Beyond Individual Identity

There are several ways to do write on rock. You can chisel into the rock with another rock:


Petroglyph, Columbia Hills State Park

You can write on the rock.


She Who Watches, on the Temani Pesh-wa Trail, Columbia Hills State Park

You can let the rock do the writing and just read it, and maybe dab some bird faeces in the eyes and let the lichen do its work.

ravenRaven, Temani Pesh-wa Trail

Or you can make a self portrait.


Spontaneous Troll Sculptures, Gullfoss, Ísland

Everywhere humans go, they make images of themselves.

Here’s another self-portrait, made by a human.


Human Self Portrait with Fence Post and Barbed Wire, Horsethief Butte

This self portrait of a man’s will divides public space into individual spaces, rather aggressively.

The above image suggests that in American society, common space is not commonly inhabited or accessible, or even universally distributed, yet remains common. All it needs is some artfulness…


Humans in the Sky, Goldendale, Washington

…and a whole bunch of people doing the same thing…

wind3The Windmills of Northern Oregon

Here is what that sense of competition looks like up close and personal:


Railway Crossing on the Columbia River

In this case, the human self portrait is far larger and noisier than the humans, and they must wait for it to finish taking up space.

For some strange reason, this is called freedom, and this…


Pictographs, Temani Pesh-wa Trail

… and this …


Stone Eagle, Palouse Falls

… are called individual observations, or tribal ‘beliefs’, when in fact they represent moments of expanding consciousness and identity into the world, or of finding it there, for the first time.

faceAncestor, Peshastin PInnacles

As children, we have individual identities, which we must cling to, as tools to draw us through the world. After a time, though, one can open the hands and set that identity free. Here it is, flying away.


Raven, Peshastin Pinnacles

Don’t worry. It’s a raven. It will come back.





Too Many Horses

The Yakama people have been living with horses for hundreds of years. In all that time, horses living wild on their land have been a part of their wealth. When settler culture gave up on horses for cars in the twentieth century, many people did an astonishing thing: they set their horses free (illegally) on the Yakama Reservation, in a gesture of brotherhood, and then they turned away for the future. This gesture of affection and peace has led to so many herds of horses on the fragile bunchgrass lands of the reserve that the land is being destroyed. No one wants the horses gone, as they are the heart of the people, and a direct link with a dynamic cultural past, but their numbers are just too high.

P1280740A Foal Feeds on the Yakama Reservation

These horses are far from wild. Their brothers and sisters, however, are, and number over 13,000. Read more here.

What does this have to do with Canada? We have much the same problem in the grasslands of the Cariboo and the Chilcotin, with much the same binds. That’s one connection. Another is that here in the Okanagan, the Yakama lands, and their horses, are the southern tip of our traditional territory. The history of the Yakamas is our history. We are all bound (differently) by the same treaties, with many of the same joys and grievings and the same fundamental problem: there is too little land for all of the demands made upon it. Reservations are not enough.


The Trail to Nowhere

It started as a trail to the promised land. Here at the Whitman Mission in Walla Walla, in Oregon Territory (now in the State of Washington), it has led to a hill of cheatgrass, an invasive weed, and a monument to the dead, who got caught between worlds. This was the arrival point for thousands of new immigrants to the territory along the Oregon Trail in its early years.cheat

We live in the ruins.

Blood of the Earth

I live in the country of the Columbia River, above the lake that spills into one of its tributaries, the Okanogan River. In this country, there are many rivers like the Okanagan, such as the San Poil, the Kootenay, the Spokane, the Methow, the Wenatchee, the Snake, the John Day, the White Salmon, the Willamette, and the Young. That is just one small list of many rivers of energy pouring into one great stream that flows out to sea. Each draws the energy of a piece of land, some of them almost four billion years old, others countable in the tens of millions, together into one flow that pours straight into the Pacific, without a delta or a single shoal, only an underwater bar that brings the desert to the mouth of the sea. Today, I was in the John Day. It looks like this:


Heart of the Earth, John Day River Valley

And look what I found growing out of this old volcanic ash:

bitter2That’s right, bitter root, the most important foodstuff in this country. And she was blooming…

bitter3These are the blood of the land. Together, they flow into the water, and out of the water comes …

,,,our hearts, here in the Columbia Country, the red fish, in this case the Sockeye of N’kmp, that have gone home to Siberia and have come home to the Columbia. This is more than the maple trees of the East. This is everything.

A Mission of Peace

In 1848 Father Charles Marie Pandosy was ordained on the Oregon Trail when news that the Whitman family had been massacred at Walla Walla, in the Columbia Plateau. Fear led to the feeling that more fully-ordained priests might be needed, perhaps to become martyrs, I don’t know. Perhaps to found more missions. Pandosy’s first mission, at the mouth of the Yakima River, was erased from memory by the clearances that moved all people from that area in 1943, so other people could come in and build a nuclear bomb. It’s a nature preserve now, below a confluence of freeway overpasses. In 1855, though, the feared massacre looked like it was going to take place, but was prevented by Pandosy’s diplomacy. He had earned the trust of the Yakamas, because he had taken the time to befriend the Yakama people, to learn their language, and to plant a 40 acre garden. For this act of peace-making, a posse attached to the U.S. Army burned down his mission at Ahtanum Creek and destroyed his crops and his Yakama dictionary, on the fear that he had been selling guns to the Yakamas. There was no evidence other than prejudice and fear. After the Yakama War, Pandosy was sent north to British Territory, and began the mission that would become the City of Kelowna and its strip malls, down the road apace from where I live today. He was not very good at converting people to his faith, but he was great at planting gardens and bringing people together and maybe handing them a cabbage. This is, perhaps, what you get from being ordained one morning at dawn on the Oregon Trail. Here’s a look into the church his brother Oblate fathers rebuilt at Ahtanum Creek. This is not a retouched or photoshopped photograph. This is the view into a hand-axed log church mid-afternoon on a sunny May day. I think of Pandosy as being the Father of the West: a farmboy from an estate outside of Marseilles, ordained among the buffalo, on a long walk across the Great Plains.

ahtanumwindowAhtanum Mission


The Power of Rock

Life is a great force on this planet, but so is rock. Just look at this one!P1260118The interplay of this kind of steadiness and resistance within the web of life can be most beautiful.

P1260120Is that steadiness not the root of art?

Menhir, Yverdon-les-Bains, SuissevMore here.

Is that not like a photograph? 


Ancestors in the Rock, Peshastin Pinnacles, May 20, 2014

Is it not the capturing of one’s thoughts, in the world? They can be read there.

P1270324Raven at Peshastin Pinnacles

This capacity for reading rock, extends to ravens and their capacity for reading rock. Art is a path that knows no inside or outside, no here or there. From this, narratives extend. And dinner.


And life.




Staghorn Sumac on the Move in the Springtime, Bella Vista

Contemporary art and science dissects these unities and this path, on the assumption that the physicality of humans and the earth are givens and the presence of humans is a random result of competition and struggle. That’s hardly the whole story.

twoIsn’t it time we taught our children how to read again?

Masked Hunter

The bug from my shed has a name and a story.  It’s a masked hunter. It picks up dust bunnies and carries them around. No lie. Read about it here. Thanks to all of you who found it for me!


And here I thought it was a rare grassland critter. I think it loves my shed, though. I also think it’s dusty camouflage does not work on the tarp. Good to know, should you wish to try this method of sneaking up on bugs.

Help! What Is This Insect??????

It’s flat, it’s hairy, it’s about a centimetre long. It’s not very fast. I saw one three years ago. It died. I wish this one would leave my tarp and go somewhere safe, but What Is It? Anyone? It’s in Vernon, British Columbia. In my toolshed. That’s where the other one was too. Anyone? bug