A friend recently commented that plants spoke to her ancestors and told them what they could be used for.
No dangerous trial and error required for sagebrush buttercup, the rattlesnake plant.
I’m sure my ancestors had similar conversations. One I have rediscovered starts from the premise that there are spaces between things. In fact, that’s what things are: thick or thin. Like this:
When there are no things, there is neither. There is just “spreading without boundary”, or, as we say, “space” (although it’s not space; it’s not a ‘thing’)…
… but where they are present, both are there at once, thickening and thinning in complex patterns.
Species by species, the balance of thicks and thins changes. That’s elder above, and siya? below, or as the Canadians call her, “saskatoon”…
…and willow …
…and red willow …
…aka red osier dogwood…
… or, as they say around here, stkcxwiɬp…
.. and there’s grass.
And even poplar. Ah, but look at what she does with her thickening and thinning out. She swells into it. That’s takes room, or, as my ancestors might have said, a roam, a ride or a reach, a term still used for what you do with your arms and for a stretch of river.
But look at that poplar’s reach. Early in the winter, the thin energy amongst the thick allows for robins. They need both thick and thin in order to have a perch and some protection from hawks at the same time. What’s more, it’s at this time of year that their colour shows. It is a thin time of year, but their colour thickens in it, and the thin space allows for them to show. It’s why you find them there. They thicken it, in other words, along particular lines that are robins.
If this wasn’t a good space for them, they’d be, oh, I dunno, in the elms.
But elms have the wrong reach and catch. Seriously. If it wasn’t robins …
… then it would be flickers. They’d thicken in it. For example. The point is that the no-thing between thick and thin, the energy that they are balanced in, can be all things. And what is thick or thin matters, too, because you rarely see a waxwing in the thicks and thins of a poplar, but in a siya?, why yes of course.
These balances are precise. The poplar balance that allows for “room” to be a robin or a flicker (and many more, poplar is egalitarian), is balanced, in time, to the room that allows for catkins, at which point a robin might just look elsewhere, because there is no room anymore for it to either reach or perch. In other words, room is not “space”, because it is relational. It’s not right to say “there’s space for a robin between the poplar branches”.
Now, clever creatures can manipulate this reach beautifully. The magpie …
… so happy in the siya? would never nest there. Instead, a hawthorn is the thing:
It has thorns, which make a statement about thickening all of their own, and are excellent territorial claims. A choke cherry will also do…
… but, of course, choke or haw, if you really want to be in the thick of it, and you’re a magpie, so, like clever, right, you can thicken it further.
… with an armoured nest, top and bottom, like a moon.
With just enough room inside for the whole family. The thing is, this is thick energy, in both its thick and thin materializations. Its densities and multiplicities can be read. Either close up, where it is at its thickest …
… or in a broader view…
There, the relationships between thick and thin take form and create secondary patterns, just as they do in completely other forms in the siya?
Our ancestors did not discover the properties of “things” by trial and error. They were a part of the world.
“Things” only gained name through relationships, which are, in and of themselves, a kind of conversation. They catch stuff out of the air. Like these robins, that called out to me. No hiding for them! They were secure in their choke cherry!
As for deeper conversations, well those take place as well — in poetry, for instance, but only if you know the world well. The world will not speak through empty words, or words that are not bound to the body through music and multiple dimensions of connection. Here is the moon being born from the Earth at Chilutsus.
It also, as you can see, has a human face, that is, at the same time, transforming into a fish. The lichen that is living on its face and dissolving its minerals with the rain is living in a space between sun, moon, rain, snow and Earth. That is both accurate biological information and poetry. In a more complex relationship, the water spilling from this cliff face above Chilutsus is spilling from a crack in the stone, the same as a snake will,
just the same as it is spilling from the head of a stone snake (centre of the image), in the manner of venom.
Note the surprised human face at the right. It stares at the dark stain on the cliff, the same as it stares past it to a small, rectangular face staring out of the cli in dismay. By the time you have read the whole cliff in this way, you will know how to read these poisonous sagebrush buttercups as they snake through the needle litter under the fallen earths of a ponderosa pine, that open in barbed brackets like tongues.
This is the room that allows for the mind: the world that is all things together, not the contemporary world that is all things apart. If you want a key to reading it, you can find it along the trail. Here’s a map of the mind.
Note that the right-facing half of the skull is human. The left-facing half, the back of the skull, the old moon in the new moon’s arms, is either asleep or dead, or speaking, eyes-closed, into vision. The two half are divided, yet together, and they are surrounded by a spray of stars. This is not syilx knowledge, but it is ancient knowledge, what could perhaps be called “celtic” today, but that’s a misnomer, because all that celtic really means is “of the trees,” the ‘el’,
stems and staffs of knowledge. Various words attempt to “explain” this knowing. “The subconscious,” it is called, or “muscle memory” or “body knowledge”, but ultimately you will not be in the conversation unless you are in the world, and to be in the world you have to know its words. If you don’t, dear souls, you are not in the thicket, or the thickening.
Poetry is in the thickening. So is all the world. If you take anything away from this vision, please take away this: the world
is in the coming