Agriculture

Getting Grounded in the Okanagan

Huckleberries are nature.

The old benches at Bridgeport, their sage, orchards, cheatgrass and windbreaks, are all nature, as is the controlled Columbia River.

The abandoned orchard in Grand Coulee below, and its invasive Russian olives, is nature.

A weed-choked grassland on the Kooskoosie is nature. 

So are the wheat fields of the old Camas Prairie above. If there were any camas left, it would be nature, too.

The wind turbines of the Kittitas are nature.

So is the vertical vineyard trimmer of Bella Vista.

As is the orchard below the vineyard, through the screen of the trees planted along the Grey Canal Trail.

The plants planted along the trail are nature. They are all the wrong variants of species, or even the wrong species, among the escaped orchard grasses, but nature they are.

Note the leftover Christmas Ornament. Like the fence above, it decorates nature and assigns a social class tag to it, effectively moving nature into a human social sphere, while at the same time showing it who is boss.

If we turn uphill, we see more of this nature stuff. In this case, what Okanagan culture calls “grassland” but which is really a hill of weeds. There is no place for native species here.

And this is nature, too:

And this quail, with one leg, on his pressure-treated (copper-poisoned) fencepost.

And the lettuce that volunteered in my garden.

And this wild Pacific plum up the hill.

In Canadian culture, there is a great trust that this nature thing is such an irrepressible force that it can be arranged, moved, gutted, transformed, gated, fenced and manipulated in any of a thousand ways and still retain some unstoppable, unnameable, force that is pure in whatever form it is manifest. Publicly, however, it has a different face, which the video from “Destination British Columbia” expresses well below.

Note how poet Shane Koyczan makes this series of evocations of wildness through personal witness into a truly honest statement: a dark screen and the words “It’s just you.” A fine play on words, balanced between You-as-Nature and You-Without-Nature. Shane is smart enough to draw no conclusion. Note how this video is reframed on the website “Someday Trips.”

If this video does not convince you that it is time to enrich your soul and get in touch with nature in British Columbia, then it is time that you give up trying. It is a masterpiece of words and cinematography that is a perfect way to escape a stressful day in the city.  Open fires on the beach, grilling fresh caught salmon and being surrounded by some of nature’s tallest evergreens are only some of the imagery that will capture your senses in this video and make you feel grounded.  If you only watch this once, we would be very surprised.  In the brief two minutes of your first viewing, the perfection of the words and scenery make the experience so surreal that it is almost impossible to actually process the words on the first run.  If this moves you as it did us, then be sure to save it to a dream cloud. There is nothing like dreaming everyday to beautiful poetry and mother earth’s creations.

Isn’t that great? This irrepressible nature force is viewed by the Someday Trip folks as “escape” from “the city,” which will “capture your senses” and make you “feel” grounded (but perhaps not be?) when you “get in touch” with it, like a long-lost relative.

Talk about confusing messages! Sometimes getting in touch is learning not to touch!

Notice that despite the praise lavished on coastal scenery in the government’s video, an old logging cut, actually, it is considered “surreal”, ie. beyond-the-real. Nature is beyond the real?

Flax: Beyond the Real?

That’s not what Shane says, but it is how it has been read.

Dead Apple Orchard and Derelict Hanford High School on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Beyond the Real?

I think the gap between nature-as-real and nature-diminished-to-non-reality shows one of the dangers of selling “nature” as a commodity, for “viewing” or “experiencing,” rather than actually working towards grounding ]\. What we need on this planet is grounding. Perhaps, the moment you sell nature as an image, you are left only with an image. In the case of Cascadia, it might be a botanical garden, itself an approximation of the Garden of Eden, turned into an Eden Gone Wild:

With bling.

It is a patterning following non-human energies, through human intervention. It breaks through fences…

In this nature, nature (deer) is not wanted.

… and creates a perennial battle for control.

In a society that has no skills for harvesting the out-of-bounds, that is vital. The work is, however, also socially demeaning, and is farmed out to temporary workers brought in from Mexico, who are denied immigrant status (ie denied grounding). That is a control of sexual energy or claiming-of-land-through-children. All they are allowed to provide is labour under a series of biometrics implementation special measures…

… so that the “Canadians” here can enjoy their Eden without that labour.

It is a reward for a life of labour elsewhere, or a symbol for true-love-without-labour. If there were ever a paradise on Earth, this is it. Complete with ruined orchard and pink bubbly.

Notice how the narrative below, presented as an image allows you to enter it, sit at the table, and to be there in, well, as Shane pointed out, in your mind.

As the image above shows, “nature” is a decoration here. This image does not speak to working people in the valley. As well, the Mexican workers would have a different narrative of this same vineyard. So would the native syilx. If they were in the mood, they might even point out the 1858 genocidal massacre site at the bay below. Even praying didn’t help. I doubt it would help now, either, here at the unspoken intersection of ethics and the living Earth.

 

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