Think Big

Aren’t cat tails cool! They fold over themselves, layer upon layer. When you see this, you could invent a tradition of basket- and mat-making, and could build houses out of rushes and keep off the sun. And the Syilx did, the people who became themselves at the same time this land took shape.crossed

So, those days aren’t over. What, then, can be made out of this?

clear2sWildflower Seeds in the Snow

Take a closer look …
Well, of course, making a new technology out of that, that’s tough, but, um, is it supposed to be easy? And, yes, the human vision which I’m proposing is out of fashion. Why, a properly-educated artist these days is supposed to suppress biological response and replace it with scientific distance and analyze his or her biological responses as primitive misunderstandings on the road to enlightenment, but for gosh sakes, just look at this stuff for a moment:

clear3bDistance, my foot. What a cool way to reproduce: by placing seeds in little see-through packages to feed birds. Contemporary science is enamoured with gene splicing, which is a system of placing markers in special folds in hydrocarbon strings. But is not that flowering plant above doing just that? And is that not what plants are doing during photosynthesis, when they move electrons from one side of a barrier to another by clever manipulation of molecules nestled in very specific folds in hydrocarbon strings?


Electron Trading Structures (Pine)

Could it be that this is the signature of earth? So, here the humans are, looking through microscopes (or through robotic cameras on Mars), and here the plants and birds are, as big as life.


Starlings in the Lombardy Poplars (Again)

Could this be an extended form of photosynthesis?

Maybe science is thinking too small.

Seeing in the Dark

The poet Goethe argued that colour is formed by the boundaries between light and darkness. He argued that it was possible to see in the dark — that colour (or light) were not requirements for “seeing”. Two hundred years have passed and these theories have just been proven at the University of Zürich, by the researchers Matthias Rang und Johannes Grebe-Ellis, who demonstrated the  multi-colour nature of shadows. They showed the stability of the colours purple, yellow and blue within shadows, even after being passed through two prisms, in a counter-demonstration to Newton’s, which showed the stability of green, red and blue in the same circumstances. Grebe-Ellis and Rang succeeded in a proof where Goethe failed at one (and fell out of favour in physics), because they used three-dimensional shadows, rather than the two-dimensional light which Newton employed in his experiments with light. If you read German, here’s a link for you. What does this mean? Well, it means that our cameras are not recording the world — only the addition of human intention to the photographs made with them can return three-dimensionality to shadow and make each photograph what it is to the human body: a room for light, rather than a record of it. The room is the darkness, which is not a force but a space. The light reflects off the boundaries of the space. And what is the room? Why, what all things in sculpture are: the human body. This is the human body:

P1380770 Walnuts at Dusk

So is this, a half hour later:


West Arm, Okanagan Lake, Looking Towards Shorts Creek

In both of these images, the human body has intersected differently with light. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing that the universe is modelled after the human body. Rather, the human body is a part of the universe: the universe is revealed through it, as it is in all of its forms, including lettuce leaves and the rings of Saturn. Here are some words that Goethe wrote about this, in his A Theory of Colour:

No longer do we believe (although it does sound a little strange) that the eye sees no shapes at all, in that light and darkness and colour together build up material, which contrary forces separate into distinct parts for the eyes. This is how we build up the visible world from these three principles — it’s even how painting is made possible, which is able to bring forth the real world out of the completely visually-oriented one.

OK, the translation is rough and his sentences are rather convoluted (despite my botched attempts to straighten them out), so let me try to break it down:

1. The eye does not see shapes or things.

2. The interaction of light, dark and colour (and not light, dark or colour in themselves) interact to separate the parts of objects into visible components, which humans can see.

3. Humans intuit the objects that this process has sketched out.

4. Painting, which is colour laid down over shadow or against other colour, replicates this process and creates the real world out of a mere visual representation of it.

This, in other words, is not light:


Old Orchard Fence, Bella Vista

Those are thousand-year-old Old Growth coastal red cedar trees, those are.

It is darkness, which light, interacting with darkness in three dimensional space transforms into visual signals which humans can apprehend and move through. It has also been given to you on a screen of light, after being captured in a two-dimensional light-capturing mechanism (a digital camera). In the absence of a darkness-capturing mechanism, the photographer and the viewer must work in reverse of the original impulse. Instead of viewing the intersection of darkness and light as the world of colour, as I did when I walked out into the snow, we must now view a world of light and colour and imagine moving through it, trusting that the dark is still there. It is a lot like walking in the dark, except this time it is really walking in the light. It means that a photographer must work very hard to put himself or herself into the picture, so that it remains a three-dimensional body, capable of capturing light and leading viewers into the world. In the image above, the body is captured by the way in which the photograph frames the fence. In the one below, it does the same with leaves, colour and texture…

Staghorn Sumac and Filbert Leaves in the Snow

The next step is to walk out of the frame of the photograph into a world that replicates these effects everywhere at once. That is the vision I am working towards. It is not hard to see with the human body. It is impossible to see by any other device. You could thus say that the space outside of the frame of the photograph above is the human body, which stands to the photograph in the same place that darkness stands to light in Goethe’s conception. If you walk out into it you are in the world. It is, as the images above show, unknown, but if you walk into it you will apprehend it. When you do, remember this one thing: the fourth dimension of space is time. Here’s some time:

P1380705More Old Growth Forests!

You could say that it takes 5 minutes to walk the half kilometre along this fence, which separates a field of weeds from another field of weeds, or that it takes a half kilometre to cross 5 minutes of time. It’s the same thing, but you cannot experience either form of it by standing still in front of a view. In a view, there is no time or space at all. Time and space (and thus the earth) are outside of it. Because they do not move, they do not interact. That’s why I include words with these photographs. These words too are representations of human bodily space, but unlike photographs they are rich with time. The combination of time and space that I employ on this blog to illuminate human presence in the earth and earthly presence in humans is like Goethe’s combination of darkness and light to illuminate colour, which serves to lead humans towards the world which cannot be seen but which we all know as intimately as we know the location of our hands in the dark. Goethe called this space God. For the purposes of this blog, I am calling it the earth, because I want to point out that in a world over-saturated with humans the lack of a conception of the human body that includes the earth and all things living on it, the earth will be lost, and with it the human ability to see in the dark. And what’s that? Why, this:

icegrow2Ice Crystals Seeing in the Dark




The Humans are Insane

Why Do Geese Have Long Necks?

It’s because of alfalfa fields in ancient lake bottoms that drifted into gentle curves in post-glacial winds.

P1380757 It used to be that Canada Geese travelled south in the winter, but would you? To the Gulf of Mexico? With all that oil globbing things up? Really?

P1380756 When you could wander through the alfalfa like a flotilla of submariners instead? In return, the humans of the Okanagan go out to their nests in the spring and shake their eggs, so that they don’t reproduce. If you take an egg, they lay another. If you shake it, and kill the embryo inside, they keep sitting on it, but no chicks come. Oh, and the reason why humans are so dastardly and sneaky?

P1380746Canada geese poop on beaches. Hey, wait … that’s a reason? And, besides, does this look like a beach? No, it’s an alfalfa field. The image below is a beach …

P1370190Honk! Honk!

Note the lap dog footprint, bottom centre.

Let’s see if I have this right: 6 weeks of humans lying on the beach to turn their bodies brown in order to improve their recreational mating chances (addled by birth control measures) trumps 46 weeks of geese having access to life? Sometimes humans act as if they were insane. Here’s another picture to put geese, humans and lap dogs into scale…


Notice: No Goose Poop

That’s a pretty big goose. It has half of my footprint. I’m happy to give it that. Meanwhile, I’m left to contemplate a species that is so successful at reproducing that it prevents most reproductive acts from producing offspring in order to support its political hierarchies and has now extended this principle to other organisms on the planet, as if life, somehow, had to be contained in order to support human social, industrial and economic networks…which consist of people lamenting the fact that the earth is dying. Hunh? It’s insane, that’s what it is. So, to clear your mind, some sanity:

P1370260Ice, Water and Willow Leaves on Okanagan Lake Shore




The Beauty and Presence of Trees

I love trees.

P1380676 No one has yet explained why they do what they do, or how, but just look at them doing it!

P1380709There are intellectual tools for analyzing them down through complex relationships between hydrocarbon molecules, including photosynthetic processes, evolutionary processes, hormonal balances, communication and defence through airborne chemicals, but just look at how they stand up out of the earth. That has been explained according to attraction to light and evolutionary adaptation and advantage, but it has never been explained according to the presence of those trees on the crest of this alfalfa field. The poet Rilke tried in Muzot, Switzerland, and finished his life’s work by talking about the trees in front of his house above the Rhone. He meant “this tree, here.” People since have thought he meant “a symbolic tree.” He didn’t. So, let me continue in his footsteps:


This tree, here. It holds all we need to know.


Seeing in the Dark with Magpies

Sacred trees are everywhere at this time of year! Here’s another one:


Magpie Nest in a  Choke Cherry Tree

This one you can get inside for a view up into the sky …


Any bird that lives here holds wood and wind and sky within itself. These are good powers to be caught up by at any time of year, and perhaps mostly now that the magpies have left the trees to us just as the trees rise up out of their dead leaves in rivers of dark light. It is good to remember that leaves come out of this darkness, not out of the light.


The Joy of Asparagus

Today, a story of joy, for Christmas Eve. Today, asparagus. The asparagus that gets sliced off underground in Northern Europe and eaten with yellow potatoes, salt ham and hollandaise sauce (or with morels or truffles or venison or eggs or cheese or…) as a still-living reenactment of the sacrifice of the goddess Demeter’s daughter Kore, has seen the year pass now in the Okanagan Valley in Western Canada. She grew green and tall among the mule deer, the sagebrush, the chickadees, the pheasants, the magpies, the gold finches, and the coyotes, flowered, and has now been sacrificed by a hiker with a stick. Despair not at this …

asparagus2sm She is not despairing.

asparagus4sm In fact, she is radiant!


Merry Christmas, everyone! What a Christmas tree to be stopped in my tracks by! Thanks for walking through this year with me. Your comments have been inspiring this last year and have brought me much joy.

That Old Christmas Moon

Long before the world tree holding the stars …

P1380026 Straw Star from Dresden

… as well as the planets …P1380060


Blown Glass Ball from the Ruhr Valley

…on its branches, there was the old solstice moon.

P1370820Paper Wasp Nest in the Lilacs

It’s still here. Blessed be.


Some Clarity on Randomness

Randomness is one of the basic principles of contemporary culture. It underlies contemporary models of the universe from the very large (everything in space and time) to the very small (subatomic  effects). It is an essential pillar of contemporary theories of the evolution of life. Contemporary mathematics and philosophy and art-making are based on trying to identify it. Sociology adores the stuff. Writers practice it. They even make machine-like games, into which they fit themselves as if they were, at that point, random. In short, if you look for randomness, you will find it everywhere. The thing is, though, it is not precisely random. Here, let’s look at a common substance: water…


Randomly formed mud puddle bubble slowly stilling in the winter cold?


…No. This bubble formed under the influence of delicate interactions of temperature, air movement, water purity, the molecular forces of water, the gravel on the floor of the puddle, humidity and so on. That’s incredibly complex, but it’s not random. If it were random, it would be like throwing dice: up to chance. It’s not chance, precisely. And about those dice:

In physics today, all things in the world, including water, are seen as being formed from statistical probabilities of energy with no substance or location until you have a look at them and say something to the effect of “Oh, there you are.” And there it is. (In physics, you get to use a lot of very expensive machinery to do this. Loads of fun.) 

The lesson is that there is no water in the world unless someone or something apprehends it. The lessons that the human-based culture of physics draws from this is that matter is insubstantial: it is energy — and only human logic can reveal it. What logic cannot reveal is, logically enough, according to the game, called insubstantial. There’s a word for this type of excluded energy: randomness — energy that has defied being translated into a human social space. Examples of human social spaces of this type are mathematics, physics, highways, hydroelectric dams, crude oil pipelines, plastic yoghurt containers with folding plastic spoons, cities, farms, and coffee shops.  If something is not translated into a social space of this kind, it cannot be measured by the measures of those spaces, and if it cannot be measured, its patterns are invisible, and so it is called, logically enough, random. Physically, however, it was already there — whatever physicality is. This perhaps:

ice17 Man and His Ghost? Mud Puddle?

You decide. I just think it’s beautiful.

What I’m trying to say is that randomness is a marker. It’s a relative term, like “beauty”, which is in the eye of the beholder, “wilderness”, which is only a wild space in comparison to one that is not (The ravines that run through the mega-city of Toronto, for example, are called by some people wilderness and by others urban space. Same ravine!), “I” (and “you” and “we” and “they”) which is relational to a point of view (When you repeat to me what I said to you, you became I and I become you. Whew!), and so on. What “randomness” marks is a boundary, between what is known within a social system and what is not. Random behaviour for a mechanical engineer, for example, might be perfectly logical to a poet. Random behaviour from a disadvantaged group (women in a misogynistic society, for example, or terrorists setting Improvised Explosive Devices) might appear, from within the group, perfectly logical, because members of the group have a different social system and a different point of view, but are viewed by other social groups as “random”. What’s more, when the idea of ‘randomness’ is applied to the physical world, in relation to the study of scientific reasoning, it misses a deep and unified body of knowledge that all of us figured out long ago. It looks like this:

ice16Water and Air Being Very Cool Together

The foundation of contemporary scientific inquiry is statistical, which is to say, science today measures probable effects, based on statistical averages, and ignores other effects which it deems unmeasurable or statistically insignificant. Normalcy, not exceptionality, is the goal. And it’s not just science: art, literature, sociology, government, and almost all other forms of study follow the same model today. This is a reflection of a particular form of government, based upon statistical majorities (and usually minorities) gaining power. That’s a social thing, which is showing up these days in all the activities (including science and art) of the culture based upon its social assumptions. Why would it be otherwise? Beats me. The result is that this …

ice14 … or this …

ice13… appear random. Now, let me turn it a little bit on its head and sideways to see if I can’t tease a little bit of a different truth out of it. If we consider that physics rests on a mathematical foundation and appears mathematical as a result (I mean, really, doesn’t quantum theory look like a perfect image of mathematics? Saying that the unification of mathematics and observations of the physical world proves the accuracy of mathematically-based scientific procedure, is like saying a lemon is a lemon because it’s a lemon. It’s not really a proof of anything at all. So, let me pose a question:

If mathematics leads to a science that views the universe as a mathematical model, what would a science based on a different founding principle look like?

What, for instance, would one look like that was based on the properties of water? Take a look:

ice11Mathematically, the above image is random. But physically, on the principle of water, it is totally organized. The thing is, all humans know this principle. You just exercised it by looking at the above (blurry, sorry, it was dusk) image. The discipline of science was not developed to replace that apprehension of unity, but to work out its details, so they could be re-used in socially useful technologies. Something has happened in the past 200 years, though, and now the math of it all is the dominant force and the unity of it all is discarded. There’s no rule in the universe that binds us to that viewpoint. What if we chose, say, art, or line, as the founding principle of science? Why, then the following image would lead to technological rather than aesthetic developments…

ice10Randomness, after all, is a relative term, and it needs a boundary. It requires an ‘us’ and a ‘them’, an inside and an outside, order and disorder, and not ghosts, for gosh sakes …

ice7 Boo!

Anthropomorphizing? Physical apprehension of a physical world? Random effects? You decide, but remember, your decision has an ethical dimension, because it will determine the world you can see and the technology and social relationships you will be able to make. This will impact your planet and the people with whom you interact.

I suspect that a technology based upon the scientific founding principle in the image below …
… would not lead to the technology of today. Now, I don’t propose replacing the powerful technologies of contemporary culture, but I am curious as to why there is one form of science and one set of technologies, whereas, in fact, there are potentially many, each with the ability to contribute a different set of possibilities and solutions. Calling them “art” or “metaphysics” or “faith” misses the point completely. Prescribing more order, more rationality, more statistical measurement, and so on (a common response to the apprehension of randomness… such as world terrorism and global spying by computer databases) is to retreat farther and farther from solutions. Things do not have to be understood to be apprehended and thus made present and real in the world. “Understanding” is a word from the days of early science, and its fate is bound with that of science. What, though if we stopped using that word and used “standing with” in its place, to say, not “Do you understand the patterns of water in the image below?” but “Do you stand with the water standing with the air in the image below?”

ice2Well, you do, in fact, if you see a face in the above pattern. In fact, solutions may come visually, rather than logically. 200 years ago, Goethe pointed out that the most delicate of all instruments was the human body. He didn’t mean that technologies couldn’t be developed that superseded the abilities of the human eye, for example, but that only the human eye apprehends totality, instantly, and only the human eye translates it into human, bodily terms. A mathematics devised by a computer would, I suspect, lead to a completely alternate vision of the universe. The computer might apprehend this …

ice8 … or this …

ice9 and see something that is neither random nor ordered. I believe that state is called death, but I don’t know, and I hope I don’t find out for a very long time indeed.


And that’s post 602 on Okanagan Okanagan, after my first walk up onto the hill in 5 weeks.   A great day!