Wisdom Maps

The universe is mapped out in the bark of Ponderosa pines. I spent many afternoons in my childhood trying to read them, but haven’t figured it out yet. It’s a pleasing way to move through the world, though!

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Ponderosa Pine, Ellison Park

Some maps are easier to read. Here’s one that bridges last year and the one we entered at Solstice, in the dark…

ancestorAncestor and Fir Tree, Ellison Park

Some images reappear in our dreams. Others are just here.

Sometimes map cross in other, more physical ways…

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Owl Rising from the Water, Ellison Park

The sand is an industrial artefact. It is the pink, mildly radioactive granite of a local mountain, blasted, crushed and brought in by barge for the delight of travellers’ feet.

The living earth is very, very close.

 

Chief Joseph’s Bell

Let us remember in these cold months, that the earth is alive…

fry3 Young Salmon, Hanford Reach, Columbia River

… that multiple generations and species share flows of energy, not space or land or any word or any concept that comes from words …

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Sockeye Salmon and Ducks, Okanagan Falls

These salmon represent a generation four years older than the small ones above, yet which passed by them two weeks before. The ducks are waiting for eggs.

… and that it is possible to honour our ancestors …

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Offerings, Chief Joseph’s Grave, Nespelem

… in whose stories we walk. We are here for just a short time, but the trails remain …

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Peshastin Pinnacles, High Trail

… and if the stories have been forgotten, the path, which records the original discovery of the stories, and the bringing of gifts that is their telling and re-telling, will give them to us again …

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Peshastin Pinnacles, Ancestor

… if we listen first to sound where there is no sound …

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… and then sound.

Idle No More

The Idle No More movement has my full support. Incredibly enough, the Prime Minister of Canada and his Indian Affairs Minister, both tasked with the care of the Queen’s subjects and her lands, hold a different point of view. Maybe they don’t understand history. The Prime Minister of the English Queen’s Canadian dominion, for instance, claims to be a Christian man. How he reconciles that with his intensive militarization of Canada and a rewriting of Canada’s history to align it with the views of its military and royalist elites, I have no idea. I doubt that he has ever been to the site below, because it has been so forgotten it’s not even on the map…

siebenkopf The Base of the Phallus of Siebenfelsen, Yach, Black Forest

When the Germans moved into this valley on the edge of the Roman fortified border, the celts moved up into the hills. Things stayed like that for a long time, until the celts were eventually assimilated. This is the bottom skull from the pile of stone skulls which makes the phallus of the large, multi-figured temple site at Siebenfelsen. At first glance, it looks like a random pile of stones. It bears a message, though: we stand on the graves of our ancestors. It bears an alternate message, for those who can hear: we are all Indigenous. To people worshipping other gods, even the Christian God, this kind of material would have seemed demonic. We can move on and look at it clearly now.

The ongoing relationship between Christians and Celts eventually was resolved. In one way, the old Celtic worship of life spring from the dead and of vines bearing fruit into the sky, became the German wine industry…

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Crows Resting During the Morning Vineyard Snail Feast Kaiserstuhl, Germany

A bit of German technical brouhaha added to a bit of Catholic symbolism added to a bit of roman ingenuity added to a bit of celtic worship of the wild vines on these hills, and you have Riesling spätlese mit prädikat in a tall brown bottle spattered with sparkly labels even a crow would love.

In another way, Christianity took over the forms of worship of the ancient world…

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Icon of Christ, Görlitz, Lower Silesia

My family’s homeland is in the coal fields of Silesia. It was the Golan Heights of its day. In the 1920s, African soldiers of the French Foreign Legion rode through the streets on horseback and attempted to keep the peace between the Poles and the Germans with horsewhips. This stupid behaviour led to a brutal war and the death of Silesia as a homeland. This Icon could only come from Silesia, where East met West: a Russian Orthodox art form, made out of Silesian coal, representing Christ in the place of his mother, learning from God to offer Catholic bread and wine, created out of the ancient, pre-Christian religious symbols of Eleusis. The devotion with which an article like this was carved out of coal was the main point of the art form, and is devoutly non-Catholic, as was its message of rebirth. I include it here because it shows how traditions blend. That is, at best, the way of peace, not of war.

In the collapsed economy of post-war Silesia, in which communists and nazis fought it out daily in street battles, my grandfather, Bruno Leipe, with his name on a Nazi death list, decided it was time to join a commune in Canada. In keeping with German communism, it was a very religious affair, just given a new, non-Christian and non-communist form…

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Bruno and Martha Leipe and an Unknown Man

Sharecropping for the Casorsos in South Kelowna, 1929. The best model for this situation was John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. This, however, was not California. When the economy collapsed, Casorso wrote off their bill at the company store so that they would have the money to keep going. Importantly in this, the Casorso family had been working these fields since they followed Father Pandosy three generations before. Here we see Bruno and Martha and a part of their tomato crop. I think it would be safe to say that Bruno and Martha entered the message of that Silesian icon above, in a manner that maintains the celtic-German and polish-German cultural unions that lay behind it. They show that even on this continent that degree of accommodation was humanly possible — even if broken by financial speculation in distant centres.

This tradition of unification continued, with the agricultural development of the entire Canadian Okanagan, and large parts of the American Okanogan as well. European crops were planted on native land, and in the industrial metaphor of the time created both orchards, a culture, and food. One of the last surviving orchards from that time looks like this…

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Royal Gala Apple Orchard at Winter Solstice, Bella Vista

Despite the industrialization here, something of a worship of the land, and of human resurrection through it, remains. Currently, for example, this orchard is farmed by a Sikh family, who have brought to it their own dreams of land and the wealth, both social, spiritual and economic, that can be created by working with it.

And then something happened. Specifically, Canada became an urban nation, recolonizing its land from central urban engines, at the same time at which Indigenous peoples, long shut out of industrial agriculture and its largely Christian metaphors and long victims of a policy of cultural genocide that was its mirror (and was even run by the Church), began to find their voice. The results are a tangle of competing values, written like protest slogans on the land itself…

P1330685 Snya¿stán Centre, West Kelowna

This is the land of the Westbank First Nation, set aside as a fishing and hunting site and now rented out on long term leases for wineries, strip malls, boxstore malls, hotels, restaurants, and vast retirement villas decorated to look like a piece of Toronto. The Indigenous root of this aesthetic is not the land so much as the annual ceremonies of gambling and aesthetics by which North American peoples once settled their affairs.

The Canadian Prime Minister and some (only some) Indian Bands would love to see more of this: Indian Reserves turned into urban corporations, leasing land to ease the land-ownership pressures of the Canadian economy. It contains contradictions. For one thing, those pressures need to be politically addressed, rather than just given escape valves at the expense of the land. For another, here at Okanagan Falls … P1330678 Syilx Statue, Christie Memorial, Skaha Lake

… a Syilx man celebrates the return of the salmon (held back still by the dam just out of sight in background left of the photograph), while White culture celebrates the sun by lying in it half naked.

Even if both cultural groups, Syilx and White, were to get what they want out of this political compromise, they would remain distinct cultural groups, even more separated than were the celts and Germans of the Black Forest long ago. Those groups had the land in common, and a common Roman enemy (which, nonetheless, they eventually assimilated). What contemporary groups have in common is a concept of contemporary politics, centred in urban images, and extended into the land, using the land to support its own purposes. That might sound workable, but this is what it looks like:P1160919

The Rise

Two thousand acres of the last grasslands in the Okanagan, at the mouth of a sacred Syilx valley, on land disputed still in the Land Claims process, in danger of being completely overrun by weeds because the Ministry of the Environment has seen 96% of its capacity gutted since 1990, dynamited and bulldozed into building lots, most empty, on a pyramid scheme of ever-increasing housing values, purchased by oil people from Edmonton as short-term investments, not in land but in social and economic relationships, bankrupted by the American Housing Crisis, and now 75% empty. No one lives here, and the land has been removed from the people forever. The honesty of this picture allows for a reconsideration of all of the history of Canadian occupation of this place: even though Bruno and Martha and Casorso and Pandosy before them moved into their images of paradise and gave their bodies to them, completely, there was within that an unstated destruction of other relationships to the land in favour of using the land to represent contemporary economic pressures. What gets passed on to our children in this fashion is as much those economic relationships as the spiritual ones, and so the human story narrows, rather than expands.

The land has become a resource, to be developed into a mirror for economic relationships to central areas of power. It does, of course, still contain within it lesser threads of power, with connections to the earth, natural forces, and deep spiritual connections, but history has shown that the ones that have triumphed under Canadian administration are those that destroy the earth and rewrite it as an urban space. There is great beauty and strength in urban spaces, but to recreate the whole earth in their model is asking for trouble, at worst, and a terrific gamble at best. Even the Syilx of West Kelowna are playing that game now and the Queen’s Prime Minister wants that economic success to be written across the rest of the earth under his dominion as well. In this context, a context of redefining Indigenous relationships to the earth and society within the context of a political system based on private land ownership and the transformation of land into a mineable resource in the construction of a virtual rather than a physical country, the Idle No More movement has to somehow find its way. That is a daunting task. For the moment …

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… the locals are able to sift through the empty houses on the hills, through a network of empty lots and narrow riparian corridors, but there has been talk of late of shooting them all, because they won’t move out of the way when elderly people go out to walk their lap dogs. I have deep respect for elderly people, their dogs and their relationships, especially when they choose to be a part of this land. If we’re not all on a road to becoming Indigenous, we are on a road of destroying the earth, no matter how we mask that with fancy words. Canada may have once been a beacon of hope in the world. Now it is a chain of twenty cities redefining the earth in their own image and freezing that land within images of somewhat dysfunctional contemporary political structures. In that context, for me, Idle No More means that when the choice has to be made I will stand on the side of the earth, and other people who stand with Her, every time. It also means that I will look at history in its fullest scope, rather than how it looks this week.

A Child is Born on the Road

The Road bridges east and west. On the camino, on her way east and west far to the northeast of the pilgrims walking the popular route of the Camino in Spain, the huntress of the moon …

riesaDiana, Riesa, Saxony

… became quick with the world …

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Maria (Diana), Rheinland-Palatinate

Still with her moon, but now with the ancient snake of the earth as well.

…and offered it to all people of faith. Farther east, in Silesia, in the old heart of Europe, she was reborn from the tree of knowledge, and offered its fruit …

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Maria, Görlitz, Lower Silesia

… purified …

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Honeycrisp, Orchard Hill

This year, the okanaganokanogan orchard produced one five-pointed star. It was good. Today a Child was born. Today, we are that child, each of us, reborn in our families and orchards and forests, wherever and whatever they are. Blessings, be blessed, and be.

Gate and Path

We have passed through the impassable gate…P1160714

Farm Gate, Orchard Hill

… and walked the sacred earth,

white Mare, Reykjanesviti Lighthouse, Iceland

…to rest…

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Sheepdog at Work, Laugur, Iceland

… and hold the fire high.

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Turtle Point, Okanagan Lake

And to be held. This is not a new story. We know where it goes…

elderElder, Summer Solstice, Orchard Hill)

It is a path worth walking still.

Sacred Journeys

In honour of this spinning earth that tilts towards the light and then away, here is a sacred image from the high summer of European culture, when men and women lived among the trees.
siebenschlangeSacred Celtic Serpent, Yach, Black Forest

Yach, by the way, is pronounced the Celtic way: Eich (eye-kh, in a rough English transcription).  I doubt it’s an accident that that happens to be the name of the sacred German oaks.

Now it is the dark solstice, but even so the old gods still move with us through the story of the world.

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Stag at Dusk, Okanagan Landing

The same earth, but the light is so different now.

The ways of living on and with the earth are not far. They are as close to us as breath. As we approach the celebration of the birth of a child both man and god in the darkness, I thank you for walking with me this past year, into the light and back to the world.

Solstice, and the Wisdom of the Trees

Solstice. The sun is going through a tiny hole into the darkness today and out again tomorrow. It’s not a flower, exactly. It’s just the sun. It has been a beautiful journey walking with it into the dark this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, too. Today the earth here is almost entirely white and blue. All other colours are gone now. Time, which is not a linear substance (that’s a human interpretation) has come to the density of a seed. Light is pure. Here’s some time, and light, recorded in wood…

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The story of trees is not a human narrative, with rising action, climax, and falling action leading to death, with lessons learned and hope given for a new understanding in a renewed Eden. Here at the birth of the year out of itself, it’s good to remember that such interpretations of the lives of our sisters are only stories we tell to tell our own stories to each other in the dark. The tree’s story is about branches, arriving at the same place, through processes of breath. These creatures of the sky migrate in winter, like their sisters and brothers the birds. Instead of flying south to the Gulf of Mexico, though, like the egrets, or west to the Pacific, like the loons, they fly down into the clouds of the subsurface skies. All winter long, their roots grow there in the dark. This is the knowledge of the celts. Such knowledge looks now like vineyards and forests and piles of stones. That’s just words. It’s just the industrializing metaphor of the Romans. The knowledge remains.

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Menhirs

Yverdon les Bains, Switzerland

Blessed be.

Time Travellers, Dancers, and Evolution

Instead of a science that looked at precise instants in time, constructed out of exact measurements of the kind that gave civilization (so to speak) photography, the poet Goethe proposed a science that looked at all of time as one unbroken physical space. I’d like to honour that today. (Hint! If you don’t want to bend your mind around science, today, skip to the end of this post for an illuminating picture of the heart of human-dog relationships!) In the spirit of Goethe, here are some alfalfa plants of the future…P1160727

Alfalfa Seed in the Wild

Inside each of these thousands of curled seedpods are tiny kernels, which are the plants of the future. In a science of the world, the one that Goethe proposed, the plant is not producing seeds, by which to maintain itself in an aggressive world of competition, such as the one proposed by Darwin, but are refining themselves into points of absolute purity, in relationship to themselves and to the world around them. Each of these seeds is more like a poem than a strategic military map.

In the science of freezing time, the imported alfalfa above, and the indigenous bunchgrass below, have developed out of long, branching processes of evolution. They both produce seed, but they do so very differently, representing the different ages of the world in which they first developed their strategies for survival…

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Blue-bunched Wheatgrass at Dusk

Caught in the dark thanks to a bit of artificial light. In the daytime, these stalks just disappear into the background.

In contrast, in the science of unfolding processes, or, to use a long word that ties itself into knots on my tongue, phenomenological science, the plants are part of a shared developmental process that has yet to reach completion. The story is the story of ‘plant’. It can be viewed by observing the different stages of leaf development within individuals of individual species of plant, with predictions made for the future, based upon patterns observed in the present.

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The Movement of Hedge Mustard Leaves in Time 

This image shows the pattern of variation in each leaf as it develops in the plant. Its point of origin in the unfolding plant and the time at which it originates in the sequence of development, gives it a different shape, which fits into different stages of the development of leaves originating at different points. There is no ultimate leaf shape. There is only a dance in time. Source: “Transformations in the Foliage Leaves of Higher Plants” by Joachim Bockemühl in Goethe’s Way of Science: A Phenomenology of Nature.

That’s a little rough to follow, perhaps. I think the following image (again from Bockemühl) makes it a bit more clear:

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Ripplewort as it Exists in Time

Each horizontal row represents the story arc of a leaf, with the first leaves to emerge at the bottom of the image and the later ones at the top. The wave is the story. 

Goethe thought that if he could study leaves long enough he could find the essence of a plant, the idea that plants are expressing with this dance in time, the spirit of plants, so to speak, written out in an Enlightened, scientific form. No one knows what this plant might look like, because it has not yet finished its development. However, here’s a clue (Bockemühl, again):

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The Dance, Choreographed

The developmental relationship between leaves in shown here to make a pattern that intersects in arcs, not in straight lines. Early leaves stop at certain stages, as illustrated by straight vectors. The pattern of when the leaves stop is read on curving arcs, and is the same pattern as the development of the complete leaf. As Goethe pointed out, the leaf can only be viewed in this totality. A precise measurement at a certain time will only give the story of a certain time. It won’t give the story of the plant as it exists in the world.

It’s the same with human development.

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Human Embryos  Source

Each human grows through the complete stages of human evolution, from double celled organism, through snake, reptile, fish, marmoset, ape, and so forth. What comes out at birth is a story, that continues to develop through a human lifetime and over human lifetimes. The story is not finished.

Contemporary humans are not the pinnacle of this story’s development. When they act as if they were, they destroy the human story and, what’s more, the story of the earth, of which it is a single arc. No piece can be broken from any other. The story is not now. It is in the future. It is not ours. It is the universe’s.

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Northern Flicker in the Snow

This is our story. It is not our story. A human culture can only be called mature when it realizes that the two are the same.

We are dancing. Leave the thinking for dogs. Let humans do what they do best.

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Dog, Dropping Its Human Off at the Sport Shop

Courtenay, Vancouver Island

Natural Lenses

 

The human eye is a lens. It is a just one among many adaptations of the energy fields of water molecules. Water lenses abound on this planet.P1160303

Cat Tail and Water

Lensmakers to the Sun. Look how the sun is focussed down like a laser. This effect is only observable in the weeks before the winter solstice, but is worth jumping up and heading out for when the clouds lift for an hour.

Sometimes lenses focus inwardly…

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Sagebrush and Lens for … Sagebrush

Water lenses have the capacity to change the size of the world, in relationship to the viewer’s point of view and his or her subtle relationship to the sun. I mean, the sun might be 150,000,000 kilometres from the earth, but moving a centimetre at this end of the relationship makes all the difference.

Here’s an example of this capacity of water lenses, put to commendable use…

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Starling, Keeping Its Water Drop on Me

In the science of the things of this world, things are what they are and are built up out of physical relationships over time, in which the current state of things is a representation of the refinement of older relationships. Tomorrow, I’ll show you the story of plants, discovered by the poet Goethe. Today, I’ll leave you with the cat tails, that Aboriginal peoples around these parts turned into basket and housing technologies…

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Baskets and Roofs and …

… it’s up to us to make new technologies.

That’s the trick on this planet: to see things that are on this planet and to make them, as water would, into things that are of this planet. In this context, making everything out of oil is to make everything out of dead plants compressed under the earth. It is to skip most of the history of life on earth and to make things out of death. Why, when one could live on the earth instead?

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Water, Offering