artificial intelligence

The Mind of the Wilderness

Well, let’s get right to the heart of it, this is the mind of the wilderness.

Big Bar Lake Wetland

Even in the dry grasslands, everything comes to water and everything leaves from it again. It’s got it all: water plants to shelter fish, dead trees to shelter them some more, always good, hawks, you know, ospreys, snag those trout like no-one’s business, water, a bit of wind, muddy bits, coyotes, wolves, reeds and rushes and sedges, a pair of loons, some quacky ducks, kingfishers, a black bear, skittery deer walking around on legs improvised from tree branches, winter moose, perfect. In the grassland, you can kiss the loons goodbye but throw in some mock orange, spearmint, red osier dogwood, saskatoon, wild plum, Hawthorne, Nootka roses, a porcupine, flickers, lazuli buntings, and some grouse. Sparrows. Thrushes.  Same deal, though. Life moves out from water and back. As for humans, we stare in and go “whoa. Murky.” If we are particularly educated, they see reflections. “That’s light,” we say. “Look at it refract and reflect. It’s all straight lines, you know.”

Pond Thinking for Us, or Spot the Subconscious!

Poor things, we seem not to be able to trust our bodies. Perhaps we are so schooled that we have replaced our mind-body education by the world with schooling. Classrooms. Smartboards. Memorization tables. Scissors. Foolscap paper. Gym class. Bag lunches. We’ve lost our minds, that’s what, because as good as schooling is, and it’s great, it must take place within wildness, because as necessary as schooling is to keep humans from running amok, without that wildness there’s no mind at all. Can’t be done. What a bind. This artwork on the Strait of Juan de Fuca?

Nope, not without wildness. Here, let me show you what I mean.

That western bluebird is your mind in a cherry tree, just before I pruned it. It is “minding” its business, just as I am “minding” the tree. Without a human intervention, to keep the tree young and down to a human size, it would be torn out, because humans are mortal creatures and can only work so hard before breaking, and then where would the bluebird be?

Ah. Minding its business in the weeds. Or the saskatoons.

Thing is, you feed on the insects that come to the grass (or weeds) but nest in old flicker holes in the wetlands, and need a tree or tall bush to perch on. Or a fencepost. In a pinch, a fencepost. It’s all about going out and coming in. What goes on in the nest, well, that’s private, and it is nothing if you don’t mind to it by going out to catch some bugs and come back in with them for the kids. Of course, it’s not all about bluebirds. Here’s some more minding:


As life extends across a gap it gains endurance through thought and memory. It remains. It endures. In human cases, a bit of “we crossed that river in flood and were only washed a kilometre downstream, pshaw”. In other cases, such as the Garry oaks in Vancouver Island above, one of the more northerly extensions of Oregon, a few branches, buds, and acorns. Kazot? Yeah. It is because of trees similar to these in Greece and Turkey that thought is often portrayed as a lightning bolt out of the blue, or maybe out of Zeus’s head. Here’s some more minding, sans Greek gods who are actually from the Himalayas:

More subtle, this one. Grass records storm by providing more shelter for winter’s mice. No, not intentional. Does minding have to be intentional? Really? If you think so, that’s your schooled human mind messing with you. Give it some chocolate. It likes that stuff. Here’s some more minding:

Assmannshausen am Rhein

Mind the Track! And some more minding, below, in the old English garden, complete with Nationalist German Oak, in Weimar, Germany.

You can see that the Russians planted some flowers in the grass, turning the park into a graveyard, and putting a defensive guard around that darned oak, lest it break free and stomp east again. Gravestones as tank traps, sort of. A trip there is beautiful and shattering at the same time. For the humility of it, the devotion, and the ruin, highly recommended. No-one minds these Russian graves anymore, nor Nationalist oaks, except poets, and with the rise of nationalism in both Russia and Germany, well, a little minding would be a darned good thing. Go and mind them, please. There are wildflowers, and music classes in the old palace and a soviet star on the gate. But here’s the thing: without the will of that oak tree, no minding is possible. There’s just an empty field, but as that is a minding too, there is just a forest, and before that a glacier. People are bound to come to a veit (width) like that, and they will, I promise, make rooms out of this breadth, to live in, and they’re bound to linger a bit, in memory. There’s no use complaining about it. It’s what they do. Little human bodies everywhere you look: some for living in and some for storing stuff, all kinds of stuff. What a lot of minding:



Ah, Vernon. Home Sweet Home.

Yes, that’s a cross on top of that sacred syilx turtle monolith. The war of the minds, or what. 

What does the Bella Vista Community Church have against turtles? Beats me. Here’s a more mindful picture of the myth minded by that stone.

Ah, that’s better. (Gardom Lake)

But minding what? As I said, without wilderness, there is no minding. What there is instead is war, and we don’t want that. Do we? No. Go have some more chocolate. Sheesh. But what is wilderness? Ah. Yes. Here’s some. It’s an indigenous thing.

This is the Middle. Rhine, wandering through ancient Celtic forests, which are full of trees, bushes and vines springing out of the soil, carrying the green blood of the earth into the sky. Their concentration? The green snake of the Rhine. That wine.

Siebenfelsen, a Celtic Shrine in the Black Forest

I will be having more to say about the run of the Rhine (and Siebenfelsen) in the weeks to come, because many energies meet here, but for now let’s look at the power that is drawn out of the forest by the curve of the Rhine as it winds through these volcanic hills. This is the power to meander.

The river moves, as rivers will, yet never goes anywhere. And that’s just its flow. It also goes where it wills across the land, cutting off first one oxbow and then another. But wait, there’s more. (Isn’t there always?) Meander is wander, and that’s still the word we use for rivers: they wander. When we fence them in with canals, they either increase or slow their flows. Louisiana is losing a football-field-sized bit of land every day because of messing with a river’s need to wander. Soon there will be no Louisiana. It will be a sandbar in the gulf. Nope, rivers must meander, or they’re trouble, without fish. But this is a forest. Not everything is about water here. Trees wander really slowly. More quick are the deer.

Wandering Deer

That fence? Pshaw. That’s nothing.

Now, of course, these are not deer in the Celtic forest, but things change, eh. People wander, too. A certain lot of them wandered up into the north of England, up into the Shetland Islands, Norway, the works, and then to Iceland, and along the way in those blustery northern seascapes, they coined a word: wilderness. It describes wandering deer.  It is a will deor nes. A “wild deer cape.” A headland where a deer can follow its will. A king can mind deer there for his pleasure. And he minds if you poach some. Well, now you can walk in the deer park in the grounds of Windsor Castle. Better not shoot any, though. That’s still tut tut.

A deer can follow its will? Yes. Here’s some will:

Big Bar Lake

And some more:

Grey Canal

Darn stuff is everywhere on a planet that creates openings for others to follow according to their nature.

Yeah, like that.

But there’s something serious here. That place which allows an animal or a plant to be a river, flowing where will leads it, is a mind in a deeper sense than this wilderness:

Real Estate in Conconully

Or if you “while” away your time like this:

Downtown Vernon

Someone’s making a land claim.

Or if you get just plain “willful”, which can be beautiful and awful at the same time.

Garage for Sale on Lakeview Property, Vernon

This is the Canadian equivalent of killing the Queen’s deer.

A wilderness, in other words, is a space for wildness at the centre of things, from which it can be drawn in perpetuity, like a river or a well or a wetland, and not dried up through rapid use. It is not a place where life is natural or free of constraint. It is a human social space, meant to control inter human relationships. As for anything else that lives there, it is not invading that space. It is there, within the Width and Breadth of the Earth’s Mind, thinking along with it. To speak of how we, humans, can think along with it, I think we need a bit more of common vocabulary yet. Such as the “run” of the “Rhine”, and the “Beams” of the forest, and connections between “will” and “world” and “hurricane,” but we’ll get there soon enough. I hope I’m making this journey worth the wait! Until the next excursion, mind your loved ones, eh.

You are as much their will as they are yours.

3 replies »

  1. About phoem #1: When I moved here,, near Smithers, I noticed the relative barrenness of the expected wildlife. A moose catches the eye, but the relatively dry climate and the draining of the willow flats for hayfields (we own one of those, cleared in about 1922) means that there is not much wetland left, creeks are seasonal, etc. We’ve done some serious-minded restoration work and called our 70 acres of moose pasture out of limits for farming, grazing, etc.

    About the same phoem: Houston, B.C., has a wetland (“the duck pond”) right smack dab in the middle of town. A mosquito refuge, I suppose you could say. The treat for the grade 5-6 children–when I taught school there–was a walk to the duck pond, spotting birds, leeches, etc.

    I await your comments about the Rhine and other European rivers. From what my relatives and friends tell me, they’ve been minded to near-death


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