It is possible to have a stream that is dry, that is nonetheless still a stream. The land teaches that. It teaches that “streaming” is not a function of water but that, rather, water enters streaming, the same as plants, people, deer, wind, light and rocks do.
This is not what books teach. In a book culture, authority rests in books and anything shown is given authority by reference to a book. Given that this canyon in the Similkameen is in no book, in terms of book culture its lessons do not exist. In such a culture, it will be understood only if it can be related to concepts within books: erosion patterns, rock faulting, and so on. Those are great lessons, expressing deep knowledge and understanding, but they do miss the canyon. When you enter a canyon like this, you enter a body. You are very small, and you are within, yet still in the sky. The canyon teaches that. It is quite the lesson! In terms of book culture, in which canyons like this only exist in the language of geologists, that is useless knowledge, engendering a response rather much like “so what?” or “what’s the point?” or “What can you do with it?” (The fence rising from the middle left of the bottom of the image shows this force in action.) All this, may I point out, is much the same as a traditional response of a male-dominated culture to the awareness, knowledge and concerns of women and children. It is also much the same as the traditional role of education in settler society: to train children in the practical applications of their native gifts within book parameters. A properly-trained child will then succeed within the power structures of settled society and even extend them. Those can be important lessons. We wish health and success to all of our children. For a long time now, it has been assumed that all the other information taught by the mountains can successfully be contained within “emotion” and represented through “art”, to find a place within “society.” It’s time to admit that those are 19th century conceptions of male-female relationships and male dominance. It’s time to acknowledge that this division of human capacity along gender roles linked to power does not in the end (where we are now) lead to an adequate, dynamic representation of the teaching of either bodies, mountains or gullies. It only represents what books can teach. This canyon is a book. It is also a dance, of bodies facing inward to each other in alternating series along a line, like the linked fingers of a hand. As you walk through this dance, they push you one way or another. You ‘thread’ through them. You cannot make your own path. You cannot avoid being the thread. You are made by the mountain. Not all of us have the privilege of living so close to the land, but the lessons remain. For many Canadians, that canyon is this:
The same observations apply, with the same lessons, most especially that we do not make our own paths through these canyons and that they are representations of power which shape us, along 19th century lines of book culture, settlement, divided male-female knowledge, practical application of knowledge, and the subordination of art, children and all bodies to a narrow set of parameters. If you step outside of those narrow parameters, you are “homeless.” It is the same as being illiterate, and just as arbitrary, because the Earth is our home and our bodies know how to read it. One of the great tricks here is that the mountains have been hollowed out and people live within them. Even bodies have been turned into books. The purpose of the street is to move bodies along efficiently and then to quickly take them inside, leaving the passageway unobstructed. That is a profound example of settler culture in action. This kind of clarity is one of the great gifts our aboriginal people are offering us right now, as they regain their rightful places as leaders in society. They are the land. They are leading us to settlement rather than settler-ment. Rather than extending book culture further in a suffering planet…
Vancouver: Space Colony
… the planet is reasserting itself. Here are her vertebrae:
When we walk up their channel, we are her nerve. Only when we do so do we allow her arms and branches to move with life. With the canyon as our “book,” we learn that streets and roads are not the highways that bring the life of the land through our social bodies; they can only build more book knowledge. They can bring the life of the city through the city and the land, but that is the colonial world all over again. Every one of us must decide if we are going to continue to suppress our bodies in this way or not. A truly 21st Century education system, and the literature that flowed from it, would help us all negotiate the costs and benefits of moving through this conversation given to us by our violent past. We can ignore these issues, but they are not ignoring us.