They make speed look silly.
They make speed look silly.
If you’ve ever met a goose, you’ll understand.
If you’ve never met a goose, welcome to the fun.
Coots love the water so much that they only leave for the deep south (100 kilometres away) when things get too rough in January. Then they come up and literally hug the ice, as if it were a floating bed of reeds they could nest on. Soon they will follow the edge of the ice to the high country lakes and ponds where they will raise their young, but for now they float in armadas on the lake. Here they are, from 150 metres up the hill.
And cruising among the gulls.
And looking through the window their reflection makes of the light playing on the surface of the lake, into the depths.
Here, this is one human equivalent of that deep look.
And another. Welcome to your mind. Note the gull flying through it, just larger than a water drop.
It is a time for celebration. The lake is calling.
The water people answer.
Slowly, the cold is leaving Okanagan Lake.
It has much to say on the way.
The waxwings… … and the fermented rose hips they eat …
… have both split their intelligence into multiple intelligences.
They are one mind, not two.
Of course, it works the other way for me as a human observer: the earth and I are of one mind, not two.
Here’s what might sound at first like a fantastical story, but it does end with a deeply practical point. I hope you enjoy it! To start, look at the spirit whale of the Okanagan at the end of a winter day. The first people who came through here 12,000 years ago were ice-edge hunters from the ocean to the West. They would have known about whales moving through leads in the ice. The trees in the foreground would have been underwater then.
Look at the big fin of the whale’s tale to the south. That’s quite the whale.
Over time, she has risen from the water. The purple line below was the lake shore 12,000 years ago. The red one, 10,000 or so. The drop was rapid in each case.
As you might just be able to make out above, when the tide was in (so to speak), the whale’s tail would have had three heads. Its fin would have been hidden. Swinging to the left, her head would have looked like this:
She was underwater, that’s what she was. Her body was a canoe full of animals. That would have been intimate knowledge to oceanic ice-edge hunters, and common to a number of indigenous flood stories. Look below for a closer look of the prow. The whale’s head is just a tiny island, leading the way like a porpoise. In this image, the ancestral animals who are the cargo are more clear.
The image below shows the stern of the canoe again, as it would have appeared above the lake, blunt-nosed as we would expect, with two trails of froth. The stern itself is a clown’s head, a motif we see on hundreds of sacred rocks in the Pacific Northwest. Whatever the reasons are is a discussion for another day. For now, let’s just be present on this ancient shore.
There’s no way of knowing if people viewed the whale this way or not 12,000 years ago, but one thing is certain: over the course of half a day she lifted out of the water and left behind a lake in the shape of a snake. Two thousand years later, she did it again. Today, that snake is called, derisively, Ogopogo. With more respect, but in equally colonial terms, she is called a lake. That discrepancy between spiritual and European knowledge is worth keeping in mind, when assessing my story of the mountain that is a whale: whether they are indigenous or scientific, story-tellers bring their knowledge and see it reflected in conversation with the forms of the land. People who come from that land, however, see the spirit first.
As a man, if that’s what I am and not “tree walking” or something like that, what I see in the image above is my self. I can’t say I understand this, or do not. “Understanding” is the wrong concept to apply to that presence, and can only access deep threads of European knowledge and explanation. Like “lake” or “mountain”, however, such activity comes from somewhere else and does not describe the bond between my body, spirit and mind and those of the land. Even “land” is the wrong word for this stuff. I seem to be evolving past words. What’s next, I wonder.
Fools call these moons asian pears and eat them before they are ripe.
She was once the golden sun of September.
Now she is ripe and oozing mysterious sugar.
This is fruit for the soul.
These drainage waves were formed 10,000 years ago when a lake as large as a sea filling the valley below my house drained in half a day. They are still catching sun and water, in the forms of heat and cold..
In other words, the lake is still alive. It only seems so long ago because of our individual life times and generational change… but it’s still that moment long ago. Wondrous!
Ice freezes in flat sheets down on the old fjord lake. A few days later, it is broken up by the wind, in angular chunks, as the repeated rising and falling, linear energy of the waves is translated into long, linear pressure fractures.
Still waves, right? Then water rises through the angular cracks and contours them most beautifully.
And so the waves become rivers and islands. This is an estuary landscape! When it dissolves, as estuaries do, there will be open water again.
The Big Sage blossoms with its scrubby flower stalks in the fall. There’s not great colour in them, but they do stick way up high. I’ve wondered about that often, with thoughts like this: “Hey, Big Sage, why oh why oh why?”
It’s kind of, well, blah. “Maybe it’s a wind thing,” I thought. But, I dunno. Look what happens in February, when the sun comes in through cloud.
The brown flower stalks catch the evening sun coming into the gullies, while the plants do not. It’s pretty dramatic. Look at the slope above in the image below (to the left) and compare to the hotter slope to the right.
Is this sticking way up and turning copper in the late winter sun a way of getting the benefit of the hot slope without drying out as it does? Does this strategy bring spring months early to the seeds of the big sage? I dunno, but it does so for me.
And the ladies, of course. Check out the ears. They are good at getting up above the sage.
Maybe the flower stalks are big sage ears? What are they listening for? Wind? Birds? The sun? Ah, if we could hear that sound.