Like a pack of young red-tailed hawks circling over and over above a subdivision full of cats and mice, house finches, California Quail and small dogs, I’ve been worrying an idea: it’s possible to grow fruit without irrigation systems, water loss, or land-clearing. This notion has a twin: the concept of wilderness requires as much alteration of a landscape as does the land-clearing to create an industrial orchard. In fact, here in this west of the west, where the West was the West long after the West became the East pretty much everywhere else, wilderness sprang up out of civilized space only after the people who had lived here were cleared off, either to small local reservations (the Canadian model), or huge centralized, multi-national reservations (the American model). In other words, industrial orcharding and wilderness are the same thing. This, for instance, is currently called wilderness…
Umatillo Rock, Washington (from the shores of Vic Meyer Lake)
This is wilderness.
It is wilderness, because it is a state park. Also, those russian olives are an invasive species. That’s proof, for sure.
Wilderness is, you see, a weedy proposition. So is this:
Weeds at the Peshastin Pinnacles, Wenatchee Valley
The weeds are not the Wenatchi fruiting orchard in the foreground, formed out of oregon grape, currants, saskatoons, wild cherries, and elders colonizing this heat-and-water absorbing outcropping in the dry hills. They are the pear orchards in the background, which have colonized (with a bit of help) water brought down from the Cascade Mountains in the background.
OK, OK, I’m being sly here, but, hey, if we’re going to live in this space for the long term, we’re going to have work with the landscape, not against it. I say this because we’ve tried the “against-it” thing, and what do we have, hmm? We have water shortage, massive hydroelectric dams, plutonium production reactors (moth-balled), radioactive plumes, poverty, food banks, clearcuts, weeds, roadside ditches, and bulldozed orchards, now all being turned into subdivisions of one form or another (well, not the plutonium plant, whew), because that’s the one thing all this has led to: urban growth. It’s living on borrowed time. Luckily, the evidence remains that the land was, at one point, and not that long ago in even a moderate scheme of things, understood. People worked with it. They moved as it moved. Hawks screeched overhead. The good news is that we can work with it again. One way would be to plant orchards the indigenous way, where the water already is. Capital costs would vanish. Labour costs would increase. This is a good thing. Unemployment, after all, is ridiculously high here east of the mountains. With that in mind, look what I found at Umatillo Rock, in the desert …
The Ruins of a Cider Orchard, Vic Meyers Lake
Whoever said there is no water in a desert was not in the deserts of the Plateau.
Here’s a closer look at those trees, planted to take advantage of natural water, without disrupting its pooling or its flow to where it needs to go …
What Looks like a Sculpture and Tastes Like a Tea Bag and Sings in the Sun, La la la?
A cider pear!
Here are some cider apples nearby …
Now, to me it would be a grander thing to go out and pick these apples rather than sit in an air-conditioned RV in the campground nearby, doing the recreation thing. It would be recreation, right?
Industrial agriculture, and the campground culture it supports, has a different perspective on human habitation and integration with landscape. It’s called control. It’s called subdivision, not only of land but of social space as well. Here, for instance, is where the fruit pickers of the Wenatchee Valley live today:
Transient Workers’ Camp, Wenatchee
Next to it? Why, a RV park for tourists. But tourists (often retired soldiers) and Mexicans (often fleeing the drug wars) meet only through the fruit. One group buys it in the store. One group picks it. In between? Industrial packing lines, trucking companies, and, well fences. A war was once fought to separate their countries. It remains an uneasy truce, complete with demilitarized zones large and small.
Two kinds of tourists in one landscape! Now that the Wenatchee people have all been carted away to the Colville Indian Reservation to the North and East, to make way for this wartime tourism, the fruit pickers of the pinnacles are of a kind more tasty-looking to a hawk. A big hawk.
Orchard Picker Hiding in the Shadows
Man, it ain’t easy being a hawk, either.
Ah, here he is…
Hoary Marmot a the Top of the World, Peshastin Pinnacles State Park
He has his eye on us.
My suggestion: let’s keep at least one eye on him.
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