Why Poetry Matters

In poetic tradition, the number three is sacred to the Goddess of poetry, as is the colour red. This is not the age of the Earth in which people are comfortable talking about goddesses, or poetry, so let me rephrase that, with an image:hipthree

 

Three Red Earths in a Field of Energy

As this is also not the age of the Earth in which images are easily read, let me rephrase my original opening again:

 The number three … The birth-reproduction-death cycle

is sacred … unites the three defining components

to the Goddess of poetry … of the earth

as is the colour red… through the force of life.

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Three Drops of Blood

The birth-reproduction-death cycle unites the three defining components of the earth through the force of life. One more thing: in contemporary culture, statements like this are to be understood, or dismissed. The sense of “understanding” at play is that of comprehension of a logical meaning or sequence within the statement. That is a new form of the Old English word “understand”, and one far newer than the comprehension of the birth-reproduction-death cycle which the word might claim to grasp. In terms contemporary with the lives of people who lived intimately with the earth, the word “understand” means “to stand among”, “to stand on”, in the sense of “being close to.” In other words, to say that one understands the statement “The birth-reproduction-death cycle unites the three defining components of the earth through the force of life.” is to say that one stands in the middle of this …

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… that one stands upon it, that one accepts its truth as one’s own, and that one is intimate with and willing to be ruled by it. Rather than being an expression of individual strength, it is an expression of humility: the strength is in the earth.

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Even when it looks to be a dead thing. As I said, we don’t live in an age of poetry, nor in one of images or of understanding in the original sense of the word. That’s not the earth. That’s just culture. The original force, however, is still present, meaning “here in our time.”

P1590872 This Image is Contemporary

So is the knowledge that informs it.

This knowledge has been given to us by our ancestors, who knew the earth intimately. We cannot claim to understand them, or their earth, if we do not stand under their knowledge, which is to say, if we do not stand within it.

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Winter Haws

The magical tradition, from which poetry rose, honours these fruits as well, as does the Christian tradition, which draws parallels between them and Christ’s blood. Although this is not a time of the earth in which Christian or magical traditions dominate world affairs, their knowledge is still with us.

That this knowledge was originally expressed in language as poetry is precisely the point, because it means that the tool for accessing it is within poetry. As such, through to the end of the Christian age, poetry remained the most vital tool for training future state administrators. It was commonly agreed that a balanced social, spiritual and human world could not be created on earth without the use of the tools of poetry, with their deep roots in the intersection of spirit and the earth.

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A Model for Governance

If you know how to read it.

This correspondence between the earth, human social affairs and poetry can serve as a simple yardstick: if anyone dismisses the roots of poetry within the physical earth, they are dismissing as well both the tools for understanding that earth, humility, the concept of understanding itself, and that earth. Unfortunately, the image below is rarely recognized as poetry today.

P1580073 Poetry today is one of the learned arts, taught as a communication form to transfer emotional material between the discrete individuals of a post-goddess world. It was not always so. What culture today finds through words was originally a direct expression of what was observed in the world and turned into a sequence of signs and symbols, which contemporary poetry calls metaphor and symbol.

P1580075 This is Not a Metaphor

P1580068 This is Not a Symbol

P1580066 As you open into your time here on this earth, you may find, as I have today, people calling absurd the notion that poetry is a function of the universe. To such people, this is not poetry:P1580042 Nor is this…P1580034 Nor this …P1580030 Yesterday I was even challenged by a linguist, who claimed that linguistics was a mature science, while poetry was a method of communication. If that were entirely so, either the following image would be a piece of communication….P1580029 … which it is not, as it has neither narrative, symbol, significance nor meaning, or poetry would be a human invention, which is to say it would be an application of rhetorical rules delineated by the logic of grammar and thus subservient to intellect. It would be much like learning to construct a speech or to strip down the engine of an automobile.P1580027 To a man whose identity is one with a certain stretch of the planet, it is an impoverished view of the earth, but, hey, it might be good enough for a lot of good work, except that attempting to govern the earth and to shape it by such mechanistic processes creates not this….P1580009 … or this …P1580005 … but this…

P1600900…and, closer, this …P1600891

… which is unsustainable, mismanages earth, water and health and provides industrialized food and industrialized landscapes in place of humanity and beauty. So, an observation: a mechanistic world view that does not “stand under” or “understand” the earth in the poetic sense produces a society that does not stand within the earth and, in its reflection, an earth that one cannot stand within…

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Heck, they even build fences around it.

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These new, created spaces exclude all humans (and other large mammals) except the creators of these spaces. We call such land engineers farmers. They are neither farmers nor poets. They are industrialists, transforming the earth into a factory and interhuman (and human-earth) relationships into relationships of power based on the authority of privately-reserved wealth. Goddesses don’t like that kind of thing. Nor do Christs. Nor do poets. Nor do living environments. Look how the weight of molten snow soaks the seeds of blue-bunched wheatgrass, and how the weight of winter water and snow bends down its stalks to the snow …

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..where frost releases the seed onto the snow …

seed

When the snow melts, the seed will be carried to a place attractive to water, where it will sprout, perhaps, into a new individual. Poetry acts like that, because it is as organic and responsive to the environment as that, and consists of organic observations like this one. Yes, poems are constructed of words these days (although also out of sounds, images, performance and video), but that doesn’t mean that it began with words. It began with the ability to be within the earth and no matter what new territory it rises from, it retains that ability. In fact, it nourishes it. It is, in fact, this:

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Anyone who tells you otherwise is either not a poet, or does not live on the earth. You should know this. It’s vital.

Okanagan Rhododendrons and Climate Change

In the Okanagan Valley, rhododendrons, so glorious in the rain forests on the Pacific Coast, and so frost tender, grow at elevations between 3,000 and 5,000 feet, in moose swamps of black spruce, alder, sedges, willow and the occasional cedar or fir. It’s a very coastal landscape, with deep acidic soils. It’s a very northern landscape, with deep snow, long winters, and very slowly growing environments.P1600797

 

Okanagan Rhododendron

These are just the kinds of adaptations across climatic zones that will allow life to flourish in upcoming climatic change. Transporting plants across zones is not the answer. Nourishing cross-zone species is.

Snow on the Apple Factory

When the Okanagan Valley was a grassland, it was cold in the winter. The grass stretched up to the high country forests. In the valley floor, orchards were planted, then cities, and now there is no grass. The orchards and vineyards captured heat from the sun, and warmed the grass. Now the snow is sleet, drifting through apple factories that were once orchards full of trees growing out of grass. It melts as quickly as it comes, and if it stays on the ground the densely packed trees melted it away. We like to blame the oil patch, though. They have their share of global warming. This is ours.

P1600763Okanagan Landing, 11 a.m. December 24, 2014

The good news is that if we did this, we can fix it.

 

How Water Ignorance Has Changed the World

It is possible to change the world. You can start out with a landscape in which the strategies of plants to capture water, air pressure, gravity and evaporation join to stop water in its tracks, or at least to slow it so that the low atmospheric pressures of the winter sustain plants in the high pressures of the summer when water enters the air and vanishes. You can, though, change all that. It takes a bit of time, and a lot of money. You can see this process in action in the image below. This is a vineyard in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia in the winter. There should be snow at this time of year, but it melted and won’t come back for a week. Take a look.

P1600529Now, here’s that image again, with notes, to help you see its water story. First, the winter story. Note how the removal of water-holding plants (matching the pressure of the air) to create a vineyard creates a system of water loss through gravity.

 

hold Now, imagine that in the summer. The situation is a little different. (I use the winter image for consistency. Imagine leaves!)

waterloss

And that’s the trick. A science of water will create this story if it tracks water flows without figuring in green water (trapped in plants and passed on between them), water retention, the microbiological (moss, fungus, bacterial) skin on the earth, which acts as a gas transfer agent (like a human lung), and the shifting of water movement from high to low pressure periods of the year. Weeds that it encourages, include this invasive grass, which retains water only through thatching, reducing the complexity of life forms able to live on this land or from it.P1600305

Here’s some native bunchgrass, which can defy gravity and manipulate air pressure across seasons, fighting it out with some cheatgrass, which has replaced the microbial crust. The bunchgrass isn’t exactly thriving, but it has formed a truce with the cheatgrass. However, there isn’t room for other species. This is it.
P1600319In comparison, bunchgrass can do this:
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It stops water from flowing, then moves it slowly, so that it can be absorbed.

P1600472Elegantly.

P1600473Simply.

P1600477Beautifully.

P1600479Because of inappropriate science, this landscape is being replaced with this:

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Here, let me annotate that.

weeds

 

One native plant trying to heal the broken soil, amidst colonies of  weeds that have reclaimed over-grazed and broken land in the model of the scientific culture that overgrazed it and broke it out of its ignorance. After this, the landscape does fit the hydrological model … but with a loss of most of its productivity. Pitiful.

The Lungs of the Earth

Bunchgrass defines the grasslands of the intermontane west. It is not, however, the main story here. It is only the canopy forest. P1590438The real grassland is here. It is far older. It lies dormant in the summer’s heat and grows and blooms in the complex snow-melt landscape between the heat sinks of the grass almost all the winter long and into the spring.P1590415This is the lung of the earth. It is a skin that allows water and air to pass into the colonies of microbes that live beneath the soil and which dissolve it into minerals for plants.
P1590407 Where it has been killed off, the earth has an entirely new skin. It changes the seasons and uses water in simpler ways. This is cheat grass, shown below with some russian thistle. Good companions. The cheat grass takes the water in the spring and translates it into thatch in the summer, which lets a little rain through for the thistles, which bloom just before frost, when the cheatgrass has seeded itself in the droughted ruins of its spring rush and is growing again, as it is in the picture of a December thaw below.P1590330

It’s less a lung than an artificial breathing apparatus that, not surprisingly, matches the compost-based, blue-water-based soil renewal understandings that colonial culture teaches its children. Compare that to a natural grassland slope, responding to water, sun and air in minutely fine-tuned patterns, however compromised by neglect.

P1520181 After 140 years, the image below shows the limit of cultural understanding of this grass, which has been achieved by colonial culture.

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No, that buck is not grazing there. He is passing through. We all are. Even if property title grants the illusion of the right to kill the earth. The image above is a social image. It is a reflection of society. This could be, too:

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At the moment it is only a remnant of one. Billions are spent dreaming of engineering Mars for life. I think learning how the earth works would be a good start. It puzzles me why there aren’t a thousand historians, scientists and sociologists walking out in this grass. Do they have a death wish? I don’t know. Here are two views of the vineyard these landscapes are woven through. First…

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… and next, only a few metres away …P1590477

 

I offer the observation that they are the same.