Meaning, Memory, Minding, Mind

Last week, I spoke about Wide Energy. At the end, I showed this image of it from the Similkameen:

At the time, I noted:

These are the energies that shape us and move us from place to place as their expressions. We do them wrong to claim that they are not energies at all but neutral attributes that we can give meaning to, or withhold meaning from.

Then I promised I would show you some images of meaning. First, a clarification. This is not meaning:

It is a “use.” Similarly, the question …

… is not a search for meaning but a question of intent. It is a directional road sign — in other words, an expression of automobile culture.

Getting the Signalling Lever Right on a Learner’s License

I was referring to a cultural expression in which the energies of the world…



… are understood as a short class of abstract forces (see above) that can be classified in many ways, and manifested, and all put to use. Part of the same cultural understanding is that concepts like thickness, thinness, width, height and depth are abstract terms describing the dimensions of a special form of energy called matter. Notice that the images in the energy wheel above show instances of this material stuff. Here’s some more:


Siya?: this spring’s shoots, last summer’s dried berries.

In the way of being in the world I was showing you last week, that is an image of thick energy. In the cultural expression that gave us billboards, Justin Bieber and the Energy Wheel, “thick” is a term that describes the dimensional attributes of “matter”, showing relative states between thick and thin on a scale of thickest, thicker, thick, thinner, thin, thinnest.

That relativity of dimension, its relegation to an adjective, is what I was referring to when I said:

We do [the energies of the world] wrong to claim that they are not energies at all but neutral attributes that we can give meaning to, or withhold meaning from.

An adjective is subordinate. Here is how puts it:

That is, however, cultural. Most languages don’t have adjectives as attributes separate from nouns. Rather than being a description of the world, the above explanation is a description of English. It goes on:

Did you see that? “Adjectives … are necessary to make the meanings of sentences clearer or more exact”?

It’s a great way of explaining how the English language works (and Western European languages in general), but it’s not so great for describing this:


Simply, the world is not about “us” or our “languages.” It has its own agency.


We are subordinate to it.

A Woman Meet the Spirit of Celilo Falls 

So, to bring the energy of width to you through the lens of the energy of depth today, I’d just like to point out that meaning is not a difficult concept. Sure, one can make it difficult:


Got that? In Western Culture, “meaning” is a “sign.” It reflects a way of being in the world in which every thing…

… is something else.

The pair of signs I showed you above, mallard drake and ponderosa pine cone, illustrate a kind of signing that Western Culture calls “metaphor.” It is the recognition of pattern and the replacing of the thing with the pattern. This recognition is the meaning. Poets, for one, are really great at playing this game. For example, the pair “magnolia-drake” is a different sign and gives a different “meaning,” or reading.

That culturally and human-centric point of view is wondrous, but it’s not what I have in mind here today. What I’d like to illustrate is “meaning” as the practice of putting something in mind and then applying that act of holding (or keeping) to mind it, to keep it present, and to care for it, so it still lives. One lives with it, in it and through it. The old word for this is “home.”

Turf House in Bakkagerði, Ísland

By “home” I mean a place of spirit one is bound to, a haunt. In its old dispensation, that gave us the concept of ghosts (on the line in which soul-self-spirit-geist-ghost are the same)”haunting” houses. It is the difference between “house” (a building) and “home” (a building one is tethered to, in the way a “self” is tethered to a “body”).

Horses at Eyrarland, Ísland

It is also this:

Troll at Dimmuborgir, Ísland

Trolls are understood in scientific culture as mis-readings of signs, or readings of human form onto a non-human world. It would be fair to say that the word for this is “mistake.” Culturally, a “troll” can be a human, even a living one, in the sense of someone so bound to a place that the place and that person are referred to together. It’s a place with that kind of power, at any rate. It can be a stone, that marks a landscape, or a stone that marks a person’s ghost-like attachment to it, or it can be as complex as remembering, always, the power of Siya?

Siya? and Her Stone at Kalmalka Lake Provincial Park

She stays there, and gives. This very act of remaining in place is itself a minding. It also shows the qualities of a place.

The blue-and-white spring wall of the East Face of K-Mountain behind it is also a minding. We can move around. It remains in place. It holds.

However, humans see forward, not behind into memory. That means that when turn to where we have just been, that past (passed) space holds as well. It’s not, really, past (or passed). Here, for example, is the view 180 degrees from the one above. I have just walked down this wet with a friend. It holds the points of our passage …

… and the points where we stopped …

Broken by human hands, or frost?

… and paid attention.

What is this grass? Why does it choose this particular soil? What deposited that soil here? What is it minding?

We gave things mind, and now we have them “in mind” when we speak. Not only that, but …

… I know where they are, in relationship to these siya? bushes, and I know where they are, in relationship to this slope. My passage has become my body in space. My memory and this space of earth have become one.

This is minding. This is the being in the world that is meaning. It can be read but it is not a system of signs. Signs, like these words I use to present you with these images of wide energy, are a way of haunting you with this minding. They are a way of giving you this presence. They do not, however, mean anything. They do their work of bringing you and the earth together, and then vanish.

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