Stories R Us

Story-telling, eh. Ain’t that the art form.


Just 500 metres away, telling the following scene as a narrative, though …


… is, literally, to tell it as a narrative, although it is nothing of the kind. It’s more like this:


You can read a narrative into it, such as a story of succession, of the ingrowth of invasive weeds, of the consequences of overgrazing and the suppression of fire, or some story of natural history, but it’s still “telling” a “story”, when in fact it’s a community, in a process of opening. Any narrative in that, however, is a human story. Just the making of the image below …


… is a human story. What it represents is what the human brain filters out of the world, as reproduced by a humanly-conceived and manufactured machine. An earth can be inferred, and human emotions can be triggered, but it is not a story. I mean, the lupine and big sage below are not a narrative:


Similarly, telling it as beauty…


… or utility …


Royal Gala Apples

… are tellings, only, not “Nature.” The image below is also not “nature”:


it’s a human narrative (photograph) made out of photons of light bouncing off the skin of a bull snake hunting in a world of invasive weeds.


It is a great poverty to miss the non-human presence of the earth …


… and to have systems of art that work on audience popularity but do not ask this…


… for a response. That is not considered an artistic audience. And that is poverty. Margaret Atwood pointed out almost two generations ago that this was an issue of having developed Canada out of a series of fortified posts in a misunderstood (and feared, she says) natural and human world. One of the consequences of this kind of thinking is that it causes this …


… to be out in the world, although the concept that identity is “in here” and not bound with the world is preposterous, even arrogant. The body images (the so-called “nature” and the artifices laid on it) that come from that kind of thinking can be pretty forlorn:


Rain coast Hosta growing in the shrub steppe, poor thing.

This is how books think: through a series of experiences encapsulated in unique moments with particular boundaries (words), in progressional series (sentences, paragraphs, chapters), expressing forces (plots) for pleasure (art, tipped in illustrations, colour plates, images, adrenalin rushes, and so on.)


Tipped in Colour Plates, One Chipped

The flowers below are not in a book, though, that’s the thing. They don’t follow the patterns of book thinking.


A form of disciplined inquiry (science) is one way of responding to the earth, but it’s not the only one, and it certainly isn’t if it acts like a book.


Applied Science Acting Very Bookish and Holding Back Rocks

One result of a science tangled with book thinking can be the “study” (reading and telling) of “nature” (what is not in the book yet but will be after study.) The approach creates a human world but since the earth is not a book and is uncontainable in a book runs the risk of being only a measure of human sensory patterns. Often, this kind of book is called a garden.


Nice, isn’t it! A very human response! 

Don’t get me wrong: I love science and find its findings invaluable, and love human narratives. Nonetheless, their ends and the state of the Earth are intimately related. Why, in the Walla Walla Valley, they’re even called environmentally sound practices! Sure.


You have to be giving yourself some pretty strong story drugs to see that. Come on, with all its signals of ownership and obscuring of spiritual values in landscape, it’s like this:


New terms are needed. For instance, the ponderosa pine below is not only an instance of evolution but is present across some 150,000,000 years. That is a human narrative, of course. If we stop telling it even for a moment, the tree will come into focus as being one life opening within that time frame. It is moving at a different rate than the lichens colonizing it, and at a different rate from the shared life they have together.


It’s not a narrative, because it has no directionality. It is in one spot in one span of time. Any change opens within itself. It does, however, have depths which can be rigorously explored, although for different ends than the technological science that, for all its strength, has not always seen the earth. Call it an old riverbed turned to stone? Call it sandstone? Call it spooky? Those are all human stories. To get closer, poetry is the trick, or a science built on what poetry can do.


So, let’s start:

P2240072 Forget the fortress. from-clipboard

And forget your human body for a moment. You have older ancestors than that.P1000891

They know stuff. Listen.


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