Isn’t naming great. Why don’t we call the homeland of the Wanapum, the “Wana” “Pu’um”, the water people, a river, and be done with it.
But there’s a catch to this, because the silt cliffs on the eastern shore of the stream were laid down there by the stream. They are its bed. Only a separation from them in time makes them “land” and a “shore” or a “bank.” This separation, however, is false. It is a way of reading human life as individual life, laid over a pattern in which human life extends for 12,000 years and more, likely 16,000 years, and with memory of when the flow was greater than all the fresh water currently on Earth. We live in that flow. As the flow curls around the eddy of the easternmost thrust of the Cascades into the deeps of the Basin to its East, its stillness turns it in a 20-mile-long curve within its former bed.
Do you see land to the West, there? It’s really the eye of a pool, that still spot in an eddy that a trout rises to, right where the sun comes clear out of ripples. If you see land there, know that you are a part of colonial society and embody its claims, but please remember, we’re not alone, we are being watched, and our measure is being taken by creatures of spirit older in this current than we are.
This flow has a long story, that the deer cross. They pass through the current to the depths of the flow, where it materializes as water.
It would make more sense, in the image below, to call the band of the flow across the middle of the image a river and the swirling flow in the foreground land. The only thing that separates them is the weakness of the human body and its one trick, to remake the world in its shape.
There is, however, an older trick, known to fully mature peoples, which is to remake the body in the shape of the energy flows around it.
And I don’t mean artificial intelligence, or turning the colonial artefact, The Columbia River, into the Pacific Northwest Power Grid, because that is as much as saying that the act of naming is the act of naming, which is not proof of anything. It is map-making, and nothing else, scarification, branding and fencing behaviour — the very tools by which this energy band was colonized. A better “map” would be a song, in a non-human grammar. Perhaps it would go like this:
Grass, willow, boulder, dune, pebble, tree, driftwood, pebble, sand, log, willow, tree, sand, willow tree willow, all within the voice of the sun, sage.
If you’re thinking, whoa, how does that tell me where I am, that is the colonial map speaking to you again. This is the world. It is not relational to any other place except that they are of it. And in this way we sing, because, what else? The map is one of presence. Consider this coyote in the field below my house.
It is one with the coyote on the cobbles (little mountaintops) of Hanford Reach:
And just to be clear, if you understood that as a metaphor, I have failed to speak adequately for the world, or if you think I haven’t expressed myself well, then we have both been led astray by language, because this is not an expression of my self. So, perhaps, you can glimpse a reason for my puzzlement the other day. Imagine come to the original energy of the world as a self.
Imagine not being it.
The authors of Beholden …
… do. They place this being at the mouth of a river, where it is one with the sea.
Yet it is one the whole way up.
Imagine a real map.