Beyond the Settler Gaze

Beams of light, we say, meaning lines.

Dusk on the Big Bar Esker

Beams of light, we say…

…meaning trees. A beam is a Baum, the Germans say, a bough, they say in England. It is a term that was once applied to the old beeches of the European forest, and to the Ur-trees, the ashes and elms (quickbeams) whose name was given to the forest people, the cELts.. This is not Europe, but the words have made it here. Up on the Plateau, it applies now to aspen beams, reaching into the grass. Look below at how they mingled with those other trees of light from the sun and shadow from the trees, all three mingling like intertwined fingers, or twigs..

Yes, twigs, for even human “bodies” are beams. In a non-European sense, in a sense of this land viewed first as land, not as language, trees are relatives of people.

It seems so obvious as to need no comment, only celebration of family, yet European language and understandings are so strong that from within settler culture this elemental relationship is viewed metaphorically, — essentially an illusion, a throwback to biological evolution, a glitch in brain-processing and a point of pleasurable contemplation or amusement to a modern self. It is not accident that this modern self views the “land” as a place for pleasurable recreation, or that recreation is the means by which it and its body (for a body belongs to it but is not itself) can touch the living earth.


But no further. It is a fierce protective wall, that does not extend along the beams of thought to the beams upon which it is built, which are viewed, if at all, as art.


Beams of light, we say, meaning spans, what crosses a gap, a stretching, as in “a span of time.”


Beyond these distortions, language is a physical act, no less or more than the touch of our inhabitation within each other. And there it is, that “our”. Let me be clear: it is not the touch of humans to each other alone, or of self to self, those artful creations, but includes all of us, the rocks, the water, the animals, the fish, the birds, the insects, the flowers, the grasses, the lichens, the trees, and… all of us.

Not the Settler Gaze

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