Minding Lakes

Here’s an Icelandic word that will be useful as we rebuild English as a language of people of the Earth: Læk. It translates into the modern word “lake”…

Bowron Lake at Dusk


… but that is awfully confusing. “Lake” is a modern word, denoting a body of water. The older word was really a “like”, as well as a “lick.” We keep the word today, and call it a salt lick, a block of nutrient salt for cattle to lick on out in the dry country. In any event, it is what cattle come to, because it has an attractive power. A lick with a tongue is, as any kid with an ice cream cone knows, a like, and who doesn’t like that?  Still, I’d like to tease out its energy a little further. Here’s some energy called a dry wash.


Bonaparte River Canyon

That golden boulder is cool. I like it.

In other words, it’s a dry “water”, in the sense that a water is a shape of land that exudes energy which flows as a liquid. It is, of course, this liquid resulting from the process of watering (from the Iceland: Vatn) that is the ‘wash’ in the term “dry wash”. It washes down this cross-folded gorge and licks at the toe of each thrust of gravel, and washes it away. That, too, is what a lick does. After all, a cow washes her calf by licking it, and a cat removes dirt from its fur by licking it as well. Ah, but there’s more. Here’s last summer’s burn for your pleasure.

Cache Creek

Note the licks, or spreading spots, of dead grass that miraculously survived the fire, new cheatgrass coming in nice and green, and the licks of ash around the dead bunchgrass clumps on the hill. 

It is in this way that we can say “we got just a lick of rain today.” Just enough to put a shine on things, or a “lac”quer. All of these are instances of the same energy. It licks and attracts licking. It is, in other words, a tongue.

Kalamalka Lake

A tongue of water between the hills. The action of cupping a space as the refraction of a swell to make it into a basin with the power of sieving energy out of the air by an action of leakage. When the energy so sieved and cupped is water, the “leak” takes on the name of the basin and is called a lake. Even so, the term does not refer to the water but to the land that cups it successfully, as an active force. When water is no longer present, the lake becomes known as a lake bed, or the place on which the action of cupping space and calling water out of the air once rested but is present no more.

As the image above shows, however, this tongue sits in a mouth, which fills around it, and this filling is also the tongue. It is in this sense that a læk becomes the modern word lake. It is an active force and the result of the force at the same time, which becomes more of the force. They merge. What’s more, animals that come to this lick, and which are bound within its attraction (such as the geese that left the tracks below) are within the attraction, as are we who are attracted to them.

Okanagan Lake

That is the power of lakes: they are tongues and mouths and create tongues and mouths. When we mind a flow, or maintain it in memory, it becomes a lake. Lakes are memory. Mouths are memory, in that, joined with tongues, they give forth the memories, past and future, that are words. To mind a lake is to mind all that comes to it and all that flows from it. This minding, whether the herding of cattle or the tending of spawning streams, is speech. When we swim in a lake, we swim in all that the lake speaks. It is in this way that will becomes mind. It is not, however, something to draw from. Drawing comes earlier.

Flow Patterns in Aschcroft

with licks of sage, rabbitbrush and grass

A lake is something to mind. Think of it like this stone:

Cache Creek

It is a map of the landscape, not as a cartographic object, but as a body. The behaviour below is a drug injected into that mind. Not only does it destroy thought, but it destroys memory as well. I’m speaking in an indigenous sense here. It is a good touchstone for activity, however inadvertent, that denies the lake’s bodily relationship, or works with it.

Okanagan Lake

Next: how thought and memory are created by humans, and implications for land use.

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