Look at the earthquake lifted into the sky. Plus a couple hunks of mid-oceanic volcanic islands, a lump of an underwater sea monster out of kwakwaka’wakw ancestral time, and a heron hunkering down on top of it as the tide changes.
And sometimes grey. These are the changing water colours of the Island Terrane, the newest chain of islands to crash onto the North American shore. In Cascadia, rocks are waves. We can call them rocks, but they’re really waves, or the foam on the crest of waves. Water is just going along for the ride.
Up close, things in the Island Terrane are green. Blue-green, sure, but, green.
Green is the form of energy that has merged carbon and water and sunlight, to climb against gravity, and to lift the cold energy of water into the sky. That’s the Cascadia way. On the other side of those mountains, all this energy looks like this:
On the west, the earthquakes lifted into the air force the cold water of the ocean out of the sky, in their own shape, onto the Island Terrane. On the east, the earthquakes in the air are reversed and lift water out of the earth. The blue-bunched wheatgrass at Farwell Canyon above the Chilcotin River above isn’t as brown as it looks. Those are last year’s stalks, which it thrusts into the air to collect dew and rain in summer and snow in winter, funnelling it all down onto a living green core. Here’s some of that winter snow…
Here we are at Moses Coulee, in what is now called Washington. The cliff behind is a layer of flood basalt. It is an aftershock of the earthquake lifted into the sky to the west: the great flood basalt I call The Basalt Sea, which stretches from Oregon through mid-British Columbia. As you can see, not a lot of snow makes it here. Make no mistake, though, the breccia slope in behind and the sage and bunchgrass in the foreground are holding on to the same amount of it, against the draw of the sun and the lens of pressure the mountains cast over the Basalt Sea from the west, which intensifies that sun. When life leaves the ocean for the land, it has to get used to stuff like this. Our tidal pools here are moss. … and sedums. They survive the power of the earthquake by hiding their energy from the sun. The mosses grow in the winter and early spring, before the lens grows strong. The sedums manipulate the heat differences between day and night.
Everyone is riding the earthquake here. And where does the energy for the earthquake come from? Why, from the turning of the earth, which draws its energy from the formation of the solar system, which draws its energy from the Big Bang. Cascadia is a beautiful place, a place of pure energy, given form in space. At points, the cold of the sea reforms in the heat, and procedes to flow back through the aftershocks, back to the water that is the floor of the world — its natural home. You can see this journey of cold returning to itself here in Palouse Falls.
We who live in Cascadia live at the intersection of these forces. To walk here is to be a moving point among slow energies. We are like flashes of light, which we hold tight with ancient stories. Here is some 55 Million Year old volcanic grunge left over from the eruption of the Turtle Mountain volcano in my home city of Vernon, British Columbia. It is also the eagle of an ancient story.
The land is part of our social group here. It is not solid ground, but is bound to us in dynamic social relationships.
One of the sacred Peshastin Pinnacles looking down the Wenatchee River. The green in the valley bottom is cold, high altitude water from the earthquake, piped down into the depths of the pressure effect we call heat, where the pear trees are protected from exposure to negative water (for so are the deeps) by daily applications of cold water. They don’t have the ability to build thins lenses of watery atmosphere around their leaves to use the tension of the surface of water to prevent water loss to the virtual mountains cast by the earthquakes lifted into the sky. We can measure the drying effect of those invisible mountains by a factor of inversion on a Mountain Atmosphere Scale, or MAS. Depending on the strength of the slow earthquakes and the amount of material their unfolding holds in the sky, it can be as high as 11MAS, which means that down in the benches of the Chilcotin River, for example…
… such as here at British Columbia’s largest sand dune, the MAS probably measures a solid 9, meaning that 9 times as much water is drawn into the sky as falls as rain or snow. The place, however, is not a desert, because this grassland is on a slope, and moves that water in succession from plant to plant to plant, down gradients of earthquake and sun to cold water. These plants have enough energy to resist the gravitational pull of water in the soil and slow it, not to a stop but to a year-long journey downhill, rather than a fast run-off of days, or a total evaporation into the air, where, it is true, most of the snow goes soon after it falls. Everything, on both sides of the earthquake and the stratovolcanoes that thrust through its fault lines, is the sky: both the cold, and the cold colours, of the Coast and the heat, and the hot colours, of the Basalt Sea, are the mountains, forms of energy cast out into the air along the arcs of the North East Pacific Shore. And the sky moves quickly through these waves of energy, like water in the Pacific swells, evaporating into the air as quickly as it falls. Look at the ocean pouring over the ancient glacial water of Okanagan Lake below! Sure it falls, but only a little of it, that has crashed over the earthquake, all torn up by the passage, and only a little of that, really, and most of that is drawn up by the MAS pressure, the negative mountain in the air, before it strikes the ground. See?
Other places have different energies. This is ours.