Green Bees in the Rabbit Brush

Walking along above Kalamalka Lake today, I found the first rabbitbrush of the season in full bloom.

yellowOh, and aren’t the bees happy!

yellowbee2

 

Covered in pollen, just like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, except this is A Rabbit Brush Dream! Time to fill up those pollen sacs!

edge2And spread those wings.

yellowbeeAnd perch at the very top of the sun…

perchedIt also works if you’re not a bee, or me.

butterAnd, of course, the Apostemon Goddess comes…

green

 

Apostemon… Titania… how could Shakespeare have got that so wrong?

 

 

 

 

 

The Biggest Mystery of All

Why yellow pollen?

white4sweatGreen Sweat Bee in the Chicory On Her Way Home

Why white pollen?

white2

Wasp Bathing in White Chicory Pollen

No Yellow Pollen Cheating in the Mullein for Her

I just don’t know. For two weeks I have been working towards a list of really big questions, to lay out the outline for a new way of imagining the university. I’m thinking now that I can lay these questions out, a few each day, and build up a series of hypotheses and vital questions quite cleanly. I’m going to try that. But today, the really big question — “Why white pollen?”

blue

Why yellow?

salsify2Salsify

I dunno, but I think  the structure of the universe is explained by this.

When is a Weed a Weed? When Isn’t It?

Scotch thistle is listed as a noxious weed. To whom?

P1120747Not to Western Swallowtails tattered by the wind.

P1120796Not to green sweat bees.

P1120730

Not to bumblebees and Western Swallowtails at once. Maybe to ranchers grazing their cattle on old Syilx food gardens.

 

 

 

Writing for the Future: An Ecology of the English Language

I wrote this for my writing blog, Witual, today, and thought that while I compile a post about new vegetables for the Okanagan, you might like to have a look about how the English language is itself an ecology, and the ways it is used change the earth. You can see Witual, and snoop through its past posts (all mostly very short), here: Click. You can read the post below. First, an image of the edge of a line a man cut across the living earth, thinking it was dead …

P1060621Holes, Occupied

“Hole” is an English word, but it is not a thing. The language is older than “things”. At the root of English, a hole is the trace left by one of the powers of the universe. In the case of the image below, it is the process of hole-ing.

P1060623Bumble Bee Hole, Life-Sized

Similarly, rain is not a thing. It is the trace left by one of the processes of the universe. In the case of the image below, it is the process of raining. But don’t mistake it. This raining is not the falling of rain. It is the materialization of an eternal force. It is its presence. This makes water form out of air.

skahaRain in the Grasslands, Skaha Lake

That is the root of the language. All of the elaborations laid on top of that Old Norse foundation don’t erase that. They merely move through it and recombine it, but when the words are used, that’s what they mean. It goes without saying that a story or a poem is also a force of the universe. You did not make it. In the image below, a novel is making itself known in the wind and the rain, as water beads on the needle brushes of a young ponderosa pine at dusk.

P1140217Think of yourself, writer, as the flash that was present for a moment in the story before it blew on in the wind and the water. It is time, I think, to leave the books behind. Novels were a new thing once, a kind of story that could live totally within social space. They forgot, however, that this is also social and ethical space:

P1140127The Mathematics of the Physics of the Big Bang Dancing on a Saskatoon Bush

The mistake was that human identity is separate from the world. It is, in part, but not always. Humans have homes because they do need to go home. The mistake was based on a faith in the magic of words, and the loss of the knowledge of what those words were doing, or what they were for. The words, however, have not died. They are still doing their magic in the world, moving with energy as it manifests itself, moves matter, and then dissipates again in the wind and the light.

balsam21Arrow-Leafed Balsam Root in Bloom

The bloom does not come from the flower. The flower and the bloom, a force of the universe, intersect for a moment. Then the bloom passes on. It’s like a wind.

There are hundreds of verb-noun pairs in the language that come from this Old Norse source. If you’re going to write a poem in this age, you should know the paths you have. You are aboriginal. You are indigenous. You carry deep knowledge and deep magic. Whoever you are. If you speak English, you have this. If you turn from it, well, you are turning from it. You are turning from the power of the earth and a language that can touch it effortlessly. If your intent is to write about the earth, or to live in it, it’s simply leading you into a maze. Yes, a maze is an art form, that also focusses the energies of the universe. It will not, however, lead you to this other manifestation of the same energy …

P1060313

Green Sweat Bee

It follows lines of energy in the air.  This too is what the Big Bang looks like today, as it begins to still.

… until you walk out of it again. It is the same with modern English, and your novels, and your poems. They are not your home. Don’t try to live there. All that can live there are characters. What can’t live there is life. If you try to live there, you will find you have no words for the earth. At first you will look like this …

P1060258

Yellow-Bellied Marmot

Reclaiming a subdivision of the land.

… but slowly you will see the Big Bang in a smoke bush …

P1060264

… and human stories in the earth …

P1060088This is Not a Human Story. It is Not a Novel. It is Not Science. It is Not Competition.

No one was hurt in this encounter, that saw the stink bug pushed off to the side of the flower amount later when the wild bee touched it. Only a habit of language tells you that it is so.

If you find yourself writing about the earth and the forces of the universe as if there was competition there, or as if it were a novel, with characters, remember, somewhere, deep inside yourself that you are talking about yourself. If it was your intent to talk about the earth, you will have to deal with your language. It got you there. It can get you back. You can chose to live. The language allows you that. You are one among many, existing in time and space.

P1050884

You can make a line through that, but it goes through it. And then what? You’ve left the story? Fine enough. But what about your readers? What about your children? Will you give them this, if they want to look outside your book (And what is a book, but a representation of the language and your use of it to see the world?)

P1060248Young Yellow-Bellied Marmot in the Wasteland

… or will you give them this?

 P1050953 Mock Orange

You can’t give them both. I suggest you adjust the form of your novels and poems to make a suitable home for your readers and descendants in time. The language connects your body to the earth and the earth to your body. If you leave it, you will end up here, sooner than you like:

P1000048

This didn’t happen out of the blue. This is what the English language looks like. Notice the green, Old Norse words there at the right, making air. Notice the graffiti from a young person who wanted out, but had no words for it other than a statement of presence and identity. It’s a start. Human bodies aren’t easily written out. Shouldn’t we be writing them back in?

Prickly Pear Cactus in Bloom on the Sea Bed of the Mid-Pacific Ocean

I wonder if those volcanic islands that erupted at the floor of the Pacific Ocean 120,000,000 years ago, collided with North America, and erupted again as they broke up and formed these mixed hills of tangled volcanoes and ancient mid-ocean sea floor had the code for these prickly pears written into their flows and plutons. Because it sure looks like it….

P1020482 Brittle Prickly Pear, Bella Vista

Brittle Prickly Pears don’t bloom every year, but the light and heat were just right last year, and the water this spring came at the right time, and they’re blooming now …

P1020488 Look at that beautiful green pistil in the centre of the flower. I wonder if that’s why sweat bees are this colour …

greenLook again. From the smallest beginnings, great diversity develops in systems that arise from each other. Today I wanted to share my excitement at the beauty of the spring. Tomorrow…some cool images of evolution in progress. Oh, and as the prickly pears say about the future, long, long, long hence …

P1020496

Dandelions, Awake!

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce you to the neighbourhood quail doing their tra la la back in the sweet time of flowers and weeds. At night, this stretch belongs to the coyotes, owls and deer, who have their own mysterious thing going on, but right now it’s time for cooing and head bobbing and, oh, did you see that coffee growing at the side of the path?withquail

Friendly Agriculture 

Quails, dandelions, and humans sharing an ecosystem.

Back in the Second World War, the danes, being clever and thrifty, blended their coffee with dandelion and chicory to make it go further, because nothing went very far back then and ships had a habit of sinking. Well, that’s one form of agriculture. Here’s another …

sprayed

Industrial Apple Orchard in the Week of Chemicals

Those dandelions under the trees have been poisoned with an industrial brew pioneered by Monsanto, called glyphosate. I don’t recommend eating them.

Ironically, there just might be more money in those dandelions than in the royal gala apples above them, in which there really isn’t any money at all, but lots of expenses. This, for one…

800px-Glyphosate-3D-balls

Glyphosate

Down at the molecular level, in the children’s construction toy model design often favoured by chemists. The stuff ain’t cheap.

Dandelions are cheap, though. Their leaves make salads, their flowers make wine, their tea is anti-carcinogenic, and their roots make coffee, especially in the winter, when they store their minerals for the dark and look like this…

withcarrots

Dandelions Hanging Out With Their Carrot Buddies

Note to self: wash them in a bucket next time. Sheesh.

I mean, if queen anne’s lace can make the journey from weed to agriculture, why can’t dandelions? One way is to roast them….

roasted

Dandelion Roots, Toasted

Note to self: a lower temperature gives a bitter coffee; a higher temperature gives a sweeter one, but don’t go too high, as high temperature toasting of any food is ill-advised.

And a little fun with the coffee grinder gives this…

powdered

Dandelion Root Coffee, Ready to Go

Just add water, wait five minutes, and … oh, isn’t that nice.

Actually, it tastes better than coffee. Not a secret, I guess. The neighbours have been in on it for a long time …

beetlelion

Beetle Waiting for a Cuppa

Why is it that humans are always the last to know?

The great thing is that you don’t have to go down to Starbucks and buying it for a kazillion kronur a pound, but can pick it up most anywhere and slip it into the oven as it cools after you’ve cooked your dinner. Why, just the other day I found some just along the side of the road …

starb2

Oops, Not That One.

Ah, this is better…

P1150181

Oh, Shoot!

Why is it that people put cigarette butts into their cold coffee? Isn’t that, like, gross?

Ah, this is better…

P1150179

Dandelion Keeping Its Coffee All to Itself

If this plant were harvested and kept cool, it could be encouraged to produce fresh spring salad in the middle of January, when the coyotes were nipping the frost off of their feet outside and the deer were making clouds with their breath. I mean, if you don’t want coffee.

As for the danes, here’s another weed that they used to use to stretch their precious wartime coffee yet further…

P1330616

Chicory

Notice how little respect it has for the military technology of barbed wire fences.

Same as dandelions: it grows everywhere; just dig it up, roast the roots, grind, and you have food security. The alternative, of course, is this:

security

University of British Columbia Okanagan Administration Building

Instead of an agricultural university, we have been gifted one on the golf course model. Note the very secure golf club carrying rack on the back of this scooting-around vehicle. Note. too, the heavily fertilized weed-free lawn in the background, just right for the 8th hole. Easy does it. No wild swinging and thrashing. You wouldn’t want to break any glass. Oh, wait. They’ve taken care of that. Notice all the nice golf ball proof brick. 

Did you notice the revolution brewing, as they always seem to do on university campuses, despite the best attempts of administration to stamp them out? Here’s a closer view:

close

The Revolution Begins

Like I said, why is it that humans are always the last to know?

Beats me.

gswb

Green Sweat Bee

Just gathering some chicory pollen at the side of the road. Twelve hours before the humans came with a mower and did what the danes knew better than to do.

Mariposa Lily: an Indigenous Food Crop Reborn

In open agriculture, indigenous crops take their rightful place as efficient water farmers on dry hillsides. One of the most beautiful of these crops is the mariposa lily. In most parts of its range, it is a white lily, with a dark centre, but here it has a colour all of its own …

Mariposa Lily with a Green Sweat Bee, Bella Vista

This plant maintained early Mormon settlers in Utah during through catastrophic years of crop failure and hordes of grasshoppers. It was a staple of the Sylix, here on the northern edge of Plateau culture.

By mid-summer, once they have farmed the water that is moving through the ecosystem of the hills, mariposa lilies look like this…

Mariposa Lilies

Their seeds scatter at the lightest brush of their pods.

These plants are hardy perennials, with low water requirements, which fall in the wettest months of the year. They have trouble seeding themselves in mats of cheatgrass, but even on cheatgrass slopes, they readily find vole gardens to sprout in, and do very well when planted out as bulbs. In fact, many varieties are commercially available as landscape flowers. They are also well-suited to extreme drought conditions. The bulbs have a mechanism by which their roots flex and lower them to the optimal depth (about fifteen centimetres down). Once established, they last for years. If you don’t eat them, of course! Mariposa lily bulbs are starchy, and not unlike potatoes. The seedpods taste similar to fresh peas. They can be confused with death camas, so have a positive identification. Because of their perennial nature, mariposa lilies can be grown as a starch bank, to be used in years of need, and then slowly built up again in years of plenty. This is a plant that could support an agricultural industry supplying indigenous food crops, as healthy alternatives for the growing North American indigenous population.

 

They would fetch a pretty price and create a lot of culinary excitement. What’s more, with the renewing capacity of fire removed from the hillsides, extensive replanting would be of tremendous benefit to the ecosystem, especially to its most beautiful bees but also to the honey industry as a whole, and your neighbourhood vole would love you. Hey, love is good, right?

 

Surely This is the Life!

Billions are spent to send men to the moon. Now the talk is of Mars. Telescopes are trained on space to find distant planets, orbiting distant stars, that are capable of sustaining life. But, you know, the universe makes the kind of stuff it’s good at. Chances are, if there are other worlds, they are just as likely to be here as anywhere else.

Crab Spider on a Mariposa Lily Bella Vista Grassland

Two species that seem to be surviving the replacement of the grasslands with weeds, more or less.

These spiders spend their lives in aerial, floral worlds. Think of it. There is a plant, that eats the sun and lives in the air, only lightly settling down on the earth to keep from being blown away, and there is a creature that lives within it, in the light. Maybe this earth is not one world, but thousands, if not millions, all of them possibilities of the universe that take on a particular shape when they strike a particular planet — in our case a world of life. Maybe the world is a universe in which worlds show up in different life forms, and this one is raised up into the air and the light. At any rate, it’s beautiful, and sometimes surprising, too…

Green Sweat Bee and Crab Spider Together

No doubt, the spider was waiting for something a little less formidable. (That’s her, to the left of the bee. Those narrow purple petals are actually very stiff, and force the bee to climb down into the pollen and then up onto the pistil to get to the next patch of pollen, and up and down and up and down. They make a pretty good hiding place for a spider, too, should she need one.)

Beauty is the sense of balance that sorts the universe out, and since science is a part of the universe, it sorts scientific ideas out, too. A little more time spent out in the grasslands might give many of the answers being sought for right now among the stars.

Neon Green Bee 2: Wild Interface

A few days ago, I found a neon green bee up in the hills. Yesterday, I found a different species  of these beauties. Here’s her story…

Ditch Flowers

A splash of blue mid-day, and closing up for the night, chicory lives in long linear colonies in the Okanagan. 

An invasive weed to some, cornflowers bloom around the roads here in the summers, and then in an effort to eradicate them midsummer, road crews mow them down, effectively spreading their seeds for miles. I’ve peered into a lot of them, and have found no insects, but look what happens when they’re put up against wild land …

A Second Species of Green Sweat Bee!

Unlike the one I found last week, her abdomen is drab in colour.

But just look at what she and her sisters are collecting…

White Pollen!

Talk about specialty products capable of wowing the world.

Someone’s on this right now, right? Right? Here’s a new agricultural product that could be grown out on the hills, cheating the cheatgrass out of a bit of dominance, and supporting wild bee populations. If someone gets his or her head around some cool bee breeding or domestication, then white pollen, and who knows what other kinds of pollen, can be selectively harvested. After all, something’s got to keep the green sweat bees alive, out there on the hills, where almost all the flowers have been destroyed by cheatgrass.

White Clover

Showing how to beat cheatgrass: rise above it so that you’re there when it’s not. 

Cheatgrass may steal all the early season water and make life rough if not impossible for most wildflowers, but any that can get above it will thrive in the wet month of June, when cheatgrass has already, prematurely, gone to fire starter. Chicory looks like it could do that.

It’s a different world out there now. Let’s work with it. The bees sure are trying to.

Neon Green Bee

This is a story of a beautiful wild bee. It is also the story of a beautiful wild flower that she adores. First, the flower. In a few spots on the grasslands where the Great North American Desert starts to blend in with the trees, meadow voles still till the soil and mariposa lilies still bloom (although lightly now) at the end of June. Here is a small colony in the needle-and-thread grass, bunchgrass, arrow-leafed balsam root, and sagebrush, their old friends from when these hills were fire-tilled gardens, managed and harvested by the Syilx people.

The Last of the Old Gardens

Fire hasn’t been seen here for ninety years.

Here’s what mariposa lilies look like just as they begin to open. It’s no surprise that they’re sometimes called grassland tulips, although it’s too bad that the colonial name makes them sound decorative, rather than the food staple that they were (their corms [think: bulbs] were strung on lines, hung in the smoke over cooking fires to dry, and then eaten the long winter through). Rarely has food looked so good.

A Winter Snack Blooming in Late June

Most of their charm, however, comes when you peer into their blooms, like, um, a giant bee, or the sun, that’s right. Just lean over, and peer right in, and …

Mariposa Lily in Full Glory

Well, I thought that was a mariposa lily in full glory, but then I peered into one and saw this…

Green Head Rising

At first, I thought it was a beetle, cuz I’ve seen green beetles like this all over in the hills and up into the plateau, but then it crawled out further (With a heavy load of pollen, half drunk on nectar, and caught like velcro by all the pollen filaments, it took a couple minutes to make the long climb…it was like birth itself.), and …

It’s a Bee!

She moved in short spurts of a couple centimetres, and then she got herself into position on the edge of the flower, before flying away …

The Spirit of the Lily

Look at the load of pollen! I think I’ve found the goddess of the grass. Here she is in a closeup…

Green Sweat Bee

Check out her amazing toes. If you’re going to make the gruelling climb out of the depths of a flower, you need the right equipment, for sure.

These females live independently, raising their young in burrows in the soil. Sometimes up to 25 females will congregate in nursery colonies, but each will still raise her young independently. The males spend their time slowly flying around flowers, hoping one of these ladies will show up. Well, yeah.

Tomorrow: Chapter 2 in the flower-insect dance in the old gardens that are the hills and which were misread by the first settlers.