Squeezing Water from a Stone

In today’s world, folk (indigenous, ie “of the land”) understandings are redefined to accord with the social authority that accompanies the process called science.


In this revolutionary society, attempting to create a science based on measurement of physical characteristics rather than, say, spiritual connections (or “emotions” and so on), “water” and “wet” have a specific relationship. Namely, “water” …

Ruby Beach

makes things wet.

La Push

Note, however, in the image above how the wetted sand leaks water again, both by forming small streams and by evaporating into the air and keeping the surface wet (in contrast to the dry stone, which lacks the source of wet to do so.) Rather than observing that two processes were at play, practically-minded men explained that water was actually H2O.When it was present, things were wet. When not, they were dry, logically enough, and to a degree dependent on the presence of water. It was a fantastic revolution in thought, which has led, among other things, to the discovery of water on the Moon and on Mars.

Before that revolution, however, things weren’t exactly bleak . Revolutions are a transfer of power, after all, and not a leap in knowledge. For example, before rational hierarchies and science evolved culturally together, it was common (indigenous) knowledge that the Earth had zones that became wet and “watered” or “cried”, creating leaks, licks, lakes, wells, and streams of a new substance. This stuff was named “water” after the process. More precisely, this “water” is the remnants of the process of “watering,” and, in fact, extends it. Moreso, it is not broken from it. This wave on the Ellison Park shore of Okanagan Lake is connected not only to the mountains (clods) that gave it forth but also to the wet clouds that, for reasons of pressure, could no longer hold it, and, like any good clod gave it forth. It continues to lick at (and wet) the shore, continuing the process of its birth.

Before these holistic connections were rationalized into hierarchies as a reflection of a conception of human social organization, the whole business was alive. Pressure in the Earth (and Sky) made wets, for instance.

Wets are still called Wetlands. They remains the main sources of life in many landscapes (land shapes).

This process of everpresent life (called God in those days) did not just shape concentrations of energy (wets) that became water(ing)s. It also created concentrations of life in the same way. These are called quickenings.

This understanding is still alive in the English language, although not in the harnessed language it has evolved into under the practical pressures of the rational project. It is called “quick”, and is present in such folk sayings as “he cut me to the quick,” and even at a stretch “she sure is quick (fast)” and “they think quickly, those two.” The latter of those means something like “they think in tune with the quickening of the Earth, which speaks through them.” The Nanking Cherry below, for example, out in my garden on Easter Day…

… is blooming and leafing out, as the quickening (flowing) sap within it rises into the sun, evaporates away and leaves it behind. The land below in Nlaka’pamux country, the river (flow) called The Thompson River, does the same, as it quickens from a wet into a watering into a flow and into what rational men called (claimed as) “a river [of H2O] flowing through the land”…

It is that. They were very right. The same energy, however, is also passing through the gravel. A water-based conception defines that as “ground water”. It doesn’t count as part of the flow of the river, even though the river is only the surface expression of its wetness, that place where pressure brings it into open view. One result of all of these simplifications of folk (indigenous) knowledge is that the grass below, some wheatgrass in the North Okanagan …

… is called “dry”, ie the opposite of “wet”, even though at its core, even in a dry season, it is wet and is holding wet(ness) in its roots. People even go so far as to call this shrub steppe…

The Bella Vista Hills, Canim Bay

… a “desert”, simply because its water is held in dry or hidden forms, is not on the surface, and is not present in the revolutionary form of “wetness” called “water.” That is a point at which the initial simplifications that led to scientific thinking are showing their limitations and their age, because wet(ness) is there, held, and flowing through life to the sun, just as the water below…

La Push

… is flowing “through” a wet beach. Water can be dry, which is to say that until pressure pushes it into wetness, it is simply not there, because it has not watered. Sure, one can use the tools and approaches of scientific and technological culture to measure the hidden percentages of water in any substance, but that’s not the point. The point is that water can be wet and dry and in both cases present. Certainly, we can talk about water that has evaporated out of soil, a process recorded by the salt it left behind, as in the image below from Nlaka’pamux country…

…and that is very useful. It is also useful to know that, yes, you can actually squeeze water from a stone. Our land use policies and water management regimes depend upon us all knowing these mechanisms as parts of a whole, and caring for the whole, rather than talking about H2O alone, whether flowing on the surface, falling from the sky or pumped out of the soil. It has a much richer story than that, and the fate of the Earth depends on us getting it right. The lichen below, for instance, is catching it out of the sky, at the same time it catches nitrogen from it as well, some of which feeds the flowers at the base of the big sage that holds it in the air. Not a bad trick.

Let’s re-imagine science by setting aside hierarchies that have out-lived their time.

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