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.

The Best Apple Pie in the World: a Very Slow Recipe

Here’s how to bake the best apple pie ever.

1. Go for a drive on the far side of the lake towards Fintry. Be curious. Stop.

First Growth Apple Orchard Gone to Roses and Elders…

and mud. Don’t forget the mud. This is Ewing in early October 2012.

2. Wander around. Taste a few seedling apples growing here and there. Let the rain run down your neck. Find this:

Apples Just Out of Reach

I jumped up and down. I worked my fingers along the branches, and eventually I got a taste. It tasted like … a bottle of apple cider in my hand. You know, the kind of stuff made by people who chisel a hole out of the mountain and keep it there in the dark and check on it once in awhile when the snow blows.

3. Dream. Remember this:

Cider Tree Smelling So Sweet

Darling of the Sun, Taste of the Earth, Beloved of the Sky, Elixir of… well, you get the idea.

4. Go back mid-March to get some grafting wood. Find this:

Bear Attack!

Black bears like apple cider, too. Good to know! Our brothers and sisters have taste and class, because this one left the other trees alone. So did I. Bah. But I think the bear who did this might do well to learn to climb a ladder.

5. Dream some more.

Mmmmm!

6. Graft it at home.

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Spring, 2013. The Fintry Apple Grafted onto a Transparent.

Note: the transparents from those blossoms were great.

7. Grow a tree. Tend it carefully. Bend the branches down and tip the ends to encourage early fruiting. Dream.

8. It grows, winter comes, you wait. You dream of apple cider.

9. Spring comes, with blossoms. You get a couple dozen apples. Amazing! Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

10. Finally, it’s late September, 2014, you pick an apple, and … it tastes exquisite, but it’s way too soft for cider. It’s an old, soft variety, not a juice-laden marvel.

11. Make apple sauce. Aha! It’s just as good as Transparent apple sauce, which is high praise indeed.

12. Make an apple pie for friends. (Shortening, flour, salt, water, apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, you know the drill. Easy does it.) It’s tart, it’s rich, it’s sweet, it’s really grand. Everyone is pleased. If we want a processing industry, and the best apple pie in the world, this is our baby.

P1500847Welcome, Fintry!

These darlings are about 2 inches in diameter, and oh-so-fine.

So far, four people and one bear have enjoyed the Fintry apple. Oh my, that just won’t do.

 

Putting a Face to Nature

This is not nature.

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It is a shrub. This is not nature.

P1500096 It is another shrub. This is not nature.

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You got it. Another shrub. This is not nature.P1500160It’s grass. This is not nature:
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It’s choke cherries at the end of the season. Yeah. Another shrub. This is not nature.P1500653It’s wire weed, reclaiming a road shoulder, with a beautiful disrespect for gravity. What then is nature? It’s a human concept. These things aren’t. But, you see, there’s a trick here. Look again. This is human.

P1500105This is human.

P1500096 This is human.

P1500083 This is human, too.

cc And this. It’s you.

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Yes, you. And even this.

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By nature, a specific kind of human attention must be meant. Otherwise the term is just no use at all. Unless, of course, you believe that you are not of this planet. If that’s the case, then you can use it. If you do, however, this is not human…

P1500105 This is not human…P1500096 Nor this… P1500083 Nope, not this, either…,cc… nor this…P1500653

… but this is, perhaps…

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Grassland Artifice

This grass was humanly sown to stabilize a slope after road construction. It has replaced a rich, living landscape with a single species.

This is how profit is drawn from the earth and turned into human economies. The life of a thousand species is concentrated down to one (humans). How could it be otherwise. It’s the mirror of human economic organization under the current world economic model. All discussions of the earth are ethical discussions.

 

Rain is Fun!

After three weeks of hot, hot weather, stretching the summer deep into the fall, gloriously, rain! Here are the first drops…P1490976 It’s like the moon!

P1490977 Why not. The moon came from here.

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And the scent that the rain and earth give to the air on impact!P1490988 Oh my! There’s just nothing like it.

P1490989 It’s like Proust and his madelaines, it is.P1490990 Now, here’s a cool effect: a tiny drop hits a rock and expands. I mean, really expands!P1490995 Oh, a bigger view (yes, I’m getting wet and hiding my camera under my shirt in between snaps)… P1500016 Neat, huh. Pshaw, that’s nothing. Look closely:P1500034Look how the earth just embraces that water, eh! That’s the way things are done on this planet. And from the other direction, so see how the light handles it:P1500033It handles it well! And pulling back again (because we can)…P1500022 Ah, we could delight in this moment all day, but it’s just that, you know, a moment. It passes. You have to enjoy it when it comes.P1500039 What a party it is!

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Whoo-hooo! That moment billions of years ago when the comets first struck the hot earth, well, it lives on! How cool is that!