The Lesson of the Snow

The days are short. By 3 pm there’s little light left. If I had any sense, I’d leave the camera at home. Fortunately, I have none.  Look what I learned today at 3:30:

pine2Light is present. It has a quality. Intensity is not the point. And what did I learn from that? I learned that this is why people once walked out with watercolours and tried to capture the light. A camera can’t. What a camera captures is the photographer. I mention all this, because this land was largely settled by Europeans in the age of watercolours, just before and just after the Great War, when to go out and get the palette right, and to capture a colour that had never been in paint before, was deemed worthy of a civilization. This relationship between people and the earth was deemed to be artful. That war put the end to all that, but did it, really? No, technology did. Here’s a view over the lake 10 minutes before the view above…

lake3Okanagan Landing

When I made this image, the lake was glowing. The camera could catch its colour, but not its light. I had to be there for that. When this stretch of 135 kilometre-long Okanagan Lake was first settled by Europeans, the steamboats that carried traffic were launched from this section of the lake. In that age, watercolour, and its images of light, was culturally equal to steam, and both contributed to bringing Europeans here. The light and the water have been forgotten, and because all humans normalize their own experience, it is as if it was never there, but it’s there. There is a path through it to the earth, but it’s not an intellectual path, nor is it a path of power. Canadian society is crying out for what lies there, but Canadian society will never find it. Only people will, on their way home to the earth from the great war.

 

 

 

Where is the Government?

The government is the people’s voice. Sometimes it appears that the government is hiding. Sometimes, one is surprised just where it’s got to. Here is the art that Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo put up at Okanagan College in Vernon this month.

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Ryan Robson, Untitled

An issue with a wordless voice.

Here is the art that the government paid for outside.

P1380881 Gerd Maas, Destiny (Detail)

Gender equity, of course (It is, after all, a four-sided obelisk made out of melted mountain.)

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Erected to Celebrate a Ceremonial Partnership with Korea

Here is the art we pay for outside the main doors of the college.

P1380868 Always a Friendly Face

Here is the art that reveals the Canadian Government’s secret hiding place today.

P1010835Well, yesterday. Today, they could be anywhere! Look around, if you can. You might find them in the darndest places. Here, for instance.

P1130503The provincial government pays up to $2.50 a tree (20 acres …2000 trees to the acre … whew!) to subsidize the planting of Royal Gala apples such as these, to counteract the effect of national government trade treaties with the United States. To which, we might add:

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The Joy of Asparagus

Today, a story of joy, for Christmas Eve. Today, asparagus. The asparagus that gets sliced off underground in Northern Europe and eaten with yellow potatoes, salt ham and hollandaise sauce (or with morels or truffles or venison or eggs or cheese or…) as a still-living reenactment of the sacrifice of the goddess Demeter’s daughter Kore, has seen the year pass now in the Okanagan Valley in Western Canada. She grew green and tall among the mule deer, the sagebrush, the chickadees, the pheasants, the magpies, the gold finches, and the coyotes, flowered, and has now been sacrificed by a hiker with a stick. Despair not at this …

asparagus2sm She is not despairing.

asparagus4sm In fact, she is radiant!

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Merry Christmas, everyone! What a Christmas tree to be stopped in my tracks by! Thanks for walking through this year with me. Your comments have been inspiring this last year and have brought me much joy.

Christmas Tomatoes

They’re not the biggest, they’re not the reddest, but they sure are the juiciest and most flavourful. Welcome to the last of the summer’s crop, in their place of honour in the sacred pear bowl!

tomsThis is eleven weeks from harvest.  Hurrah!

~

Now, back to crafting a big post on randomness.

 

Cold Weather Crops and Public Debt

Peppermint goes black with the first frost, and is likely way past its prime as well, but look at this catnip, that has happily survived Minus 11 degrees Celsius.

P1360736Happy Catnip, Defying Winter

Forget genetic manipulation, shouldn’t there, like, be a breeding program? I offer this image on this day of light snow, as a reminder to us all that there are many crops that can be harvested right through the shoulders of the winter, leaving the rest of December, January and February for the greenhouses in this valley, before the winter spinaches are ready to bring on an early spring. Cabbages, mesculum, parsely, catnip, mustards, carrots (with some leaf mulch), and many other salad greens don’t mind the cold one whit. Forcing dandelion roots in greenhouses in January ought to break that up nicely, with fresh January salads. We do not need to truck this stuff from California or fly it from Peru. That’s just why our governments are in massive debt. There’s no need for it. None. At. All.

 

Why Apples Don’t Taste Like They Should

Many reasons. Nitrogen gas storage, dwarf rootstock related sap restrictions, sugary varieties with all their flavour in essences that evaporate within two weeks, water system delivered petroleum-based fertilizers, excess size, continually re-created juvenile wood, and hormone manipulation, such as below:

P1360704Royal Gala in Misery, Bella Vista

These leaves have survived minus 11 Celsius. Talk about being out of season!

Summer pruning to force light onto the apples is making use here of the midsummer cell differentiation period, which should be laying down fruit buds in high hormonal areas and leaf buds in areas requiring branch renewal. Here, encouraged by high nutrient levels and cunning timing, the poor tree is confused by it all and threw out a spring shoot with flowers, instead of a replacement branch for the one that was cut off. The flowers did not develop normally, and came to nothing. They’re usually sterile when this happens. So, now you know, too.

 

The Manhattan Project Today

This is the Columbia River as understood by the people who brought us the Atomic Bomb.P1060309 Control Panel, B Reactor, Hanford Engineering Works, Washington

This is the Columbia River as understood by American wild west mythology:

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Hauling the last of the white sturgeon out of the radioactive sludge, to release it again.

It takes 4 or 5 hours. Cut the line off the hook. Repeat. Two mothballed weapons grade plutonium reactors, sealed in stainless steel shells, in behind.

This is what the Columbia River looks like within the B Reactor complex, immediately before being run through the reactor. The valves are partially dismantled and open to Russian inspection as part of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

P1060367 This is the spot where the military industrial complex was invented in 18 months beginning in 1942. The scheme to dam the Columbia at Grand Coulee (and destroy the salmon) to provide water in order to settle 100,000 poor black families as free holding farmers was sidelined in order to generate the electricity to run this machine. It produced the plutonium for the Trinity Test and the Nagasaki Bomb. When the irrigation scheme was finally initiated, the land went to large industrial farmers instead, at a subsidy of billions, originally intended to settle the poor. It was here that the American agricultural dream ended.

P1060275 Here is the Columbia River in the Hanford Reach, the only free flowing section in the U.S. The white egrets have recently returned from what was thought to be extirpation.

P1060773This is the Columbia River as seen by the Wanapum People, the people of the river, who were largely extirpated by the Hanford project.

P1070419White Cliffs, Behind Spirit Island

These cliffs are the glacial silts of the Okanagan, lying in a twenty mile curve where the river breaks out of the mountains into the Columbia Basin.

This is the river as seen by the citizens of Richland, Washington, the residential area of the plutonium manufacturing project:

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Totem Salmon in a Childrens’ Playground

There are virtually no salmon left in the river. The dead are honoured as if they are still alive. That is how important the notion of hunting wild animals is to US American culture. Meanwhile, because of a treaty signed downriver at Celilo Falls, more money has now been spent trying to bring back the Indigenous Salmon Fishery than has ever been earned by the technology that replaced it.

This is the Columbia River as seen by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation:

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Outflow of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project

The pumps at Grand Coulee Dam lift 45 cubic metres of water per second into the system. This is what is returned to the river.

This is the Columbia River, as seen by industrial fruit farmers employing Mexican workers, who are housed behind razor wire, in military compounds guarded 24 hours a day by armed guards.

P1060681Martian Colony on the Columbia River

Since the climate is not conducive to apple growing, Italian poplars have to be fed with Canadian water to break the wind, and overhead irrigation, with over 50% evaporation loss, has to be sprayed over the trees in order to produce edible (but tasteless) apples.  Frank Herbert wrote Dune in this climate.

The American way is to have all of these rivers existing at once and to manage the tensions between these irreconcilable visions on a partisan political stage. That is a questionable way of managing people. In terms of the river, it is abusive. Choices must be made, not between competing human demands, but in the name of the river. Choosing between human demands leads to short-lived solutions — a generation at best — that then lead to poverty and debt.

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These are the Orchards of Hanford Town

They were abandoned to build B Reactor. The trees were abandoned and the apples left to fall to the ground. 50,000 workers housed here in 1942 begged to pick them up. They were forbidden.

The engineers at Hanford have now spent a decade trying to clean up the leaking storage tanks of radioactive waste on site, before contaminated ground water reaches the Columbia. They have spent upwards of 15 billion dollars. They have built a machine. It does not work. I present these images to you as a suggestion that the work of rebuilding the earth cannot proceed using past intellectual, social and political tools. This is where they lead:

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Evening Sun Above the Richland Strip

During the Vietnam War, this was the image of American prosperity and power. Now the sun is pink because the overgrown sagebrush west of here above the Yakima River at Ellensburg is on fire. The pink is the colour of a century and a half of bad range and grassland policy. Effectively, 12,000 years of wealth have been mined down to this since 1860

They lead here, too:

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Waterskiing on the Impounded Columbia in Richland

In the smoke of the sagebrush fire.

And maybe worst of all to this:

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Personal Water Craft and Impersonal Hellish Racket

These offensive stupid machines were invented here. It is this culture of dammed rivers, extirpated salmon, nuclear engineers, subsidized industrial agriculture, boredom and entitlement that led to the invention of these toys. The world’s greatest salmon river has become a toy and a playground. As for machines, they are the modern image of the Cold War, the Manhattan Project, the Atomic Bombing of Japan and the dislocation of the people from the river and the earth.

What we are left with, with which to rebuild the earth, in a Kafka-esque maze of competing government and private interests, is this:

P1060211Chamra Nature Preserve, Richland Washington

This nature preserve at the confluence of the Yakima and Impounded Columbia Rivers, beneath the freeways that serve as streets in this self-professed Atomic Age City, is composed almost entirely of weeds. All the nature you see in the image above is weeds.

This is not nature. This is wilderness. In American terms, this nation, that began with fundamentalist Christian settlers and their  image of Eden, has created wilderness out of lived, loved and livable space, the very wilderness that Adam and Eve were expelled to. It is an image of what those early puritan settlers saw when they arrived at Plymouth Rock. To this date, this has been the purpose and achievement of the American state. Like Adam and Eve, it is up to us now to walk out into that wilderness and make it again a rich and life-giving space. To do this, the river has to be a part of every conversation, on her own terms.

p1070453 Stag Swimming to the Reactor Fields, Hanford Reach

For perhaps 150 years we are going to have to give to the river, rather than take from her. The time of the taking will lead only to increased poverty.

salmon2One of the Last Columbia River Salmon

Only a few thousand of these fish spawn in the Hanford Reach today, in a system that once brought home 30,000,000 salmon a year. Men like this, intent on killing them before they spawn, are operating within their cultural and political rights. They have, however, no ethical rights at all.

Killing the earth doesn’t end with the tar sands of Canada, shale tracking, chemical plants, or the deadly Basa fisheries of Vietnam. It is entirely part of the culture and infiltrates almost every act. Humans have the capacity to kill and to give life. It is time for the life-givers to call things as they are: killing is not a sport for humans. It is a sport for beasts. Let’s stop the nonsense and call things by their proper names. This nonsense of human ownership and superiority has gone on far too long.

 

 

There is More Than One Sun and More than One Earth

In 1543, Copernicus published this book and changed everything:

page1-443px-Nicolai_Copernici_torinensis_De_revolutionibus_orbium_coelestium.djvu

De Revolutionisis Orbi

Before he did that, the Earth was considered the centre of the universe. After he was done, the sun was considered the centre of the solar system, and the stars, well, they were out there.

514px-Nikolaus_KopernikusCopernicus, the Priest Who Started the Scientific Revolution

His model of the solar system looked like this:

655px-Copernican_heliocentrism_diagram-2

 

It is an elaboration of the medieval image the poet Dante made of the universe in 1320 — a change of perspective but not much else…

Paradise-Dante-e1378981232655

In turn, that image goes back to the Greek tragedies, which were stages to represent the zodiacal codes of the Art of Memory, which eventually was codified like this:

memor5

Giordano Bruno’s Memory Map

A Solar System, or a sun, by a different name.

Such maps were incorporated into theatre in the Elizabethan age. Shakespeare’s theatres were built on the model of such maps. His plays place consciousness in the middle of them. Kind of like an updated Dante. Here’s Dante:

Merkaba-Dante-Paradiso-Canto-31-Chakras-Above-Head

Dante and Virgil Looking Up to the Heavens

Dante’s world was a stage. (I think ours is too.)

We stand on the threshold of a similar revolution, or extension of old patterns, should we wish to take it. Today, I’d like to suggest that the earth is a planet with many suns, not just one. Here are two.

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Two Suns at Dusk in November

One fuses hydrogen into Helium. Its particles take 100,000 years to get from the core to the surface, and then a few minutes to get to the earth, where they reform the sun in many shapes, which are very slow and bind sun, water and earth into complex organic, self-replicating patterns. The other, this sunflower, one of those patterns, carries particles of that sun through the winter into the spring, for the reaction to continue on earth again.

Meanwhile, deep within the Copernican version of events, humans eventually started doing this:

P1070439Torturing the Last of the White Sturgeon in the Columbia River

Four hours to haul it up out of the radioactive sludge, then you let it go and see if you can do it again. These most ancient fish have mouths full of hooks from previous torture events. This is called sport. yes, That’s 2 of 9 weapons grade plutonium reactors watching. The Cold War was largely conducted here. It still is.

We are inside the reaction. It completes itself when it strikes matter. You could say, we are inside the sun. Everything we see and touch, and every way in which we think, are the result of the imaging of the sun in the material of the earth. Copernicus was only presenting a perspective based on the traditions and knowledge of his time. It has evolved into a powerful scientific and engineering tradition. It is only part of the story. The story has evolved. There are so many earths…

P1360227Choke Cherries in November Rain

There are so many suns …

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Wild Grapes After the Birds Were By

There are whole worlds and technologies here, far more capable of healing us and the earth than the Copernican one.

 

Spring Spinach in November

While I was away, under the care of doctors and nurses, it got down to minus 11 degrees Celsius. I’m mighty sad to have missed it, but the spinach isn’t.

P1360544 This spinach, planted in October, is as happy as can be, although the soil goes Clunk! when you bang on it.

P1360543 Yes, folks, spring is here.

P1360542Ta da! It lifts my spirits, you know.

 

Farming and Art: Ancient Sisters

I was walking along the old water canal the other day, and then up the ravine and along the coyote track across the top of the vineyard, and I saw this…

P1360254Industrial Plantations, Bella Vista

Those are apples in the background and grapes up front.

I realized in a flash that this technology, the one I came to light in on this earth, is not farming. It is an industrial process. These are factories. So many changes have occurred, slow step by slow step, to the ancient art and intellectual traditions of agriculture, and have become so swept up by new scientific metaphors, that it has been easy to confuse this new technical activity with the old traditions it replaced, or even to insist on a continuum with ancient practices, just now with better tech. That has been a mistake. This is not farming. These are plants arranged to meet the needs of machinery.

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Don’t get me wrong: this is not farming either, over in the ravine…

P1360234November Choke Cherries that the Bear Forgot

So many times it is said today that farming is the human activity with the greatest impact on the planet, and then the argument is dismissed because of the necessity of farming for contemporary food supply networks. That, too, is an error. This is not farming …

P1360007

… but it is the production of food. The two things are not the same. Here’s a thought. You know the beauty of skeletons, right, the bones in perfect proportions, the exquisite physics at play?

426px-Cat_skeleton_drawing

Cat and Skeleton Source

Notice the beautiful tension caught in Its hind legs and the perfect arc of its front ones.

This is a story told as science, and is often used to explain evolutionary processes as solving technical problems the most efficiently. Fine enough, but, well, what if they were not  technical processes per se, but artistic ones?

easterhorseIcelandic Horse on Easter Morning

A perfect creature of the grasslands, or an artwork?

Well, both at the same time, I expect. A separation between art and technical usefulness is precious and given the state of the Earth, self-indulgent. Might it not be that when humans find the art in land use again, farming will re-surface from the ruins? For instance, is this light a random act, based upon the angles of the hills and of no consequence …

P1320637… or it is an unbalanced photograph of the land that leads to apples without sugars, which must be industrially marketed instead of celebrated with the joy that life and food from the earth brings to human bodies, because no one would accept them otherwise? And to think, I was just walking along the ravine one day, when it stopped me in my tracks, step by step. First, this…

P1360237Red Delicious Apple Seedling Making a Break for It

A note on that tree: if men from the government find this tree, they will cut it down, because it might harbour pests that could damage the industrial viability of the food factories next door. You can only get to that point of arrogance if you believe that life is a random event, much like light spilling over a hill and showing us the way. So much of the contemporary world is like that now: what has been forgotten is described as random, and dismissed. No, it’s not random. It is only unknown. What there is is only a failure of language. There are, still, old words for it: farming, for one. Art for another. In this context, an artistic or literary education is of immense practical use. A technical one can be used to bring art forward over the  hundred years of its neglect.