There’s nothing like a hunt for mice and housecats …. … for romance. Form helps.
And doing it together.
(Even though one has to work to keep up.)
There’s nothing like a hunt for mice and housecats …. … for romance. Form helps.
And doing it together.
(Even though one has to work to keep up.)
Pretty nice stuff, for sure. Look at the colour of this water.
Glorious! We could go on all day with this kind of fun, but think of this: that’s two stretches of water, not five, on two separate days. Here, I’ll show you…
Of course, in the cultural manners in which we’re all trained today, I’m being poetic here. I assure you, I’m being something more than that. To begin again, my moment of awareness looked a bit like this …
… all at the same time! I realized in a flash that the images, of oregon grape (upper) and poison ivy (lower), were the same colour.
To unravel this odd (to scientifically-trained eyes) colour shift, maybe it’s best to go back to the water.
Ah, that’s better.
I know, I know, what we’re looking at here is light not water, and all of it interpreted by our minds, too, and by a camera, AND by an electronic screen set to parameters that pleased a designer in a cubicle in California one day, or perhaps that was India, but it’s still water, even so, or an image of it. Standard physics will talk about angles of refraction and reflection, clarity of water, wavelengths of light, electron excitement, and so on, which all add up to what we see above. Pretty brilliant series of deductions, really. Goethe was onto something different, though. Maybe this image will help get at that …
Winter Grass and Water Cress in Mid-February
This image shows two moods of the colour green, or to break that down further, two moods of the colour blue. In the bottom one, blue is in a yellow mood (blue + yellow = green, right?)
Note: rather than speaking of moods of colour, classical physics talks of this:
Note how the colours are jazzed up to give our brains a good kick. This is just one of the many ways in which physics and psychology meet.
In the bottom image (below), the blue and yellow have faded to pale pastels. Both have shifted together into a red mood.
In other words, it’s like the sun casting shadows, or ever-changing ripples of light.
Perhaps, though, that is all illusion. The poet-scientist, Goethe, said as much in his treatise, “A Theory of Colour” (Die Farbenlehre) in 1820. Colour, he pointed out, is not light. Light, he pointed out, is white. When you break it up into a spectrum of colours you are projecting an emotional image of the device by which you broke it up. (Physics would call this “vibrations of energy” and would dismiss the “emotional” term as poetic. Both, you will note, however, are poetic terms.) Goethe’s version of the above image, in other words, would look like this (without the frame):
Except, of course, Goethe wouldn’t have made such an image in the first place. What he wanted to do was make images of those emotional states, and he wanted to do that to show the link between perception and God, as he conceived of God to be. That was, mind you, also the approach of Newtonian physicists, with their talk of wavelengths of light. To Goethe, the light was not colour, but illumination itself, which came through the human mind and saw its emotional states cast on the world, and the emotional states of the world cast within itself: a unity, in other words. To Newtonians, who used physicals tools of measurement, it was all physical. This drove Goethe to distraction. He stressed again and agai nthat Newtonian physics looked at qualities of light that had been technically manipulated, whereas the goal was to consider light in its totality, as no colours at all, only the effects of light upon the receiving apparatus (whether that was eye or cantelope), which caused certain vibrations, depending on the mood of the object. By ‘mood’ of, say, a hard-backed chair, he didn’t mean its psychological state. He meant the amount of energy it contained of a person in the world, as a radiation of divine energy. Now, you might be particularly interested in divine energy, fair enough, but Goethe was. Whereas the Enlightenment made a science out of folk knowledge by structuring it in a hierarchal fashion predicated upon objective, experiment-based measurement of physical phenomena, Goethe wanted to extend the Enlightenment, to include the part it left out as being too poetic to measure: God, spirit, emotions, what-have-you. The Enlightenment left that to art. Goethe was only pointing out that it stopped too soon, and that a fully ‘modern’, self-aware consciousness did not have to discard the knowledge of the past, or the dignity and power of human observation, or relegate them to other forms of investigation, such as religion or art. He went even further, in fact, to suggest that colours themselves were created by the human mind, but that is, perhaps, splitting hairs. The moods, though, can be read precisely. So, to look again …
The grass and the cress are the same. They differ to perception and measurement because they’re in different moods, recorded not by a camera (a device proficient at recording precise measurements of the spectra of light and thus registering them as difference colours, in accordance with the science used to envisage the camera) but by an emotional, water-based, organic creature — a human, in other words. Moods are what we have. Goethe pointed out that people are the absolute most powerful technology for measuring and viewing light, but he never said why. I think this is what he meant. When the grass is growing, it has a certain energy. When it is dead, it has a different energy. All colours are present, which is to say “light” is present, or illumination, but they vibrate differently, displaying the ‘state’ of the object struck both by the light and the observation of the light. Classical physics hands this one over to classical biology, which points out that these are effects created in a long series of incremental evolutionary changes, and do not, in and of themselves, have ‘meaning’ or ‘significance’. They are tools of manipulation and survival. Again, a brilliant series of deductions, based on millions of hours of observation, experimentation and deep thought. Nonetheless, we are the product of that evolution, and have a complex ability to register tiny nuances of energy in the landscape. Any discussion of their evolutionary purpose, to aid with hunting and gathering and survival, is secondary to that truth. We can do this. Here, I’ll put it another way:
All parts of the ponderosa pine above, bark, needle brushes and cones, are moods of blue. The needles are in a yellow mood. The cones are in a red mood. The branches are in a nearly purely blue mood. The differences in colour that I see in the image (I presume you do, too, unless you are a Google robot checking up on the humans today, in which case, Hi.) are contrasts. They’re like shadows of black and white. This observation doesn’t negate Newtonian physics and the marvellous world it has revealed to us all…
Think of the image above as a dark field, illuminated by a colourless “white” one. The boundaries between these energies, the points of intersection between them, creates an expression of the substance and state of the smooth sumac bushes here, the cliffs, the lichen, the moss, but also reveals characteristics of linearity, angularity and extension. Like the moods of the colour, those are moods as well. In those terms, the cliff and the bushes have the same linear (and angular and extensional) energy, but the way it manifests itself in them displays different tendencies, which are corollary to the moods of colour. Any tools we use to measure or analyze these effects are always going to be lesser than the mind that sorted them out of the world in the first place. Here’s another example:
Oregon Grape? Or water, collecting at the base of the cliff, rising up again, drawn upwards by the sun? In other words..this is a mood of water. I hope to suggest that this way of thinking has the ability to present as complex a model of the world as conventional science, and that it should never have been hived off of it. Our earth would be in better shape if it hadn’t. What’s more, socially it seems that by controlling the tools by which humans, such as you or I (Sorry, Google Robot, but I think you’re up to something different, but, hey, Hi.) individuals can be channelled into certain forms of social behaviour and political organization, to the exclusion of others. I don’t particularly like that. Do you? (Yes, Google Robot, I know how you feel about this, shhh, don’t scare the humans, would you?) Social parameters aside, there is still considerable ability in the human measurement tool, to precisely observe complex relationships, like this:
Colour, mood, linearity, extension, time, edge effects of myriad kinds, life, angles,and so forth, are all instantly perceived above by the human mind. Forget for just a moment about the social cues placed upon them, that see them as “beauty” or “water” or “gas effects” or “refraction” or “gravitational effects” and so on, and look at them. You see it all, instantly. That’s what Goethe meant about light. And so the four images of sumac below, display different moods. You can read them as well as I.
Remember, the only difference (in this line of thought) between these images is their mood …. … the boundaries between forces, and their energy…
… and, of course, how you receive them, and what you do with them. Whatever it is, though, it’s not ‘nature’ and it’s not ‘science’. Goethe was trying to point that out, too. So was I, when I showed you this…
… and said, so to speak, hey, it’s this:
Put it this way, the difference between the energy of the bottom image and the top one, or the difference between its colours, which are the same, because they receive the same light (and absorb different parts of it, reflecting the rest), is what I mean by mood. Out of that mood (in the guise of reflected light), physicists can measure the precise chemical composition of either the poison ivy berries or the oregon grape leaves, and Goethean scientists can measure particularities of life energy within them, to the same degree of precision, or perhaps greater, because of the ability for creative interaction and inspiration. Here’s an image for next time …
I’ll be extending this discussion into “paths of water”.
Light bonding with water in tension with gravity (the race is to catch the coming rain, not with thatch but with dead, upright stalks not crushed by snow.)
Gravity and shadow are one.
Their alternation acts as a pumping mechanism.
It’s a vertical equivalent of the way air is caught along the stalks of the dead, water-soaked grass below. In both cases, gravity is being denied.
These ecosystems of gravity, carbon, water and light, which mine the lines of tension between them are complex. We have eyes that are formed from the same process, and which are capable of measuring them to a high degree of refinement, not outside of the process but within it, as part of it.
Culturally, that gift is called “an appreciation for beauty.” We say “I have found my creativity” when we tap into it, but it was there all along.
Only words hid our selves from us. With a new vocabulary, we can follow more complex conversations, although built on the same grammar. Look how light is laid on the ground of the mind in tension with gravity and water!
To say that a land and its people are one, as the first people of my land, the Syilx, say, is to say that the following image is an image of the people. It defies Western logic, but that’s what it says, ravens and everything. After the glaciers melted 10,000 years ago, the region’s nomadic hunters gradually developed the technologies to survive year long in this land, at the same rate at which salmon recolonized it after their glacial refuges in Mexico and its signature grassland biomes took shape, with human intervention. The land and the people became one at the same rate and often in response to each other. They accorded the same dignity to the other inhabitants of the land, because the land was identity and larger than them all. It did not belong to them as much as they belonged to it.
It’s logical. Before the land took its present shape, it was a different land. Before the Syilx became the keepers of that land (for such is the meaning of “Syilx”), they were a different people. In terms of the land, and a consciousness based on the land, they have, in fact, been here forever. In Western terms, that’s like the discussion about the Big Bang. It’s not possible to posit a universe before the Big Bang, because the universe is the expression of the Big Bang. So is it with the Okanagan, and the Syilx.
The Big Bang is Watching You
That the people and the land are one also means that human consciousness and the land are one. In Western terms, this is an emotional statement. In Syilx terms, it isn’t. (Remember: Syilx is not precisely a race; it’s a way of thinking.) The eagle’s face the sun carves out of the cliff below and the bald eagle above it are one. It is nonsense in terms of science. It means something in terms of a land-based consciousness.
Nonetheless, Western thought recently was the same. The following image, for example, shows the Bockstein, the Goat’s Rock across the German Rhine from the holy city of Bingen, complete with a bit of Christian iconography speared into its heart and an elderberry bush to keep witches away (a remnant of an ancient believe in elves and animal spirits was interpreted in oh-so-Catholic Rüdesheim, to which the vineyards in the image belong, as a haunt of the Devil). A bit more than a century ago it was dynamited, to keep it from dropping rocks onto the rail line far below. As you can see from the carefully-tended spear and the surviving elder, the old beliefs haven’t exactly died out.
They didn’t die out in Christian tradition either. Here’s a kind of accommodation in Rüdesheim itself. Christ as a sun, at the intersection of heaven and earth, and, look, he’s really a wine cork, and the cross is really a grape plant, here where wine-making began as an act of Christian devotion and commerce. Christ as a sun god? That’s not really Christ, is it, and those vines? Pure celtic.
Here’s one Okanagan equivalent.
Cougar Above the Old Syilx Village on Kalamalka Lake
This kind of view of the land didn’t start here in the land currently occupied by my city, Vernon, however. This was never the heart of Syilx territory, only one of its major extensions. The heart was here…
Lake Lenore, Grand Coulee, Washington
The cave complex that looks out on this view here has been used by the Syilx for 8,000 years. It’s from here that they moved north, and here they learned to read spirits in the land, such as the human-faced mountain sheep above. It’s here that they hunted rhinos before they became the Syilx. Lake Lenore is about six driving hours south of Vernon, British Columbia.
When people came north, following the retreating ice, they found their stories from Lake Lenore written out on the land, with new variations, and they read them, and they settled where they were strongest. Yes, they were looking into their own minds, minds created by story which was created by land which was created by story, which was all, ultimately, created by ice and rock.
It’s such a powerful and popular idea to call today’s age of the world the Anthropocene, the Age of Man, in which it is human activity which dominates the world, often badly. That’s a culturally-loaded assessment, however, because in the Syilx world, human activity had the same power with the world, but chose to use it for different ends, ends like this:
It’s not a pretty flower. It’s food.
We’re not talking ancient history here. The takeover only began in earnest 150 years ago, when men were hammering the spike into the heart of the Bockstein. The cougar and the ancestral figures I showed you above, are from this complex cliff complex of two separate geologies in collision.
They rise above this lake.
The story was once continuous. It led from the watching cougar, to cougars and turtles across the lake, in what is now Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park, and Cougar Canyon to the south, but invasion came with a price. Men constructing Highway 97 to move traffic north from Mexico have blasted away the story, and the connections between the bluff and the lake and its own stories.
A Forest on the Way to the Plywood Plant
Or, rather, Highway 97 has highly edited the story. Here’s the old highway and the new one, together, looking north. That’s the city of Coldstream, a colonial outpost of north-eastern Scotland, on the middle right.
Any story of being-the-land has to contend now with dynamite, hydroelectric power transmission, the petro state, and industrialization of the mind. The culvert in the image below, for instance, is now part of the sacred story. There’s no way around it. You can’t make the road go away now. What would you replace it with? The story is lost. It took a lot of effort, as the bore holes for dynamite charges show below. Note the pink granite. That’s a more accurate colour for the rock (I tweaked for a long time to get it) than the yellow-white above, which is a function of camera processing and early morning sun.
It’s not just the road. It comes with other stuff.
And it brings stuff.
Lots of different stuff.
The men and women who drive these trucks are just doing a job. They live within a complex net of relationships, which they have devoted their lives to further. It’s what’s called “Free Labour”. It means that a free man can freely give his body to economic and political structures, support and strengthen them, to be supported and strengthened by them in return. It was the ticket on which Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States (It’s important to this land, because our culture comes out of that election. It’s complicated.) in 1862, and was one of the pressure points that led to the American Civil War. It is as complex a series of relationships as the land-identity of the Syilx, but it comes at a certain cost. For one, it’s wasteful of land and disrespectful of it, because it treats it as a commodity and not life itself. Here’s the stretch of waste rock between the old and new highways, with the Syilx collective unconscious isolated in behind.
It also make a lot of noise (all that traffic), yet leads to a profound silence. Because of the dominance of this wasteful highway construction on the land, it’s awfully hard to read even those parts of the Syilx story that remain, not to mention impossible to hear anything of the parts blasted away except for their profound ghost presence. Perhaps you can sense it in the following images of a much-simplified landscape, gone from hundreds of thriving species, to a few struggling weeds.
One of the consequences of this kind of split between self and earth is disrespect based on blunt ignorance The image below, is what tourism pictures as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Here’s an adventure tourism guide featuring our blasted sacred bluff covered by text and an image of sacred Turtle Point, separated from it as much by the advertisement for adventure tourism as by the dynamite itself.
Sometimes, it helps to move the photoshop sliders so far to the right that the lake looks like an acid trip, as it does in the official Vernon tourism photograph below. This image was taken below the blasted bluff. I took most of my photographs from the same place. Note that the image below doesn’t mention the Syilx connection. Neither does the one above, although its background does show the Syilx village site now filled with colonial infill housing.
Another consequence is insanity. Here’s what the place looks like, outside of the need to manipulate the subconsciousness of potential tourists, to entice them, perhaps unknowingly, to spend their money in this rather butchered place.
See that? The excess sagebrush from overgrazing? The road fill in the foreground? The old highway, and… what’s that? Ah, look…
Somebody has dropped off their household garbage here, and lots of it, to avoid paying the, oh, I dunno, $10 fee to move it 3 minutes away to the local landfill, which just happens to be straight up the hill, above the new highway. That’s where these ravens are going.
That’s where these ones came from.
Some background: this land has been the subject of a land claim by the Syilx since around 1895. Since that time, the Canadian government has told the British Columbia provincial government, here far in the West, to take care of land claims and actually acquire legal title to its land. It has been 120 years of stalling, and it appears that the greatest degree of settlement of this outstanding issue of the legal underpinning of a state has been this:
As for ethical underpinnings, there aren’t any. That is part of the story now. Above my house, where the turtle story spills down to Okanagan Lake in the west, it looks like this:
We don’t sit on this land lightly. The hurt that has been done to the land is the hurt that has been done to the Syilx, and the hurt that has been done to the Syilx has been done to the land, and through the land to all of us. That barrier is there to keep us out … from what? Well, from this.
Coyote Rock Yesterday Afternoon
(Coyote rocks are petrified Coyote dung, which the trickster and cultural ancestor of the Syilx dropped behind him on his trails in order to have someone to talk to and to get advice from. This one houses marmots, which come out in late April, perch on the tip, and disappear again mid-August, to sleep the winter away.)
Is it a $750,000 building lot with the best view in Vernon? Yes. Is it a deep expression of human and ecological identity that can, in and of itself, lead us to a sustainable and ethical future? Yes. Can we really have both at once? Here’s an elf, part of the Coyote Rock complex, which my European subconscious sees mirrored in the land.
Yes, we can have them both at once, right now. But the erosion continues, and the struggle for power, and in it diversity, resilience, history and sustainability lose their independence. In the image below, the road leading up to this subdivision for wealthy retirees from the petro state to the east, the missing cliff contains not only lost sagebrush buttercup habitat, but an 8,000-year-old rattlesnake den.
8,000 years! Destroyed to bring an image of Provence to people from Northern Alberta. Sure, we can create a future out of our imaginations, but destroying our deeper imaginations and capacities to do so, on land that is not even ours, well, that’s not a story that is going particularly well. It can’t be sustained. Note again, the overgrazed bunchgrass in the image above, and its replacement by green cheatgrass, which is of no value to anyone and destroys most values in the land. The only value left in the land, as this road and the culture that created it, imagine, is the visual, romantic value of ‘the view’.
You just have to ignore the clearcut forests in the background, the ingrown grasslands at lake level, the forest fire burn, the blasting for the road cut at the middle left, and the reformed hillside, to provide housing lots, to capture lake views, below it, but that’s easy. When people (new settlers, all of them) ask me, “What are you photographing here?”, I tell them about the Syilx food crops and ancient gardens, in just this spot, and the remaining remnants of them, and they look at me as if I’m from another planet. Maybe I am. I’m from here. If I tell them I’m photographing insects (such as the green sweat bee on the native food plant, the mariposa lily below), they laugh.
No, I didn’t boost the colours with Photoshop.
That image of the bee is the same image as the one below.
Just in reverse. This story cannot be told separately. Only poverty and a loss of independence comes from that. All cultures that remain on either side of the reality of the contemporary story will erode. We have to work this out. Together. Now.
Female Staghorn Sumac, January 31, 2015
That’s the moon in the air behind. It fills it.
It was a beautiful time.
The cedar waxwings came and the rowans became them.
Sun Dog, a-Hunting, Yesterday
And it’s here, chased right out of wherever the moon hides when it has other things to take care of.
It’s not a very big moon. But look what it has brought from its travels.
They’re not very many, but their trills and calls flood the air. It is a moon of music and joyous song. The red-winged blackbirds are here, even as the poplars open their wings.
They just came today, the males, the singers, seeing who can make the best tree-EEEE-eee-rrrrrr and trill. And look what else the sap moon has brought.
Blackbirds So High
That’s right …
They have brought the sun. All that in one moon! Look below, at Kalamalka Lake. That’s where the moon was hiding yesterday.
Look how the frost blooms on the flower buds of the saskatoon bushes … … long after the day’s thin sun has wiped it from the sage and grasses … … and even the dogwoods …. … except for their spent seed heads (the birds ate the berries long ago). The roses, the close sisters of the saskatoons, have also lost their frost.
So, let’s look again and praise saskatoons. Doesn’t the frost look like stars?
This is a dangerous time of year for tender-blossomed roses (like saskatoons), especially ones that bloom as early as saskatoons, which need to maximize scarce water to plump up their berries in July. There is always a danger of frost, or even a renewed winter. Maintaining your flowers in a state of semi-dormant readiness, by making them attractive to frost that will cool them in the day and warm them at night (creating a steady temperature) is going to mean that one day in the spring, when the sun comes out, the blossoms will all open at once. Look at them here, growing on nearly solid rock.
Life is the ability of self-replicating organisms being able to react to the environment. Life is also a quality of an environment. When an environment is said to have life, it means it is energized, which is a way of saying it holds enough energy for dynamic growth and change. It is an older use of the word “life”, but not a use that has been superseded, and not one which is purely the business of poetry.
A Living Landscape
Spring runoff after a frosty night.
I think it is possible to join the two senses and to say that environments are alive.
As the German philosopher Martin Heidegger argued in the 1920s and the anti-nuclear activist Jonathan Schell argued in the 1970s, life is future potentiality, and only secondarily present realizations of it.
Lichen and Moss on Sagebrush Trunk
In the image above, the future of the living sage is its current ‘dead phase’. It has shed one form of life, but retains another, which is expressed environmentally. There’s only one thing that separates such life from individual biological life, and that is independent action. The action is there, but it comes from without, often by accumulation.
Black Birch Twigs After a Night of Spray
In biological science, accumulation is not “life”, because individual life forms can move into the environmental space and out of it, while the space remains. Yes, but the environment does not. What’s more, this characteristic of life as “individual action” is a reflection of a science based on individual observation, which is based in turn on Christian faith, which places an individual, Christ, at the meeting point of heaven and earth. At that point, neither one thing nor another, Christ bears witness, as do all others who follow him. The German philosopher Gottlieb Fichte put this relativizing sense of the individual awareness at the core of scientific procedure in 1793, at the University of Jena, in what is now Germany. I am neither a pre-Romantic German philosopher nor a practicing Christian, but I respect the power and integrity of this belief and recognize the profound structural force it has in Western thought. Christ, however, is only one manifestation of God. The environment, surely, is another.
Is it not within an environment that an individual can be an individual? I mean, if we took away the environment above, we would all be dead. Surely, then, it’s appropriate to say that it is us.
From an individual point of view, the seeming three dimensionality of the above image, the framing of its elements, the relationship between them, the qualities of light caught by the camera, all these things are human signatures on the environment. From an embedded, environmental point of view, they are the way we fit into an environment: seeing the thin-ness of the grass because our minds are coded to track thin-ness and to see in it the mind and thought; seeing the roundedness of the water because our minds are coded to see in it bodies and movement; seeing the intersection of these forces, because our minds are coded to notice boundaries and difference and have the capacity to either unify or divide them in complex ways. Collectively, we have created complex systems of science, including profound and dynamic systems of psychology, which map out many of the dimensions of such mirroring, yet, even so, they are all based on Fichte’s replacement of Christ with the critical, empirical, individual self, on which the definition of life is based. The neatness of that correspondence is troubling. Being in the world can be an antidote to that.
The images above were made in a riparian zone one kilometre west of this one.
… not just in an individual body.
The sun burns right through it, yet does not touch its cold.
But that sun is caught by the earth, and all my beautiful sisters, the blue-bunched wheat grasses.
When this blog was young, I would have pointed out these grasses and talked about how thin devices like this could be used to harvest water or watts of energy, but now, after 920 posts, I just want to say, Look!
These are images of my mind, and yours.
It’s the same mind.
And it’s a body.
The same body.
And look at the thoughts that fly through. Trickster magpie on the run!
Deer have been walking through us, too.
Some men have blown the earth apart.
To build roads.
Why? We already have roads.
Look at you shining up there. Look at the road of light you are making at the base of the cloud! And all of it while standing on the floor of an ancient ocean lifted into the sky. Look at the earth fall like rain.
Men tried to scrape this ocean floor away. But look at us catching the water here…
… and turning it into light.
There’s hard work ahead, and intricate machines to be built to capture water without stopping our rivers in their tracks or turning our grasslands into deserts, but right now…
… the time of frost is still here. Spirit can’t be measured, and is thus often ignored or is labelled as a sentimental, foolish, emotional attachment, something worthy of fiction but nothing to build a world around, but have you noticed that these plants that have followed humans for thousands of years…
The philosopher John Locke proposed that men had a claim to land when they had put their labour into it. After that, any other man who lived on it without labouring had to leave. That is the principle by which this land was colonized. We are decolonizing it now. Look at us collect water in the philosophy of John Locke.