Why Do Some Fire Hydrants Play Cowboys and Mexicans?

Russian thistle was one of the first weeds from the Russian steppes to destroy the grasslands of the North American West. It became one of the dominant characters in Country & Western music, when it was still the music of this place and hadn’t gone commercial. To set the scene, here’s Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers crooning away.

And here’s some tumbleweeds doing their Russian thing in the Mojave Desert:

I’ve seen them do this trick many a time, including down Main Street in the resort city of Penticton in the winter snow. On the Hanford Nuclear Reservation a few Junes back, with the plutonium dust blinding me, they came up over the hill like a hiya moosmoos* of mustangs, galloping away, and I had to wait it out. They were on me about two seconds after I took the shot below. I’d pulled off to give them space. (*’herd’ in the Chinook Jargon trade language of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the language of this place)

moosmoosHere they are hanging out in Vernon. Now, what I want to know is … why this fire hydrant?
P1720334Why does all this history stop here and refuse to budge? Why, could it be because Roy and friends were playing at being Mexican vaqueros, in celebration of the absorption of Mexican Texas and California into the United States, in the way other white boy groups played Black music as if it were their own?

It sure looks like it. A good number of the first ranchers in the grasslands of what became the Canadian Northwest were Mexican vagueros dispossessed by legal sleight-of-hand in California, who drove cattle north to the gold fields in 1858. They never went back. Now the tumbleweeds, symbol of restless wandering in the Old West, have their hidden stories to tell, still. As Roy Rogers said…

See them tumbling down
Pledging their love to the ground
Lonely but free I’ll be found
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

But there’s beauty still.

russian

 

And usefulness…

peck

 

Please, let’s tumble no more.

thistle

This is Not Our Planet

Imagine if this pussy willow…
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… was your world …

P1720193 …and not just yours …P1720184

… but a world of many creatures …

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… namely a wasp…

wasp1 … and a different wasp ….wasp2… and a third wasp, coming up over a white horizon …wasp3 … and a bee, and a moth …beemoth … and a little fly.tiny

 

… and that’s just on one twig on one willow. Forty years ago someone planted this willow. It costs nothing to plant a willow. It costs thousands to plant rocks, the new fashion for responsible gardening. Please, stick a stick into the ground for your grandkids, and all the insects of the world, or they’ll be living on an asteroid.

Cascadia Redefined

Cascadia, the great ecoregion of the northeast Pacific Coast, is a term to describe something that deserves better. The short and skinny on it is that on the north eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean there is an arc of volcanoes in just the right latitude, catching the cyclones of the North Pacific and the winds of the turning planet to create landscapes of both water and drought.  That’s right, the tide zone…

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Ozette, Makah Illahie

… above tide …

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Industrial Ruins Washed up in Storm at Ozette. Makah Illahie

… the rainforest …

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Cape Flattery, Makah Illahie

… the volcanoes …

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Wy’east, from Yakama Illahie

… and the shrub steppe…

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Dry Falls Debris Field, Sinkiuse Illahie

 

are one landscape. And that’s where both the amazement and the problems arise. Cascadia is sometimes an independence movement, for a new state in Western North America, cobbled together out of pieces of the old pre-1846 Oregon Territory, divided thereafter between the United States and Canada, sometimes an ecoregion and a cultural region, most notably defined as the basins of the Fraser and the Columbia Rivers, and the coastal rainforest zone from the redwoods of California to the archipelagoes and fjords of Alaska. This is salmon country. We could define our country, our illahie, to use the old Chinook Wawa (the language of this place) term for it, as salmon country, and pretty much get it right, but the Cascadia Institute defines it by water. I quote:

water

By gosh, yes, but only if the following image is defined by water in ways meaningful to it…

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Dry Falls Monolith, Sinkiuse Illahie

… that are the same as this…

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Funeral Island, La Push, Makah Illahie

… and the rainforest …

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Douglas Fir, Quinault Illahie

… is viewed as identical to this …

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Old Growth Blue-bunched Wheat Grass, The Junction Sheep Range, Tsilhqot’in Illahie

… because what the volcanoes do is cause the rain to fall to the West and the air to lift water out of the earth to the East. Until there is a concept that sees those as the same process, Cascadia is a colonial dream from the wet zone, meaning the Willamette Valley, Portland, Vancouver (both of them), Victoria, Bellingham, Olympia and Greater Seattle. It’s not water that defines this region. It’s the volcanoes. They harness the wind to create surface water and surface drought, two opposites bound forever, but it would be as silly to describe the rainforest as being a land of drought as it would be to describe the shrub steppe as a land of water. Fortunately, the Cascadia Institute doesn’t do that. Once it gets its water story out of the way, it hints at a geological story. Again, I quote:

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And then speaks, mysteriously, of creative energies …

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So, it’s not about water at all, but about some kind of dynamism, as human life here follows the patterns of plate tectonics. That’s the story. Perhaps great rivers rise in the region, but the rivers aren’t the story. The forces that make them are the story.

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Volcano Breaking Up, Nlaka’pamux Illahie

Water is only the story of coastal peoples in this zone. The rest of us are defined by the absence of water, here, where all knowledge of water is reversed. As long as Cascadia is defined by water, or by coastal population centres, Cascadia is just its coast and a hinterland, and that’s the old colonial story rewritten on our lives, that we just need to get past. There’s more, though. The cities on the coast, Portland, Vancouver (the Canadian one) and Seattle most spectacularly, are cities in the great nation states of Canada and the United States. They are the point at which the energies of those distant lands intersect with the illahie. They exist within this dynamism, but do not define it. To use them as models for the future culture of a “Cascadia” would be catastrophic. If there’s going to be a country in this place, it has to be a shared story, not of rivers running to the sea and salmon swimming back, but of how you can feel the mountains pressing down on you in the cold rain to the west, and feel the absence of the mountains turning you hot in the east, and if the land is the story, then, I’m sorry, but the land is the story.

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Ancestor, Syilx Illahie

Anything else is colonialism.

Note: the texts from the Cascadia Institute are taken from the Cascadia Poetry Festival Website.

Climbing The Waterfall

On Friday, I talked about The Moods of Colour. In short, I argued that the different plants, lichens and rock in the image below were all different moods of light, different levels of energy excitement, for instance, which humans like you and I can read very precisely. Notice how the red oregon grapes, the yellow lichens, and the green mosses are all tracking water across the face of the rock and in its crevasses. cliffred

 

The water, in other words, has taken on moods as well. We can talk about the diversity of plant life here, or the diversity of water, its moods, or that the oregon grape is climbing the water, rather than being washed down with it, as are the mosses. The latter sounds good to me.

Next: more on the tricks of water.

 

 

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 …

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… 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.

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

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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:

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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.

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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 …

two

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…

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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:

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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.

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

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

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

So am I, Sig.

Freud: So, tell me about your mother.

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

Freud: Tsk, tsk, tsk.

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

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

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They are the shapes that humans and animals move through.

 

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

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

 

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

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

You: Huh?

You’re that rock.

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Here is what that (you) should look like.

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You: It’s a tide pool!

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

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The alternative is Mars.

1280px-Martian_landscapeSource.

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