What a world we live in. Once, there was a shamanic landscape. If you walked out into the grass, you were in a wind that blew off the stars. The old stories tell of climbing up the lone trees there and being in the same grassland country, but without people. For people, you had to pull up a lily bulb and stare down through the hole the wind blew through, and there were the people far below in the same grassland. These are ancient stories and if you are old enough, as I am, to remember seeing stars above the grass, you know how right these stories, and how they speak of your body deeply, and of your mind, although not of a mathematically defined universe. Well, that’s all a glorious dream in the Okanagan now. “Nature”, which has replaced that grassland, is a collection of weeds that have fallen out of hay bales and sacks of seed brought over from Russia and France and, I guess, many places in between. Nature is what has escaped from the fields. In the Anthropocene, that might be an invaluable place to start — to look at what is actually in front of us, that has escaped from us, and lives without us. These are the feral ones: salsify, lucerne, and the orchard grasses.
And a few bunchgrasses seeded in — not our native blue bunch, but a related variant from down south.
Another feral one.
They mix well with the few survivors, such as these clovers (on the right) …
… and the ants that farm aphids on them still.
Long ago, when the grass was a shamanic place, people learned to move and place animals from these ants — not to herd them but to encourage them where they belonged. After the herdsmen have come and gone, the lessons are still here, and clover is still here to carry them to us. We truly have the chance to begin again. Two years ago, a Secwepemc man asked me “What is the Earth doing?” and he answered “I think she is changing the seasons. She is teaching us something.” I think what she is doing is beginning again. So much literature today is about human empowerment, individual creativity and self expression, but we should remember that the self is a created thing, and self-expression means we use the body to dance the self. What then if we set all that aside now, and used the self to dance the body; why, we would be sitting down with the ants and they would teach us to be shamans once again — not the old shamans, and not the shamans of new age spirituality. We would be the ones who had words for this, and words for its lessons. Here are the ants again, setting a different species of aphids out, also on one of the old ones, big sage, and tending them. Everything must be put in its right place in this way of being with the world.
It’s not a matter of planting a farm and promising fresh fruit by speedy trucking, or artificial intelligence packing sensors, or genetically-cloned apples that don’t show their bruising and thus give the illusion of higher quality in the store after being run fast over a hard packing line. It is a matter of placing things so well they thrive where they are placed, and harvesting that thriving, in balance. Our contemporary economic system cannot deliver this result, as it depends upon depreciating built objects and land to create more production elsewhere and more investment; it never turns a profit on its own. What’s required is an economics of appreciation, of being rewarded for value instead being rewarded for its loss. For example, this million dollar home has created a lot of employment, and is said to be an improvement upon the land, yet it has appreciated nothing; any value the land had is gone.
The right thing, in the right place, in the right way, so the land can thrive, and attention paid, each to each. That is the way of the ants, the old ones that have survived our escaped pets and are right now building up a chance for us again. The houses, however, will depreciate, and all the value given up by all the land that made the wealth to construct them will vanish.