Words, Humans, Earth: the Relationship Renewed

Let’s open with poetry today, and then stand firmly in science. First, the earth turns towards the sun …P1310912

(Trumpets tooting … can you hear them?)

… and the starlings hold the moon for a moment in their beaks…



… and then the earth is born.


Walnut Leaving its Husk

… and falls to the ground. When you crack it open, there is your brain, and when you eat that, it tastes a lot like this …P1310914It is a beautiful world, full of energy traded this way and that. In the oldest form of English, Old Norse, that was the role of language. It was something people spoke to the earth and the sky as much as to each other. It wasn’t that the earth warmed with the sun’s heat, but that the earth entered the state of the sun’s heat and so was heated. It wasn’t heated in the sense of having its temperature rise by a transfer of calories of energy, but by becoming for a time heat itself. This kind of sympathetic transferal of energy was no different than the transferal within the language that came out of it, Old Norse, and from that, through a long journey, English.

P1310753Okanagan Falls, Thanksgiving

This hawk that chirrrrrrred in a couple minutes before is not about to fly from this ponderosa pine using its own energy but is about to commit itself to the universal energy of flight, which is present everywhere in the universe, much as wireless signals and radio chat shows are in the earth’s atmosphere today. This ‘flight’ can also be entered by this creature…

lac35Can Anyone Name This Beauty for Me?

It looks great against a paper wasp nest, doesn’t it.

… and when it spreads those green sails to catch the winds of flight that blow invisibly through the air, it becomes flight and is said to fly. In fact, flies have earned their name by this correspondence.


A Fly in the Fall Asters

This is the capacity within the English language which is, today, called metaphor and which is given to poetry, as if it were a form of allegory. It is not allegory. It stands in for nothing except itself, and is not a primitive form of science. It is a wholeness which science only hopes to approach and to elucidate. This capacity of energy to flow into objects and back into objects, from the essence of flight into the verb to fly into a creature that flies and back into the air, is the foundation of English. Onto it is laid the object-based magic of Anglo Saxon, from the next wave of invaders of England. They gave us our names for the things of the world, for emotions, and created day to day life out of the world of cosmic energy through which the Norse passed and to which they spoke.

P1300874Magical Implements

Modern inheritors of the Anglo Saxon tradition.

These too…

P1300784 That this birch leaf is an object, with a name, which can be used practically, well, thank the Anglo Saxons for that, and thank them for this:

P1300728This kind of object-centred magic is infinitely portable. Objects can be arranged in sentences as if one were playing chess. In a way, one is. The result is a language of the earth, with both the capacity for efficient, practical, object-centred work and for magical transformations of energy. Onto this was grafted the language of another invader, the Norman French, who provided a language of abstraction and administration. The ultimate result of that, is stuff like this:


Antique Freight Truck with a Flat Tire

… and this…

P1310372Hi-Tech Winemaking

Meyer Family Winery, Okanagan Falls

Those are good things, and a most powerful use of language and the capacity it gives for interfacing with the earth. Problems crop up in human-earth relationships, however, when the three languages that make the parliament that is the English language, Old Norse, Anglo Saxon and French, are used interchangeably, or the diction appropriate to one activity are used in place of another. For instance, in the following view of the flood control dam at Okanagan Falls,

P1300966one form of energy (administration transfer of human currency between the United States and Canada in exchange for holding back water, which can be released slowly into the Columbia River and thus modify river levels to support the massive series of hydroelectric dams and nuclear reactors on the river) is supported at the expense of another. The earth, the stuff of Anglo Saxon and its energy, the stuff of Old Norse, which is our common wealth, is mined for the benefit of administrative structures. Nothing is returned to the earth, which is said to be wild and even sacred, but which is, really, increasingly deprived of energy and impoverished. And so, here we stand, with millions of pages of environmental legislation and a planet that is dying. Fortunately, we can fix this the same way we broke it, but in reverse, and our wealth can come home, instead of going sideways.




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