Artificial Intelligence

Speaking With the Earth: Minding the Gap

Here’s an excellent example of a unit of language that supports a strong human-Earth relationship. The word is “Gap.” Here’s a gap:

Gap in Umatilla Ridge, Dry Falls, Washington

In a continuous, uncrossable space, a gap provides an invitation and a way. At the same time, it recasts the space in a human model, and makes it crossable by a body, which makes it crossable by a mind. The sounds of the word ‘gap’ do even more: they begin in the throat, open into a fully open mouth, and then are shut off abruptly by the lips, which expel air. One is through and on the other side. This leaves the passage as a form of conscious presence, called a gape:

Yellow-Bellied Marmots Gaping in a Gape

In this way, a gap is a way to cross a breadth, or a bright, as I showed you the other day:

Myvatnsveit, Iceland

A veit is an Icelandic term, which can be loosely translated as “wide” and “vast.” It is a space without dimension. The sense is specific. As our ancestors understood it as they crafted the concept from their experience on earth, such a wide, yawing space has no dimension, or time, until it is crossed. The time spent crossing it is lived intensely, but does not exist once one has crossed its gap. After that, its dimension is in memory. Look at it yaw:

Dry Falls

It is a mouth. Once you have crossed it you are speech, and can speak. Until then, it is a yawn: a period of waiting.

Crystals of Breath from Sleeping Voles

One concept, intimately binding human activity, time and space, and the earth, in one complex but simple and elegant knot.



Next: how a gap is formed.

2 replies »

  1. “*Crystals of Breath from Sleeping Voles” – how tenderly beautiful! Thank you, Harold. I have a poem I wrote in 2003, at a time of change, that relates to gaps:*


    off the edge

    of the precipice –

    no net,

    no rope, no pole,

    and the space of the gap

    is greater than stride can span –

    held breath,

    no wings,

    and the only choice

    is to walk

    on air –

    easy, once you know

    not to look down,

    feet on the back of the wind

    one long leap

    at a time

    crossing over

    to the other side.

    Thanks for your thoughtful posts.

    Best regards, Ruth


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