4th Annual Haig-Brown Environmental Lecture

Tomorrow, I’m off to Campbell River on Vancouver Island, to present the 4th Annual Haig-Brown Memorial Lecture in Environmental Writing. I will be arguing that this Icelandic River lies at the heart of Canadian political and environmental traditions, and is a place to situate our government.

p1430251The New Canadian House of Parliament

 Talking with the earth and including it in our social group is not a new idea. It is at the root of English. In fact, it is at the root of being human. If we, the people, reclaim that language, the government will follow. It will take time, but over time, we will speak again. Some of us will even speak like this.


Harold Thinking Out Loud in East Iceland, April

When I get back, I’ll tell you all about it.


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!



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…



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






Kelowna: a Tale of Two Cities

Here’s what the City of Kelowna (the big smoke down the valley) says about public art. Ahem…

Public art is about more than beautification. Public art stimulates, entertains, instructs and, occasionally, provokes its audience. Endlessly diverse and adaptable, public art can engage us from above our heads or under our feet. Direct contact between art and visitor in an open space, free of gallery walls, is public art’s greatest gift and this gift is best enjoyed when we shed our routine expectations of urban space.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have shed. Here is a pic of downtown Kelowna I took on Thursday Evening.


Kelowna Rooftop, Unsigned Installation

If that isn’t art, I don’t know what is. Well, let’s let the city fill us in, shall we?

Public art, like other art forms, continues to evolve. No longer confined to monumental sculptures in prominent locations, contemporary public art inspires new perspectives of, and interactions with, public places. Artists provide unique interpretations of sites and play a key role in engaging the public’s imagination. Audiences and communities are becoming active participants in the public art process by voicing a diversity of local concerns and stories and occasionally lending many hands to the creation of the work itself.

Darn it, you know, I think they meant this:

P1250644Human Shadow Figures: Installation With Cardboard and Spray Paint

This isn’t in any cow town boogie back corner of the beyond of nowhere, this is 1 block off of downtown’s main street of coffee bars, funky restaurants and bling. You know what? I think they had this in mind:

fruitsBeautiful! An apple with a peach pit for a core, mating with a pear. Excellent. I really love this piece. But did you catch the fine print? No doubt you are reading this on your android artificial human thingie, so let me help:

The large, smoothed, precise forms evoke the bold eroticism of fruit and celebrate its formal beauty.

Fruit has a bold eroticism? EGAD! I thought it was, you know, just swollen stems and ovaries and stuff. Sheesh. Ahem, isn’t it people who have a bold eroticism? Such as, ahem, here?
P1250622Oh, sorry. Those teeny little android thingies. Here:



OK, here’s the thing. I think the public art of Kelowna is largely beautiful and moving stuff, but I also think it’s very Middle Class, and that while the Middle Class of Retired Canada is making  images like this:

rotaryand presenting their wit and joy on one of the world’s ugliest websites (Sorry, Kelowna, but it’s true.), the non-privileged classes are making art of their own:


And I am wondering why the City of Kelowna is not celebrating those citizens with joy.


Wild Cherry Harvest

Whose cherries are these?

P1250857 Choke Cherries in a Gully, Okanagan Landing

Whose are these?

P1250859These Ones are Sweeter, but the Skins are More Bitter

Not mine.


Someone Wasn’t Using a Ladder


Right down through the subdivision, he came.

P1250881Feral Apricot Tree on the Side of the Road

Not for humans.

Whose road? Well, here’s the intersection with a human road. Watch out how many cherries you eat all at once, is all I can say.



Some people just aren’t human, that’s all.


Sow and Two Cubs, Beaver Valley, c. 2002

It’s better that way.




Weevils in Love

Sometimes, it’s time to leave the weed and find true love.

P1250763 This is called hitting the streets.

P1250758 Or pounding the pavement.

P1250752 Or maintaining hope in the face of adversity.

P1250748 Because you never know…

P1250743 … when it’ll be your lucky day.



Knapweed Root Weevils Looking for Love

They stand absolutely still. That’s how you make yourself attractive when you’re a knapweed root weevil.

There’s just no future on a weed.

P1250764Knapweed Having a Late Season Knap



What is This Amazing Insect (if it is an insect)?

I have never seen anything like this before, ever. It’s like a cross between a wasp and a preying mantis. I found her today on a choke cherry tree growing alone in the sagebrush at the 700 metre level of the Bella Vista Hills above Okanagan Landing in the North Okanagan Valley. Here she is with her front legs folded.

threeAnd here she is with the front legs spread wide open. Well, the word ‘legs’ hardly does this armament justice.

twoNote the claws and the teeth. Especially the teeth.

teethThat is an incredible animal. Length: about an inch or a little more, like any normal yellow jacket wasp. If you know what this is, or how I might find out, please let me know.

Oceangoing Porcupine

High above the valley…


…a rock catches the rain, and a saskatoon bush lives off of it.


Not Much Cover Way Up Here

Even the deer have to really work to find a trail going anywhere. Meanwhile, the coyotes slip every whichaway.

It’s a lovely rock, though, a bit of an old ocean floor …


That looks a lot like a troll’s pet dog. Or maybe the troll.

P1250526 Troll’s Dog

With a big grin. Or maybe the troll.

And the weather has had its way with it, for sure, breaking it up like ice snapping at the shore in springtime.

P1250531 I tell ya, it’s dark in there. Dark-de-dark-de-dark.


The previous rock like this (no saskatoon) was three hundred metres away, and it was not so dark. In fact, it had a very lived in feel.

P1250458Some plants are beautiful and weird. Well, that’s the kind of planet it is. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I went around the rock and …

P1250532… I heard a rustling and rattling and then nothing at all, so I peered, you know, into the dark.


In porcupine social etiquette, giving you the butt is considered the best way to meet new people.

So, the deal is, if anyone tells you a porcupine is a forest dweller, well, just laugh at them. Cuz they don’t know, right? Not their fault. The last time I saw this guy was also in the sagebrush. That encounter was three kilometres away and several hundred metres downhill. It looked like this:

porcupinePorcupine at Sea in the Sagebrush

Oh, and the ocean? Tsk tsk.

P1250569Ocean Falling Apart


Ancient Stories of Life, Death and Art

Life lives off of death. It translates one into another.


Life lives in death.

P1240855Pre-Contact Graveyard, Beacon Hill, Vancouver Island

Much of what is known about the human past is known by how people honoured life at the moment of death.



What they left was art.

P1240876Art is in part this intersection. Even if it is only the arrangement of naturally-occuring patterns.

P1240875Like the web of a spider…

P1240819… they draw life to themselves…

P1240859Photography works like that, too. It reads things, and in reading them stops them, in the way that the living, undifferentiated earth seen as stone is stopped, right at the moment of transformation. We don’t call it death. We call it life.

P1240767Turtle at Finlayson Point Salish Village Site, Beacon HIll Park, Vancouver Island

Spiders that we are. Hunters. Soul eaters.



But we are gatherers, too. We don’t just read the patterns of life in time, but this, as well.


Native Pacific Crabapples (Malus Fusca), a Salish Crop

It seems that a landscape can be read in time. It doesn’t have to be stopped. This series of images takes place on and above the beach that the painter Emily Carr went down to again and again nearly a hundred years ago.


Now, though, it has been sculpted by bulldozers and filled with new gravel to prevent erosion of the cliffs, and, um, it’s covered with even more industrial refuse. Out of that, people are making art.

P1240788Sometimes, only in a photograph.

P1240781Or in attention to a flash of movement, that gets caught in the eye’s web.


1/100th of a Second of Time

In Emily’s time, or just before it, people dreaming of England planted sweet peas on this ancient village site. They’re still here.


It is 10,000 years ago. It is 1900. It is today.

P1240722Homeless Painter on the Rocks

He has just packed up from his sleeping back above Horseshoe Bay, behind him, and is headed into town for a day of busking. I bet Emily still lives in him. He’s standing on a stone surf of whales and waves transforming into each other, still, after all this time. It’s all still a story, and a very old one.


Raven Pecking at Pretty Leaves

The ancient cultural hero is still telling our tale.












Talking Green Water

On Tuesday, September 17, I will be presenting words and images in a discussion about green water and new agricultural opportunities in the Okanagan Valley.


Green Water Slowing Global Warming in Vernon

Green water is water that passes through plants, rather than flowing in streams and pooling in lakes.

The green water story is quite surprising in the Okanagan. I hope to provide my insights from two years of the Okanagan Okanogan project in an entertaining and inspiring form. The presentation will take place outdoors at the Allan Brooks Nature Centre in Vernon. Time 7:30 pm. We’ll move indoors if the weather makes that a really grand idea.

Allan Brooks Nature Centre

On Allan Brooks way, off of the Commonage Road to Predator Ridge. The best view in the valley.

See you there!