Worms at Work

For an invasive species, earthworms are pretty cool.P1240733 “Earthworms make soil,” people say.

P1240736 Hmmm.

P1240734 “Humans make art,” people say.

P1240749“People,” people say, “are going somewhere.” Ah, are those tire tracks in the muck?

P1240746“Worms,” people say, “aren’t conscious. Not like people are.”

P1240742That’s like asking a lawyer to define the purpose of the law. It’s like saying “worms aren’t humans.” Of course they aren’t, but look what they can do.

P1240738They can carve time! It doesn’t matter if they’re objective about it or not.

P1240751And they have five hearts! How cool is that! Here’s our artist laying down some more carved time.


The Picasso of Worms!


Weedkillers as Art

Exhibit 1: the Wealthy Man’s SculptureP1240644No one knows what those metal bits on the top are. Intriguingly, poisoned plants around its base are considered a good way to sell building lots worth up to $750,000.

Exhibit 2: Industrial Punk Version:

P1240584This minimalist installation is called an orchard. Note the narrow band of grass between the weed-killed strips, out of which the apples grow.

Humans like dead things.


Speaking the Language of the Birds

Raven and the moon …ravenmoon

An Old Story

The reason that people could once read the language of the birds to tell the future is that if you are a place you do not move, just as a woman who is a carpenter today does not move from being a carpenter or a man who is an artist is something other than a man. It’s in this way that a farmer was his farm (most everyone was a farmer) and was acclimatized to it, in the way sheep in Iceland are acclimatized to their mountain and do not stray from it.


Eagles and Heron Rookery

At home in the world.

In such a condition, any change is significant.

P1240672 Hawk and Saskatoon Bush

A tired storyteller.

A bird changing position, and operating in a world of movement in general, is read against the backdrop of a landscape read simultaneously as one’s mind and body — a landscape in which all time doesn’t move, because it is physical. In a landscape like that, a bird makes connections.


Robin and Poplar

One did not need to be “creative” to make these connections. That is a contemporary term, that attempts to translate the old language of the birds into the speech of individual consciousness.


Canada Geese and Gulls at 20 Below, Okanagan Lake

In place, one just needed to see, or to read, but you had to do it with your whole self and body at once, in all extensions of it in space and time.


 Magpie and the Cross

Humans learned to be human by watching the birds. Trickster behaviour is best learned from being tracked by cheeky birds in space and time. Then it is yours, too.

That is a definition of art. The dominant contemporary art form, the photograph, does no more. It operates along the same principles, but does not do so with the same character-changing and character-anchoring depth. It is a part of the technology of individual consciousness, rather than place consciousness.


Starling and Rainbow

Well, he’s not very big.

Yes, it is possible to read the language of the birds today, but the answer is not going to be the kind of answer that comes from books. For that, one needs a translator.


Western Mountain Bluebird and Apple Tree

What the bluebird says: Western Mountain Bluebird and Apple Tree. This is, however, significant.

What is translated is not some romantic nonsense from the gods, which is the argument that was used to dispel earth-based thinking, in that time when humans thought with and as the world.


Great Blue Heron Claiming a Barn Roof

It is your self, which is to say it is the world around you and in which you are embedded. You are still and all the world. Birds, which are the agents of movement, are thought.

hawkraven2 Raven and Hawk

I learned all this in the Church of St. Nicholas in Leipzig, where the demonstrations that led to the Wall (and the Iron Curtain) coming down in 1989 began. The organist was playing a piece Bach had composed for the church. The church was the sounding box for the organ. Rather than project the sound outward into the square, however, it projected inward, into my body where I sat in a pew. One note played my liver. Another my femurs. Another the muscles in my arms. One chord played my thighs. Another played my lungs. Chord by chord, the music was transmitted through me. In the Leipziger Nikolaikirche, Bach is still alive. It’s like that with birds.


Crow Talking With Her Whole Body

Mackenzie Beach, Vancouver Island

It is all direct and simple, but it is not the modern way. That’s a shame. One might get knowledge without being able to read like this. One won’t get wisdom.




Gull on Drift Ice, Okanagan Lake

Go for the wisdom.

The Secret to Contemporary Landscape Design Success

It’s about imagining what might be there, behind the anti-deer netting.

P1240501Why Bother?

I dunno.

Check out the beautiful ground cover, too. If you’re wondering what that stuff is, apart from the petrochemical installations, it’s ground up trees from urban lots, mixed with rotted leaves and a bit of sewage outflow, that is capable of supporting zero plant life but looks rich and fertile when it’s new. You might think that if you were spending $700,000 on a house, you’d want to set it off nicely, and you’re right. This is what setting it off nicely looks like! (Note: This is what cultures look like shortly before they die from the inability to sustain their contradictions. It’s great art, though!)


A Simple Moment Alone with the Earth

The old version: Spring is the season in which plants grow. They make use of a series of adaptations to regulate their growth to a period of year with the combination of time for ripening, combined with availability of light, heat and water.


And what are the plants doing? They are the spring. They are not making use of adaptations. They live in an organically-created cycle at one with the rhythms of the earth and not separate from them. Any thought that talks of adaptations has missed the earth. It will often be said that to understand something fully one must first take it apart and see how its parts function. Look again:


This is not a plant adapting to a climate. This is the earth. (For more, see my entry Grow, on  earthwards.net).


Today, words in praise of bunch grass.
P1230555The roots of this blue-bunched wheatgrass fill the space between the plants.The soil is their sky. They reach out into it for the clouds of water that flow down through the soil, and still it. They then reverse that gravitational flow and let the sun draw the water in to their new spring leaves and stretch them up into the air. In this act, they reverse the direction of sunlight. They climb it. At the same time, they move water between the atmosphere below the soil and the one above it. The sky is their soil, as much as the earth is. They reach out into both and feed, using the energy of gravity to draw them down into water and the energy of the sun to lift themselves with it. This is what balance looks like. The particular distance between plants on this hill is the result of the steepness of the slope and the correspondingly quick flow of the water down through it, coupled with the damage to the soil’s protective crust by a population of deer trapped into repetitive motion by the constrictions of housing and fences, that allow for few areas of downward and upward motion on the hillsides. The grasses are so efficient at capturing water, that in this, their wet season, the soil is dry powder to a human hand and serves as a barrier against evaporation from the roots, enabling the plants to concentration the inevitable evaporation of this climate into their stalks.


Okanagan Easter Meditation

This is what Easter looks like here.P1230637 Do you see that? Yeah, no people. Canada is an urban country. It views its land as a resource, to be used to create more urban space. It doesn’t live in it. It remakes it. Then it’s Canada.

P1230626Earth Crushing Machinery on the Horizon, The Rise

Canada is a construction project. People live in it. Here’s one way it’s done:


Bed Rock Becomes Road Gravel

The author Margaret Atwood once described this as a kind of fortress syndrome: early “settlers” lived inside a palisade, surrounded by hostile territory. The palisades still exist, and are the chain of a dozen large and medium-sized cities (and a few dozen smaller ones, plus a host of small towns, all of which could fit inside suburban Toronto) which are Canada. Around them are places where no one lives, like here …

P1240013Bella Vista, Looking Over Okanagan Lake to Ewings Landing

It is to be looked at. One building lot, set to appreciate the view above, on the hill above my house, is currently priced at $750,000, and rated for a house of no more than 7000 square feet. That’s a village in most parts of the world, but for Canadians the appreciation of a view of this nature requires space and silence and a sense of exclusivity. It must be private, and must contain, within that private space, all the amenities of urban space. Each house is a fortress. The people live privately, in rows of fortresses within housing areas called “subdivisions”. Here is the approach to Canada in these parts …


It’s the West, though. Tumbleweeds still blow. Here’s a modern cowboy, out riding his steed in the orchard just below, between Good Friday and the Resurrection…

driftSpray Drift in an Apple Orchard, Bella Vista

The operator wears a moon suit. The wild bees, that he will soon need for pollinating his trees, not so much.

Do you see how that works? Everything is inside of boundaries. If things cross boundaries (bugs, for instance), they are “wild” and need to be organized. Well, people are like that. There’s no using fighting it. Here is some prime human habitat in the nearby urban centre. You can see that it is highly organized.


Vernon Restaurant Back Patio and Rail Line

Note the incursions of the “wild” earth. They are called “weeds”. Occasionally they are beaten back with applications of poisons, called “herbicides”. The application of them is called “improving property values” and “urban beautification”.

Here is the human habitat it replaced:


Somebody messed up. There are understandable reasons. Humans are like that, for one. Christ was crucified, after all, and that was a nasty business, too. But he rose from the dead.


Shooting Stars, at the Rise

Have you ever spent Easter in Germany? They eat white asparagus to celebrate Christ’s ascension, with cured ham, yellow potatoes, and hollandaise sauce, or with morels, or venison, or, well, pretty well anything, really, and it goes on for months, in every pub, restaurant and café. It’s an ancient tradition that goes back to the myths of death and renewal in ancient Greece. The ancient traditions here in the Okanagan are older. And newer. They’re not ancient, you see.


They just don’t contain a concept of “inside” — or one of “outside,” for that matter. And that applies not only to space but to mind. This, for example, is mind:


Saskatoon Blossoms on a Marmot Perching Rock

This, too:

P1230752Cottonwoods Blooming and Sprouting at the Same Time

Mind. Not something observed from social space, or from a view window, and not “art” but mind’s location. In the body. In the world. Beats me how that is different than Christ’s message, or why the settlers and developers of the notion of Canada in this place felt it needed to be replaced, except, perhaps, this one thing:


Balsam Root Slope at Easter

They don’t live here. If they did, they’d thin out this ingrown sagebrush with fire, rather than calling it a natural process of succession, and preserving that to preserve its “wild” qualities. There is no wild in the Syilx world, and we’re not talking about something that happened in ancient Athens or pre-Alexandrian Aramia, but something that’s still present. In a region in which the landscape has been humanly altered to allow for the greatest possible diversity almost since it was washed clear of the glaciers after the last ice age, there is no so-called ‘natural process of succession,’ except a succession of urbanization over a culture of human devotion. As soon as the Syilx culture of being present in landscape is discredited, the use of such terms as “natural succession” is much the same as saying that the replacement of the Syilx people by Europeans was a natural process of succession. No. What it was a lot clearer than that. It was theft. And racism. You can even easily tell where the theft took place, because anywhere there’s anything that is called wild, like this…


Biscuit Root below the Bella Vista Church Cross

Bread anyone?

… you know there’s theft, because before words got thrown around here like buckshot, words like “wild” and “wilderness” and even “land” as things separate from people and consciousness and story, there was nothing wild, because there was no inside or outside, and all people were the people, including this fellow:


Western Mountain Bluebird

Making a living between worlds.

Wasn’t that Christ’s message, too? To be manifest in the world? Well, you’d think so, wouldn’t you. In 2008, I walked out of the museum of Orthodox icons in Recklinghausen, Germany one spring, and ever since everything on earth has been springing forth, out of the soil, in a perennial energy of resurrection and birth that Christ tapped into and the ikons mediate. That’s not the Canadian way, though. In Canada, where the church is an urban space, resurrection and birth take place within the individual body, within a group of individual bodies, within a spiritual space they create within a building that symbolizes their faith: a church. Christ wasn’t a man for churches, though. He was in the world. To find him, look here:


Choke Cherry Opening on Stone

Here’s the strangest thing: if one people doesn’t want the land I’ve shown you above for any other reason than the disrespectful one of grazing cattle on it, which pretty soon leads to sagebrush ingrowth and the deterioration of pretty well any usable grazing capacity, why is the only form of resurrection of its capacity to give and affirm life that of replacing it with urban structures? There are thousands of other possibilities. Why don’t people just start raising Syilx crops on it instead? Or, heck, give it back to the Syilx, since they created it anyway? Does God have to be named to be God?


Wild Lettuce Resurrecting on a Gopher Mound

That’s how the grassland seeds itself: right where it is. No labour is required, just attention. It shouldn’t be wild lettuce, though. That’s a weed brought on by grazing.

Actually, if you name something as God, it’s most certainly not God.


Is This Vineyard Water Pipe God Speaking?

No. I think God likes shooting stars.


It is just as dangerous to live inside words. They were originally used for Christian and Hebraic texts in order to keep God unknowable and thus ever-present. Something went quite wrong with that over time. Now a huge amount of effort has to be spent to break the spell of words themselves and the wine made from this land, that used to be known as the blood of Christ, vital for ceremonies such as Easter, and which was grown in the vineyards of the Rhone a hundred and fifty years ago as the water of life itself that would see you through your day labouring on the slopes, is called today …


… “a patio sipper.” For those of you not from Canada, that means “a fruity white wine, light on the palette, that is perfect for drinking from acrylic glasses on your deck or patio while enjoying the sun and your view over the lake while chatting with friends.” Given that these grapes are grown on Syilx land, that’s disrespectful. That’s just not a good enough reason to suppress and disenfranchise a people and to convert 9,000 years of human environmental history into a collection of weeds. It’s also not a good enough reason to pick up a couple shovels and a garden rake and to go to the last remaining strip of native grassland growing between the weeds in a public park up above your house and dig it out to make a bicycle racing track for your own use.


But that’s how you make a Canada out of a wilderness of your own making. That is part of the grief of Christ’s death. Tough stuff. But, hey, this is no longer Good Friday we’re talking about, but Easter, and not only that but the day after. In a fortress culture, the image above is the resurrection, out of the stuff of the mind. I think Christ would have preferred food for the people, maybe like this:


The capacity of the land to feed people doesn’t have to be owned. Change the terms just a little bit, to “spirit cannot be owned”, and you can see, perhaps, how Christ’s resurrection can still find fertile ground here. It’s happening all around us. Look!


Apricot Tree Gone Wild

Well, that’s the term for it. A better term is “naturalized”. Here’s another:


Naturalized Apricot Tree in a  Subdivision “Wild” Landscape Feature

It is leading the way.

Greetings from the Easter Marmot


Happy Easter!

You can trust an animal that goes underground in August and comes up again Mid-April: sun, sun, sun and more sun!

Today’s is the 700th post on Okanagan Okanogan. You have responded with 52000 views and have taken the time to write to me 1050 times. Thanks, all of you, for sitting on the rocks for awhile in these volcanic islands between the mountains. The book this is all leading to, Atomic Okanagan, is halfway through its second major draft. I am so excited, it’s hard to drag myself away to all the other pressing work of spring. I’ll be finishing up another section for the Kelowna Art Gallery early in the week. Many other pieces are coming together. Without your continued support, it would not have been possible. Thank you, dankeschön, merci beaucoup, takk fyrir, and, well, here…

yellowArrow-leafed Balsam Root in the Easter Marmot’s Garden

That other rodent just brings chocolate wrapped in aluminum.