Introduction to the Sixth Dimension

I’ve been talking about human bodies in the grassland, represented as lines, fields and houses. I think it’s very important at this point of human domination over a living planet to overturn the common human assumption that everyday human life is “reality”. It’s only a human reality, within a certain circumstance. One way to demonstrate this, is to show you some bodies that you might find out in the grasslands.

Human Body

house

Notice the eyes looking over the valley, and the stairs leading up to the sleeping area at the top of the head. Notice how weather is kept out, by both architecture and sprayed-on petroleum.

Island Body

p10106361These miniature earth bodies are spread throughout the grassland, where they act as concentrators of water, heat attractors and conservers, and animal shelter — pretty much as the earth as a whole. If you see this as a stone, look again. It is creating entirely alternate seasons on the grassland and extending the growing season by months. The earth was made suitable for life in the same way. If we did nothing more than strew a million of these on the grass of the Okanagan, we would be doing more positive for our valley than all the blue bag recycling programs in place today.

Time Body
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Yes, time is a body. We say that, actually: “A body of time.” In this case, it’s the tracks of a coyote heading up into the hills mid-afternoon today, about fifteen minutes before I trudged along. We could call this a “track”, but look again: the time of the coyote’s presence is here all at once. A dog would read that out of this scene. Dogs (and coyotes) pass through a landscape of time, extended for a few days into the past, all of which is immediately present in fine 4-D, although finely nuanced and layered. Dogs don’t notice. They kind of let their tongues hang out and lollygag along. 4-D perception is normal to them. It’s also normal to people like us, who are humans, but not through smell (we might smell but we don’t smell, if you get my drift). Smelling is what dogs do best. Humans see in 4-D by sight. We see this extension of time as a line of footprints, but only because we’re so darned used to it. It’s not a line; it’s a special dimension of space called time.

Tall Body

P1060539And here’s the thing: this lone, weather-battered saskatoon is another island in the grass. It is a body that other bodies take on to increase their bodily strength. Like the island of stone I showed you previously, it concentrates life, which departs it for the grass, and then comes back to it. No magpie or flicker gets from the top of the mountain to the bottom (and they love to make the trip over and over again, day in and day out) without stopping on these trees for a puff of breath. Hawks use some of them too. Very handy. A cool factoid: most of these bushes get started in the special wet environment that a stone island has created in the grass. Now, here’s a cool thing about saskatoon bodies and time (about 2 kilometres along the ridge line):

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To get to this body and the altitude it provides requires a 10 minute climb across 300 metres of rather steep 3-D space (and, remember, 3-D space is your body, dear human), or, and this is the cool part, it requires 300 metres of rather steep 3-D space to travel 10 minutes in time. If that seems obscure, ask a coyote. She’ll explain it.

Mound Body

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If you’re going to live where it’s cold, mounding your body up creates and stores heat and increases your growth. Notice that this is not a house. In fact, it’s not human at all, but it is an effective way of living in the grass, especially on a stone that is only habitable in the late winter and late fall. But don’t be fooled. The rain washing off of this stone, and the wind blowing over it, spread the spores and bodies of this moss across the entire soil surface, where it forms a thin version of the complex community you see here. That thin biological surface is the earth’s skin. The earth actually breathes through it here. If you break it, the earth breathes out, but not in. Not a good idea. Luckily the mound body is always on the stone, to rebuild broken skin. But it doesn’t have to be a mound…

Crack Body

P1050939If this moss on this cliff face looks like it’s in the intertidal zone, it is. It’s just that the tides here aren’t those of salt water, but of the rain that comes off of salt water, and the drought created by the drying effects of rained-out air falling from the volcanic arc to the west. Those are the seasons here, and they interchange far more often than a few times a year — if you live on the rocks, they change every time it rains, or every time the sun comes from behind a cloud, or dips into one. To survive in that, you need to be a creature of the rain. Hiding in the crack does the trick. You can block all the rain, plus you can get out of the sun. So, that’s three forms that moss takes: Mound Bodies, Flat Skin Bodies, and Crack Bodies. Sister lichen goes a few steps further, by building coral-like structures. Here we are on top of Turtle Mountain. There’s a sign up there that says this is the Northern Edge of the Great Basin Desert. I think the person who put it up must have been half asleep. This is not a desert. It’s more like arctic tundra than anything.

Rain Body

P1060009The way to get this beautiful is to live where not even a deer or a marmot will step on you, and especially not the porcupine with his big flappy feet or the badger, who has a thing about digging. For that, sheer bare rock is best. By taking this shape, and by joining together, bodies like this ensure that water does not pour off of the stone. These creatures might look like rock dwellers, but that’s not really true. They are rain dwellers. Again, not a human adaptation. Rain bodies sometimes take on other forms. Take a look:

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If you have a large variety of species of moss and lichens, each able to use water in specific ways and able to catch it at various angles and on various surfaces, and each responding differently to light, the entire system is resilient and able to quickly deal with any disturbance, such as this out-of-place alluvial stone that some kid must have carried up here in his pocket and, well, chucked.

Perching Body

orangeThe body I want to show you is not the beautiful orange lichen here, but what it indicates: the presence of this lichen indicates that the stone is covered in urine, because a bird or a marmot uses it as a perch. That means that the lichen is a urine body, but the stone is a combination of a 4-D Time Body and a Tall Body (filling the body space of a saskatoon bush). This is one of the versatilities of stone bodies: they fill various body-ecosystems, in a complex web. A lesson for humans is that they have bodies like that, too, which are diminished if they are all considered to be the same. A human society does not function if everyone is judged along the same lines, because humans are filling various body niches in society. It’s the same for stones. They are not just ‘stone’. That’s a human 3-D illusion commonly known as elementary science, which excels at dissecting complex bodily systems into simple parts. It’s a powerful system, but it misses something: this multi-niche function of bodies is a 5th Dimension. That’s a big thing to miss. Now, one more image for today might help with that.

Grass Body

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Mule deer, bunchgrass, sagebrush, hillside, all these are grass bodies. In fact, in the 5th Dimension, they are all one body. Not only that, but this complex dimension has added another dimension: movement.  That’s six.

More bodies tomorrow. I think it’s important to explore all of our bodies. I think it’ll help us all live in the grass.

Humans Go 3-D

Yesterday I talked about how humans (and dogs) navigate the world through one- and two-dimensional patterns and the intersections between them. These are less qualities of the world than qualities of the human and canine minds doing the navigating (and sniffing). At the end, I brought you to a fields. Now, there are no fields in the earth. It just doesn’t make them. Humans do, though, as representations of their bodies, just as walking in a ditch is a representation of dogness. But then weirdness starts, because what do humans do in their fields, which are their bodies? Well, mostly they stand under the sky and scare all other humans away with barbed wire. That’s right, they’re kind of like scarecrows, really, the humans, the darlings. And what are these dear creatures doing while out there in the grass, surrounded by their barbed wire and their No Trespassing signs? Ah, they’re going 3-D, that’s what. They’re building two dimensional representations of their ways of seeing on top of two dimensional representations. Back in the day, humans got the idea of making images of themselves, which they called art. They looked like this:

P10302363-D Sculpture of a Human

Now considered as art and gaining its power when abandoned.

And this…
P1010098 … and then, because humans are always building new lines of energy on top of old ones, this …

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Eventually, after all of this, humans came to look like this:

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Human Field Turned into a Cube of Electricity

And that’s history. No more Michelangelo, no more Buddha chipped into the rock in Afghanistan or poured out of gold in the jungle, no more Venus de Milo with her arm snapped off, oops. Now, in the age of practical men, most humans build a body for themselves (well, OK, hire young men with hoodies and broken down cars to build it for them), that looks a bit like this:

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Two Human Bodies on a HIll

Such bodies are expensive 3-D structures that a human, who has recreated himself or herself as a set of ideas, can inhabit. Come on, why get stuck with a simple biological body when you can have more, and be an ego, and build a new body, and use your body in it as an idea, and move it around, and get some wine out of the fridge, and slosh, and even invite guests over? What’s the use of a great big expensive body like that if you don’t show it off, eh. After all, not only does it have a view (social cost and environmental debt, $100,000 off the top, $1,000,000 if it’s lakeshore), but it has oodles of social status to spare, which is really great if you are going to have a field, because fields are all about  some basic personal control over who you are going to let into yourself and who not. A girl (or a guy) has a right to say that “No means no, buster!” Yeah.

snowhouse

The $800,000 Mid-Line Version Body

When you make the mistake of putting a body like this in the wrong darned field, in the wrong darned country, you go down to Mexico in the winter, and rent a second one there. What’s really great about that is that José brings  you drinks.

Um… isn’t it a little odd? You kill the earth to put up a field, which has some chance of paying off its environmental debt, but then you remake the field as a house, and then you don’t live in it? Folks, that debt is never going to be paid. It’s like people are starting to think like these big wooden bodies. I guess it can’t be helped. Truly smart critters like dogs wouldn’t have seen the point in it, but humans, ah, they’re smart chimps, and you have to admit a house is a much sturdier barrier around you, your darling spouse and the scurrilous kids and their dangblasted technological doodads than barbed wire, plus, bonus, houses are impervious to quail, pheasants and coyotes, that might, you know, raid the, gasp, fridge. Now, you might think, why these particular bodily representations, when you could choose this instead…

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I choose her.

… or why you’d choose this particular house-body, when you could wander around in the grass in the Glory of God (humans talk like that in their better moments) …

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Well, OK, Weeds, but, still.

… and let it teach you how the grassland is your home (where else, after all, is your field, hmmm?)…

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Thule Reeds

The plateau people built their summer houses after seeing how well these things folded and wove together. You try thrashing through that after a duck, you’ll get the idea real quick. Barbed wire is amateur work in comparison to this stuff, especially when a house made out of this stuff puts you in the grassland, without the need for a field, but, hey, humans don’t always think things through, and they get a bit traumatized by violence, and what with all the field building and environment wrecking, and all the dear darling spouses, there’s a lot of violence. For this reason, humans like to huddle together. (This is because they are descended from mice.)

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Strange, isn’t it. You start out with a field, and that is you, then you build a body to live in, with a view, then the walls aren’t enough and you huddle there with your neighbours, for, you say, the view, but only one of you gets the view, so … darn it, that’s dog society, isn’t it This is because humans and dogs learned to be dogs and humans together, and I think they got a little mixed up along the way. Still, it is what it is, isn’t it, and you can sure say this: humans aren’t just individual bodies but social creatures. They see arrangements like this one (the oversized humans obliterating a field, above) as the most natural thing in the world (so natural that they don’t even see it at all. Why, they even think this is the way things are.) This, too:

house

A Body for the Young

A multi-facetted training installation, to bring the young up to speed on individuality, communality, ownership, privacy, and the importance of viewing nature not through the grass, not through a field, not through a scarecrow, not through art, but through a house body you set up in a field, in which anything you imagine is real. Um… shouldn’t the young be starting with this …

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Bunchgrass in the Snow

… and working their way up from there? Because if they’re not, then the education is social, and not physical, which is fine, but, get this, the world is physical. Shocking, I know, right, but there you go. We might as well speak the hard truths, because, I think, the coyotes are getting tired of yipping them to us at night. Alright, hard truth number 1:

house2

“Tree” House, Aborted

There are lots of aborted bodies like this at the bottom of the hill. That’s the thing about human males. They had so much fun building their body out of the grass that they … go out and build one for the kids, instead of letting the kids build one for themselves, and then when the kids are mainlining YouTube instead of hunting gophers with the dog, they wonder what’s going on. Um, Dude, that’s because you have to build your own body yourself. You have to start from this:

greenrockMantle

That’s what bedrock looks like around here. Green planet! If you build it for the kids, it’s never there. That’s the thing about thinking in 3-D, you see, which male humans are truly great at: you might forget what female humans excel at, which is thinking in 4-D, because they were the ones who had to go out and pluck the darned desert parsley before you got scurvy, and they had to know, like, when. The fourth dimension is, of course, time. It is space, it does not flow. It’s here. If you think it flows, look again. That means you’re not here.

Tomorrow: islands in a grassy sea (and other non human spirits of great significance). Yeah, and dogs pee on them, too, geez. Until then, enjoy that body of yours, eh, and, body, just this:

Keep your mind on a leash!

Dogs and Humans: the Showdown

Here’s something cool about dogs.

P1060346Footprints in the Snow

Dogs follow edges. When you’re a dog, you don’t even think about it. You go for boundaries, and you stay there. Since the boundary in the above image is straight, the dog has gone straight along it. It’s not because the dog likes straight lines. He doesn’t. He likes edges, and if you put him on a hill, like one of the coyotes around these parts, he goes along the ridge lines of small gullies and canyons, follows the base of the gully itself, if it is clear of trees, and follows the contour of the land. In other words, he is following an energy curve. No need to think about it. It’s the most natural thing in the world. Now, humans, who learned to be humans from hanging around dogs, make use of lines, too.

P1060118Fencing Hell

Just not as well. Poor things.  They tried to pick it up, but weren’t really paying proper attention. You can’t blame them. They got the idea that lines were some kind of magic, that you could make a line around a piece of earth and a horse would stay there, because to a horse a line is uncrossable. The barbs on the wire are actually military technology, not for dogs or horses but for humans, who see a line and want to cross it. They don’t even think about it. To them, it’s the most natural thing in the world. And a pheasant? Ah, yes, they’re not even on the program. Where humans and dogs are, they go the other way, five minutes before or five minutes after. They don’t have to think about it, either. It just makes sense that way. Actually, it makes a lot of sense. Clear out, I say. Those things (dogs and humans) are dangerous.

P1060189How to Share a Landscape

So, you can see, perhaps, why dogs follow edges? Edges bend lines.

P1060194That means that if you track along a natural edge, you’re more likely to follow a track than cross it briefly.

P1060198 Thank God for Edges!

 Otherwise, human tracks are the ones you follow, because when you’re a dog you not only track edges but you follow, and because you’re a wolf that learned to be a dog by hanging around humans, you bend your energy line to the straight lines that are all that humans can manage, because they follow light, which moves in straight lines, rather than land, which moves like water.

P1060190Good Boy

And what do the humans like? Apart from defeating themselves with a simple wire, this kind of thing:

P1060085Anti-Human Defense Support (aka Fence Post)

And what is the defence against? Well, it’s not necessarily defence, that’s the thing. Remember: humans aren’t so good at lines. It’s more like offence. After all, this fence was put up around an apple orchard. Apple trees don’t escape. And it wasn’t to keep the deer out. They go over and under. And coyotes? Sorry, right under the wire. And pheasants? Over we go! In fact, the fence is useless except for one thing: it keeps humans out. And out of what? Aha, that’s the thing. It doesn’t keep them out of a line. They’re free to follow it and be a dog all they like, but not to cross it and be human (or a pheasant.) What is inside the fence is this most important thing:

P1050085A Field!

That’s what humans like. Nice two dimensional spaces: not lines but flat expanses that represent the human body in space. Humans can’t help themselves. Pay it no mind. Oh, and what are that darned coyote and those magpies doing in that human’s body! Well, that’s the thing isn’t it. Eeeyew. It’s like getting a wasp down your shirt, isn’t it. Well, that’s what happens when a human doesn’t occupy the space he claims. It’s not his. Line or field, space is social, and the social group involved is not just a human one, like it or not. That’s interesting, but it’s not my main point. My point is that the next time you catch yourself looking at a field as if it were a normal thing and part of the earth, stop for a moment, look your field in the eye and recognize it for what it is: something that humans make to represent themselves. They can’t help it. They might suck at the point of lines, but they do boundaries around two-dimensional space very well. They get so sure of themselves, they even do this:

P1060273Vineyard

They fill their bodies with lines, all of them straight and going nowhere. This is hardly the grounds for a system of economy that will lead to a healthy planet.

Tired of one and two dimensions? Well, come back tomorrow, for the strange and exciting story of what happens when humans move into full 3-D!

 

 

Environmental Accounting & Poverty

In my last post, I spoke about the Old Norse concept of a tun, a farm yard constructed at the intersection of social and physical earths. I argued that tuns created the foundations of economies because they were places of creativity. Kind of like this saskatoon bush, really:

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Saskatoon on the Bella Vista Ridge

There are not many tall bushes on the grasslands, but each one is a centre for bird, animal and insect life, that comes to it from the grass and goes out to the grass from it again. They are places of commerce and energy exchange, far exceeding the energy they bring to the grasslands in the form of berries. Without saskatoons, there would be neither flickers nor magpies. They help move energy, without drawing it down. In fact, they increase it. That’s what a tun does, too. Rocks like this also act like tuns:

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Moss and Hoarfrost

Spring for sure! Well, for the cold-lovers, at any rate. By the time the heat comes, these mosses will be dormant. In the meantime, they remain as islands of environmental resilience, scattered through the grasslands and ready at any moment to seed it with cold-loving organisms, should the weather get permanently icy. Tuns are resilient like that. Unlike forms of investment based around capital, they react instantly to changes in the energy yield of a farm. That’s because they are locations of energy exchange, not locations of energy consumption.

I also suggested that creativity is not a human quality, but one created through the qualities of a space, including human reactions to it. I think that’s the main point: a tun brings forth creative energy along its own model, as do other basic technologies such as a string, a field, a barn, a highway, a city, a harbour, a town square, and so on. The whole discussion is here on my Icelandic blog. This week, I’ll be showing how this principle is active here in the grasslands of the Pacific Northwest, in both natural and created spaces. So let’s begin. First, a couple houses. The neighbours, you see, have been renovating.

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Magpie Nest in Black Hawthorn (red variant), Bella Vista

I met some walkers the other week who suggested that these were the ugliest nests in the world. “Not at all,” I answered, with my usual enthusiasm. “They have a door, and a roof, and are totally protected by thorns. These are most beautiful nests!” By the look on their faces, I think they thought I was stark raving mad.

Mad or not, I can spot a tun when I see one, and that hawthorn is one for sure. It is a place of doing (i.e. tun.) Oh, and up the hill, new neighbours are moving in.

house“Sagecroft at the Rise” Subdivision

This house will likely cost $650,000 once it is finished. It has a wooden chimney and a, well, like the magpie nest, a wooden everything, but that’s where the similarity stops. The magpie nest draws no energy from the natural system around it. The hawthorn still hawthorns, the rain still rains, the hawk still hawks, and the pheasant still pheasants.

P1060190Pheasant and Human (and dog)… at Cross Purposes

The new house on the hill is also a place of doing, especially for the six months during which it is being constructed out of ground-down mountain and chainsawed forest, except this doing is a subtraction from living systems. It is, I think, a clever means of turning $600,000 of environmental debt (carbon emissions, water acidification, water degradation, habitat loss in mountain, forest and grassland locations, and so on) into $600,000 of social debt, which, once paid (to humans, not to the earth) becomes wealth. The flow of this energy, from earth to tun to humans who create from it a social energy engine of wealth based upon debt, is the foundation of Canadian economy. The only thing is, the debt never gets paid. It’s a trick. Here, maybe this will show you what I mean. Here’s a particular piece of technology even older than a tun:

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A Field!

How romantic, eh!

This field has a human social value of approximately $1,000,000 (I know, I know, Canadian dollars, but, still, eh.) Now, watch carefully. First, a lush grassland, capable of producing tons of food annually on every hectare. If cared for, it can produce both a surplus for human use and support thousands of microbial species, a hundred bird species, dozens of mammal species (small and large), even more dozens of butterfly species (you won’t find them anywhere else), as well as easily a hundred species of grasses and succulent flowers, most edible, some medicinal and a very, very few ridiculously poisonous. To repeat, careful husbandry creates a living profit here: by improving the natural system, humans make it more productive, and live within that created, productive space. That’s the original model. Then comes colonization. The land is given to settlers, who immediately clear that entire living infrastructure off of it, creating a massive debt to the earth, but, and here’s the magic again, the clearing of the land counts as a human social “improvement”, as does a fence erected around it, like this:

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Does This Look Like an Improvement to You?

The fence, and the barrenness of the land (a few species of grass) are called improvements, because they represent the point at which the land has been made into a human artifact. Before that, it was deemed to be “unimproved” and nearly valueless. The “improvements”, such as the fence above, are written down against their capital cost until they have no value at all. After that, the land can be improved again, with a new fence (The post above is from one of these second generation improvements.), and the whole cycle of transforming human debt into wealth continues again. The only thing is, the economical calculations miss the actual source of the wealth here: life, drawn from the sun. The small amount of hay cut from this field has a debt to pay, not to bankers and investors, but to all the species, and all of their energy, that was written off to remove this land from natural production. That is not only an energy debt, but an ethical debt as well. One of the neighbours is dealing with it in his own way:

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Great Blue Heron Mouse Hunting

The obvious signs of written-down natural debt are the weeds, the ornamental trees that are turned into bonfire kindling, the abandoned fence, and the lousy state of the hayfield. A less obvious sign is the human cost: all of this represents debt that some man or woman is unable to pay or willing to take on in the hope that scarcity of “improved” land will result in a rise in land prices exceeding the rise in debt. This is what happens when a technology (in this case a field and a line that bounds it) that flow freely through a tun are converted to an economic system unconnected to the earth. It’s kind of like using an eggbeater to mow your lawn.

P1060104Heron in the Grass, Airport in the Heron’s Fishing Hole

What could be more clear?

The earth fixes problems with life and adaptation. Humans attempt to fix them by removing systems even further from life. Either that or in some way applying absolutely the wrong technology. For instance, weeds heal the soil by drawing up deep nutrients, and they’re alive, so they must be good, right? In fact, most citizens of the Okanagan are unaware that the brown grassland hills are actually brown weed hills. Does this matter? Yes. It’s like putting sugar in the gas tank of your car. Here, this is what I mean:

P1060207Chinese Elm Tree  Causing Global Warming

No, this is not a tree. It is, however, the leaves of an invasive chinese elm on a dirt roadway. In the absence of leaves, the roadway was reflecting sunlight and keeping the soil frozen in the winter, as it should be. Because of the leaves, that fall after the snow instead of before it, the leaves darken the snow surface, heat up the snow, melt it, and cause spring weeks before it should be here. This is murder on the natural economy. Literally. Snow, too, is wealth.

P1060211These Leaves Are Not Valuable Green Manure

They are in the process of changing the climate so that food plants will not grow wild here, and only a few crops, in fields, fed by expensive water piped down from the high country, will remain. That represents a human power relationship. It is not ethical.

If it were ethical, it might look a bit like this:

P1060189 Ring-Necked Pheasant and Human Tracks.

And the dog, too, of course. 

Pheasants are also an introduced species, but they fit into the natural system and enrich it. As the image above shows, they do this by going one way while the humans go another. At the moment, we’re crossing paths. It’s time to turn to the right, and follow the pheasants. And the heron, of course.

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The alternative is unpayable debt (which, by the way, is poverty.) This is poverty:

P1060150Harold! What on earth is that?

Thanks for asking! That’s two houses (improvements), a bunch of coastal junipers (improvements) and in back a grassland and sagebrush steppe in which all the plants are piled up to be burnt … and abandoned, for five years now, because the real estate development paying for the vineyard as a lure for increasing house prices (improvement) and causing more human debt (and, for other humans, wealth), went bankrupt. Well, duh. What did they think would happen if they piled the wealth of 3.5 billion years of increasing complexity onto a heap and burnt it?  And the cause of that? An accounting system. Look:

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Capitalism Doing Its Worst

The productive grassland at the top of the image has been “improved” by digging it up with a ridiculously expensive piece of equipment (a most admired improvement), which replaces human labour (this is called good business management), in order to plant a single species crop (this is called efficient agriculture), which is harvested, pressed and sold as a luxury product (wine, which is called a food), of which there is too much in the world already (which is called marketing). The market that matters is the one conducted with the earth and the living world.

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Fabric Dye priced out of the market by Big Oil.

We have been depreciated.

Creative Space in Iceland

I’d like to show you a post I just made for my Icelandic blog, because it links to ideas about creativity I played with here a couple days ago. Those ideas link with many observations I’ve made here over the years, and I’d like to follow them up next week with a grassland version of these relationships. To open up that future post, let’s all go to A Farm in Iceland. Here’s the post:

I started this blog a year ago, talking about tuns. Here’s the result of a year exploring them or just wandering through them (under the observant eyes of ravens.)

fly

You Are Never Alone in Iceland, Hengifossá

(Well, unless you’re always looking for humans for company. In that case, it might be best to stay in Reykjavik.)

Today, I’d like to illustrate an observation that it’s not people who are creative, but space. Ah, you might ask, what is a tun that it might lead to an observation like that?

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Icelandic Horse Scratching Its Head

A tun is something that you can observe (and take part in) everywhere in Iceland (and in the North). Here’s a tun in Denmark (the former colonizing power, grrr):

010Half-Timbered Danish Farmhouse

Den Fynske Landsby, Fyn, Danmark. The working courtyard in front follows the ancient Norse (and thereafter Icelandic) architectural model of a tun, an open air working room between buildings. 

A tun is a building without walls or roof, where the money-making activity of the farm took place, and where the manure (the dung, a variant of the word “tun”) was stored, which could be spread on the fields to create future wealth. It is the source of economy.

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Horse-drawn Wealth Spreader Waiting for Re-use

Hedge fund version 1.0.

The tun usually connected to the track to the next farm, or out to the world of trade. Here’s a variant on a tun, from East Iceland…

landhusLandhus Farm Barn, Fljótsðalur

In this case, the tun is the road itself. It’s the architectural space (within the landscape rather than the farmyard) that carries forth the energy of the tun.

road

Icelandic Highway 1 in March, Mývatnssveit

Park your car here on the way back home from work. 

The word “tun” is the German for “to do”. The English word is “doing.” 

tundungdoing

A nice triad!

It is a place of energy that creates the economy and trade and activity of a country (or a farm), or lets it efficiently take place. It is the place where the future is created. Without it, the activities of humans would not be as organized as it is, nor could it be efficiently packed up and exported from the farm (or the country.) Iceland, of course, is a sophisticated modern country, so we can expect this source of energy to take many forms today. Here are a few:

Parking Strip.

streetArt Project in Downtown Reykjavik

The pattern of tun-in-the-pasture is reversed to pasture-in-the-tun. (The tun is Reykjavik.) This pasture, though, is in the shape of a disused turf house. Clever stuff!

Movie theatre.

theatreThe Reykjavik Movie Theatre is Also a Place of Exchange.

Note that this is a re-purposed building. In other words, not only is the movie theatre a contemporary tun, but the building acts as one as well.

Church.

church2Vik Church, South Iceland

 A very useful tun for work with souls. In this case, the houses of the village take the place of the buildings of a farmyard.

Forest.

treehouseSummerhouse in Kirkjubærjarklaustur

The trees are part of a nation building program of the Icelandic government. They represent not only shelter and beauty, but future money in the bank. In this sense, they operate as a dung heap in a tun. The land itself has been separated from itself into a special tun space here. Here’s something different…

Youth.

truckA Movable Tun

This tun represents a combined cognitive, social and bodily space. It moves around and around through Reykjavik, invading people’s dreams and re-shaping them into effervescent images of mineral water. Not into the dance scene? No problem…

Farm.
farm

Icelandic Farmstead. 

Note the elf house in the foreground. It’s good to live close to your neighbours.

From the perspective of a capital economy, this capital has depreciated to the point of needing to be replaced with a new depreciation sequence paid for with interest. In a tun-based economy, the expense of taking wealth from the land in order to build structures upon it is a debt that will be erased only when the creative (tun-ish) potential given from the land and embodied in the building and the tractor are mined dry and these materials (dung-wise) rot back into the earth. They are, in other words, a fertilizer. You don’t paint fertilizer. You also don’t throw it away. Want something more adventuresome? Iceland has that too.

Glacier.
skaftafell

Svinafellsjokul, Skaftafell National Park

A glacier is part of the common wealth of a country, that which belongs to all of the people and brings water and energy to all. It’s not just the people, either. It also brings energy to the land itself. Here, you can see what that looks like, on the other side of the glaciers.

blue

Strutfoss

Aka glacier turning into light. Very good for the soul.

A glacier can attract tourists (and mine them for wealth), provide healthy recreation for the people (an idea of nature, imported from coal-smoke-choked industrial England), provide habit for fish …

snaefels

The Laugarfljót, with a view to Snæfells

These are both tun spaces. The mountain generates snow, which generates water. The lake collects the water, to provide habitat for fish. By concentrating energy in this way, mountain and lake make it available for human harvest. (Not that this is their plan.)

Unfortunately, capital-intensive economic systems can mess with that and simplify the idea of a tun almost to unrecognizability, like this:

P1390140 This is propaganda in the service of art.

Or art in the service of propaganda. Or a statue in the middle of a hydroelectric dam outflow channel that has diverted the water from Snæfells into the wrong fjord. Something like that. Here, here’s another look: P1390165 See that? The ship steams upriver, loaded with generic manufactured goods, towards the economy created by turning Snæfells’ life-giving properties into cash, that can pay for electric toasters and Swedish toilet paper. It never, of course, arrives. Here’s it’s goal…P1390138

The Heart of the Mountain

The statue was erected on the notion of eternal wealth, just before the economic collapse made the whole notion questionable. Here’s a construction site (abandoned) in Reykjavik, based upon the economic version of this dam …

evolution

OK, So Maybe Not Such a Great Idea After All

If you get too abstract with your tun, you run the risk of running out of manure. Good to know.

Ah, perhaps you’re tired of farms by now? Well, here you go, way up in the north…

Boat.boat

A Sea-Going Tun Space

Powered by human energy (doing). Any fish brought into the boat (the tun) are instantly converted into wealth. Well, as long as your arms are strong and the weather holds.

This particular moveable tun has been sitting on the shore for a long time, but the principle still holds. When you start powering that boat with diesel, then a good chunk of the fish you bring in are not wealth, but payment for an operating debt, and, if you bought the boat on credit, a capital debt as well. If you’re not careful, the whole thing becomes a debt. Instead of organizing the wealth of your labour on the sea (very wet common space) for delivery to social space, the tun organizes social relationships for delivery to you. You have, in other words, lost your tun (doing.) Here’s a solution:

Garden.

garden

The Akureyri Botanical Garden

This garden is planted in Iceland’s northern capital to see what plants will grow in a cold, northern climate. The concentration is on decorative plants. That is part of Icelandic nationalism, a way of dunging the country so that it brings forth wealth (in the sense of a tun economy, organized around human relationships to common space (land and water, mostly), beauty and fecundity are both forms of wealth.) So is this:

School.

edda

Hotel Edda, Akureyri

In the summer, the richly-endowed residential high schools of Iceland are converted into hotels, serving travellers. This doing (tun) allows for them to be sheltered and fed without capital-intensive infrastructure on the land, that would not turn a profit (dung) and would be a drain on the community (a kind of field.) In other words, without the Hotel Edda concept, travel in Iceland would be greatly reduced. That is pure tun! In the winter, the schools are tuns of a different kind, gathering Icelandic youth together for their common education. It would be best, however, not to think of these multi-use spaces as either schools or hotels, but as a space which allows for and serves both relationships to the land. See? Pure tun! Similarly…

gas2

N1 Gas Station in Blondüos

In sparcely-populated Iceland, a gas station is like a city in itself (Icelandic Staður, German Stadt [city] or Staat [country], English State, and in land terms a Stead, as in a farmstead. Here it’s a gas stead.) Everyone stops (where else?). Everyone eats (hamburgers, chicken, pizza and hot dogs, the national dishes of Iceland, and for the lucky soul a liquorice ice cream bar [available only in Iceland] if you root around long enough in the freezer.) The places so interrupt the roads in a tun-ish kind of way that even the police stop here. Rather than waiting at the side of the road trying to nab people of interest, they just hang out at the N1 and interrogate people while they’re filling up with gas.

Here’s a somewhat more esoteric tun from Kirkjubærjarklaustur:

window

A Window on the Tun …

… is part of the function of the tun, even when it’s a bit wonky from a stone cast up by a weed eater or, perhaps (judging from the repaired state of the wall) earthquake.

Similarly, a piece of propaganda-art (or is it art-propaganda?) in downtown Reykjavik provides an anchor point for tourists wandering down to the waterfront (very tun-ish, that)…

Tourism.aluminum2

Leif the Lucky’s Aluminum Ship, with Modern Adventurers

If I was crossing the North Atlantic in a longboat, I’d want it to be a made out of aluminum, too.

… while reminding the Reykjavikers that the money that built their glittering waterfront…

City.

city

Reykjavik: Iceland’s Tun

It interacts with other national tuns to create the worldwide tun network.

… came from the aluminum smelter (and glacial-melt electricity) across the mountain in Whale Fjord.

Smelter.

aluminum

Aluminum Smelter with World War II Airstrip (aka bird sanctuary), Hvalfjörður

Leif’s ship points straight this way. This is a capital tun. That it needs space (Iceland) is rather incidental. It might have been British Columbia. Oh, wait, they’ve dammed rivers and diverted them through tunnels and extirpated salmon for an aluminum smelter in British Columbia, too! Like tuns, capital is everywhere. Sometimes it flows right through a tun and obliterates it.

Here’s Reykjavik’s most interesting tun, right on the waterfront …

Harpa.harpa

Harpa

The Reykjavik opera house and performance centre. It also houses a CD shop, a cafe, exhibition space, practice space for dancers, fashion shows and classical, folk and rock concerts. In other words, it provides a space for the concentration of cultural activity of all kinds in sufficient quantity and quality that it can be delivered to the people, the country, and the world. It’s also a beautiful piece of architecture that captures the sun light and casts it in coloured rectangles on the concrete plaza at its base, like sketchings made out of chalk. Tun all the way.

Not all tuns are so complex. Here’s one of the most basic (and powerful) of them all…

Graveyard.

graves

Right Between Church and House

Note the road that comes directly to it. The tithes that came to a church accrued to the landowner who had built the tun space for the people and were, as such, a major form of wealth for Icelandic farms. The byproduct was the dead, who were planted in the tun — a kind of social dung, fertilizing the future (Heaven) or the present (built as it is on human memory, the more the memory the richer the present.)

In this conception of wealth, capital (and money) aren’t exactly the goal, but a product of the tun space. The carefully-bounded space below, on the other hand, added to the tun space…

Field.

field Stallions at Skriðuklaustur

Without the line that bounds this field, there would be no inputs to a tun space. It would only be a potential space. Never underestimate a line, in Iceland or anywhere else.

Here, this image may illustrate that more dramatically. Here we are at Myvatn…

horsefield

Volcanic Slag, fenced and dunged = Field = Horse 

Simple math.

If we lift the camera just a teensy bit, we get some perspective…

myvatn

Volcanic Slag + Capital + Cleverness = Geothermal Power

Our horse is behind the rock.

You see how that works? The land has potential. It has a form of potential energy. The application of a particular technological approach towards defining it as space allows for different forms of energy to come out of it. A line gives us a field, gives us a horse. It will be brought into a tun, where this elementary relationship is retained. Capital gives use  geothermal power station. It will be brought into a city, where it’s own elementary relationships are retained. In the first case, the earth is full of life and living relationships. In the second, humans are separated from the earth, which is a field of energy, that can be harvested. The interrelationship between these two ways of being is complex, but at all times the elementary principle remains: creativity comes from the space that is outlined by technology; the outcomes are predetermined. In other words, we who are humans are not separate from technology and cannot just direct it to our will. All we can hope for is to create spaces, which create energy flows that lead to where we wish to go, but we should be very clear as to where they might lead. Here’s a kind of tun that got its start in Iceland over a thousand years ago:

Thing.

thingvaellir

The Thing Place in Þingvællir

The world’s first parliament convened on this spot at the confluence of the walking trails of Iceland in the year 930. All the people came and collectively decided their social arrangements, then followed the trails back to their home farms. This is the tun of tuns.

On the principal that space creates function and energy is latent in the land, some tuns are geographical spaces. Like this…

Fjord.

hrafnseyrie2

Arnarfjörður, from Hrafnseyrie

This was the view that Jon Sigurdson, father of Icelandic independence, took in as a child.

Here’s a slightly altered version:

Harbour.

harbour

Stikkishólmur Harbour

Here’s an example of a common Icelandic tun: a ruin of a lost farm.  The people of Reykjavik come from places like this that were no longer tenable in a capital-fueled society. They do, however, remain.

Ruin.

ruin

Ruined Farmhouse near Arnarstapi

The mistake should not be made, despite the astute and chilling observations of Iceland’s Nobel Laureate, Halldór Laxness, that such buildings were a betrayal of the debt of humans to their land, as they were too capital intensive and not constructed within the flow of seasons and fate. Instead, it’s better to think of them as graveyards and memory artefacts, that continue to bind people to the land, although only in potential, and offer the chance of return. The energy that was squandered (as Laxness saw it) on these buildings, remains in them, as it also remains in the land, and can be mined again. Only in the sense of capital is it lost.

Well, there are many other forms of doings in Iceland. Cataloguing them won’t add to that appreciably. But perhaps this image might sum it up:

Bridge.

bridgeLike the string that defines a field and allows for concentrated activity, a bridge is another technology both similar to a tun and connected to its energy. It allows for improved delivery of material to the tun, without the contamination of important water sources with the mud generated by foot traffic. In this case, perhaps not so well, but, hey, I used this bridge on my way to the Dwarf Church in Seyðisfjörður, and it did its thing. Oh, and as for bridges, here’s one…

Golf Course.

golfSlowly, a people who have lost their connection to tun space are refinding it, in the golf course surrounding a church which was set up next to an elf city in the lava fields south of Reykjavik. Humans are like horses in a field. They really can’t wander that far.

A Visit to the University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus

University Health Sciences Building.
p10507411University Health Sciences Building Garden

P1050825University Health Sciences Building Parking Lot Garden

P1050829Natural Late January Wild Rock Garden (Off Campus.)

P1060017

University Health Sciences Building Art

P1050786

University Health Sciences Building Artist’s Title

ross

Not like this you can’t. (University Health Sciences Building Tree, Half a Continent Out of Place.)

P1050826Try this.

P1050877 Or this.

P1060024It’s spring!

A Thought on Creativity

In contemporary culture, creativity (a rather new term) is a word used to describe a vast array of impulses. The New World Encyclopedia sums it up like this:

Creativity is a process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts, and their substantiation into a product that has novelty and originality. From a scientific point of view, the products of creative thought (sometimes referred to as divergent thought) are usually considered to have both “originality” and “appropriateness.”  Source.

Well, shall we apply that, then? And where better than Kopasker in North Iceland!

kopasker5 The farming industry has modernized. The fishing industry is bust. An earthquake split the town in two. But they have a nice new lamb-processing plant. What on earth is a town to do? Why, welcome guests by standing in the fields waving, that’s what!

kopasker It is most charming and folksy and as non-Reykjavik Icelandic as it gets, but is it creative? Is it, gasp, the product of …

a process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts, and their substantiation into a product that has novelty and originality.

Well, yes, if we maintain a human bias on the situation. No other conclusion could be drawn — if, that is, the definition is correct. Let’s look again. Are these really original figures? Or are they copies? Are they mirrors of human form, seen elsewhere? Are they projections of the human subconscious?kopasker2 I think so. I think humans are acting as lenses or catalysts for energy. I also think that seeing the issue in this fashion breaks the idea of creativity in just the way the earthquake broke Kopasker apart. That was a lousy thing for Kopasker (it is a very small place and, really, has no infrastructure for dealing with a body blow like that), but maybe it’s good for humans to get knocked off their pedestal a bit. And then there’s this ..kopasker3 By golly, the woman is made out of discarded fishing floats and what is that, an early IKEA sheet set and Grandma Karin Thorsdottir’s blouse? Oh, shucks, not to worry, it’s not just her who’s doing the disused-fishing equipment thing but Thor himself! Whew!

kopasker4Here’s a suggestion: what humans have made here, most charming that it is, is not creative. Creative lies in the energy held within the used articles. Humans mine them by recombining it in age-old forms, such as Thor and Grandma Kirstin. The design and effort and patina of use that adheres to and is present in articles is used over and over in Iceland. Maybe that’s common human experience everywhere. That seems likely. Here’s a humanized view of a disused gas station in Iceland’s far north. This is like Gas Station Version 1.0.

gasIt looks like a human form, too! Well, at least in the way I’ve framed it. Maybe that’s what the human eye does all the time: finds the human body out there and maps the world according to the physical shapes and processes it knows well. That this, and all art works, is a map of the human mind, and what isn’t a human artwork? Well, what about this, then?

blueStrutfoss, Iceland, in April

The invention of the colour blue! I swear, it didn’t exist before I walked up the valley and through the snow drifts and over the hill to find it here, glowing like a blue sun.

Is that creativity? Since contemporary culture has given the study of natural phenomena to scientists, because they took it, mostly, is it like they say? Is it this:

From a scientific point of view, the products of creative thought (sometimes referred to as divergent thought) are usually considered to have both “originality” and “appropriateness.”

Well, no. It’s not the product of creative thought. It’s a waterfall. Ah, but is it? Is it not an image of a waterfall? But, leaving that aside, might it be that it is full of energy, just as the fishing floats are? And that this energy can be mined, just as the energy of the fishing floats can be mined, instead of them being capitalized, as is the dominant economic model today? Why, perhaps, yes. Take a look at Reykjavik and see what the city has been fiddling around in while the Kopaskers have been gluing their town back together with plumber’s cement and fishing floats and good humour.

harpa

The Harpa Opera House!

It catches the light, concentrates it, and projects it, just like Strutfoss does.

The apparent difference is that it is human aesthetic and social light that it gathers into itself and projects, as  this is the main display space for most of Icelandic “creative” culture, while Strutfoss projects elemental energy, but I dunno. They look much the same to me, once this pesky ‘creativity’ word is divested of its human bias and given to the world. Or to a horse.

myvatn2Horse in a Field Created Just for Him and Him Alone, Myvatn, Iceland

Giving energy away, in other words passing it on rather than keeping it, now, that might be creative, but only in the sense that we are defining creativity as just that: passing energy on. The forms aren’t new. They are just recombinations of past energy use and the relationships inherent in it and its products. The energy, though, and the life it can create, in all senses that there are life, that is creative. Humans don’t create life, but, like the Harpa, they can create the conditions for it, and then they can stand back and marvel.

hunterGreat Blue Heron Hunting for Mice in a Hayfield

Water, Life and Thought:

What is the difference between this?

iceAnd this?

mulleinWhy, the same as the difference between this…

ice3… and this.

orangeNone at all. Water flows. Sometimes it takes minerals along with it. Sometimes those minerals look like this:

cracksLichen Following Cracks in Stone

Minerals following similar same paths appear white. Likely, the lichens are feeding on the minerals carried with the water from their own cracks.

The minerals take on crystallized form when they evaporate. The lichens, in complex crystalline forms, appear to be evaporation as well. Life, it appears, rises at intersections of different forms of energy. Is it any wonder that human thought works that way as well? What if human thought is akin to lichen? What if it is not ours but the earth’s, and we are like stones on a late winter mountainside?

p1050567

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to Look for On Mars

The search for life on Mars concentrates on geology and chemistry, not because life is entirely a business of geology or chemistry, but because a) those things can be measured and b) the scientific community is pretty certain that their logic is correct: if geological and chemical traces are found on Mars which can only have been formed by organic (i.e. hydrocarbon-based) life, they can claim, with assurance, that there is (or was) life there.

P1050416

Some Life Doing Its thing (Not Mars.)

This is all predicated on the following definition of life, or others similar to it:

“Any contiguous living system is called an organism. Organisms undergo metabolism, maintain homeostasis, possess a capacity to grow, respond to stimulireproduce and, through natural selection, adapt to their environment in successive generations.”

Thanks, Wikipedia.

It is a beautiful definition of earth life, but what if it misses stuff, or what if some parts of it are applicable to earthly life, such as deer or bunchgrass, but miss out other things, like the earth itself, or clouds or something? What if a relational system were alive, rather than just the individual organisms within that system? I think these questions are worth asking, because humans are relational creatures.

P1050476

What if the Human Capacity to See a Giant’s Head Here Were Life?

And not just the beautiful mosses and lichens?

I think it’s faulty logic to apply the definition of life, which applies well to skunks and lettuces, to relational matrices, or to the earth itself as a whole. The definition wasn’t meant to do that. I think such an application (often made, too) is like saying that men are lawyers because lawyers are men, or that the wilderness of British Columbia is untouched land because the people who inhabited it and used it for 6,000 or 12,000 or 16,000 years died.

hunter2

Is This a Great Blue Heron Hunting for Mice in a Hayfield?

Or is it a relationship between a hunting behaviour (“heron”), a sun harvesting behaviour (“alfalfa”), a carbohydrate harvesting opportunity (“mice”), and human social patterns (“neglected farm”)?

Would there be traces of such patterning, which could be found on Mars? It’s interesting to contemplate. One thing that should be kept in mind, however, is that the only instances known of life to creatures on earth consist of organisms on earth. At least, this applies to the standard definition of “life”. It could be that there is a human (earth-based) bias written right into the definition, based upon human brain processing (such as the notion of “bodies” or “movement” or “individuals” … hunting behaviours, all), at least among dominant classes within the human spectrum. This plastic head jammed in a tree trunk, for instance, is not alive …

head

… and neither is this duck head …

redhead

… yet they both demonstrate a niche (tree crotch) and a relationship (jamming) that reconfigures the human body (sexual penetration, birth, and so on) within the physical things of the world. The biological sciences found their form before post-Freudian psychology. Perhaps something was missed. If this particular form of representation and relation was missed, what else might have been? The earth, I think, is a good place to look.  And what better here in the Okanagan Okanogan than to climb up the hill and see what’s going on.

P1050480

Up you go now!

Hint, take a walking stick. The deer have made some slick trails up there by stomping on the snow. Note the saskatoon bush, because…

Ta da! Here it is again…

P1050345 Saskatoon in the Fog

Some things to note here:

1. The saskatoon bush exists in a cold climate, too cool for water to flow,  yet it is still alive. It is not in a biologically active state, but it is in an active relational state.

Lesson: flowing water is just that: flowing water. It is not synonymous with life. Searches for extraterrestrial life concentrate on planets that lie within the zone in which water might be liquid, on the presumption that carbon is the only suitable matrix for life and hydrocarbon molecules the only way of gaining the required fluidity and complexity for individual organisms to replicate. This is a way of restating the original definition of life.

2. The saskatoon bush has been browsed by deer (that’s why it’s heart is low and scrubby).

Lesson: The activity of life (a relational matrix) might be  noticeable in situations in which the chemical traces of that life (which the Curiosity Rover is searching for) are not.

3. The saskatoon bush is in a fog of warm water lifted from a large lake below, which crystallizes (i.e. comes out of solution) on the bush’s colder twigs. The warmer, darker (and thicker) trunks catch enough photons from the sun (even the sun that has filtered through fog) to prevent crystallization.;

Lesson: The forming of elaborate patterning (heat and solution matrices) and elaborately patterned material (hoar frost) doesn’t require liquid water, or perhaps even water. Cloud will do. These intricate patterns fail the organism definition of life, but they are pretty self-sustaining on the level of relationships (as long as individuals aren’t placed in there as a bias.)

4. The saskatoon bush has seasons of growth and seasons of stasis; it has a place in a chain of life within both seasons.

Lesson: Life need not be defined by its seasons of growth, its seasons of stasis, its seasons of birth or of death. Its patterning in relationship to the environment in which it finds itself might be a more accurate point of measurement.

Here is an image of a brittle briskly pear cactus individual caught in the frost near the limit of its terrain.

P1050257

When this landscape was covered with glaciers, there was no inhabitable space for cacti here. They moved over time, most effectively by a) gravity and b) animal transportation (ouch.) They established themselves when heat conditions were right. They are, in other words, indicative of complex relationships between heat, cold, water, animal life, and atmospheric pressure, among others. These things are traditional lumped together under the term “ecosystem”, but what if that were re-termed: “ecological organism”, and set beside the traditional term “individual organism”? Would that not deepen our understanding of life, rather than diminish it? Or, put it this way: currently we have individual organisms, filling ecological niches within ecosystems, while within those organisms we have defined molecules filling hydrocarbon niches within replicable DNA strings. Is there really a difference? Might they not both be life? Maybe. One of the definitions of life is that it is self-replicable. Here is the seed head of an arrow-leafed balsam root, holding crystals of lake that have condensed out of the air.

P1050164

Tiny Little Sunflower Seeds in the Snow

By the standard definition of life, the seeds are alive. What they are, however, is only a stage in the organism, which can only be seen in its entirety, over time. The seed head above is as much the plant as are its arrow-shaped leaves in the early spring or its yellow flowers in May.

biggreenhill.jpg?w=584&h=438

Arrow-Leafed Balsam Root

These flowers are as much the plant (but no more than) as its seeds in winter.

Organisms exist in time. Measurement of any point in that span of time (which is also a span of space and a span of energy and a span of relationships) is an incomplete measurement of that organism, as it concentrates on an individual in time and space rathe than an individual that lives and expresses itself through time and space. The difference is subtle, but important. For instance, lichens, one of the most ancient organisms on the planet, are actually a symbiosis (a mutually-sustaining community) between a moss and an algae (often a cyanobacteria, the first life form on earth.) These organisms, in other words, exist in an unbroken line of time, stretching back through their cyanobacteria partners perhaps 3.5 billion years.

P1050411Looking at Lichen is to Look at 3.5 Billion Years of Time, Expanding into the Future

Interestingly enough, cyanobacteria also exist within the chloroplasts (light-eating and sugar-synthesizing structures) of plants, such as the green pigments here:

p1230442Each of the millions of chloroplasts within the leaves and the pear here are centred around a captured cyanobacteria, which was integrated into the DNA of the plant long, long, long ago. The little animal (cyanobacteria) is actually farmed by the plant, just like the ants are farming these aphids…

ants

Another Ancient Relationship

The ancient aphids tap into the sap of the plant, which is drawn up through the sagebrush by capillary action and the sun, and then let it pour through their bodies, digesting what they can of it along the way and letting the excess pour out. It is this excess sugar water that the ants harvest. Aphids are present on most plants in the grasslands when ants put them there, and survive when ants fight off their predators.

You can follow the entire history of the world in this grassland, up from the first life to its most complex. There is a series of relationships here that sustain each other by other than chemical or geological or physical processes. One thing that is sustained is the notion of evolution. If an organism living within a certain relationship within an ecological organism is removed, the relationship remains, and another organism will move in to fill it. The cod can be removed from the Grand Banks off of Newfoundland by human stupidity and greed and replaced by skates, but the energy relationships remain intact. They are self-sustaining, by attracting different organisms to fulfill their roles. This is a basic principle of evolution. Another thing that is sustained by other than physical, chemical or geological processes is the notion of life itself. By scientific definition, it is (to save you from scrolling up again…)

“Any contiguous living system is called an organism. Organisms undergo metabolism, maintain homeostasis, possess a capacity to grow, respond to stimulireproduce and, through natural selection, adapt to their environment in successive generations.”

Thanks, Wikipedia.

There are multiple definitions, one of which is energy, or enthusiasm. It can be applied to organisms, but also to cities, roads, artworks, the movement of the planets, talk, marriage, and so much more. The reason is that the English language is drawing the term from an old source, in which life was seen as energy, that animated objects before passing out of them again. The scientific definition was brought forward in order to create a measurable science of manipulable things. That worked very well. It did, however, drop some things out of the picture, and left the alternate definitions of life to spiritual and artistic work (and to the psychological sciences that rose out of the combination of those two realms). It now appears time to join them all together again, into a larger picture. After all, water doesn’t have to flow, always, for their to be life …

P1050430

Lichen and Moss Blooming in the Hoarfrost

…and the temperature range for life is rather broad, and extends not only across seasons, but across altitude, global location, and deep geological history, as evidenced by these ancient lichens doing just fine in what for them is the height of spring and for humans is seen as the deep of winter …

P1050459

Life explores edges of light and dark, substance and energy.

P1050444I don’t think that is entirely the domain of traditionally-defined organisms, nor that a new definition takes away any strength or rigour from organism-defined biology. It adds this, though:

P1050438

A Small Ecological Organism on the Grassland Hill (Silver Sage Lookout)

And that, too, is a kind of geology, just one that sees life as part of geological process, not separate from it. By changing the picture to include “ecological niches” as ecological organisms, the definition of life is broadened, which might make it easier to defend, celebrate, and find. I think as well, it will increase the capacity of human social life for non-human social integration. I think it is time. Maybe it is all about water.

P1050452On earth, anyway. Maybe the energy flows within that water …

P1050450What Are the Bubbles All About, Eh?

… will lead to discovery of non carbon-based life. Maybe life is everywhere in the universe, but water life is only located in certain zones. If that were so, we would be richer by far.

Moss Going Weird in an Early Thaw

Ah, botanists, I have a mystery here. Perhaps you can help. What on earth is this moss in the image below? I was walking up on the Bella Vista Hills above Okanagan Lake, at the 650 metre level, where the snow is melting in patches among the sagebrush and the rock outcroppings, when I came across this stuff… P1050250It looks like moss, but it has lifted up in long, transparent filaments, frozen in place, probably by thawing and re-freezing weather. It comes in big patches, following deer trails or waterways, like this:

P1050254That image above is not “dug up” by animals, although they have walked through it (they walk through everything up there.) Much of this territory looks like this:

P1050245Here it is again, from slightly further away:

P1050243What on earth is going on? Here’s some moss, growing on rock and behaving normally for this early, high grassland spring…

P1050227 Closer up, it looks like this:

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Not like this:

P1050249What’s going on? Anyone know?