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.

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.

Beavers and Trails in the North Okanagan

Here’s an observation about water. If I’m right, it’s pretty cool. So, have a look. This is a small part of the former Commonage Reserve, a wedge of land set aside for the Okanagan Indian Band and White cattlemen to use together as pasture land, which was later sold off to the ranchers. I’ve spoken of the political injustice of that before. Let’s just look at the water. At this year, it’s snow. Look how the snow stores cold better on the east-facing walls  of the old water courses and sunlight at best on their west-facing ones.p1460105
Note the abandoned farmland and the houses built around the flood plain and the wetlands in the valley bottom. All that remains of that is a creek (marked by the willows marching through the houses), with a couple of beavers here and there, making sneak attacks on willows at night. Now, look at the gullies again. See how the hawthorn trees in the gully are hiding just below the level of the sun? That’s right where the snow is protected from the sun as well. That’s a wall of cold.p1460108 If you walk up one of these gullies in the summer, that cold will certainly draw you to it in the afternoon. As evidenced by tree growth, note that the water doesn’t follow the bed of the gully but clings to one wall.

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Well, the thing is: before the beavers were trapped out to buy surplus Napoleonic War rifles to try to keep ranchers out of this country, I’d be surprised if there hadn’t been beavers in all these now-dry watercourses, building little dams, holding the water, right down in that trough of shadow. There’s a foreign city on the beaver country now, and no beavers.

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But just think of this: when the beavers were there, the water in the bed of the gully would have modified the temperature of the gully, drawing cold across to the warm side, warmth across to the cold side, and creating one environment, centred on water, with two different kinds of growth, one on one side of the gully and one on the other. Birds and animals could move from one to the other, instead of passing long distances across the grass. The gullies, in other words, concentrated animals, not along trails, as is the case today, but in pools, just like beaver ponds. Not only is that beautiful, but it’s invaluable for creating new sources of water efficiency as we move forward. I love it.

Un-Naming Okanagan Lake

If I look west down the arm of the fjord lake (Okanagan) from the beach down below my house, I see this kind of thing on some evenings …

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… and this kind of thing on others.

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One is called a mountain. One is called a cloud. They sure look like they’re responding to the same energy. This snow cloud, too.

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This lake, in this fjord, in this deep fault, stretching down almost 1500 metres, has power.

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And moods.p1440021

It’s in the same class of creature as glaciers and oceans.

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Let’s stop calling her water.

 

Humans and Geese and Weather and Geese and Humans and Geese

Canada geese always push their ability to withstand weather by coming back from migration wayyy too early in the spring and then toughing it out. That come-too-early thing is what Canada geese are all about. For the past twenty years or so, a goodly flock of them just haven’t bothered to leave. Local governments pay people to go around and shake their eggs in their nests, so their numbers don’t increase — this is considered a humane way of keeping beaches, so important for tourist dollars, free of goose poop. Here they are, childless, on the ice at Minus 20.
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The sun is going down. Night is coming on. But don’t you worry about them. Other humans come by in their cars, dozens every day, and feed them, which is all strictly forbidden. These humans consider this feeding of hungry animals to be humane. Pushing the weather, or humans, that’s who geese are. I love the way they encourage people to come outside for even five minutes in the cold and be the weather. Honk.

 

 

The Grasslands and Free Will

I saw something beautiful today. Want to see? Just follow my footsteps. Trudge trudge trudge. Here we go…

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Before the snow comes, the grass is dense. It sways in the wind. Just watch what happens.

It snows.

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Mule deer…
p1450573… make tracks in the snow. On a golf course, where there is nothing to guide them, they follow each other, in single file.

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On the grass itself, they let the grass show them the path.

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Then the wind comes.

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Then the wind keeps coming.

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There’s a lot of wind here. There’s nothing above us except the universe. It makes the wind. Nice.

That wind keeps coming.

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Well, the same happens to the grass.

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The bunchgrass.p1460278

It directs the wind, too, just like the mule deer. I promise, if you’re going to go walking now, you’re going to walk where there is the most wind, which is between the snow. Free will here means you have the free will to choose what has already been chosen for you, to flow.

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Spring’s growth is determined now, in this world of footsteps: footsteps of deer, and footsteps of the wind, and yours, if you like.

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The grass sculpts them all.

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And the wind sculpts the grass.

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This is the path.

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