whose A Theory of Colour put forward the idea that colour was created in the human mind as an edge effect between light and dark — a kind of resistance, shall we say, or a record of emotional states within the body of undifferentiated light. Goethe invented the colour wheel by creating as part of his argument this image of emotional states recorded in light (and transferable by it, too.)

Farbenkreis_Goethe

What’s more, the idea was continuous with the world. By that I mean that according to Goethe’s theories, the colours of this image …

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… differ from this apricot in its tree (in my garden, with its nesting American Robin) below …

 

 

p1120945 … or this tree (the same one seen in the fog above), in Autumn.cot

These, Goethe pointed out, were moods of the world, and humans, embedded in that world, shared these moods with the same progression as the apricot tree.

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Feral Apricot in Bloom, Bella Vista

The idea was discredited by Newtonian science, because very clearly colour can be shown to be a series of gradations of energy in matter — a series of precisely-focused refractions and reflections, recasting matter into the story of its ability to absorb light, which can be carefully observed, to reveal the properties of the matter hidden behind it. In other words, according to this theory, what humans know of the world can be deduced by measuring the light that objects cast off, or by otherwise viewing them with light or by other secondary processes, including intellect. The actual object, however, cannot be apprehended without an intermediary form, either of light or of a re-formation in the mind. Just try, for instance, to find our red-tailed hawk again in the image below, without the aid of light.
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Well, more specifically, without the aid of the contrast between the white sky of fog and his dark bulk sitting on an orchard post. Perhaps Goethe wasn’t so far off, after all. It’s just that he was talking about something quite separate from the Newtonian science of light and ruined his argument by dragging it in. Sure, there’s light in the image below, but, I promise, if you touch one of those cones in this ponderosa pine, or even the tip of one of those needles, you will feel it prick. What’s more, if light draws the human mind out into the world, where it reimagines and reinvents itself directly in the stuff of the earth, then this image below is an image of a human body …P1640466… but not just any human body. This one is in wild and fantastical form. It is a creature of the earth. It is in this manner that the earth views herself. And this:

filberts

Think of those filbert catkins not as a story of light or illumination but as a series of edges and boundary zones, which reveal your emotional state, which just happens to be the emotional state of the earth. Does this theory lose many of the fine qualities of individual human consciousness and of Newtonian science? Yes, of course, but it adds others to it. But that’s still not what I walked into up on the hill. I walked into form and darkness, and I saw my way through it, in the way if I close my eyes I know where my hand is, or if I walk out on a dark night I can largely find my way by memory and the feel of my feet on the ground. Darkness is also human. It is the body, and I don’t just mean this tottering creature of bones and legs and arms and grey-haired bits. I mean three-dimensional art…and I mean to discuss that tomorrow, on the model of the German philosopher Herder, Goethe’s mentor. Here he is living on in Dessau-Wörlitz, where the modern world was invented, on his model.

200w_04092116155Johann Gottlieb Herder (1744-1803)

What I want to get at is the effect that light-bias has had on the state of the earth, and some corrective measures. I know, it’s a bold plunge, but when have I ever held back? Tomorrow it is, then!

 

Light and Dark and Colour are One

Light is a form of darkness.P1640732

Look at these leaves burn their way through the snow, precisely because they are dark.

P1640737 Darkness is a form of energy.

P1640725Notice how bright it is!

P1640708 Notice, too, that it is the snow that is dark.

P1620340 Against it, the dark trees are light (or, at least, bright).orchard In the earliest form of all European languages, black and light were the same thing. The glare or brightness of all the elements in the elm tree below were, to our ancestors, the same startling presence.elm3

You can see a discussion of that here:

Flame: the energy form of passage and transition, present, understood and anticipated, usually manifesting as a leaf of fire, the fire in a leaf, or the potential fire in coal.

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Leaf Burning Through the Snow

That’s from my earth language blog www.earthwords.net

I’m working on what I hope will be tomorrow’s post, about how these observations about light and dark impact culture, science, and art, and what lies beyond the divisions currently accepted as ‘real’. I want to take the time to get it right, so, in the meantime, an image to contemplate:

sun2b

 Sun Burning Through Fog Behind Giant Rye Grass

 Light? Dark? Colour? It’s all the same thing…almost. Tomorrow we’ll talk about that.

 

 

 

The Future of the Earth

I love the world that scientific method has uncovered, but I also know that there is a way of mapping the world that does not include scientific descriptions of the flow of energy. Science, for instance, can’t map this.

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Yes, it can give mathematical models for the energy patterns in the water, and a separate set for the particulate load of the water (cedar root), and another for the light energy entering the water, plus a model for the pebble mass and wave energy that has laid the beach floor at the mouth of this tidal creek, but the whole picture is too complex. Science has no model for putting it all together. It can’t, for instance, point out that this tidal flat is the same.

seastar and blob

 

Willow Point, Vancouver Island

I think we could adjust the scientific model, to make this possible. In another example, there is a relationship between the yellow in the pebbles in the first image above and the yellow in the flowers on the elf hill below in Laugar, Iceland.

ice12

Science would point out that this connection is unmeasurable, and thus outside of scientific discussion. I agree that it is unmeasurable, using scientific techniques. I agree that it is outside of scientific discussion, too. At that point, I would like to add, however, that this observation speaks to a lack within science, rather than a lack within the complexity and dynamic unity of the world. But don’t misunderstand, please. I’m not criticizing science’s achievements. It is an amazing tool. I’m only pointing out that the project is incomplete. Here’s that yellow again, for instance.

P1610767 Or here.

IMG_3278 Photo, Anassa Rhenisch

Or here … IMG_3331

Photo, Anassa Rhenisch

In these cases, scientific culture would point out that these relationships are the business of art. Indeed, they are, but more than that, they are the visions of humans. There is, in other words, a measuring device that notices these yellows, as well as the precise placement of that yellow leaf with the geese in Chelsea above.The device is human. We, the humans in this paradigm, have a point of view that extends past the empirical data at hand. It shows up in everything we observe. Even here…

pine

Ponderosa Pine, Okanagan Valley

Now, that empirical data is vital to science, of course, and is its great strength, and science goes to great lengths to eliminate human observation from its data, but there are some problems with that. First, it’s troubling that the world that applied science has created is becoming increasingly hostile to humans. I suspect that there is a correlation here. Secondly, a science that ignores the human point of view passes up the ability to be as large as the world. I think that’s an opportunity for growth. For instance, the yellow I pointed out in the images above is also present in this image of oregon grape, although it is active behind the greens of the leaves, as a hidden or catalytic energy …

oregongrape … while its absence is active in the observation of these sumacs …P1610116

… with their memory of this …

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They too are the same thing. Science has neither language, method nor concepts to frame these discussions, so reverts to its founding principle, the concept of the focussed individual observation, limited by intellect to what is in front of it. Over three centuries, this lack has been adjusted by the invention of a science of human psychology, which is able to discuss the issues of human observation, within certain social codes. It, too, is an amazing science, with many powerful discoveries, but it, too, misses the big picture. These observations are on the same level of empirical truth as Newton’s Third Law Of Motion:

(When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.) Source

To get some perspective on this discussion, here’s some pre-Newtonian technology, still working after all these years (1100, actually).

muzot The Poet Rilke’s Church at Muzot, in the Valais (Suisse)

There’s a lot of technology here. The cross, for instance, the path, the elderberry to bar entrance to witches, the pasture, the walls made of the earth, the windows made of texts illuminated by light … these are all symbolic technologies. They manipulate the mind, so that the man (or woman) manipulates the world in a certain way. That’s something that science doesn’t do, although it excels at figuring out components of how that works. Even so, what begins as art, or artfulness, or creation, ends as artlessness, technique, and manipulation. Sometimes this happens in subtle ways. In this salsify, for instance, science can explain a lot, but not the balance between petal and leaf obvious to any human observer. It would relegate that to mathematics, and then walk away. But look at it…

salsify2

… there’s more at play here than just mathematics, or, if we want to be artful about it, music. That relationship between leaf and petal is the foundation of a new science. Such patterns abound. Entire sciences could be built out of each one of them. For instance, in the wet season we have entered in the last week, last year’s hips are finally ripened by cold and fermentation …

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There is a mathematical order to them that scientific method can approach, but the culture of scientific enquiry cannot. It figures out the math, and then moves on, as if it has approached the rose hips.

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It hasn’t. It has relegated that to art. In fact, this delegation to art of important observational material that lies outside of a current logical paradigm is the impulse that created art in the first place. Before that, art was science and science was art. Perhaps that split was unnecessary. For instance, this year’s willows are kindling now (or quickening, hence catkin… nothing to do with cats, or pussy willows, sorry) and have already taken off their helmets (after an Irish king called Cat-kin, who did just that) in preparation for the, ahem (blush), thrust.
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Hip and catkin are the same power. Sure, they are two sides, the proverbial male-female split, in sacred terms the goddess and the god, but they are both the expressions of one force, and in that they are one. What that force is that appears so profoundly differently in each, and yet which is linked, that is the force that will lead to a new science. Here is another image of it…

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Last Fall’s Cottonwood Leaves

Still gathering light.

In the science we have, that evolved splendidly out of alchemical experiments and logical extensions of ancient Egyptian and Assyrian theological abstractions of magic, this ability is random, and only a shadow effect of the real purpose of the leaf: photosynthesis. It is a profound vision, but what if the ability of those leaves to capture and hold light is not random? What if it is this?

P1640149Cedar Waxwings in That Old Willow Down the Road

This all-encompassing science would lead to technological developments of its own. In them, the nest below is not just a space in which last year’s birds raised their young, as amazing as that is.

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It has life that extends beyond that. It has life. That might be a clue to what this technology looks like. The following image speaks to it, too, imaged at the rising of the dark out of the day, from my blog www.earthwords.net.

Between: the state of being in two states at the same time, without yet settling on one. It doesn’t describe a physical location but a condition of attachment.

flight

Cedar Waxwing Between Perches

There’s something about energy in such language reborn out of its physical roots. For 200 years that has been the space of poetry. A great space, sure, but look at the technology that newtonian science brings to the earth now.

P1610361Vineyard at the Rise

Simplistic, mechanistic stuff!

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Bella Vista Orchard, Vernon, British Columbia

So much energy …

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… chained — and chained with technologies that miss most of it. Most of it is simply invisible, without the rigour of entering it completely.

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This is the same energy:

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Turtle Point, Okanagan Lake, January 27, 2015

It is not exactly the sun. Current science calls it Nature, and devises devices to manipulate it with, in small ways.

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Howard’s Tractor at Dusk

But it is huge, and we are within it. And this is too…

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Filbert Catkins

We are inside the future.

A Crown of Rowans for St. Brigid’s Feast Day

Today, I praise the rowan tree. This is her season, as ice breaks to the season of water and birds.

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Rowans with Elf Stone, Eyjafjörðursveit, Ísland

She’s a tree, yes, but look how she wants to lie on the ground. None of the towering heights for her.P1350817

Rowan, Skriðuklaustur, Ísland

And when the light comes, ah, then she is a torch.

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 Good Friday Rowan, Valpjofstaður, Ísland

The Rowan is sacred to Brigid, Saint of Holy Ireland, and to Bride (or Brigid), who came before her (and was no saint), and to Mary, Mother of Christ, and to Thor, god of lightning and thunder. The gender crossover is no big thing. Don’t give it a second’s thought. There was a time on earth when all things that signified the earth’s power most strongly were considered hermaphroditic, neither male nor female, and, after all, don’t humans, who come in several genders, tend to unite and make unions that are neither but are one?

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Male and Female Fruit From a Hermaphroditic Pacific Mountain Ash

Wells, British Columbia

Unlike those sly sumacs and gingkos, a rowan has neither male nor female trees.She knows where she is. Look at her, earth tree, reaching up for the spring moon, with her feet planted firmly on the ground.

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Skjaldarvik, Ísland

Wherever a rowan is found, it signifies the presence of her deities, who might have many names but are also one.

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Thor, Brigid, Bride

For all of you who are of an empirical bent, don’t worry. Gods are just names for powers of the earth. The powers are present, even without the names, although perhaps not yet empirically defined. It’s just a kind of short hand. For those of you who follow the stories of the gods and goddesses, you know what I don’t have to say.

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 Rowan in the Birthplace of the Gods, Ásbyrgi, Ísland

Much of (nearly treeless) Iceland was one treed like this: a few rowans, and a lot of willows and birches. Then people got cold. 

There’s more to the story of the rowan than is written down in history books, but not more than meets the eye. A lot of it has to do with environmental sustainability. A lot of it has to do with her name: in English, rowan, for red; in German, Eberasche, or red ash, or, more precisely, “red spear”. More on the spears in a sec. First, here she is, surprising us and all.

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 Pacific Mountain Ash, Quesnel Forks, British Columbia

Mountain Ash, Rowan, Eberesche, Bird Berry, Thrush Berry, Sorbier, well, you get the idea: a rose all dressed up.

She is glorious in summer, but look at her in her winter time, just last week…

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Rowan has a profound story. Don’t look for it on Google, though. This is one you have to learn from the birds.

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 Yes, Today the Cedar Waxwings Have Come Back Home to the Rowans! Yay!

The story of rowans is a story of sacrifice, androgyny, magic, Christianity, nationalism, survival, life and hope — always hope. It is also one of the oldest stories of all. It begins with a Himalayan god of the air, Thor. He’s known today as a Nordic god, from Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Germany at the north of the world, but he started out far to the east and south, and migrated with his believers across the continent. Thor has a hammer, that’s sometimes an axe, and, as you can see below, blood spatter, a phallic spear, and a weird right hand, and, yes, he’s been repainted with good old-fashioned wheelbarrow paint. Hällristningar_Lilla_Flyhov-1

Thor at Lilla Flyhov, Sweden (c. 1000 – 1500 BC) Source

That blood spatter? Well, look:

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Rowan Berries in the Snow

They don’t call these bird berries for nothing!

That weird right hand? Here:

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Rowan Berry Cluster After the Feast

And that axe? Well, Thor, remember, is a thunder god, from a time when thunder and lightning were the same thing. This is where he lives:

ertical

Dragon Tales in the Sky

People used to be able to read this language. It was a kind of writing not in words.

Thor used the axe to split that sky apart, so that out of its unity came lightning (on the one hand) and thunder (on the other). That is the moment in which consciousness is born. Into this air, that is all one (and out of which thunder and lightning come)…

sky

… a spear …

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Rowans Were Traditionally Used to Make Spear Shafts

… is thrust. It’s a curious kind of spear…

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You wouldn’t want to thrust something like that at a wild boar or something. I mean, how pointless (literally). Sure, if you’re thinking of weapons being physical things, with pointy sharp bits, ya, but weapons are also extensions of the mind, and for Thor, and people who believe in him, this is mind, given body in the world…

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You might want to have that magic and balance on your side when you go out to stick a wild pig that’s intent on sticking you (especially if you have the other kind of spear from the other, straighter, kind of ash (spear) tree. The darned things grow in thickets, ready made. You just need an axe to cut one from the ground and you have a weapon that extends your range and does your will at a safe distance from your body. A rowan spear, though? It’s both the thrust and the moment of reception, which is to say that it is a kind of symbolism or visioning, which practitioners call magic. Look how the boar’s blood and the spear are both present at once, and how the weight of the blood lowers the spear.

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The tree is the embodiment of action. The mountain ash doesn’t make a great spear, but it certainly is a great way of focussing mind and body on the act of spearing.

spear

There is, however, another angle to this story (as there always is in the world of indigenous thought and the language that speaks it best, poetry.) The red blood is the blood of a victim, the blood of a virgin, menstrual blood, and both life and death in one. Thor of Lilla Flyhov said it perhaps as simply as it needs to be said: the spear and a phallus are one. It thrusts upward, pierces the belly of the sky, and rains bloodwild10

 

 

Wells, British Columbia

Sacrifice and birth, male and female, action and reaction, in one representation: this is Thor’s presence, the concept of creating action out of stillness and seeing in stillness the potential for action. It is consciousness, for sure, but it’s also the body. Look again at that weird right hand. rowan

It’s a placenta.rowant The tree has many of them. It bursts out into them all over. P1620927The rowan is drenched in the blood of life and death. It is Bride and Groom, or Thor, in one. He cleaves unity to bring it together in a different form. This is the ladder one climbs to the stars.P1620928I hope those of you reading this post for science aren’t scratching your heads at all this poetry and wondering when the science is coming. It’s coming. It’s just that this poetry thing, well, that was science once. I don’t mean bad science, full of childish explanations of the root of physical processes, the ones that science has done such an amazing job of parsing, or cutting part, after Thor. I mean, poetry’s way of finding correlations and moments of doubling, uniting seeming opposites or creating them out of thin air, applied to the world, is a powerful tool for understanding it and for manipulating it — not through manipulating its physical stuff, as contemporary applied science does, but through manipulating the minds of the people acting and living within it, and changing the earth through that energy. I know so many scientists with such deep concern for the earth, all looking for a way to bring their message across and effect meaningful change. Poetry, written out of the earth and with the language of the earth and human bodies, has always been able to do that. The other kind of poetry, the one written with words on a page, can do it among people highly trained to cast their selves within books and to bring back, so to speak, the fish of thought, but it’s not completely the same thing, and might just be the reaction to a passing technology. The thing about these sky gods, though, like Thor, is that they are embodiments of a central knot within hunting, butchering, and its ritual form, sacrifice: the act of killing in order to bring life. Thor’s not the only one. Christ stands in this tradition. The god Mithras, who also came from the East, and whose cult very nearly won Rome over in place of Christianity, was one. With his dagger, he slayed the sacred bull and created the universe. We are sprung from the drops of the bull’s blood.

P1620826And, like Thor, he had an axe (and a dagger, which is kind of a short spear, but does the trick.)

Mithrasrelief-NeuenheimMithras Killing and Creating

Relief from Heidelberg-Neuenheim, Germany, 2nd Century AD Sourcerowan8These placentas, though. That’s where Bride comes in, the Goddess. If the spear is androgynous, and holds in time both the fertilizing thrust of a phallus and the blood quickening in a placenta, then this is as much the goddess’s tree as the god’s. It has that power of transporting one from one state to another, like the Roman god Janus, who was a doorway, that went both ways equally and transported you from one state to another every time you passed through him (and who, dear scientists, wasn’t a god in a simplistic sense but a way of remembering that cognitive power, and focussing it, for what could come from its development), and, more than Janus, of being both states, male and female, killer and victim, at once. rowan1It is also, as you can see, drawn to the sky, and bowed down to the earth as a consequence of this grasping, which always ends in feminine fruitfulness. That is a good lesson. Another is how this tree’s lightning bolt shape …P1620839…ends in a flowing (quite the different thing), which is a hand, that has the capability of grasping. P1620843

 What does it grasp? The easy answer would be that the early church, needing to gain converts from celtic practitioners (the Celts, too, came from the East), simply replaced Bride (or Brigid) the goddess with Brigid, the Saint of Kildare.

329px-Saint_Non's_Chapel_-_Fenster_3_St-1.Bride

Brigid, Saint of Kildare Source

St. Non’s Chapel, St. Davids, Wales 

The better answer would be that the Christian shepherd’s staff, and the rowan were recognized as one …

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The crook is there, with Christ’s blood, at the intersection of Earth and Heaven, life and death, and Christ cleaves them with his presence and the axe of his love, so to speak. This is no distance at all. The movement to Christianity wasn’t a conversion but an enlightenment, like the scientific Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, a kind of purification, extension, or manifestation of what was already known.

 

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For this reason as well, rowans were considered an effective charm against witches — not against practitioners of the old arts, but against practitioners who hadn’t moved over to the new understandings of them, finding flower and fruit in the Christian story.

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Rowan, Hólar, Ísland

I’ve shown you all these images of Iceland for a reason here, beyond my love of rowans and the beauty of the place. In Iceland, where the trees were all eaten and grazed away, independence from centuries of exploitation and misery under a regime of Danish traders came about through poetry, and the replanting of lost birches and rowans in Iceland. The attempt was to make the country a poem again, to rebuild, so to speak, the first moment of settlement, and reclaim that creative potential and independence. It worked, or at least it helped. Today, Reykjavik is still rich with these nationalist trees …

ice6 … that are kind of in the way, but no-one wants to cut down such magic.ice5

They might try, but they just can’t go through with it. The trees have that much of a hold.

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Reykjavik

The churchyards are rich with rowans, too. They signify not only the transfer of energy from pagan to Christian understandings of Thor’s axe and Christ’s Word …

800px-Mårten_Eskil_Winge_-_Tor's_Fight_with_the_Giants_-_Google_Art_Project

 

 

Mårten Eskil Winge’s Thor (1872) Source

Note that cross that Thor is wielding there, the clever lad.

… but the balance struck between them …

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Icelandic Stallion Grazing on an Elf Hill Under a Nationalist Agricultural School Churchyard Rowan (Laugar, Ísland)

In Iceland, you throw nothing away, because it is all alive in time. That is the balance, too. 

The result is a way of being in balance in the world we live in and the world to come.

 

 

p1550060The Rowans of the Reykjavik Graveyard

Graveyards aren’t for the dead. They’re for the living. They focus the mind and so change the world. Every rowan does that …

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… not just to those who know its stories, but to all who know how to read its language in the wild. By bringing that into our social structures, we become the world. We become changed, and the world we imagine becomes changed in turn, and so it comes to pass by the action of our hands. The ancients knew this, and worked hard to protect these relationships. For young men, Thor’s axe might have been there to gain advantage by cutting through the wisdom of the world and recreating it as action, but there were large social structures to guide that strength into productive and ultimately feminine forms.

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In historical terms, it means that in the lands of the rowan, the Christian staff can be a magical one at the same time, with no contradiction. The rowan’s staff, or bloody spear, has led to such concrete social acts as the creation of states, science, and female power.

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I hope you will find a rowan on Brigid’s Day and find your balance by being in its presence —for personal development, if you need that, for spiritual purposes, certainly, and for social development and renewal of the principles embodied in this tree and in the powerful, earth-altering symbolic life to which it has been dedicated.

In Praise of Wetlands

These are the people …

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This is the time when the water rises.

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It is the time when seed descends.

rush

It is the time when rushes draw water from the cold…band

… because they once grew high in the sun …

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… and did not let it go…

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…(until now). Today, the sun they’ve held through the cold…

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… is turning the cold to water…

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… and the sun is being drawn into it ….P1620716 … deeply into it …P1620710… while the sedges have begun new growth …

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… as their old leaves empty themselves of light between the rushes …

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… and begin to fill the water …

P1620605… draining themselves of light …P1620630 … and quickening the water into life.

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The water lives.
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It quickens, multiplies …

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… and becomes a world of spirit, making the old world new. It doubles it…P1620657

… , so it can replicate it.  This is the Way of Life. So, too, for the marsh grasses. The sun they kept for a year pours into the water in this season …P1620698

… and is born again, under the water, as new grass. It is not yet time for this life to be birthed into the air. P1620694

That time will come soon enough. For now, though, life has come.P1620636

It is never still. How could it be? It is life!

P1620628 It is always moving. This is the Way of spirit, that has held for all of human history except for the age when men and women replaced themselves with machines and machine codes. It is not a science, but it does have rigour, as great as that of any science.P1620627The life in the water is the shapes of the rushes, sedges and grasses, tall in the wind, and stirred by the wind, as it twirls the stalks, and gravity as it draws the water onward …P1620625 … and stirs it. P1620624 If you go out to meet this life …P1620622 … I hope you will set aside for a moment the good science you have been taught about the sun, and seasons, water and biological life (Although it is a beautiful thing, it is not the story we know in our bodies. It is not wisdom.) What you find may be simple, like this … the things of the earth are still….P1620614 … but the water is alive and quick.P1620611It will quicken you with wisdom, understanding, and new life (what science and the romance of the self call creativity), if you just live in your body for a moment, like the new shoots of grass among the old leaves …
P1620610 … woven with water and light …P1620608

… and being drawn, even now, into the sky (which is the breath of their ancestors) by the sun.

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(Bulrush) 

You, and the way you live, are art. And art is life. Now it is the time of quickening, but look at what will soon come, or, at least, it did last March 6, among the thulies (bulrushes) in Priest Valley, below my house.

P1160247 Bulrush tea.

P1160300 Add dissolving ice, then rain.

P1160307 Add sun.

P1160332 Perfect!

P1160325Let us praise.