Street Art Masterpieces

This has been a week for talk about food security. As I leave for some of the travels that come upon me from time to time and find their way back into the Okanagan Okanogan, I would like to leave you with a thought: artistic security is as valuable as food security. In a society based on exchanging labour for monetary capital, artistic work gains monetary value and can be traded, shipped, packaged and displayed in special vaults and stock market trading floors called art galleries. Despite the suggestion that art is a specialized project, to be produced by specialists and appreciated by the educated, I offer you the street art of Vernon.

P1550286 Note the intricate line work in the lower middle span of the image, an the exquisite sphere around the iron sewer grate. First class. The concept has many variations. Here’s one where the concrete has been jackhammered away to reveal the glacial river gravel it is made from.P1550287

Note the exquisitely placed cigarette butt. Another great motif is the leaf drift. Motion and stillness, organic line and industrial line meet and merge.P1550306

The energy can get quite intense.

P1550308 And quite spare.P1550311

Note how two triangles and a rectangle just barely manage to balance one dark snowplow gouge starting to grow some good weeds. This is not just art made by the earth. Humans can take part in this art as well, as hundreds of their footsteps have done below.

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A society can exist without an art gallery, but it cannot exist without the eyes to find art in every moment. Note that the art I have showed you here exists outside the capitalization of artistic labour and, in fact, outside of labour itself. This might make it nearly invisible to contemporary culture. It is no less valuable for that.

Planet of Fire

This is no ordinary planet we live on. I think it’s best to walk outside and take a look …P1550050

 

There are many flames, new and old, in this photograph of Middleton Mountain in Coldstream: the spill of lava across the cap of the mountain, too hard for the glaciers to take it away completely, and which drops water onto the fir tree near the mountain’s crest, the rising sun itself, the autumn aspens in their yellow and gold and the choke cherries in autumn red, the dried wisps of the rest of the summer’s trees and grasses, burnt away, the sun caught within the dead chloroplasts of the grasses, bouncing back and forth and amplified, the sky on flame with light and turning blue from agitation, and that fir tree, which is water drawn into the sky by heat and the tree riding along with it and rusting into green flame. Under it all is the rock, cold now, but still directing water and light in the channels of its old flows, which came from the sea bed diving deep under the land and giving off pressurized steam that dissolved the rock and sent it up in flame into the sky.

Teleportation, Anti-Gravity and Art

Defying gravity?P1540796

It’s a trick of light.

bright If the sun had moved its substance to earth physically, there would be no water and no life.

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Reforming itself in a new form, that’s the trick.

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The process of the sun transferring itself is not finished.

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At the moment, it is both here, and there. Look at it caught in this old, exploded star that my ancestors call, variably, water and Wasser and wetter and wody.

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It is the sun, defying gravity and moving itself across space by turning itself into energy, and then, through the lens of the earth, turning itself back.

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Art matters.

 

The Art That Insects Make

In the summer, light strikes the leaves of the dogwoods unevenly, as they flit about in their environment of light and shadow filtering through other leaves that move and shift with sun and wind and the turning of the earth through its days. Look at the result!P1540244Amazing!

P1540242There’s more to this story than just sun and light, and I’ll get to that in a sec, but for the moment look at how small patches of some of these leaves are delayed from maturing and shutting down photosynthesis in preparation for fall.
P1540241Frozen in time, that’s the thing.

P1540239Now, here’s the other player in these beautiful game. See the aphids on the underside of the leaves below, below the fruiting cluster?P1540233They are very responsive to light and growth and settle in the choicest spots, and then, as they divert the sap flow through their own digestive systems, they change everything. In effect, they become part of the plant, and the plant’s living processes are blocked and re-routed by the intervention of the insects and the whole year’s worth of redirected minerals.P1540227Aphids, light, shadow and the mysteries of an earth continually in motion.P1540224The scientist in me thinks this process could be put to use. The farmer in me knows it can. The poet in me is in love with the earth. The artist in me is just plained thrilled to see his body alive in the earth like this, down to the tiniest thing.

 

What Trees are For

Trees exist to bring light into darkness, to immerse it in liquid and draw it down into the darkness of the earth.

P1530099Following the light through all the faces of a tree is not possible.

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But finding the main flow is. Has rock ever looked so mysterious?

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Has the sun? After a year of pouring into the leaves, even it gets into the act.

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That’s not to say, though, that darkness serves only the earth’s purposes. Birds, those daughters of the wind, need it as well, and that, too, is part of what trees are for.

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Bridging earth and sky, trees are vertical rivers. Sometimes, birds make eddies.

P1540060Ripeness is not just fruitfulness, not when it comes to trees.

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Sometimes it is.

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But that doesn’t obscure the point that ripefulness is more.

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Sometimes it just means being there and being there. After all, the roots that reach into the soil are just the roots that reach in the air. The tree balances in between, these creatures of the air that don’t think to leave, and don’t need to.

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They teach us that we don’t need to, either. We might be trees that have pulled up our roots, but we’re still trees. Why fight it? Revel in it!

P1510009 Reach down to touch the soil.

P1500741Reach up to touch the light.

P1500785 And rejoice that you can do it again, and again, and again, and build a life out of this balance.P1540160

 

Beautifully.

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What is Asparagus Really?

Or is that asparagus math?P1520804Pretty cool, either way!

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Music, math … these are just words.

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Art?

P1520824 No. Just a word.

P1520816But, without words, what?

P1520806That wordless point is where we’re headed. If we were headed towards words, we wouldn’t walk out in the grass…

P1520816 or find ourselves there.P1520807

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Beautiful Apple of Them All

Joy! Here she is… the Benvoulin apple. Lost, and then re-found. I left this apple in 1992, when I moved north, hoping that other people would care for her, but things being the way they are in this world, she was almost lost. I got some grafts, from a hunch, from an unidentifiable old tree, with twenty years of wobbly memory to guide me. (Three months later, the tree was cut down… call it fate.)

P1520895 And after two years of hoping that I had guessed right, I tasted her again, for the first time in 20 years.

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She is still the queen. She tastes like a fine glass of riesling, and look at how white her flesh is! I promise, I won’t lose her again. Here’s the story of her discovery, from my book Tom Thomson’s Shack (2000).

WILD APPLES

I worked for Hugh one year. Late one October day after picking apples I found an apple tree in a ditch beside Benvoulin road in Kelowna. The tree was fifteen years old, rising out of a tangle of overgrown wild roses. In the brambles was a carpet of yellow windfalls. Wasps were feeding on them, clustering, golden, around puncture holes in the skins. The apples were marvelously distorted, the flesh of each one cut by five deep lines, paralleling the five sections of the ovary. Never had I tasted an apple like that! With cars swishing past me, I clambered excitedly through a break in the brambles, over a rusted barbed wire fence, and into the field behind. There were two more old trees. One was broken down, overgrown with wild plums and the long, trailing vines of wild clematis. Its apples were shrivelled red husks. The other tree stood alone, surrounded by a thorny ring of her seedling daughters. As I walked towards her, a horse looked up at the far end of the field, then started walking, then running, towards me. We reached the tree together. There were still a few apples in this tree. I picked up an old ten-foot-long prop that was lying in the grass Ñ once used to support branches heavy with fruit Ñ and knocked an apple off. Before I could get to it, the horse had bent down and was eating it. Horses are big! I kept my distance! I knocked another apple off, and another, and another. In the end, of all the apples on the tree the horse ate half and I kept the other half in my pocket. It seemed a fair trade. The horse pushed roughly against my pockets as I left the field. As I climbed over the fence, and then up onto the shoulder of the road, he whinnied softly. I walked back down the road to my car. The cars that swished by me sounded like huge animals, roaring.

That night, as the room licked golden and orange in the firelight, we sat on chairs in front of Hugh’s fire. Hugh lit his pipe with a long sliver of wood he pulled from the flames, lifting it slowly to his mouth and drawing it in. His father slit each apple open from blossom end to stem end with a planter’s knife. As we bit into the apples, six different flavours burst on the tongue, slowly, one after the other, in a slow wash bursting farther and farther back in the mouth and cresting up over the palette like spray from a wave, until the whole mouth was as tender as a blossom.

“This is a great apple!” said Hugh, after biting into one of the apples the wasps had been eating in the ditch. “Maybe it’s related to Maiden’s Blush. There used to be apples in that whole area down there in the Benvoulin. And pears. It was the best pear land on earth. Once! Pear land makes good shopping mall land, too. They brought a lot of old apples here and tried them. Everyone almost went bust at first.”

The next morning snow lay two inches deep over the ground. I drove down to Benvoulin Road, cut some grafting wood off the tree and buried it behind my cabin. The next spring the Highways Department cleared the ditch. The tree was gone. I got there just in time! I’ve kept that wet walk beside the dark road in the rain, the cars pouring past me like salmon fighting up a spawning river, driven, and the feel of the apples in my pocket: the golden apples of the Hesperides, the apple that Paris gave to Helen when the three goddesses lined up and said, “Who is the most beautiful!” and he chose.