Birds at Work

Want to get your colour palette right? Follow the birds! They make art, too.

P1180114 Staghorn Sumac 

Think of it like a paintbrush.

And what do the birds make of it?


Jackson Pollock, move over. The kings are here.

Yes, it’s random. No, it’s not art, because it’s not human, but it is the same thing, only expressed through the actions of a different species.

If humans continue to search for intelligence in the universe, one lesson they will have to learn well is: it won’t be human. Another is: it won’t fit neatly into contemporary concepts of individual behaviour. Those are just fashion.

pommeSimilkameen Apple after a Heavy Snowfall, Bahati Farm, Keremeos

 Art, as the Universe lives it.

A Good Use of Human Energy

Plant high pointy things. Wait.

treeThe Okanagan Okanogan Spruce, with friend

Sometimes it takes forty years, but what’s that? Half a human lifetime? Pshaw. You can hurry it along by building a high pointy thing, if you like…

P1190983Canmore United Church, Alberta

After a century, humans might use the thing less than they once did, but was it really for them?



The Answer is Blowing in the Sun

Many seeds disperse by riding the wind. Spiders, too. Here’s one of my neighbours that has a different way of moving through the currents of the world. Welcome to yellow dock.

dockIt’s the root that’s yellow.

Dock loves wet areas within dry areas. To get there, it manufactures a kazillion seeds. When the chickadees come in January they nibble a few and the rest fall all over the place, onto the snow.

P1180613Chickadee Meal Mess

And there they are, the dark red seeds, catching the sun on their little sails and using its heat to burrow deep into springtime. Humans and chickadees know it as snow, but dock knows it as the moment when the snow melts and flows to low ground. In the end, the seeds are where they want to be, covered with silt and with all the water they need. In this way, dock is turned into chickadees. In this way chickadees are turned into dock.

Three Suns, One Path

So, you know, I’m hanging out with my buddies …


… waiting for the apples of springtime, the ones that have bloomed in the basement and which turn to stars when thrown onto the late snow. While I’m at it, I’ve been keeping an eye on the setting sun to the west …


…which is moving south over the lake in the form of water. When I turn around and look up …

P1200182… there, due east, the moon is a-rising, drawing the water sun through the air, and what do I notice then …

P1200194… but the window of a house on the edge of the city, set up to look directly into the sun, because that’s a fine and pretty thing. So, I get to thinking, right, like this: “Hey, if I were in that house, enjoying that sun of light …

P1200272… behind the one the moon is drawing over the winter earth, I wouldn’t see …

moon2… this at all, five minutes later, when it was the only light left of the sun on this corner of the earth.” So, now I get to thinking, “Hey, that’s a strange thing, to follow the light and miss the sun.” The sun you see when you turn around and look the way you have just come is not the sun you see when you set out.


It’s as simple as that, I guess.

Grace and Clumsiness

All this flurry and hurry and honking that carries for miles …

flipflap2 Canada Geese Going Around in Circles

Okanagan Landing

… and all this grace and beauty …


Migratory Birds

… not migrating.

… to eat frozen tomatoes from under the snow.

P1200128Canada Geese in a U-Pick Tomato Field After the Humans are Done With It

We did this.


What Fences Are For

Here on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, the mystery of fences is revealed in all its contradictions. To set the scene, some local housing for humans…


… and a local invitation aimed at human curiosity (a mark of a top predator) …


Golden, British Columbia

… and the real top predator …

P1200049Fraidy Cat

Yeah, sure. Cuddly Cat, really. That’s how to fool those humans best.

… and the wolves…


Timber Wolf in Its Enclosure

The fence is not to keep humans safe. It’s to assure the wolves that the humans can’t get at them.

What, though, protects humans from predation?


Lures for Humans, Golden, British Columbia

We are on our own, by the looks of it. Don’t forget …

moreWords of Wisdom from the Wolf Centre.



The Future Looks Like This

We enter the 21st Century from a time of industrial fishing, clearcut forestry, shale frakking, and carbon trading. Because of almost universal human self interest, we have become an endangered species at the risk of habitat loss. We now need to develop forms of thinking that place the earth first. Innovation once looked like a smart phone. It now looks like this:

sageinsnow2Sagebrush in the Snow Okanagan Landing

Thriving in both wet and dry seasons, from 50 degrees celsius to -40 degrees celsius.

Billions of dollars to universities to continue with the academic and aesthetic technologies of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries will not get us there. They got us here, instead:

Floral Planter, University of British Columbia, Okanagan

North Kelowna Industrial Park

The medium is the message.What does it matter what goes on in classrooms, or what industrial or aesthetic innovation occurs there, if it leads to this?

Go, Ogopogo, And Don’t Come Back No More!

There is a legend from the time when the British Empire owned this corner of North America, that says that the local people, the Syilx, claimed there was a monster in the lake, much like the cryptosaur of Loch Ness: kind of a long snaky thing with teeth at one end and a tale at the other.



The wire and concrete version. Note the excellent hand-cut rubber tire look.

People are still looking for the wee beastie. Here’s a website devoted to all of that. This,  (zooming in on the image above), though, I believe:


Rattlesnake Island

According to Syilx Geography, the creature N’ha-a-itk, which was disrespectfully garbled as Ogopogo, lived in a cave beneath this island.

Now, let’s pull back just a little, and see that island in its context …


Rattlesnake Island and … A Head with a … Snout?

Let’s look a little more closely …

snoutThe Snout is a Head, too?

… and farther back …

crittersA Hump-Backed Fish?

This game is at least half as much fun as the Cryptosaur one, but it does have some basis in cultural understanding.

pink spawn

Hump-Backed Salmon

These guys used to come up here from Siberia, but were cut off when lake levels sank at the end of the Ice Age. Could the stories here be that old? Sure.

I think is an ancient way of reading the land that is caught up with the story of Okanagan Mountain. After all, in Indigenous cultures throughout Northwestern North America, the interrelation between living creatures is commonly more important than Western ideas of their species-specific independence. Here’s an example from the Vernon Museum:

arg19Argillite Carving, Haida Gwaii

Everything is flowing together. Every thing is changing into each other thing. People, too.

With that pattern of thought, I think the entire valley of Okanagan Lake was once read as a story. Here is just a brief introduction to its characters. There are many more.

okmap2Instead of Reading Constellations in the Sky…

…the Okanagan has Stories in the Land

That’s a map well worth archaelogical exploration. If re-created, it might tell of the human experience of history here and be the basis for moving Okanagan culture back into the land. Who knows what will be learned by uncovering 10,000 years of human history in this place. Who knows what novels and ecological understanding will follow. After all, the people who invented Ogopogo by mis-reading that land …


…also, eventually, created this as their crowning achievement…

Mission HIllMission Hill Winery, West Kelowna Source.

An Austrian bell tower funded by hard liquor profits and called “A family estate.”

…and this, too …

Biological Garden, University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus

That’s a blue bristle from a street sweeping machine in the foreground. The university has currently raised 1 billion dollars towards its 1.5 billion dollar goal of supporting innovation and something it calls ‘place’.

I’d sure miss the earth if it were gone. The place in the image just above has already left it.


N’ha-a-itk Family Group with Rattlesnake Island

Looking North from the ancient north-south trail.  Greata Ranch

Next: What innovation really looks like.

What Do You Say to a Glacier?

To see the last ice age up close, all you need to do is go to the mountains on the northern fringe of the desert that stretches from Central Mexico through California, Oregon, Washington and into British Columbia. There, you’ll find the glaciers. They’re liquid now, but they haven’t gone anywhere. Here’s a winter view…

ogogeeseCanada Geese Barking at the Glaciers

“Get back! Get back! Get back!”