The Mystery of Leaves

Look how much more brightly the one leaf glows than the grass, which is eating light.



Leaves in a Small Wetland on the Grey Canal Trail

Its light-eating days are over.

But look how dull the leaf right next to it is. These are both leaves that have lain for a couple months under deep snow. Seemingly, leaves go through a process of dying, which continues long after they have fallen, and long after they have lost their colour. The fall colour for cottonwood leaves like this is a rich yellow, not a red, and yet red it is. Perhaps leaves have a life outside of photosynthesis? They have gone as abstract as thought. Perhaps our thoughts, too, are leaves.


How the Mind and the Earth are One

Thatch and sod grass rising.newgrassBunchgrass rising.

grass Water bunch grassing.



Sky bunch grassing.grasssky


Lichen following the gaps between the bonds of water (which are part of water.)lichen

Balsam root lichening (in a tension between gravity and evaporation, which is one of the bonds of water).P1680716


Light balsam rooting (following the bonds of water, which are a form of light.)ripply2

Light bonding with water in tension with gravity (the race is to catch the coming rain, not with thatch but with dead, upright stalks not crushed by snow.)



Gravity and shadow are one.



Their alternation acts as a pumping mechanism.

balsamsproutsBalsam Root Rising

It’s a vertical equivalent of the way air is caught along the stalks of the dead, water-soaked grass below. In both cases, gravity is being denied.

grassbubbles These ecosystems of gravity, carbon, water and light, which mine the lines of tension between them are complex.P1680677 We have eyes that are formed from the same process, and which are capable of measuring them to a high degree of refinement, not outside of the process but within it, as part of it.



Culturally, that gift is called “an appreciation for beauty.” We say “I have found my creativity” when we tap into it, but it was there all along.



Only words hid our selves from us. With a new vocabulary, we can follow more complex conversations, although built on the same grammar. Look how light is laid on the ground of the mind in tension with gravity and water!






Blackbirds Singing Under the Moon of Sap

A moon ago, snow became the light and light the snow.P1640275

Female Staghorn Sumac, January 31, 2015

That’s the moon in the air behind. It fills it.

It was a beautiful time.


The cedar waxwings came and the rowans became them.

cwx And the poplars burst into cedar waxwing flames.P1630940Yeah, that’s the snow moon in behind again. There was no sky in those days.

But time did what time does, with lots of light and cloud and tricks and flashes that span the sky and it set its dogs loose to hunt a new moon.dog2

Sun Dog, a-Hunting, Yesterday

And it’s here, chased right out of wherever the moon hides when it has other things to take care of.


It’s not a very big moon. But look what it has brought from its travels.


They’re not very many, but their trills and calls flood the air. It is a moon of music and joyous song. The red-winged blackbirds are here, even as the poplars open their wings.


They just came today, the males, the singers, seeing who can make the best tree-EEEE-eee-rrrrrr and trill. And look what else the sap moon has brought.


Blackbirds So High

That’s right …


Sagebrush Buttercup

They have brought the sun. All that in one moon! Look below, at Kalamalka Lake. That’s where the moon was hiding yesterday.


Oh my.



The Future of Life

Life is the ability of self-replicating organisms being able to react to the environment. Life is also a quality of an environment. When an environment is said to have life, it means it is energized, which is a way of saying it holds enough energy for dynamic growth and change. It is an older use of the word “life”, but not a use that has been superseded, and not one which is purely the business of poetry.


A Living Landscape

Spring runoff after a frosty night.

I think it is possible to join the two senses and to say that environments are alive.


As the German philosopher Martin Heidegger argued in the 1920s and the anti-nuclear activist Jonathan Schell argued in the 1970s, life is future potentiality, and only secondarily present realizations of it.


Lichen and Moss on Sagebrush Trunk

(Steep hill.)

In the image above, the future of the living sage is its current ‘dead phase’. It has shed one form of life, but retains another, which is expressed environmentally. There’s only one thing that separates such life from individual biological life, and that is independent action. The action is there, but it comes from without, often by accumulation.P1680298

Black Birch Twigs After a Night of  Spray

In biological science, accumulation is not “life”, because individual life forms can move into the environmental space and out of it, while the space remains. Yes, but the environment does not. What’s more, this characteristic of life as “individual action” is a reflection of a science based on individual observation, which is based in turn on Christian faith, which places an individual, Christ, at the meeting point of heaven and earth. At that point, neither one thing nor another, Christ bears witness, as do all others who follow him. The German philosopher Gottlieb Fichte put this relativizing sense of the individual awareness at the core of scientific procedure in 1793, at the University of Jena, in what is now Germany. I am neither a pre-Romantic German philosopher nor a practicing Christian, but I respect the power and integrity of this belief and recognize the profound structural force it has in Western thought. Christ, however, is only one manifestation of God. The environment, surely, is another.

P1670865Grassland Dirt Actually Does Look Like This, When It Is Healthy

Is it not within an environment that an individual can be an individual? I mean, if we took away the environment above, we would all be dead. Surely, then, it’s appropriate to say that it is us.


From an individual point of view, the seeming three dimensionality of the above image, the framing of its elements, the relationship between them, the qualities of light caught by the camera, all these things are human signatures on the environment. From an embedded, environmental point of view, they are the way we fit into an environment: seeing the thin-ness of the grass because our minds are coded to track thin-ness and to see in it the mind and thought; seeing the roundedness of the water because our minds are coded to see in it bodies and movement; seeing the intersection of these forces, because our minds are coded to notice boundaries and difference and have the capacity to either unify or divide them in complex ways. Collectively, we have created complex systems of science, including profound and dynamic systems of psychology, which map out many of the dimensions of such mirroring, yet, even so, they are all based on Fichte’s replacement of Christ with the critical, empirical, individual self, on which the definition of life is based. The neatness of that correspondence is troubling. Being in the world can be an antidote to that.

P1680415 Literally: being in the world …P1680098


The images above were made in a riparian zone one kilometre west of this one.


… not just in an individual body.




Taking Back the Earth

The air is colder than the earth.P1680080


The sun burns right through it, yet does not touch its cold.



But that sun is caught by the earth, and all my beautiful sisters, the blue-bunched wheat grasses.



When this blog was young, I would have pointed out these grasses and talked about how thin devices like this could be used to harvest water or watts of energy, but now, after 920 posts, I just want to say, Look!P1680069

These are images of my mind, and yours.



It’s the same mind.



And it’s a body.




The same body.


And look at the thoughts that fly through. Trickster magpie on the run!



Deer have been walking through us, too.



The coyotes live up this hill. P1680076


Some men have blown the earth apart.



To build roads.



Why? We already have roads.

P1680140Look at  you shining up there. Look at the road of light you are making at the base of the cloud! And all of it while standing on the floor of an ancient ocean lifted into the sky. Look at the earth fall like rain.


Men tried to scrape this ocean floor away. But look at us catching the water here…




… and turning it into light.



There’s hard work ahead, and intricate machines to be built to capture water without stopping our rivers in their tracks or turning our grasslands into deserts, but right now…

P1620084 … the time of frost is still here.P1620066 Spirit can’t be measured, and is thus often ignored or is labelled as a sentimental, foolish, emotional attachment, something worthy of fiction but nothing to build a world around, but have you noticed that these plants that have followed humans for thousands of years…P1620371

… are mostly the sacred plants of the Celtic world?P1610980I think that means we are our ancestors.

filberts I think that means that the world is now.P1640794All of it.

Right now.



The philosopher John Locke proposed that men had a claim to land when they had put their labour into it. After that, any other man who lived on it without labouring had to leave. That is the principle by which this land was colonized. We are decolonizing it now. Look at us collect water in the philosophy of John Locke.

P1670970 Look at us begin.P1680226











For the Love of Water

Light is pretty great stuff.P1670572 Add it to grass and it’s even greater.P1670571 Water helps.P1670568 A lot.

P1670567 Some forms of life are the embodiment of the energy of the intersection of water and light.P1670562 Algae, for instance.P1670561 And grass.P1670559 Look how the algae holds onto air.P1670552 Other forms of energy also get blended in. P1670550 Water is indeed amazing stuff.

P1670547 Really amazing.P1670543 Can you imagine life without it?P1670542 I don’t mean, without hydrocarbon strings, I mean without the essence and flow of water.P1670541 Doesn’t life flow in the same way?P1670540 Isn’t life water meeting earth?P1670538


Meeting air?

P1670582 Meeting sun?pattern

Amazing Grassland

I want to show you something amazing. This is the bunchgrass that made the West, and these are the deer that graze it. The grass looks brown, but that’s just the water-gathering stalks from last year and the year before. They keep the plant alive. The new shoots are rising, just days after the snow melted away. The deer are cropping them off. By the time settler culture gets itself off of the ski hills and gets its head wrapped around the idea of spring, the bunchgrass’s year will be over. That’s Kalamalka Lake in behind.P1650653

The grasses, as you can see, grow at a certain distance from each other. This allows their dead stalks to gather the rain and their massive root systems to spread out. Here’s a closer look…



As you can see, the bunchgrass is about a half metre apart, on  a grid. But what’s that between the grasses? Soil, but not just any soil. Have a closer look.



This is the microbial crust of the Intermontane Grasslands. Along with the soil beneath it, it contains about 1000 species before cubic foot, and works as the lungs of the earth, a seed plantation surface, and both a water entrapment and anti-transpiration device. Look closer.



It even grows on bare rock.



Amazing. And in the middle of so-called winter, yet.



Isn’t that beautiful? Don’t let anyone tell you, ever, ever ever ever ever ever ever ever, that soil is dirt.



It doesn’t even mind the snow! (It must be like a greenhouse under there!)


Seeing in the Dark, Part II

Yesterday I proposed that the science of light and the world it allows humans to see …


… was a deduction, a creative act, so to speak, not a leap of faith but a skillfully built up screen, part biological and part mathematical, created upon a different knowledge, based on darkness and direct physical apprehension.


Red Osier Dogwood Living in the Dark

Its form of ‘seeing’ is to mine light for electrons, with which it reconfigures the matter of the earth and the air, and out of which it, ultimately, constructs itself. It, however, is a tree. In the culture that sees the world as light, humans aren’t trees. Yes, they have trunks and arms, as trees do, and they put down roots, and their labours with light blossom and bear fruit, but that’s metaphor, the science of light tells us. In this conception, which is the one most of us live in today, these are not three humans watching the light caught in the fog, beside a winter road.



They are three maples, beside a road, and if one wants to see them as human, well, that’s just an error, at worst, and a metaphor, a bit of poetry, at best. It’s not so simple, though. For one thing, Germanic words for people, come from trees: our “arms” are actually branches, our “bodies” are actually trunks, not as metaphors for trees, but from the observation of human identity within trees, embedded in the world, applied backwards to humans. That was the intellectual leap. That was the metaphor.


The First Human —Oak in the Belevedere English Gardens, Weimar, Germany

Those are WWII soviet graves at her feet.

Not a metaphor. More of a comment on identity. This too. Look at the leaves here at Siebenfelsen, a sacred Celtic site abandoned in the Black Forest.



Those leaves, rising up and catching the light in such varied ways, those are thoughts. That is a way of apprehending light not centred in the human body. The tradition went through many refinements. Here it is in 1930s Iceland, a bit grown up with the years, looking out from the church at Reykholt, where the sagas were written. One looked out from the sacred church to the trees. The people were inside the church, where a specific intellectual and spiritual tradition made them into people. The other people were outside the church.



They were not less for that. The image below, the Evangelical Church of Kuppenheim, Germany, consecrated eighty years ago when my father was a boy in town, is surrounded by trees. These ones, though, are in a deeply scientific culture (on the brink of madness, yes, but not quite totally yet) and are symbols, of nationalism, faith, Germany, and a romantic past, when the Germans lived out in the trees and the church was something brought in from Rome and plunked down there amongst them: a system of thought, and a system of architecture: a kind of machine for creating Christian men out of tree people.


It’s a form of sculpture, not as a physical carving of a man, or woman, for such has sculpture been for most of its history in the West, but as a process of carving humans out of energy and time. In other words, for focussing the mind. It’s not just a Christian invention. The celts were into it.


Phallus Wearing a Carnival Mask at Siebenfelsen

The phallus is actually made out of stacked skulls, with heads looking both ways, like a watcher. Here’s the same phallus, from a different angle.



Skull With a Skull for a Hat

The celts were doing this work with the body, not with the mind. That was intervention, but it was done onto the darkness of touch, not the light of the eyes. Quite a different thing, but with the same sculptural impulse, if by sculpture is meant the representation of the human body that is made out of stone, binding a two dimensional object with directionality, or time, as Goethe’s friend and mentor Johann Gottlieb Herder put it. The thing with light, that came from the Mediterranean. That’s not a bad thing, but, still, it was an en-light-enment, a filling of the ‘darkness’ with light. And there we are.


Apple Tree Seen With Mediterranean Light

We’re filled with light. The work has been done, and most of the Christian world, and the Celtic one, is happy living in the world of Newton’s light.


Celtic Grapes, Growing in Newton’s Light, and Picked by Birds


Look, men walked, where only trees had been before!



Beech Trees at the Siebenfelsen Complex, Yach

However, only certain characteristics of a red dogwood (for example) can be ascertained with the use of light. That’s to say that human beings only extend themselves so far in the dimensions of light. Deducing the work of other dimensions, such as touch or taste or smell or movement, from light is to make what is equal secondary. Perhaps the darkness didn’t need to be dispelled, or replaced, and perhaps the light, as a form of darkness (which I argued yesterday), and the colours that come from its intersection with darkness, is sculpture as well, in the same way that a church sculpts men and women.


The feel of bark, the cool of a tree, the rush of its height, these are all meaningless to light… yet not to the earth and certainly not to humans. We apprehend them directly with out bodies. They are us. They dance us. They extend us.



Or we extend them. Strange, isn’t it, how such a useful tool, the scientific imagination, that can carve the undifferentiated light into shapes made out of secondary vibrations (the intersections between light and matter) like this…


… can erase the essential human-ness of the tree, when you are within its presence, or, perhaps better, the essential tree-ness of the human within its presence. In my discussion yesterday, I drew on the work of the poet scientist Goethe, who pointed out that the tools Newton used to split light …


 Starling After Rain

… created a science of split light, not a science of whole light. Light, he pointed out, was white; it came from the sun in one undifferentiated mass. Only a tool cut it up. When it was put it back together, it was actually something else altogether, like this:


Frankenstein’s Monster On the Search for Love

In other words, light disassembled and put back together is not light. Not according to Goethe. I think this might actually be an empirical thought, graspable if we just stop for a moment and reinterpret Goethe. What is his “white light”? Why, God. God might not be in fashion these days, and not always seen as an equal partner for science, but in Goethe’s day God certainly was. Humans can see in the dark, he told us.



Chinese Elm, Seen in the Dark

I mean, just because we see light, doesn’t mean that light isn’t a form of darkness, and that the process of ‘seeing’ it isn’t an abstraction in the same way that a man is carved into a statue and something of his spirit, or the spirit of the sculptor is said to be there, or the way in which the ponderosa pine, below, is created out of an unbroken extension of time, leading directly back to the Big Bang.

P1620066 But that’s not what I wanted to say, not completely. I wanted to point out that we are bodies in a physical world; we apprehend the world physically, and the forms we see, are real forms, not light. The light is just a way of apprising them from a distance.P1640983

Red-Tailed Hawk Bending Weighing Down a Poplar’s Crown

Some day we’re going to have to touch them. The work has been done to make us human and to differentiate us from the mass of the world, but it was roughly done, and done too simply. Goethe tried to point that out, 200 years ago. I’m stumbling into that darkness now, and seeing, like he did, that it’s not dark, at least not in the sense of being a place of diminishment of blindness.



It is a place of extension across distance. Light would be nothing to us without the sense of a body to ground it. Every moment is art.



Old Peach Trees

Every moment of science is art. This separation has gone on far too long. We’ve made humans.


Gundestrup Cauldron

This is how you make humans.

It’s the most vital remnant of Celtic culture, and nobody knows who these figures are. The stag-headed Cernunnos is the common guess, but look, just look at those antlers and then look at this for a second:




Then back to the antlers…


They are growing out of a head that is anchored to a body that is holding a snake, ancient symbol of the earth. It’s a tree, growing out of the ground, in an ancient story of rebirth, fertility and growth — a story, in other words, about life as a force in and of itself, and about the earth as both human and deer (but not fish or lion). That life force coming from the earth is very celtic. It’s also an amazing intellectual leap, as is also the concept that it’s not the tree that is the human, but that the earth is a body itself, like a human, that gives the tree, and that this power can be created in a cauldron and passed on to others as the food of life. A feast is not just about calories. Here’s the snake at Siebenfelsen, to demonstrate just how celtic all this is.


The earth is not just an inanimate rock. That is the light talking. It is an entire intellectual edifice, and our ancestors have created us out of that. We are them. When we walk through the hills, they are walking through the hills.

P1320017 copy

John Day Painted Hills National Historical Monument, Oregon

Next: environmental and scientific consequences and opportunities.