Okanagan Easter Meditation

This is what Easter looks like here.P1230637 Do you see that? Yeah, no people. Canada is an urban country. It views its land as a resource, to be used to create more urban space. It doesn’t live in it. It remakes it. Then it’s Canada.

P1230626Earth Crushing Machinery on the Horizon, The Rise

Canada is a construction project. People live in it. Here’s one way it’s done:

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Bed Rock Becomes Road Gravel

The author Margaret Atwood once described this as a kind of fortress syndrome: early “settlers” lived inside a palisade, surrounded by hostile territory. The palisades still exist, and are the chain of a dozen large and medium-sized cities (and a few dozen smaller ones, plus a host of small towns, all of which could fit inside suburban Toronto) which are Canada. Around them are places where no one lives, like here …

P1240013Bella Vista, Looking Over Okanagan Lake to Ewings Landing

It is to be looked at. One building lot, set to appreciate the view above, on the hill above my house, is currently priced at $750,000, and rated for a house of no more than 7000 square feet. That’s a village in most parts of the world, but for Canadians the appreciation of a view of this nature requires space and silence and a sense of exclusivity. It must be private, and must contain, within that private space, all the amenities of urban space. Each house is a fortress. The people live privately, in rows of fortresses within housing areas called “subdivisions”. Here is the approach to Canada in these parts …

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It’s the West, though. Tumbleweeds still blow. Here’s a modern cowboy, out riding his steed in the orchard just below, between Good Friday and the Resurrection…

driftSpray Drift in an Apple Orchard, Bella Vista

The operator wears a moon suit. The wild bees, that he will soon need for pollinating his trees, not so much.

Do you see how that works? Everything is inside of boundaries. If things cross boundaries (bugs, for instance), they are “wild” and need to be organized. Well, people are like that. There’s no using fighting it. Here is some prime human habitat in the nearby urban centre. You can see that it is highly organized.

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Vernon Restaurant Back Patio and Rail Line

Note the incursions of the “wild” earth. They are called “weeds”. Occasionally they are beaten back with applications of poisons, called “herbicides”. The application of them is called “improving property values” and “urban beautification”.

Here is the human habitat it replaced:

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Somebody messed up. There are understandable reasons. Humans are like that, for one. Christ was crucified, after all, and that was a nasty business, too. But he rose from the dead.

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Shooting Stars, at the Rise

Have you ever spent Easter in Germany? They eat white asparagus to celebrate Christ’s ascension, with cured ham, yellow potatoes, and hollandaise sauce, or with morels, or venison, or, well, pretty well anything, really, and it goes on for months, in every pub, restaurant and café. It’s an ancient tradition that goes back to the myths of death and renewal in ancient Greece. The ancient traditions here in the Okanagan are older. And newer. They’re not ancient, you see.

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They just don’t contain a concept of “inside” — or one of “outside,” for that matter. And that applies not only to space but to mind. This, for example, is mind:

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Saskatoon Blossoms on a Marmot Perching Rock

This, too:

P1230752Cottonwoods Blooming and Sprouting at the Same Time

Mind. Not something observed from social space, or from a view window, and not “art” but mind’s location. In the body. In the world. Beats me how that is different than Christ’s message, or why the settlers and developers of the notion of Canada in this place felt it needed to be replaced, except, perhaps, this one thing:

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Balsam Root Slope at Easter

They don’t live here. If they did, they’d thin out this ingrown sagebrush with fire, rather than calling it a natural process of succession, and preserving that to preserve its “wild” qualities. There is no wild in the Syilx world, and we’re not talking about something that happened in ancient Athens or pre-Alexandrian Aramia, but something that’s still present. In a region in which the landscape has been humanly altered to allow for the greatest possible diversity almost since it was washed clear of the glaciers after the last ice age, there is no so-called ‘natural process of succession,’ except a succession of urbanization over a culture of human devotion. As soon as the Syilx culture of being present in landscape is discredited, the use of such terms as “natural succession” is much the same as saying that the replacement of the Syilx people by Europeans was a natural process of succession. No. What it was a lot clearer than that. It was theft. And racism. You can even easily tell where the theft took place, because anywhere there’s anything that is called wild, like this…

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Biscuit Root below the Bella Vista Church Cross

Bread anyone?

… you know there’s theft, because before words got thrown around here like buckshot, words like “wild” and “wilderness” and even “land” as things separate from people and consciousness and story, there was nothing wild, because there was no inside or outside, and all people were the people, including this fellow:

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Western Mountain Bluebird

Making a living between worlds.

Wasn’t that Christ’s message, too? To be manifest in the world? Well, you’d think so, wouldn’t you. In 2008, I walked out of the museum of Orthodox icons in Recklinghausen, Germany one spring, and ever since everything on earth has been springing forth, out of the soil, in a perennial energy of resurrection and birth that Christ tapped into and the ikons mediate. That’s not the Canadian way, though. In Canada, where the church is an urban space, resurrection and birth take place within the individual body, within a group of individual bodies, within a spiritual space they create within a building that symbolizes their faith: a church. Christ wasn’t a man for churches, though. He was in the world. To find him, look here:

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Choke Cherry Opening on Stone

Here’s the strangest thing: if one people doesn’t want the land I’ve shown you above for any other reason than the disrespectful one of grazing cattle on it, which pretty soon leads to sagebrush ingrowth and the deterioration of pretty well any usable grazing capacity, why is the only form of resurrection of its capacity to give and affirm life that of replacing it with urban structures? There are thousands of other possibilities. Why don’t people just start raising Syilx crops on it instead? Or, heck, give it back to the Syilx, since they created it anyway? Does God have to be named to be God?

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Wild Lettuce Resurrecting on a Gopher Mound

That’s how the grassland seeds itself: right where it is. No labour is required, just attention. It shouldn’t be wild lettuce, though. That’s a weed brought on by grazing.

Actually, if you name something as God, it’s most certainly not God.

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Is This Vineyard Water Pipe God Speaking?

No. I think God likes shooting stars.

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It is just as dangerous to live inside words. They were originally used for Christian and Hebraic texts in order to keep God unknowable and thus ever-present. Something went quite wrong with that over time. Now a huge amount of effort has to be spent to break the spell of words themselves and the wine made from this land, that used to be known as the blood of Christ, vital for ceremonies such as Easter, and which was grown in the vineyards of the Rhone a hundred and fifty years ago as the water of life itself that would see you through your day labouring on the slopes, is called today …

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… “a patio sipper.” For those of you not from Canada, that means “a fruity white wine, light on the palette, that is perfect for drinking from acrylic glasses on your deck or patio while enjoying the sun and your view over the lake while chatting with friends.” Given that these grapes are grown on Syilx land, that’s disrespectful. That’s just not a good enough reason to suppress and disenfranchise a people and to convert 9,000 years of human environmental history into a collection of weeds. It’s also not a good enough reason to pick up a couple shovels and a garden rake and to go to the last remaining strip of native grassland growing between the weeds in a public park up above your house and dig it out to make a bicycle racing track for your own use.

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But that’s how you make a Canada out of a wilderness of your own making. That is part of the grief of Christ’s death. Tough stuff. But, hey, this is no longer Good Friday we’re talking about, but Easter, and not only that but the day after. In a fortress culture, the image above is the resurrection, out of the stuff of the mind. I think Christ would have preferred food for the people, maybe like this:

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The capacity of the land to feed people doesn’t have to be owned. Change the terms just a little bit, to “spirit cannot be owned”, and you can see, perhaps, how Christ’s resurrection can still find fertile ground here. It’s happening all around us. Look!

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Apricot Tree Gone Wild

Well, that’s the term for it. A better term is “naturalized”. Here’s another:

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Naturalized Apricot Tree in a  Subdivision “Wild” Landscape Feature

It is leading the way.

Badgers: Gardeners of the Sun

The balsam roots are tossing in the wind.P1220733This grassland is on a hill because it is created by hills. Wind and water never stop moving there, powered by the turning of the earth among the stars.

P1220708Badgers help. They go into the hill, hunting marmots that live inside the hill.

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Balsam roots and badgers get along famously together. Here’s a nicely tilled seedbed, ready to go.

P1220762And bees.  They dig holes into the hills, too.

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Badgers, marmots, balsam roots, the turning of the earth among the stars, and bees. All on an ancient seabed ground up by a glacier.P1220745

 

On a hill. What a stupid place to build a house.

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The Ethical and Environmental Role of Poetry

Here’s an image of one ecological niche filled two ways, both of which move water into light. One creates biological life. The other creates electricity, in support of a custom of social life called “Public Safety”. One creates new social and biological niches. It is called “ponderosa pine”. It lifts ants up into the wind and draws deer and birds for shelter. And the porcupine. Each of its cones is an earth on its own, flush with species that live nowhere else. The other relies on the the drowning of millions of social and biological niches and the semi-annual slaughter of millions of others to keep its transmission lines clear, to have the power to create social niches in a non-physical sphere. It is called a street light. One creates the earth. One turns away from it. It is a contemporary belief that they can co-exist. No. Not really. The effort of passing from social technology to biological life and back again eventually leads to the belief that the biological life fills a social niche within human society. Sure it does, but that’s not its primary role. This is what medieval discussions of the knowability or unknowability of God or his manifestation in time and space in the body of Christ look like today. They have been cast into the subconscious for too long. It is time to bring them again into the light, for Christians and non-Christians alike.

P1220014The Price of Hydroelectricity

It is also time to bring in understandings of this niche between earth and sky, or water and light, in terms that come from non-Christian culture, such as that of the local Syilx culture, to which lone trees like this in the grasslands are seen in a shamanic context, as bridges to the sky world (and the setting of many a randy story and much good laughter). There is the real power: the one that both the Cross and the Hydroelectric system draw from. Poetry has the ability and tools to make these connections. The marginalization of poetry within contemporary Western culture is one of the reasons that the flow of power between such images is not better managed and why the efforts of civic planning and environmental protection often go wrong. Somethings need to be repeated over and over again, gently, and in a multiplicity of living contexts. This is one: landscape is ethics.

 

Walking With Coyote and Looking at the Stars

Walking through the bunchgrass.P1210816 Walking through the sagebrush. P1210803Walking over the bed of an ancient sea. P1210820Looking at a supernova. lupinstar Looking at planetary clusters. lupinstar2 Looking at the solar system. lupinstar3 Looking at the starry carpet of the night sky.P1210802 Meeting a red dwarf on the path. Stopping for a moment. P1210823Meeting the sun beside Coyote’s trail. P1210504 Spider lives in the sun. P1210168 Walking an old story. People call it poetry now. It’s not. Neither is this an insect. P1210633People call this nature now. P1210620 It’s not. You can’t walk with Wasp if you call it nature. P1210621 You can’t walk with the earth if you call her Nature.

desertparsleyDesert Parsley Between a Rock and a Sage Brush Stump

And yet there are all these words.

P1200245They’re not Nature. This is Nature:

P1190860Here at the bottom of Coyote’s trail is the Milky Way.

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That’s not poetry. This is poetry.

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Human Version of a River

That’s not Nature. This is Nature:

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Pigeon Guarding its Barbecue Along the Rail Line

Nature is beautiful.p1210118So is poetry.

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What a Lot of Words in One Place!

This, though, is an older story. This is the star road. Here’s a star being born.

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Here’s the sun. We are within him, yet he has shape.

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And words.

flybeeAnd children.

P1210126There’s the moon. Really. There she is. (Click to enlarge, if that helps. It could be that the technology you are using is not very good at seeing the moon.)
P1210474The earth is dying, because the words are about people now. Oh, she’s not dying all at once. She still feathers.

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She still stars.

P1200878She still yellow bells.

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In all the green cheatgrass stealing her water, stealing her words away, she is still among the stars.

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Still standing still. Ancient.

P1170423Here’s some images of her I made early one morning in March, when I mistakenly flipped the wrong switch on my camera, and found it was the right one. Here she is among the stars.
P1170547Here’s one of her words there.

P1170514 There were human words for this once.

P1170489Ancestors in the Rock at Vaseaux Lake

 There still are.

Oh To Be a Heron in the Springtime

The Okanagan hosts the world’s only urban heron rookery. Things are full of action there at the moment.

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The Rookery, Vernon

The rookery, however, is on private land, surrounded by tire dealerships, a walled housing village, and various mechanical shops. Currently, the “owner” of the land is protecting the herons’ right to this, their space, despite the protests of neighbours about the danger these trees present. If life is to survive the industrialization process in the Okanagan, land ownership rules will change to give priority to these birds, in the way that agricultural land uses are currently protected. When all thrive on this land, all thrive. Blessed be.