The Mystery of Clouds and Ice

Clouds are water vapour held up by air, and are named after clods, or lumps of earth.p1490817

Ice floes are clods of ice held up by water. But in the world of light, which surely is a world, they are the same. There is a mystery there, as yet unravelled.p1490931

Western culture was working at it, until the guns of Verdun. We shouldn’t have given in.

The Return of the Water People

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.p1490086

And cruising among the gulls.

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And cruising.
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And looking through the window their reflection makes of the light playing on the surface of the lake, into the depths.p1490695

Here, this is one human equivalent of that deep look.

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And another. Welcome to your mind. Note the gull flying through it, just larger than a water drop.p1490474

It is a time for celebration. The lake is calling.p1490090

The water people answer.

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Your turn.

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The Spirit Whale of the Okanagan

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.p1480903

Look at the big fin of the whale’s tale to the south. That’s quite the whale.p1480921

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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

p1480907As 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.

Ancient Waves Live On

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..p1480024

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!

The Beautiful Temporary Estuaries of Winter

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.

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Still waves, right? Then water rises through the angular cracks and contours them most beautifully.

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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.

Big Ears for Big Sagebrush

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?”
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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.p1480241

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.p1480238

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.

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And the ladies, of course. Check out the ears. They are good at getting up above the sage.p1480454

Maybe the flower stalks are big sage ears? What are they listening for? Wind? Birds? The sun? Ah, if we could hear that sound.

The Land Speaks and We Listen

When the land presses energy out, it makes a trail. Water can follow that trail, or that trail can be picked up by shrubs and lifted to the air, as in the image below.
p1480103This old principle of the earth is called Dicht, or thickening. It is the earth’s way of distilling energy into form, as it does with the saskatoon bush below.
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It does the same with these mule deer does.p1480468

In their case, because they have great agility of movement and great endurance and strength, the Dichtung (thickening) that the land does to create them is very complex. Still, it is understandable. They are at this distance, because it is as far as they wish to go to be safe, given that this is the sunny slope and the snow is difficult everywhere else. They are on the ridge line, so they can watch both ways, with their escape route open. p1480469

I mean, why go to that shadier snow to the north?p1480436 These does are, in other words, following the same pressure of the land’s forms as creeks, ponds, and bushes do, and the fact that I found them here, by chance, is because I was following the same flows. What’s more, these flows are mapped out across the land by these does.p1480439

As anyone who knows this land of volcanic outcrops and sagebrush knows: if you don’t follow the deer trails, you’ll be retracing your steps. Follow the trail.

p1480238 But it works both ways. Here are the does fifteen minutes later. I’m far below by this time, looking back up the hill. You can see them grazing in a tight group, far tighter than when I first found them. This is the group they made in a defensive posture from me, in a position determined by my presence. It will slowly open out and shift across the grass.p1480521

And don’t think they aren’t still watching. Or that I’m not watching, too.
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We are all flowing together. None of us are flowing in any direction not given to us by the land. Well, the land and the sun.

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Shine on.

The Palette of Saskatoons Through the Year

Isn’t it very fine. There are the saskatoons of winter, with bark in a palette of rose and plum.

saskThen there are the saskatoons of springtime. Look at their palette now! (This palette is laid down over the rose and plum palette of winter.)

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Then summer comes!

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Then autumn!

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And all together through the year? Look below. Those are the colours of saskatoon, or síya?. 

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The image below shows the continuous sequence of colour change from wood to fruit to leaf to wood, where the opening begins again, or rather, continues.

saskatoonspectrumAt one time of the year, the wood gives its colours to fruit. At another time of year, the leaves give their colours to wood. Put that another way: the fruit ripens out of winter’s wood, just as autumns wood ripens out of spring’s leaf and, when it is fully ripe and is again winter’s wood, it ripens into summer’s fruit. It is the story of the separate rising of the blue, then yellow and their stilling again. Half the year is yellow, half is red. Half holds the sun. Half holds the fruit that the sun will ripen. What an astonishing creature saskatoon is!