Cascadia: Land of Fire

Cascadia rises out of the seabeds of the continental plains, where a hot, conductive current rises from deep in the earth and shears and curls around the impenetrable ancient rock of the North American Craton. We call this column of fire Yellowstone.P2040102It is a wave of energy and resistance that creates mountains.


They rise from fire and create zones of cold, commonly called snow, in the ocean they made into the dry prairies of the Upper Missouri River. So are rivers born out of mist.


So is winter born out of summer air.spill It too pours in rivers over the plains.livingston It reaches out.fog1

Rivers are everywhere in this ripple in the sky. They squeeze the sky onto the dry earth.


Just as they are squeezed by rock that is still rising in a massive wave.


Not all leave the fire mountains, having molten the sky, or at least not yet. First, they pour through the caldera of the volcano, in a country of fire.


The fire here is green, but it burns just the same. These are the great fire pines of the North West. They are born in fire and die in it.P2060570And are born in it again.


They live on the caldera wall.wall Look at them lick with flame among the bones of their mothers.P2060583 Look at them drink the molten sky.P2060606 Look at them grow on the ash of old volcanoes.P2060622 The fire is not still. It still drives hot water out of the deep earth: snowmelt and rain and water squeezed out of the beds of ancient seas.P2060527 Here, too, fire pines burst into flame from the soil…


…and the water …


…grow old in the sky…P2050485

… and return to the fire.


It is not a linear wave. It is happening all at once.

P2050346 The fire does not consume.P2050370


It is the fire. We who walk here are in the fire.P2060276 It is the water. We who walk here are burning water.P2060145 And it is the sky. We who walk here stop, as the land has stopped, and give ourselves over to new forms.pool Some volcanoes erupt very slowly.P2050790

This is one. In it, water and fire are one.


In it, we live, who live in Cascadia.


Nature is a foreign word in this fire country. As soon as you see nature, you know you are not here.



As I was making an image of the pines below …


… a woman walking past looked up and said, “I don’t see anything there. Just a whole lot more pines.” She didn’t see this…


… or if she did, she didn’t see that this lone aspen is this hot pool…


… or these splashes of magma…


… or that there are creatures …


… who eat this fire …


Calling it nature makes it random and wild. Look at it…


… it’s not random. Look at it …


… it’s not wild. Humans have the capacity to be this energy.

pool2 When they are not this energy …prismatictres

… they invent nature, where, before, the fire rose up…

P2050800 … and rose up higher …P2060145

… and sang.


Without poets, we would be living on a dying earth. We would be dying and contemplating turning ourselves in to machines. That is the age that abstract culture has made in its own image. This is the world that humans live in…

P2060042 These differing worlds are equally abstract. They are equally simple.P2070086

But you do have to choose.


I have. I hope you can find your way to the earth, too.

The Music of the Sun at Yellowstone

Here are some images of music (or mathematics) from Yellowstone.


I know, we’re all used to hearing music, but look:


Dramatic stuff!


And we’re used to viewing photographs as visual artefacts, I know, but isn’t this music?


We’re used to seeing stuff like this as art, but look at those patterns. I can hear them, without sound.


Or, rather, isn’t the earth here the sound?


And the seeing?


Maybe it’s not the hearing that makes music. Maybe it’s the music in it.


At any rate, I’m glad of this physically embodied music…


… and awed to be standing within it. I don’t need to hear it.


I am music. The men below are not just fishing. They are music.


The Fire Hole River below is not just water.


This hot spring singer is not just giving voice. His body is as much the voice as his trill.


His body is the trill of the hot spring below.


All of it is song.The sun is composing it.


And playing it.


And rising up.


If we are to have a science, let us begin with the sun’s music, not mathematics.


We will arrive at the same place, just deeper within ourselves.


And that makes all the difference.


The Beaches of Cascadia

If your country started out as a chain of volcanoes …P1790654 …very exotic volcanoes…P1790660 … in the tropical Pacific, very different volcanoes ….P1790674 … in five different island chains over 150 million years …P1790692 … and if they then drifted across the sea and crashed into North America, lifting new volcanoes up into the clouds …P1790700 … and welding the bits together …. aP1790726 … and then if super-cooled, subglacial water had blasted all that away and the sea had a go at it for 10,000 years ….P1790729 … why, then your beaches might look like this, too.P1790764 All beaches are beautiful, of course, but these are the beaches of Cascadia.P1790782 To be more specific, these are the beaches of the newest chain of islands to crash on the shore, Islandia.P1790786 And if you lift your head and look across the last water to the previous chain, now uplifted and ice-carved and creating rain, why it might just look like this…P1790797

…and if you lived there, and if you knew that, you would never see a mountain again. You would see the earth, alive.



Riding Across the Face of the Sun: the Case for Beauty

A sail is a solar-powered device, which inserts itself within the intersections of solar, aquatic and atmospheric energy, all of which ultimately formed either by the sun or by the forces of gravitational attraction which created the solar system and which remain in the spinning of the earth.P2010217

Sailing On Lake Okanagan on a Smoky Afternoon

A sail acts, in other words, like water tension, as demonstrated yesterday in the shared (although reversed) mechanisms of the water strider…

… and the leaves of the big sage.

If you missed that post, you can read it here: click. For today, here’s another creature riding the winds of the sun.


I know, solar winds are winds of energy, photons and waves, ejected from the sub-nuclear processes within the sun. My point is that once they strike the earth, a planet in which light, stone and the orbiting water of crashed comets are united in matrices much like water tension, called life — a planet in which the sun joins with atmosphere and water to lose its straight lines and flow in new form — wings, sails, splayed legs and leaf hairs are all devices for moving through the sun. Your lungs ride boundaries in much the same way. So do these sumac leaves:


They too are walking on water. They too are riding the winds of the sun. I point this out because the world is beautiful, and this conception fits with the beautiful order of the universe, but also because it can lead to new technological breakthroughs that will bring technological science closer to the universe and will lead technological civilization farther from the impoverishment of the earth. Beauty matters. It can change the world.

Return to the Snake River at the End of Time

High above the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, in the southeastern reach of my plateau homeland,  the Camas Prairie catches the sky. The camas once bloomed in blue fields here. Now wheat transforms ammonium nitrate into bread.P1860323And bread into guns.P1860349

Below these fertilized heights, the Snake River flows, in a canyon more than a mile deep.



It’s a beautiful place.


I took a boat trip up the Snake in June. The guide said, “The Nez Perce [Nimíipuu] didn’t use this canyon much. There wasn’t much here for them.” He told stories of gold miners, prospectors, steamboat pilots, and sheep farmers. Lots of sheep farmers. Sheep eat grass. Beautiful grass.


No sheep there now, though. For that, you need sheep farmers, and for sheep farmers you just don’t need your own government dropping this on your head…

That’s “B Reactor” at Hanford, on the Columbia to the west. It produced the plutonium for the Trinity Test and the Nagasaki Bomb and a lot of other warheads as well. Along the way, it produced a mess of nasty isotopes, which were experimentally released into the air, to see what would happen. It killed sheep farmers is what.


No sheep, see? The remaining sheep ranches have been turned into US Park Service sites. As for the Nimíipuu, well, it’s not true that they didn’t use this land, either. After all, this the trail that Joseph and his band from the Wallowa used to take down to the river, where they overwintered (for half of every year [!!!!!!!]}

P1880654 2

And why? Well, look. A spirit rock.P1880663


Spirit rocks, formed by spines of old rock thrust up in the volcanic regime, are great places to fish. In indigenous earth, story and practicality join, but spirit comes first. You can pick a fishing spot by its spirit stories and know there will be fish there. 12,000 years of experience helps.


And what better place to fish than the mouth of the Salmon River? Here it is, entering the Snake. It’s best to think of it as a living thing.


In Joseph’s time, and in the time of his ancestors, the Snake (in the foreground) would have been ten times the strength of the Salmon. Now its flow is controlled by dams upriver. It would have backed up into an amazing fishing eddy, rather than the simple curl of a rapid it ends in now. Here it is looking down the Snake, just south of the confluence. Picture look a bit wobbly? Such is boat life.

P1880839 Here is the foreshore of the Nimíipuu winter camp. The mouth of the Snake is to the immediate right.P1880827

Hardly an issue of not using the canyon. Modern roads …


… are not so smart, like this one slashing across the spirit path down this draw and through the ancient story of stone at its mouth. Here it is closer…


Talk about being unable to read the land, or the water. The image below looks north, up the Snake. The Salmon is entering from the left. Does it look like we’re eddying in circles?  Such is also boat life.


Was there ever a better space to spend half your life? The salmon caught just downriver here at the next series of spirit rocks in the Snake sustained Lewis and Clark on their return from their big scientific [spy] journey [reconnaissance] to the Pacific in 1804. They were camped on the other side of the Camas Prairie, along the Clearwater River, at the Heart of the Monster, the place where the Nimíipuu began and, still, the centre of the homeland (well, except for the Camas Prairie, perhaps).

They were starving, because they had tried to pass the Rockies to the east too early in the season, against advice. Three men went to the fishing camp on the Salmon, a hard two days’ journey either way, for a handful of fish, all rotting except for one by the time they got them back. At the camp, they had to stand in line for their fish. It was very early in the fishing season. The few fish that were being caught were released to people from all the bands of the Nimíipuu on a needs basis. The Americans had to wait their turn. That doesn’t sound like an unused river to me. This is what a river looks like when it is used.


This is what a river looks like when it is unused. Yes, that’s the ruin of a sheep ranch.


And this is what a canyon land looks like once sheep have trashed it. Not a scrap of bunchgrass in sight.


What astonishes me is that once the settlers have proven that neither they nor their government can really look after the land, it is not returned to its people and their spirit rocks.

Dunno. I guess the boat guide calling the images at Buffalo Eddy, like the one above, “crap” is a clue. One first step, now that the river is being viewed not as a spiritual story but as a physical one, one of geography and nature…


Moon Above the Weeds, Asotin

… is to regain the spiritual story within that nature. I don’t mean some New Age world of charms and crystals and good feelings, although that can be beautiful enough. I mean, reading the life energy again in the land…lone

… and rebuilding memory out of it. Right now, B Reactor is forgotten, the Nimíipuu are forgotten, Lewis and Clark are remembered poorly, the Snake is forgotten, the fishing sites and winter camps are forgotten, although it is out of memory that thought and identity is made. Without them, there is no consciousness. The Snake is conscious, in its riverine way. Can you read it here at Buffalo Eddy?

be Shouldn’t all culture be as conscious as that? And with as much life as this:


Eventually one has to leave the Snake …


Eventually one has to go back. Next time, let’s go together. Let’s go deep. Let’s go to the river of stone that falls from the sky.


Let’s start with that.




The Voice of a Great Cascadian River

Chapman’s Bar: a gravel bar in the Fraser River.P2000130As the heat breaks, the rain begins in the ancestral homeland of the grassland peoples.

P2000161 Some rocks never dried out. The spring river made a nest around this one.P2000171 The rain washes off the muck of logging that has come down the river from the plateau.P2000177 Rocks are life. If you think with the earth.P2000174 Beautiful life!P2000223


Beautiful rocks!

P2000146Volcanic rifts, volcanic islands, subductions, stratovolcanoes, plutons, island arcs, metamorphoses, uplifted seabeds carved by glaciers and all rounded by water: ah!


This is the river talking and taking us home.

Creation is Now

Water flows.waterSometimes this flowing takes 100,000 years. Here’s the bed of a glacier from 12,000 years ago, under the deepest part of the continental ice. This was the divide. 2 miles of ice reached up from here. The last of it formed this lake at the foot of the subglacial rivers this tree is growing upon. Look at the tree. It reaches up. It’s stiff, because it’s made of carbon.P1980188

But carbon, that is bound with water, bends, not like the water, and not like the straight arrow the fir aspires to above, but like that fir, and these sedges, half way between hydrogen and oxygen molecules and carbon itself, it bends, it flows, it sways, it springs back and it climbs the ladder of carbon chains, up and up and up.P1980005

Look at these spruce and pines, citizens of fire between the flowing of the sea through the air and the winter’s snow, molten and rippling with the energy of the turning earth.P1980379


The fire will come, and take its carbon, but for now, ah, now it is the time of water talking to light.



Last image: Bowron Lake.

Other images; Big Bar Lake.

All images © Harold Rhenisch 2015.

Cascadia’s Flower

In Lewiston, Idaho, the mariposa lilies are beautiful.P1900393

In Chelan, Washington, they are different altogether.


And here in the North Okanagan, they have two shades. First, the lilac, slightly brighter than in Chelan, a bit more translucent and with brighter pistils…


… and this (about 5%, on the hill above my house), which brings that intense colour out to the petals…


One very useful map of Cascadia would layout the variations in mariposa lilies, and then map that to variations in human culture and language. A parallel map would follow the changes in the scents of rabbitbrush and big sage, which grow harsher and sharper with every drainage north. Here’s a mariposa lily growing in the shade of a Big Sage. Note how deep the colour is when the sun is off of it! Note how the sage stays bright.


These are deep mysteries.

Where the Heart is Home: A Celebration

I love this land. I guess you know that. I am this land. Other writers might talk about identity and ego and alter ego and personality, but I just want to take you out to the bitterroot, to the old ones, and help you to see what I have learned to see. Look!


Straight out of volcanic ash 55,000,000 years old, way down south in the John Day Hills. This is the land itself. Look at her. I don’t expect you to understand. How could you? But if you want to know why I keep at this, look.


Isn’t my country beautiful? Aren’t I blessed to be a part of her? Isn’t this a great responsibility? I used to think my country was the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada. Now I know it is a collection of tropical volcanic islands that are continuing to collide with North America, stretching from Yellowstone and the Giant Redwoods, north to Alaska. I live in the middle of all that, but way in the south, ah, my heart is there as much as it is here. Others who live in my country, who call themselves Canadians and Americans, as I did before I began these journeys of close attention to the red earth, have their universities and their literatures, their psychologies, their economies, their arts councils and business investment banks. I just have the land now.


Ah, but look at her!  Today, it has been 1000 journeys into the grass for us here on Okanaganokanogan. I have learned to read the land’s stories. Look.

turtle3That’s an ancient story, in the bed of Dry Falls. Most of the fresh water of the world, when the world still had fresh water, flowed over this stone turtle, and made it in its shape, out of basalt cliffs like the one you can see in behind. Now I get to walk through it at 45 degrees Celsius, which is about the right temperature, if you ask me. I’ve learned to see gravity, too.


And good friends have battled up against it with me, in a kind of dry land surfing. Oh my. I’m still the farmer, though, although I’ll never have a farm. I’m the man with his roots in 10,000 years of a conversation with the land, or is it 20,000 years, or 50,000? Look below. This is the place. It’s on the John Day River. It’s seen better days, sure, and has been replaced now by the industrial farms of the Columbia Basin, but look at her. I could live there, if borders didn’t cut my country into bits. The junipers on the hills, with my grandfather’s spirit in them. The volcanic rock, the only rock for me. The bunchgrass, that drinks the sun and the rain. The willows on the river, that speak the wind, the river running over tumbled stones, that sing, the sagebrush that drinks the heat, the heat, the mountain’s shadow, that is always moving, and the trees, with their peaches and cherries for Portland, all grown in conversation with the land. It could be ancient Persia. It could be Afghanistan. It could be Iceland, but it is here. This is my rock. The reward for working here is just the chance to be here, talking to the earth with my hands and my eyes and the heart in my chest. Go ahead, click on the picture. It’s wide. It might not speak to you of the coming together of forces it speaks of to me, but then, perhaps, you didn’t learn the world first from peach trees, as I did, and only then from books and people, in that order. These are my people. Look at them, thriving there in the sun! Look at them catching it in their arms.



A thousand posts! Look at my people, soaring above Umatilla Ridge.



So what now, eh? Well, there have been efforts to turn me into a salesman, to sell this story. There have been efforts, to take the vision out of me and replace it with arguments of utility, for the building of new agricultural technologies, but, come on. This is my real story. This is why I’m here. This stone raven at Peshastin. Click on it. Look at the head that’s in its eye.  Someone has to tell the story of how to live on the land, and how to be it.  Someone has to say, we can do this. It’s easy. You just have to give yourself away with a full and open heart.


Oh, I have new crops and new technologies here. I have a history, that starts here, not in London or New York. I have a book about the sun, and about rethinking nuclear fission, using this land and its sun. I have all that, and you soon will, too. The books are in the works, but it’s a huge job. After all, I don’t have the university to do this work, and my brothers and sisters, the writers of this country, they’re largely writing for Canada and the United States.They might not want to be, but we have to walk this path together, step by step, with the bunchgrass brushing at our thighs. We’re getting there. By the end of the year, things should look pretty grand. Look at what I’m working on now…

When I raise my arm to point out a hawk diving on a quail in a field of wild grass, I am plunging my arm into the sun. It’s all sunlight, right down to the surface of the soil. I walk through it. It flows over my skin.

I love that. I love living in the sun. It’s like that here. I can’t explain it. I’ve tried. But, hey … it’s a big job. Look, I can take you there, if you like.



Yes, that’s right. The sun is the earth. The earth is the sun. They complete each other. They were never apart. That’s Mount Hood above there, to give her a traditional name, if that helps. Beautiful, isn’t she. In my country, the earth is within the sun. I can’t explain it. But I can take you there. That’s what I can do. Here’s where I found my heart in the land.


That’s my self portrait. That’s Palouse Falls. Does it look like a man? Of course not. But it’s where I am now, after 1000 posts on Okanaganokanogan. We’re not done yet. We’re still walking. There’s still so much to love here. Thanks so much for walking with me in this grass, and through this rock. I could not have done it without  your encouragement. A thousand posts. 30,000 photos. 20,000 hours.That’s just amazing. This, though, just below, is what it’s all about. Look at the goddess of this land, the cicada, shedding her skin.

Isn’t she beautiful? Isn’t she worth living for? Isn’t she worth great praise?