There Are Only 2 Human Habitats and 1 is Not Human

The colours of sunsets deepen as winter approaches. Here we’re looking west across the north arm of Okanagan Lake.

Here’s an unusual view. Here’s that same sunset, five minutes earlier. Notice that all the light, everywhere, is the same shade as the ones above.P2130649

A magenta world! The falling of these leaves and the collapsing of summer’s grass is the same as the shifting of that atmospheric light. Look at how this new energy strikes the world of fruit:


And the nootka roses on the hill.


A year is a journey through colour, and the moods of colour, which is a reaction of eyes to the vibrations matter makes in reaction to radioactivity from the sun. Colour is us. When these effects take place outside of colour, the effect is something like the puddle in the image below This is part of the same seasonal shift of light:


What the light does to the ice, in other words, is what the light does to our eyes. The vital thing to look at here is the patterns the light makes while freezing, which is to say when the sun’s energy within it dips beneath a certain threshold, which to humans looks like this:


Those effects can only happen in this season, with this light. To human eyes, they are what is called beautiful.


But they are the earth dancing with the sun. Sure, this is a story of atmospheric pressures and the heating and cooling of gasses, both in and outside of solution, but it’s the dance, too, or what passes for a dance when the sun and earth are doing it. You can see it in these lilac buds, for instance.


Light, like buds, open and close across the span of a year. They are the same thing. So too is the dandelion below, caught in a frozen puddle, and viewed from above.


Explications of randomness and will (or its absence) can be used to describe these plants’ ability to live nakedly in the poisonous atmosphere of the earth, but they don’t speak of the earth, which does this …

P2130889 … just a short 55 million years after it made this geode …P2130878

… as the same place that does this…


… and this…


… and this, which is the same.P2130531

This energy is life. Humans live within life. Like all life in this organism called the biosphere, humans are one with this ebb and flow, this opening and closing of life. Any ideas that they are not are ideas of death. Persephone, the goddess otherwise known as Koré, or maiden, spent six months of every year with her husband in the land of the dead.



Persephone always came back.


Make sure you come back, too.


The Black Cherries of Winter

It is the time of year when colour leaves the valley. The red choke cherries of summer are black. The skies are grey.P2140077 The sun we knew in summer is gone. This is the time to go inside the earth, to be with the small grey birds, to become fog, and to grow still.P2140121 In more tropical regions of the earth, this mystery is absent, but here it is the great clarity that is the ripeness of the year: not light but darkness, which is a different light.P2140124 The Icelandic writer Gunnar Gunnarson wrote that the long winter dark of Iceland is part of every Icelander’s soul, as much as the long sunlit nights of summer.P2140127 That’s the way it is in the Okanagan in November, December and January, when cold brings fog out of the lake to cover the valley from the sun and the stars,just as summer’s heat turns the lake into lightning storms that crash overhead through July and August nights, or June storms, raking over the mountains from the Pacific, turn the sky blue and draw us out of ourselves as water. But not now, now it is the time of darkness that the Celts knew well as the source of life, because they, too, lived in the fog seasons of seasonal earth.P2140131 Now is the time the Earth here has for herself, and the time we, who are her sons and daughters, have with her. This is for us, as family.P2140132

This is not a time to go to Mexico. It is no time to run from her embrace.


At dusk now, we find ourselves.

The Lonely Vigil of the Plastic Owl

2 weeks ago, the plastic owl was at her stand. It was mid-afternoon.P2120500 She was still there yesterday at dusk, poor plastic thing.P2130626

When I was a boy, owls used to hunt around me as I pruned fruit trees in light like this, and darker. The sky was full of stars. Those were little pigmy owls, 15 centimetres high at most. They’d stash grassland shrews in the crotches of the trees and come back for them months later. I’d still be there, learning my craft. Since them I’ve heard and watched many owls, mostly great big, screaming owls making the night come alive as they called for each other in the dark, usually just above me, and usually under a spreading sky of stars. It hurts to live in the land of plastic owls, you know?

The Beauty of Spring in November

In November, in Cascadia, it is springtime, whether you are in the wetlands on an island  in the ocean …


Oyster Bay, Vancouver Island

… or far inland, in the grasslands, where we are expecting snow.


Abandoned Orchard at Turtle Mountain, Looking Down Priest Valley towards Okanagan Lake

No soil is needed to grow a garden here.
P2130759Soil would reduce fertility. Stone helps, though.P2130760 Where water flows and life flows with it, life pools.P2130761 It might freeze at night, but these domed shapes are warm.P2130769 Rocks, too.P2130779 Cozy!

P2130786 The pools within the pools are great places for seeds to catch and flow and sprout. It’s much like the folds of hydrocarbons in protein strings.P2130807 To flow, water doesn’t have to be liquid. That’s because it’s energy. It can be held in a matrix, which can become it.P2130810We call this matrix life. We call it green water. Green water can even drip and splash.P2130815 Life reaches out its tongues to stop gravity and opens its wings to the sun.
P2130821 It’s down to as much as 5 Below these nights, but only in the air.P2130822 Not here.P2130845 On volcanic earth.P2130878 Here, spring ice breaks the basalt apart, and life becomes the frost in fall.P2130889 Is it rain? Is it frost? Is it sun? Is it air? Is it stone?P2130906 It is all of them together. It is earth. This is earth… not soil.P2130936 This.P2130947 Life.

P2130948 Now. 55.000.000 years in the making, along the seam of two ancient island chains.P2130963 Once the stone crashed in a volcanic tide. Now that energy is a surging wave. Still.P2130986 It is still a splash of surf.P2130988

On Turtle Mountain, it is happening now. And not just here. On Rattlesnake Mountain, too.

moss Life is not built on the bodies of the dead. Not here. To come here in summer to see green lawns is to be poor beyond belief.P2120777

Here life is made within the bodies of the living. All are welcome.


None are turned away.


Is it the sun? Is it the earth?


It is both at once, where we are.

Only a German, Eh?

I’d like to show you some photos today, from a country that does not exist.
P2120966 This is the German colony that formed in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia after the First World War.P2120913 All the British men were dead. The German colonies in Africa were dissolved. In the 1920s, German socialists and communists replaced the lost British in the Okanagan.P2120891 I come from this “colony.” That image above, of cactus in a mixed grassland, forest and tundra community, is a good image of this lost community. So is this rose hip.P2120845 No Canadian would ever take these pictures. No indigenous person. No American.

No Cascadian, either. Only Germans in this country, even ones like me, born here, and who have lived here for nearly sixty years now. It’s not that I was raised to be German, either — quite the opposite.P2120814

Still, German identity, even German-Okanagan identity, and Anglo Saxon identity, down to the root level of how the self is organized in the world, differ, perhaps irreconcilably. Germans bring things in and hold them, within a whole that expands to fill them. Anglo Saxons create linear stories, that progress in time.P2120791 My question today: does this mean I am a citizen of this place?P2120716 When my experience is foreign to most people who live here?P2120690 The French Canadians of the fur trade must have once felt like this.
P2120688 What, though, is identity, if it is tied to the land but the ways in which it is tied are not shared, and invisible, because they appear identical?P2120839

Can I say I am of this place? Can I say I have an identity of any kind at all? I mean, not just in the question of whether I have one if my identity is largely this place yet my images of this place are from a culture that doesn’t exist, but also in the question of whether I have any identity at all? I have after all been told that taking pictures of nature, without people in it, is chilling and disturbing, because people like to see themselves in pictures; their absence speaks of mental illness. Yes, to the Anglo Saxon mind. As an example of the difficulty, in my culture the image below is a photograph of a person.

P2120654 So is the one below. Not the maple seedling, but the whole image, and stuff that spills out of its boundaries. It is a gestalt.P2120701

That is very German. Can I say that these are even images of this place? Do these images count for more or less than those of someone who is an immigrant here, who has been here for a year, or two, or three, but comes from an Anglo Saxon community? I mean, I’m not an immigrant, yet there are these questions. Is there something especially problematic to Anglo Saxon identity about German identity?


I just know that my identity and the land are one in some way and that I live between worlds in some other way. An even more troubling question is: do Anglo Saxons, who have their own colonial ghosts, have any right to say I am not of this place yet that they are of it just because socially they belong to a large demographic, or that these very German images are not of this place? Isn’t that what populist democracy suggests? How can that be right? An even more troubling question: why do some people do just that, through an insistence that only dominant social experience, rooted in Anglo-Saxon identity structures, delineates a space?


I don’t know. I also don’t know why there aren’t conversations about these things, including other questions that other people have. Indigenous identity structures are (perhaps) different again. The current solution to that particular gulf is to say that no-one can share in the deep identity with place of an indigenous person. But weren’t our ancestors not all once indigenous? Is not our language based upon that experience? Is English not an indigenous language? Do we not all know this stuff, or at least have the words for it? Does not an indigenous German-Canadian, who has  deep identity with place, not deserve respect for it as well?

P2110652Of course. Here’s what I think: I think any culture that demands conformity of identity …


… is a culture in which identity is a series of conformities and demands. That is military thinking and slave-holder thinking. It fits military states and slave-holding planters — even if that slave-holding is just the withholding of social identity from the things of this world. Is thing-ness not akin to racialization? When indigenous people hold just these beliefs? To someone in my culture, someone profoundly from this place, it is. To indigenous people it is no doubt something equally powerful and unavoidable. I can’t speak to that, though.


If anything is to make sense of my silent German-Canadian identity, it is through exploring what it sees within the land, and how its own identity structures reveal different aspects of the earth’s energy here than those of other identity structures. The land either accepts everyone on his or her own terms, and brings them to herself, or there is a chosen people. If there is a chosen people, then the rest of us are slaves.


We aren’t. Or shouldn’t be. Resistance is important.

grass This is just one of the reasons why attention to the land as an arbiter of social experience is vital. It makes us grow together by growing separately. To date, the ego has been used as the universal arbiter of identity in the modern world, both German and Anglo-Saxon, among others, yet it does so in a larger context, which the ego-identity does not erase.
P2120742I mean, one might say it does, but that’s just the ego talking. Human identities that do not include the earth are, in my culture, only social identities. They are surfaces. They might even be beautiful. They make a lot of social noise. They might be fun. They might be a lot of things. They are not this.


Although they could be. For this reason a poetry and art of Cascadia is vital. For this reason it has to start now, with poets, artists and people of all kinds coming to meet the earth and taking on its identity.

P2110571 It is something we have to make together, as the land does.P2100892

Until then, each one of us will live in a private world which common discourse names universal, at great loss of knowledge. That is only a political convenience. Political conveniences are important, but they should never be identities. It is politically convenient to eradicate the story in the image below, and its creatures, to put up lawns, golf courses, Arizona-style houses, provencal style shrubberies, and streets.


It is, however, my identity: the insect, the light, the rabbitbrush in bloom, and turquoise Kalamalka Lake behind them. Eliminating this, eliminates me. That is not the same as “freedom” or “landowner’s rights.” The indigenous ways of knowledge of this place did not choose. Humans were the creatures who could ensure that all thrived. In that action, they became human. Social activity was the duty to protect that.


I couldn’t agree more. But, remember: these are German-Okanagan ideas, and German-Okanagan images. They are not the same as Anglo Saxon ones, or German ones, or Indigenous ones, as they have all been shaped by their own histories. Dismissing them with foreign identities, even globally-accepted ego identities, their narratives and their electronic identity storage and transmission devices, is not respect. It is dominance. In a time in which the earth needs us it is selfish — literally, because it is about the self, independent of its ecosystem, which, like the self, is not physical. Simply, if anyone is to claim they are of this place, they have to be this (not the image, which is German-Okanagan, but the plants the image attempts to represent):


Otherwise, they belong to some other story, and the question must be asked: what is that story? What are they doing here? I don’t know.


Is it possible to still read the old signs our ancestors read before they read words? Let’s look…P2120370 Two mushrooms, one white, one dark, both dusted as if with snow, like the moon and the sun above a piece of water-worn bedrock from the deep mantle, on a bed of spruce needles, sprinkled with elm leaves, a few twigs, and one rich cone, just inside the shadow from a splash of light. That is, ahem, spruce, the tree of true intentions, and elm, the tree that listens without judgement. Sun, moon and earth on the edge of light, presaging snow both day and night, but very light this winter, very light. Hey, it might be so. Let’s wait and find out!