Learning to Swim in the Sea of the Sun

Water. Here’s some caught in a flow of energy. This flow is called the Thompson River. You might as well call it “poetry”. Or “agriculture”. (And for that, a few words might help, so read on.) To start, the image. Or, rather, a gentle warning: the image fails to give a sense of scale. This is a big flow. It braids water for 489 kilometres and binds between 171 cubic metres per second (such as, perhaps, below) and 4200 cubic metres per second to itself in full flood. Note how the water, travelling at speed, braids in complex patterns, revealing the flow. The characteristics of water, however, also influence how the energy manifests itself. Swimming here is difficult and dangerous. It’s better to do what we do better, to swim in the sun.

For that, a few other images will help. These ones are in winter light. In other words, they are in a different flow of the sun, one decidedly blue and slow. Cold, you might call that. Oh, forget all these fancy words meant for story-telling around a fire and look how a small flow in Vernon, perhaps a cubic metre per hour, also braids in flow energy and along the energy lines of water itself when it turns to ice.

Below, I offer a closer look. See how the current blurs out in the background, moving at speed, but the slow current, caught by the ice, is visible, far more so than in the river above? It is, as the camera teaches us, focussed, but focussed in a language of flow rather than just light, as the camera tells us. Don’t be fooled by the camera, that’s all it knows, the poor thing.

Beautiful. The water is doing that all the time. Only at the very slow speed of ice, right at the boundary where ice forms, do the patterns reveal themselves, or, better put, at that boundary we are in focus and so they reveal themselves to us. They literally pop out of the background blur of the world and there they are. That is as much the world, directing us with its energy, as us, directing what energy we see. It’s a hazy distinction, because it is all in the language of Earth and Sun, which is far more complex than a language of light. In fact, to say that the sun sends light our way is a fine bit of human self-limitation, akin to saying that we are light-cameras, when focus and boundary effects are appearing in multiple dimensions. This “light” bias is a kind of sword that cleaves through understanding to open up a new path. It works like a charm, but it’s a limited path. It seems to me that if we are at a point in human social development at which we have need for new social structures, expanding the conversation beyond the light-and-cleaving methods is going to be essential. Even a shared-boundary-and-focus method is a great start, or a body-focussing paradigm, starting from the basic indigenous experience of “I am this.”

So, sure, one can say, “Oh, any faces there are just accidental artifacts and cognitive errors,” but then one can’t move forward into new focus because the focus has already been set.

As for water, well, even in the clouds below at Bowron Lake, at the top of the Cariboo Mountains, at the boundary between sky and water, the flow is braiding water. Here, however, the water that lies in the shoulders of the land is still, or as still as Bowron Lake can be, reflecting the land’s still energy as much as the light that stills when it penetrates the air and strikes it. That’s a good illustration of the principle I’m trying to demonstrate here: the cleaving-that-is-light that is also the braiding-that-is-light-when-entwined-with-matter. Both exist at the same time. We live at their boundary. It is not a boundary in space. To classical European thought, this is known as “the human problem.” You know: the awareness of death, and all that hard stuff. It’s not actually a problem. It’s only a problem if you step outside of the boundary. Of course, humans are great at stepping-outside-of-the-boundary-and-cleaving-light-from-matter, which is, in other words, separating-ourselves-from-our-bodies, or even using-imagery-to-control-our-‘selves’-by-controlling-our-bodies. In fact, contemporary civilization is especially skilled at this. It’s the point of advertising, after all, and even social education.

But is it the best use, for us, of our incredible ability to be this point in the solar system at which light from one particular sun stops on one particular lump of (mostly) iron and becomes the flames of rust? At boundaries, time slows down. But you knew that, right, from those moments when you are fully aware and you feel like your heart stops? It doesn’t. That’s you, stepping into a new dimension. We are used to saying “it felt like”, but what if it “is”? What if it “is” and we betray our full natures by stepping back out of it immediately? Couldn’t we, perhaps, learn how to swim? Maybe it’s as simple as accepting trees as ourselves.

Maybe it’s simple as the writing trick I learned from the healer Robin Skelton: use no metaphors or similes; accept things for what they are and enter them. For a poet, the journey might be simple, but it might also be simple for a farmer.


A fruit seeded by birds, such as this mountain ash in a pine grove, will allow for fruit to still water; instead of transporting water to privatize growth, one must transport oneself to the water. This simple principle has the capacity to change land-ownership and land-use paradigms and to turn a desert landscape (as privatization sees the one here in the Okanagan, after taking all the water to itself, i.e. to its idea of individual-human-power-as-separate-from-the-world, into fruitfulness and interspecies support. It is an example of how placing poetry into the spectrum of “literary” or “aesthetic” acts has harmed society gravely. Literature is only one of the many uses of poetry, and not the primary one. It is also an essential part of human societies. Currently, technical society is working very hard at replacing it with an idea called “creativity.” You have likely heard of this stuff. You readers who are biological humans and not electronic bots are better than that. As for those of you who are bots, we know who you are and where you live.

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