Spring is Way Too Early

The choke cherries are waiting for the bear to come.P2080575

Not all of them, though. The tent caterpillars had their way with many of them in July. Ate all the leaves away, they did. Here’s a photo from back then.


Now, roses (and cherries are roses) like a nice winter before they start growing again, but when you’ve lost all your leaves for months, it’s kind of like sort of the same thing. You sprout, you bloom, when you should not be doing any such thing at all.

P2090170 I tell you, no good can come of this.P2090173

Spring is going to be rough, I think. Oh wait, it’s spring now…or is it?


Little Bear in the Kinnikinnick

This spring cub is about to meet its first winter.

First, berries.


There are a couple of species of “bear berries” in our mountains in the Northwest, but these sparse ones are the only ones that escaped the spring frosts. Kinnikinnick  is also known as arberry, bear’s grape, crowberry, foxberry, hog cranberry, mealberry, mountain box, mountain cranberry, mountain tobacco, sandberry, upland cranberry, and uva-ursi.

Just Like Feeding Grain to Chickens!

Lichen: 400,000,000 years of two-species partnership and counting. Fir needles: 280,000,000 years and counting.P2010981

That’s a gap of 120,000,000 years, when lichens got their acids from rocks, rather than from trees, which got them from rocks. But after those lonely days, it’s often been a three-way partnership. Or four. Wolves and coyotes no doubt mark logs like this. And from time to time a bear comes along and gives the whole thing a whack.



Low Tech, Self-Sealing Water Storage Device

Each of these packages weighs about 150 grams. It has a protective skin, covered with moisture-preserving wax. It’s about 83% water, or 125 grams of water, or 1/2 cup of water. Yes, it takes water to create them, but once that’s done it can be stored and can be a delivery vehicle for 25 grams of carbohydrates in a digestible form.apples

If you put these storage devices into a mechanically cooled storage, you will have to add more wax. You will also use more water to put them through a chemical bath before doing that. If you crush these devices to extract the water, to make the carbohydrate-water blends called “juice” or “cider”, you will have to use considerably more water to clean containers, wash equipment, and so forth. If you concentrate that product by removing its water, for shipment half the world away, you will require more water to reconstitute it into an acceptable carbohydrate delivery vehicle. The commonality in all these manipulations is the water.P1490729

If water were billed at its true cost, you wouldn’t do any of that. You’d eat the apple. You’d keep it in your garage. You’d make a pie. Currently, in the Okanagan Okanogan, millions of tons of water is exported from our ecosystem, which is short of water, to be sold to other ecosystems, which aren’t short of it at all. If water were billed at its true cost, we wouldn’t trade these apples for dollars but for water. Until then, water, the stuff of life, is an industrial subsidy, and the people who profit from the packaging, processing and movement of apples are living off of the commons. Some things are simple. This is one.

Return to the Snake River at the End of Time

High above the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, in the southeastern reach of my plateau homeland,  the Camas Prairie catches the sky. The camas once bloomed in blue fields here. Now wheat transforms ammonium nitrate into bread.P1860323And bread into guns.P1860349

Below these fertilized heights, the Snake River flows, in a canyon more than a mile deep.



It’s a beautiful place.


I took a boat trip up the Snake in June. The guide said, “The Nez Perce [Nimíipuu] didn’t use this canyon much. There wasn’t much here for them.” He told stories of gold miners, prospectors, steamboat pilots, and sheep farmers. Lots of sheep farmers. Sheep eat grass. Beautiful grass.


No sheep there now, though. For that, you need sheep farmers, and for sheep farmers you just don’t need your own government dropping this on your head…

That’s “B Reactor” at Hanford, on the Columbia to the west. It produced the plutonium for the Trinity Test and the Nagasaki Bomb and a lot of other warheads as well. Along the way, it produced a mess of nasty isotopes, which were experimentally released into the air, to see what would happen. It killed sheep farmers is what.


No sheep, see? The remaining sheep ranches have been turned into US Park Service sites. As for the Nimíipuu, well, it’s not true that they didn’t use this land, either. After all, this the trail that Joseph and his band from the Wallowa used to take down to the river, where they overwintered (for half of every year [!!!!!!!]}

P1880654 2

And why? Well, look. A spirit rock.P1880663


Spirit rocks, formed by spines of old rock thrust up in the volcanic regime, are great places to fish. In indigenous earth, story and practicality join, but spirit comes first. You can pick a fishing spot by its spirit stories and know there will be fish there. 12,000 years of experience helps.


And what better place to fish than the mouth of the Salmon River? Here it is, entering the Snake. It’s best to think of it as a living thing.


In Joseph’s time, and in the time of his ancestors, the Snake (in the foreground) would have been ten times the strength of the Salmon. Now its flow is controlled by dams upriver. It would have backed up into an amazing fishing eddy, rather than the simple curl of a rapid it ends in now. Here it is looking down the Snake, just south of the confluence. Picture look a bit wobbly? Such is boat life.

P1880839 Here is the foreshore of the Nimíipuu winter camp. The mouth of the Snake is to the immediate right.P1880827

Hardly an issue of not using the canyon. Modern roads …


… are not so smart, like this one slashing across the spirit path down this draw and through the ancient story of stone at its mouth. Here it is closer…


Talk about being unable to read the land, or the water. The image below looks north, up the Snake. The Salmon is entering from the left. Does it look like we’re eddying in circles?  Such is also boat life.


Was there ever a better space to spend half your life? The salmon caught just downriver here at the next series of spirit rocks in the Snake sustained Lewis and Clark on their return from their big scientific [spy] journey [reconnaissance] to the Pacific in 1804. They were camped on the other side of the Camas Prairie, along the Clearwater River, at the Heart of the Monster, the place where the Nimíipuu began and, still, the centre of the homeland (well, except for the Camas Prairie, perhaps).

They were starving, because they had tried to pass the Rockies to the east too early in the season, against advice. Three men went to the fishing camp on the Salmon, a hard two days’ journey either way, for a handful of fish, all rotting except for one by the time they got them back. At the camp, they had to stand in line for their fish. It was very early in the fishing season. The few fish that were being caught were released to people from all the bands of the Nimíipuu on a needs basis. The Americans had to wait their turn. That doesn’t sound like an unused river to me. This is what a river looks like when it is used.


This is what a river looks like when it is unused. Yes, that’s the ruin of a sheep ranch.


And this is what a canyon land looks like once sheep have trashed it. Not a scrap of bunchgrass in sight.


What astonishes me is that once the settlers have proven that neither they nor their government can really look after the land, it is not returned to its people and their spirit rocks.

Dunno. I guess the boat guide calling the images at Buffalo Eddy, like the one above, “crap” is a clue. One first step, now that the river is being viewed not as a spiritual story but as a physical one, one of geography and nature…


Moon Above the Weeds, Asotin

… is to regain the spiritual story within that nature. I don’t mean some New Age world of charms and crystals and good feelings, although that can be beautiful enough. I mean, reading the life energy again in the land…lone

… and rebuilding memory out of it. Right now, B Reactor is forgotten, the Nimíipuu are forgotten, Lewis and Clark are remembered poorly, the Snake is forgotten, the fishing sites and winter camps are forgotten, although it is out of memory that thought and identity is made. Without them, there is no consciousness. The Snake is conscious, in its riverine way. Can you read it here at Buffalo Eddy?

be Shouldn’t all culture be as conscious as that? And with as much life as this:


Eventually one has to leave the Snake …


Eventually one has to go back. Next time, let’s go together. Let’s go deep. Let’s go to the river of stone that falls from the sky.


Let’s start with that.




The Secret That Everyone Knows

Imagine taking a drum, lifted into the sky at the heart of a people, a place of woman’s power for 800 generations, where women and girls gather bulbs in the spring to see their families through the coming winter, bulbs given from the body of the earth to the body of women and the body of the community. Imagine plowing it and turning it into wheat ripened with weedkillers proven to be carcinogens and proven to render sterile the granddaughters of cows fed on plants in which this weedkiller has been merged with their DNA. Imagine doing that. Imagine you’ve been doing that for 2 generations, or 4 generations, or 6. Imagine calling that farming. Imagine calling that health.P1860323

Camas Prairie, Nimíipuu Homeland (Idaho)

Now, imagine not doing that anymore. Imagine you are beating that drum. Imagine you are lifting it into the sky at the heart of a people. Imagine you are lifting the heart of a people.  Imagine it was always within you to both give and receive. Imagine, you are one of the people. Imagine that.

Dig a Hole to Save the World

That’s it. That’s all you have to do.P2000899

This hole was left here unintentionally eight years ago. It’s a nice wetland now, in the midst of a sterile gravel pit. See the smoke in back? Those folks in Okanogan County, where the smoke comes from, didn’t dig enough holes. It’s not crazy. If you leave carbon lying around on the surface, you make grouse habitat and fire habitat. If you put it in a hole, you make water habitat. How could we have made such a mistake? We’re land creatures, that’s why. We didn’t ask the ducks. Always talk to the ducks.