When Is a Mountain Not a Mountain? When a River is Not a River and a Sea is Not a Sea!

When there is no soil, trees still grow. They also grow on an almost vertical rock face, and in a dry valley, at that.

Puddin’head Mountain, Keremeos

What you can’t do with this kind of farming, however, is to till the soil. Imagine, though, if this light cover of trees were placed on flat ground, covering the same horizontal distance. It would be a dense forest, of trees growing half so well, each with less space and each more vulnerable to fire and more swept by wind. What’s more, they would have been felled long ago. These firs aren’t harvestable, and yet look how the mountain harvests water — far more water than the flat land would harvest — and how the trees hold it. Look as well at how by alternating exposures and degrees of verticality, the mountain directs water, and light.

It is a vast water-harvesting-and-moving structure. Usually, we call that a river. Imagine if it were not there! It would be a dead place, not even swept by wind. The Similkameen River flows beneath this mountain, but not from any flow that pours off of it. The mountain holds all that. Nothing flows off except deer and birds and bears and goats. “Mountain” is the wrong word for this power. Lake and river and sea are wrong as well. Estuary? Wrong. And yet, it is all of them at once, in the same place. The word, perhaps, is “world”, the whirling ur-source of all things, the spring. The Milky Way is such a power. So is this, but this one is right here. Bears walk out from it from time to time, on their own business. Any creature that can draw strength directly from the source of the universe has my instant respect.


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