Right, so yesterday I proposed that we can read the earth as a language built upon her bones, which divide horizontally into time and vertically into narrative and breakage. I also suggested that the land works to weave these forces into stillness. I pointed out that a language of this land is not going to have linear narrative, is not in other words going to be English, with its noun-verb-object relationships, but is going to be highly inflected, with conjoined noun-verb relationships that seek to create sentences that do not lead to action but to deepening. Nonetheless, there are human narratives, even with such language. Here’s one:
As you can see, it has a front and a back, that within its unity there is a progression, a relationship between slope, rock and tree and the varying ways a viewing human consciousness inhabits them both and sees its body in them both. In other words, there is a narrative, a progression, even though it leads nowhere but to lay down its pattern concretely in the mind, making bodily knowledge conscious. It’s a powerful transformation. However, if we tweak the photo a little to dull the shadows, we can get the darned camera to reveal a little more than an outline. Have a look.
As you can see, this monolithic rock, with its animal or human shape and its representation of an outward looking or guarding gaze, has a white arrow of salt on its neck, a snake bleeding to smoke on its right and remaining clear on its left. It catches the eye and becomes permanently imprinted in the memory of the rock, and attaches deeper meaning to it. Now the narrative has three components: pine, stone and snake. Not just that, but let’s pull back a little and look again.
Now we can see a fourth narrative element, the stones that lead into the main stone figure and the breccia below it, stilled by the slope. The human body responds to that as well and, again becomes conscious in it, but in the company of pine, stone and snake. That’s enough character, enough endurance and change, for any narrative. The narratives that come out of such geology are not narratives of how things came to be but of how they are, with all of time materially present at once, and what Western thought calls time being present in attention and emotion. The pattern is repeated a few kilometres east, in the Arrowstone, but on a larger scale, with new elements, such as line, emptiness, trees and colour.
Those are many new characters but, once again, they are going nowhere. The story is here, now. Imagine the beauty of a language that can represent that. A friend criticized me a couple years ago quite sharply for working to include images in my story-telling, rather than changing the story-telling to deliver a message to an audience. “It appears random,” he said. No. It just is step towards this language of the land. The traditional language that rose from this land and works in a similar way is Secwepemctsín, similar to the nsyilxcin of the Okanagan just to the south. The land teaches us all and makes us into her people. Then the day comes when we can read her. Is it writing her that comes next? Or the laying down of memory and consciousness, so they can be re-walked and deepened further?
Or is reading actually writing? Is being present the point? Likely, it is being present together. Likely it is all the questions together. Artificial intelligence can’t do this. Take this bluff as an image not only of a language but of a mind, and have a great day!