Giving Up Your Self for the World and Finding Freedom to Move

Imagine, if you just loved white things, and out of all the world you felt, well, you know, only at home there. Especially creamy white things. Especially yarrow.P1830717


So it can be! Now, imagine if you loved yellow things, and out of all the world you felt, well, you know, only at home there. Especially yellow things doused with pollen that you could, you know, get all over yourself and, well, wait for another beetle to come along and get herself all pollen bedecked too and have good beetle sex then, in a flower in the sky. Especially arrow leafed balsam root.



So it can be! Now, imagine if you loved blue things, and out of all the world you felt, well, you know, only at home there.


Especially blue things that absorb the light and shine, especially in the middle of the day, especially two-toned blue things, like, oh, I dunno, lupines! And you’ll only go there, but something goes wrong, the seasons are out of whack, the cheat grass is cheating your lupines out of water, or something, how would you know? You just love blue! And lupines.



Yeah,  you’d kinda stand out. Humans are like that. We like heights above water. When we see that, we think, ah, what a great place.



It’s also a great place for trains, like the two Canadian continental trains passing on either side of this sacred trickster rock in the Thompson River, just north of the old fishing grounds at the confluence of the Nicola. Look how the people of my city, Vernon, have used the last century to turn their back on the train, as if it wasn’t there.



What’s at play here is competition over who gets to use ancestral space. It’s curious that contemporary culture, that champions individual identity, does so within very constrained social boundaries. The battle between the railroad and the graffiti kings of midnight shows this well on the switching box below, right on Vernon’s main street.



We’re social animals. In the end, social stratification matters. But also beetles. For themselves, of course, but also because they remind us, in all the intricacies of social accommodation, of who we are. Bees, too, like this overly-armoured one, gently sucking nectar despite her tough exterior.



There is a time to fight, and a time to remember what you love. It used to be that intellectual activity was based around negotiating this boundary between social and natural space. Take this ancestral figure in the Wenatchee Valley, for instance.



Or this one, still alive today, in the new ancestral language called biology.



The looking, the focus, and the time we take is a path back to selves that have boundaries in the processes of the earth and individuality in the chance to accept the choice of honouring them.



There really is no choice, except to be socially constrained in the same way the earth is, in human terms. Accepting the earth and its creatures within our social group changes everything. It’s not about understanding. It’s about knowing, instantly.



To get that right, without emotional or social complication, you need an earth. You need to be able to say, “Oh, here I am.”

north “Here I am.”


And know that “I” is not a human thing.


Anything less is a railroad.



Coyote Lets the Kids Out


The quarry’s a good place to get a drink on a hot day.
pup5 I’m probably the first human they’ve seen. pup4


Worth a second look, I guess.pup3 For me, too.pup2A welcome addition to the neighbourhood!


I look forward to yipping classes under the August moon.

The Story of the Bee and the Cactus

Welcome to the green pistil of the brittle prickly pear cactus flower!P1830577They don’t bloom every year, but they sure have a green heart!
P1830615 And the sweat bee dives in head first. Perhaps blending in is what makes green a good colour for her in such an exposed position.


Notice the flower, though. The green core, surrounded by fronds of pollen.



Look again. The bee does the same thing! A green core, with fronds of pollen on her legs, curled around a green core surrounded by fronds of pollen.



That’s what organic organization can do for you. That’s called balance. Note as well that the yellow flowers are pink before they open …



The same as the balls of the cactus. Now, cacti are known to defend themselves with spines, and bees with stingers (both prick), but here’s a case in which these perfectly matched organisms both defend themselves ever so gently, with visual deception.



It was a hard winter for the cacti. I figure 90% died off. The blooms are lovely, though. I hope they have a good summer.





It is the Time for Prickly Things and Gold

What? Your calendar says “May”? What’s with that? Look again. It is the time for gold.

P1830581 Well, ore, at least. Well, leftovers from the mines up the hill. Oh, wait, there’s new gold.P1830577And look how prickly it is!P1830404


What a pair!


Robin Outsmarting a Hawk

I’ve seen this many times. The local red-tailed hawk rests on this dead sapling. One of the local robins rests nearby.P1820990


The hawk takes off when I approach. So does the robin.




The hawk flies on alone.



What better way to keep your eye on the hawk than to be his double!

Where the Heart is Home: A Celebration

I love this land. I guess you know that. I am this land. Other writers might talk about identity and ego and alter ego and personality, but I just want to take you out to the bitterroot, to the old ones, and help you to see what I have learned to see. Look!


Straight out of volcanic ash 55,000,000 years old, way down south in the John Day Hills. This is the land itself. Look at her. I don’t expect you to understand. How could you? But if you want to know why I keep at this, look.


Isn’t my country beautiful? Aren’t I blessed to be a part of her? Isn’t this a great responsibility? I used to think my country was the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada. Now I know it is a collection of tropical volcanic islands that are continuing to collide with North America, stretching from Yellowstone and the Giant Redwoods, north to Alaska. I live in the middle of all that, but way in the south, ah, my heart is there as much as it is here. Others who live in my country, who call themselves Canadians and Americans, as I did before I began these journeys of close attention to the red earth, have their universities and their literatures, their psychologies, their economies, their arts councils and business investment banks. I just have the land now.


Ah, but look at her!  Today, it has been 1000 journeys into the grass for us here on Okanaganokanogan. I have learned to read the land’s stories. Look.

turtle3That’s an ancient story, in the bed of Dry Falls. Most of the fresh water of the world, when the world still had fresh water, flowed over this stone turtle, and made it in its shape, out of basalt cliffs like the one you can see in behind. Now I get to walk through it at 45 degrees Celsius, which is about the right temperature, if you ask me. I’ve learned to see gravity, too.


And good friends have battled up against it with me, in a kind of dry land surfing. Oh my. I’m still the farmer, though, although I’ll never have a farm. I’m the man with his roots in 10,000 years of a conversation with the land, or is it 20,000 years, or 50,000? Look below. This is the place. It’s on the John Day River. It’s seen better days, sure, and has been replaced now by the industrial farms of the Columbia Basin, but look at her. I could live there, if borders didn’t cut my country into bits. The junipers on the hills, with my grandfather’s spirit in them. The volcanic rock, the only rock for me. The bunchgrass, that drinks the sun and the rain. The willows on the river, that speak the wind, the river running over tumbled stones, that sing, the sagebrush that drinks the heat, the heat, the mountain’s shadow, that is always moving, and the trees, with their peaches and cherries for Portland, all grown in conversation with the land. It could be ancient Persia. It could be Afghanistan. It could be Iceland, but it is here. This is my rock. The reward for working here is just the chance to be here, talking to the earth with my hands and my eyes and the heart in my chest. Go ahead, click on the picture. It’s wide. It might not speak to you of the coming together of forces it speaks of to me, but then, perhaps, you didn’t learn the world first from peach trees, as I did, and only then from books and people, in that order. These are my people. Look at them, thriving there in the sun! Look at them catching it in their arms.



A thousand posts! Look at my people, soaring above Umatilla Ridge.



So what now, eh? Well, there have been efforts to turn me into a salesman, to sell this story. There have been efforts, to take the vision out of me and replace it with arguments of utility, for the building of new agricultural technologies, but, come on. This is my real story. This is why I’m here. This stone raven at Peshastin. Click on it. Look at the head that’s in its eye.  Someone has to tell the story of how to live on the land, and how to be it.  Someone has to say, we can do this. It’s easy. You just have to give yourself away with a full and open heart.


Oh, I have new crops and new technologies here. I have a history, that starts here, not in London or New York. I have a book about the sun, and about rethinking nuclear fission, using this land and its sun. I have all that, and you soon will, too. The books are in the works, but it’s a huge job. After all, I don’t have the university to do this work, and my brothers and sisters, the writers of this country, they’re largely writing for Canada and the United States.They might not want to be, but we have to walk this path together, step by step, with the bunchgrass brushing at our thighs. We’re getting there. By the end of the year, things should look pretty grand. Look at what I’m working on now…

When I raise my arm to point out a hawk diving on a quail in a field of wild grass, I am plunging my arm into the sun. It’s all sunlight, right down to the surface of the soil. I walk through it. It flows over my skin.

I love that. I love living in the sun. It’s like that here. I can’t explain it. I’ve tried. But, hey … it’s a big job. Look, I can take you there, if you like.



Yes, that’s right. The sun is the earth. The earth is the sun. They complete each other. They were never apart. That’s Mount Hood above there, to give her a traditional name, if that helps. Beautiful, isn’t she. In my country, the earth is within the sun. I can’t explain it. But I can take you there. That’s what I can do. Here’s where I found my heart in the land.


That’s my self portrait. That’s Palouse Falls. Does it look like a man? Of course not. But it’s where I am now, after 1000 posts on Okanaganokanogan. We’re not done yet. We’re still walking. There’s still so much to love here. Thanks so much for walking with me in this grass, and through this rock. I could not have done it without  your encouragement. A thousand posts. 30,000 photos. 20,000 hours.That’s just amazing. This, though, just below, is what it’s all about. Look at the goddess of this land, the cicada, shedding her skin.

Isn’t she beautiful? Isn’t she worth living for? Isn’t she worth great praise?


Beautify The World for 2,000 People For $20

Orchard with flax in the ‘hood.P1820273

Orchard without flax (3 kilometres down the road.)


Currently, flax fibre goes for $10 for every 50 grams. Plus, once you’ve made a set of wedding sheets, you can have a healthy breakfast, with flax seeds. You can share with the birds, right?


It’s perennial. The poisoning in the next image has to be done over and over again. I mean, if that’s your thing.



P1810242That’s a big bag of seed.


$20 to rebuild the world. No irrigation required. (The stuff is indigenous.)

P1820269$100 for a light-duty weed eater, plus $12 for every replacement monofilament spool. No wedding sheets, either.P1810524Plus gas. And hearing protection. And steel-toed boots. And a leaf blower to “clean up.” Starting at $150. Plus the same additional costs. And noise. Lots of noise. Like an Apache Longbow Attack Helicopter taking off inside your head. Unit cost $45 million. US dollars.

No contest. Spend the $20.


Lamp extra. Um… you need a lamp? OK, here’s one.



(Click on him. He’ll catch your eye. )