The Mingling Rivers of Life

Spring doesn’t come all at once. As this ravine in Vernon shows…

 “Spring” is the wrong concept entirely. Experience has to be selectively read in order for the concept to fit at all.

… it comes in waves. Rather than being a “time” or a “season,” it is a confluence, like two rivers…

The Okanogan meets the Columbia at the Crossing below old Fort Okanogan

… a hot one…

… and a cool one …

…coming together and mingling. Note that where they meet is not a “flow” of water, but a flow nonetheless: a deer birthing trail and a red medicine willow, much like a placenta.

This energy is not time-bound. It is not the work of any one “season.” It is present at the intersection of a seasonal stream with the cold night sky, and the further intersection of that with the warm daytime sun…

… in a world in which temperature is not measured by thermometers, and it is present in the slope below…


… in which a river that ran alongside a remnant valley glacier for a few months 10,000 years ago (and not the first, as the more-rounded stone to the right shows) was pushed around by ice in turn…

…and still flows. Note how the bunchgrass lives right in this mingling river. “Time” is the wrong concept for this life, and so is “land”.  Those are only elite, courtly terms by which we interact with a powerful colonial government. In one sense, it doesn’t matter whether we individually value that government and wish to extend it, or wish it would just step back: “land” and “time” are the means of interaction with it. However, even those interactions could be made more meaningful if richer concepts, ones that match the energy of life here, were used instead. It is the difference between allowing the Earth to heal the wounds that misconceptions have made by bringing Canada geese year round to Kin Beach, instead of the historical migration pattern…

… and culling the birds and addling their eggs…

… so that humans can lie near naked on the beach soaking up the “summer” sun and playing in the water, without dodging goose poop, even though the beach, and the lake bottom, are machine-made. Life on Earth can’t be separated from Life on Earth unless there is death. The four seasons are a part of Celtic heritage in Europe and conceptions of the ancestral dead springing to life everywhere, at all times. Making that the foundation of an environmental science was a poor fit. Too much got left out.


In Canadian culture, people play with these understandings now, as if they were art. It is one thing to build a snowman with the kids. It is another to go inside and not watch it vanish day by day into the air, one handprint at a time. Currently, citizenship is based on presence on a piece of land. At some point, it will have to be based (again) on presence in a flow.

We simply can’t avoid it. What we can avoid, however, is approaching it through the window of death.

Christmas Tree: honoured and then dishonoured.

The children are watching.

4 replies »

  1. Well, I don’t know about this, although I like the phrasing: “Those are only elite, courtly terms by which we interact with a powerful colonial government.” I think that spring = waves is right on the mark. When a child, blowing snow was an ocean.

    As for the geese, addling eggs didn’t work anyway. In Stanley Park, they moved to the trees which are very large with wide spaces (crotches) where branches leave the trunk. On False Creek, a few found that planters on condo planters were great places for nests.


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