Towards a New Cartography 4: Mapping Energy and Temporal Systems on a Visual Poetry Model

I was reading The Economistwhen I chanced upon a review of Chigozie Obioma’s novel An Orchestra of Minoritiesa love story (gone wrong) about a chicken farmer in Nigeria.
The review was accompanied by this wonderful illustration.

A map for sure. Can we use it as a model for looking at the Okanagan Valley…

…(or any other valley) a little differently? A little annotation might help, with apologies to Obioma’s Nigeria and its spiritually-haunted bush:

Suddenly the possibility of navigating between various connected and disconnected states of human be-ing, physical, cultural and spiritual, become the focus of the map, over the map-as-guide-to-travel. It is now a map-for-living-in. This is, of course, a game. The labels can change:

The names we give these features (once they are no longer directional) change the relationships open to us.

Here’s a version with some 1000-year-old terms, given when European humans lived on Earth.

I will translate:

á = flow

orkan = whirl

heith = top (an energy not a material location)

lake = lake = lick = like (again, an energy not a material location)

lift = air (an energy, not a substance)

By entering these spaces, we enter these energies and can use them; the use we put them to is our embodiment of them. We can find our way across the land by these descriptions of energy. For example, instead of saying…

To get to Vernon from Vancouver, follow Highway 1 East to Hope, then follow Highway 5 north to Kamloops. Turn East to Monte Creek on Highway 1 again, then south on Highway 97 to Vernon.

we might say…

To get to the place where the earth collects energy as water at the divide between the mountains of cedar and the mountains of Douglas fir, leave the setting sun along the great flowing until the heights close in. Choose the darker heights and follow the silver flowing into them. When you pick up flow lined with cottonwoods, follow it north. When the land opens wide and pools with grass and heat follow the heat of the rising sun, always keeping to the highest energy, until you are on top of the world, then head to the top of the Earth until the land opens up and forces you down into itself and towards the now hidden sun. When you come out of the crack, follow the pooling energy until it narrows. Cross, and follow the valley as it pushes you first East, then North, until the water falls away and you are, once again, at a deep whirl of energy that has not yet condensed into water, wind or stone. You have arrived.

It would be impractical and wordy, but it would place you in energy and when you arrived in Vernon, you would have spiritually arrived and be ready to do the work the place offers, as well as knowing the energies you drew on to get there, how they relate and flow, where they are heading, and what they can be used for in turn.

Could we, in other words, have a map of energies? The distortions created by the gap between ownership and land would become resolvable, would it not?

Energy Map Model for Winter Wind?

No normal cartographic map could do that, because all of those things would be divided into various properties, and you’d need an entire society to navigate it, with all its rule-bound knowledge and you’d probably lose your way. You might put in a fence post to protect your property, say, only to have a hawk take it over as a sparrow-eating perch.

Note the little feathers.

Or worse, you might, as a city, approve an excavation for a convenience store, only to make it untenable by using the old irrigation canal (now a partially-flooded walking trail, also supported by the city)…

…as the overflow when you need to flush the pipes in your high-country water storage lake…


…only to have the water seep down through the rock and make expensive ghosts. Who owns these problems?

We all do. They come from having bad maps and render the country very expensive to live in. The solution below comes in at over $1,000,000 to shelter 2 people.

You need lawyers and bankers to see your way through. A more relational map, on the Obioma model, could even use the simple form below, in which grass is given primacy and everything else is relational to it.

Note as well that the sun is not in the sky, but within those things that express its energy. We could, in other words, following that map, quickly locate the sun in each of the individual images in the series below: porcupine sun, brown-eyed susan sun, and hill inclination sun. Simply placing the sun in the sky would not make its presence and interconnected nature so available.

That’s a series similar to the cob-cob-cob-cob expansion I showed you yesterday.   Not only does it extend further as a sequence but it does so by opening continually in awareness and presence. Instead of building around property lines and social relationships, or 3-dimensional relationships at the least, for instance, the boundaries of space are aligned with one of the relationships being both sun and flow. One could dive deep into this kind of mapping and see trees like these firs …


less as beautiful, romantic bodies and more as the transformational energy systems that they are, in a model that includes time and agency in the physical description:

It is a model that would map the cobs very well, and integrate them with the sun (and the porcupine) at the same time.

Of course, regular maps can do that as well, but they require training, technology and explanation. For one thing, you have to carry the map with you and read the world by reading the map. With the system I am proposing, the map becomes the world; you move through the world and know the map. That’s what it is like to be of a place and to be indigenous. Here’s another representation of the principle, expanding on a mathematical principle:

It plays games with the mind, but poetry does like to do that. There is, after all, a point at which one can read poetry in the world, such as in this Secwepemc site below…

… rather than on a map or in words. It’s not oral knowledge, either. It’s bodily knowledge. My little sand game is an approximation of this same principle. Tomorrow, I’ll show some models of how these observations can be put into more recognizable maps. Until then, notice how useless a map would be to walk through the sagebrush in the winter, as the wind and the sun have sculpted the snow between the bushes and the bushes block and redirect your progress at every turn.

There is no trail there…or is there?



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