Reading the Sky

For perhaps 16000 years on the North Pacific islands called Haida Gwaii, the Haida people lived just above the intertidal zone. They were creatures of the sea, like clams, safe in the mud, and mussels, clinging to rock. Their dreams and ancestors, though, were largely in the sea.

SkedansSkedans Village, Haida Gwaii

Things don’t look like that anymore.


Skidegate Village, Haida Gwaii Source

Or do they?  The Haida weren’t the only people living on the boundary of worlds.

P1220389 Turtle Mountain

50,000,000 year old volcano created from a 100-kilometre-broad slip along the Okanagan Fault when North America collided with a collection of mid-Pacific volcanic islands? A surviving piece of grassland habitat in downtown Vernon, British Columbia? For sure.

P1220359 Mullein Singing the Praises of Mullein. Turtle Mountain

Which is another name for the sun.

It is also, however, an image of a civilization that considered itself to be from the sky, and stranded here on earth.

P1220475Grasshopper Flying Above the Snow Buckwheat, Turtle Mountain

These days they scatter up in front of you as you walk, making your presence a half-circle, five metres across. They clatter and click and chirr and flash their yellow and red wings and sometimes land on your cheek and then spring off with the strength like sprung steel.

Some members of that civilization still feel that way. Here is what one man said about this at the beginning of the modern age:

The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who… looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space… on the infinite highway of the air.

Wilbur Wright

Well, actually, it was more like they were trying to read it.

P1220639Clouds, Writing in Space and Time

Educated men were once those who could read this script, and read what spilled across it.

P1220614Hawks at War

When men could no longer read the clouds, they read this new language of birds. The men who scoffed at that, and whose descendants eventually built aircraft so they could do their own writing up there, instead of learning to read…

Doppeldecker in der Luft

World War I Caught Between Worlds

…are now up to this kind of thing:


Power and Light, Bella Vista Road, Vernon

Now, educated men are the ones who can read this language, either aesthetically, as I often do, or practically, as do city planners and electrical contractors, but the ancient stories of man’s fall from the sky to the desert of the earth is as strong as ever.

P1140150Staghorn Sumac Writing its Ancient Language in the Sky

It’s just that the words for it are lost and only its visual appearance remains. I suggest that within those images, we, humans alive today, can still read the ancient scripts of the shores on which we live. Perhaps if we just tweaked it a little, into a form a little more like the shape of a poem, from top to bottom instead of left to right, like a novel?

erticalWhat the Sky Says

Home sweet home? Well, no more or less than this:

P1220504The Sun and the Air Taking on the Form of Snow Buckwheat

If you and I can read images, we can read the sky. In fact, the genetic code of snow buckwheat (let’s say) is just such a reading.


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