Elves in “Canada” and Iceland

Elves are all over the place in Iceland, like this one in the elf village at Skutustaðir.

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Well, elves are human-shaped, really, but they can vanish into stone and reappear from it, and more besides. It’s a long story. Imagine my delight when I found them alive and well in a hunk of exposed seabed at 600 metres elevation in my volcanic valley in the west of what is called Canada.

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In Iceland, they take many forms for humans. This is one, on an island in Lake Myvatn, the Lake of Midges.

P1340210 Here’s another from Skutustaðir. Here, the elvish power has formed itself in lichens.P1340083

And here we are again in the Okanagan Valley today. Less Nordic and more like Coyote and his friends from the dreamtime, but, hey, they look like they’re doing well. I’ve passed this hill a couple dozen times, and they haven’t been out. In today’s sun, they sure were.

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Is Harold crazy? No, not exactly. I’ve been hanging around elves in Iceland, that’s all. I’ve learned that the moods that animate me, emanate from the rock.

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I’m thrilled that it is no different here. Well, a little different. Can you make out the Coyote elf below?

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Here, look again, curled up but not asleep.

coyote

It’s good to have friends close to home. It’s difficult to always run off to Iceland.

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Tomorrow, let me explain what’s going on. It has to do with some pretty powerful correspondences between mind and earth. Until then…

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Well met!

The Future of Okanagan Okanogan

We have been on a journey together for three-and-a-half years. In that time, I finished up this blog as a book (twice!), but then I was reading up on a lynching in Conconully, Washington in 1891. Things just didn’t seem to add up, and as I snooped around and dug into things they didn’t add up some more, and finally I rewrote the book almost entirely. It found its shape on Easter, when I printed up its pixels, laid it out on the floor in a long line, dated each paragraph, moved the things that were out of place, and found its natural chapters, as a history of an agricultural valley in the west of Canada, rooted in the American Civil War. It concludes with a way forward from unresolved conflict through a very specific resolution of the outstanding Indigenous land claims of British Columbia — especially the pivotal ones, in the Syilx Illahie, this gambling and travelling space, the S-Ookanhkchinx, this place in which I am home. Here’s a picture of the excitement.ms1

 

 

A Book is Born!

I have been calling it “Okanagan Okanogan: One Country Without Borders”, but on Easter I scribbled down this: “Commonage: The War for the Okanagan.” Hmmm, Hmmm, Hmmm. The first is better, I think. Titles are always the hardest darned thing! Note: don’t you try to read my hand-writing now. You’ll hurt your eyes. Why do you think I need those reading glasses!

I will follow up my book with a companion book of images, a book that retells this history as a Coyote tale, and, before both of those, a practical handbook on new crops, new energy regimes, new agricultural strategies, and new water technologies and ethics that support, strengthen and sustain the land that this blog has helped me find more deeply for all of its 960 posts. But first, the blog has another child! I have received a grant to spend 16 months to write about this:

P1730506The Beautiful Steam Punk Urban Core of Post-Industrial Vernon

On Wednesday I hold my first interview with one of the street people who has offered to help me. He is excited and has many plans for me. I’m excited, too. And to think, it all started with a thought: would it help to write a book (another grant) if I used a camera to record what I see, to act as a form of empirical proof in a series of environmental arguments. Might as well try, I thought. Give it a couple months. Look at the gifts that moment of curiosity and that willingness to be led by it has given me! Not the least is  sense of writing and poetry that has expanded beyond literature into the world. Amazing. I am so grateful.

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 …

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.

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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 …

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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”.