The Okanagan’s Dirty Secret

Is it the Dirty Laundry Winery?

No. That’s actually a little bit of colonial Canadian culture using the Okanagan to market Canada to itself by romanticizing prostitution. That’s easy. No, no, I mean the freaking air. Or, rather, its replacement with smoke and car exhaust.

Maybe building a city 150 miles long was a bad idea.

But, hey, party on.

 http://www.winetrails.ca/2015/05/its-party-time-at-dirty-laundry-vineyard/

But maybe you could walk?

Girls Fun Day Out in the Okanagan Snow

Wanna have some fun in the snow? Well, if you’re human, sledding is great. Bit of a bumpy ride down, and watch for the cacti under the snow and broken off volcano bits and all that, but whee.p1460632

However, then there are the pros. Slalom …

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Loop-de-loops!p1460616

Graceful glides down through the powder at 16 Below. Bright sun. Nice.p1460617

You can ski alone.p1460621

Or in tandem.

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Or as a trio.

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It’s all in the stance, of course.

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That’s my amateurish man track to the right. I admit, it’s slow skiing. p1460743

But fun.p1460737

And beats the crowded conditions at the bottom of the hill.p1460694

Fast food joint, you know.p1460750

Boring. Better to hit the slopes with the girls.

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Yeah.

 

Holiday Cultures Compared

This is Icelandic holiday culture. A lava field, a cliff, a waterfall and thou in a little summer house.

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In the Okanagan, holiday culture is about making and spending money, usually involving high-powered gasoline-driven boats, or these nuts, one of whom is water-skiing behind a personal watercraft, and falling every 100 metres (at best).

duh

Colonial cultures are like that. In the icelandic case, the country gained independence by gaining the country. In the Okanagan’s case, colonialism is still in process from the oil culture to the east. It’s not yet time for an indigenous Okanagan holiday culture. It’s still time for work.

 

 

The Purpose of Education and Indigenous Identity

Welcome to the Wallula Gap.
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That’s the impounded Columbia River, in its old bed there. The gap between the cliffs is so narrow that the 300 foot deep flood wave from the melting ice age that pooled in Idaho and Montana and then broke out all of a sudden took over two days to pour through it, after it backed up here and a hundred miles to the west and east. Old Fort Nez Perce is off to the left, underwater. Dams will do that.

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No, this marker does not mark the place. Don’t be fooled.

It was at Fort Nez Perce that the Nimíipuu (renamed the Nez Perce by someone who had never met a Nimíipuu. No, they did not pierce their noses) tried to get the first fur traders to pay for the timber they had cut off of Nimíipuu land and used to build their fort. The traders laughed at their gall, although gall it was not.

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Fort Nez Perce, 1853 Source

The Nk’mp salmon of my river in the north swim through this gap to come home, over flooded Umatilla fishing stations most of the way, and eventually over nine main stem dams on the Columbia. The plutonium reactors are about sixty miles north. The tanker cars here are supplying bleaching agents to the pulp mill just off to the right, which is still harvesting Nimíipuu trees, after pretty close to 200 years now. The mouth of the Walla Walla River is to the left, and the home of the Cayuse, the Walla Wallas, the Touchets and the Sinkiuse peoples, who suffered untold tragedy so these trains could be here.

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The tops of the plateau on either side of the river are part of the Horse Heaven Hills, which stretch from the Cascades to the Blue Mountains and, yes, used to be full of horses.The purpose of education in a racial state is to make sure you see this series of social transgressions as place. It is a convenient way of eliminating indigenous thinking from young minds. It is the trains they are being trained to belong to. As for “place”, in contemporary intellectual society, it doesn’t exist. That’s how successful the North American education project is. This place, for example, doesn’t exist …

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… quite literally, because the grassland has been grazed off, the flatland is watered from deep wells, to grow alfalfa, peas and potatoes, and the hills are used to farm the wind. That’s pretty placeless. Plus, No Trespassing. Below is the river closer up, at its confluence with the Yakima, just to the north. Here, at least, you are allowed to walk.

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What’s that on the water? Ah.

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Just because. Behind that screen of trees are the freeways of Richland, the city that made the plutonium that made the Bomb. The nature you see here is a collection of weeds fed by impounded water, which have filled in the outskirts of the old Chamna Fishing camp of the Yakama, Sinkiuse, Walla Wallas and Cayuse people. The centre of the camp is an alfalfa field now. This is not the world that the first settlers here, the Oblate fathers Pandosy and Richard, saw in 1847. There was no “nature” then. You didn’t have to be put to shame by a dog.

 

P1840782The place is called the Tri-Cities Region. That’s not what it is. What it is has no words, because in nearly 200 years nobody has talked about it. Most of the wheat of the United States is barged on the impounded lakes of this former great river. Here’s a local resident.P1840674

Once the local residents were people. Wherever you find nature, you will find the people missing. It’s how nature is made. It’s the same with education. This isn’t history. History is about rail cars.

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History. Not Moving at Wallula, Washington.

This is about your life. It is time to get out of the classroom. It is time to start living here.

Water and Air Pollution in the Okanagan Valley

This is the bottom of Okanagan Lake, in 15 centimetres of water, in Vernon, on a public beach.
yuckI know the green stuff is algae, that shouldn’t be there, but what is the purply white stuff? Would you drink that? Would you let your kid swim in it? Would you even let your dog swim in it? The image below is from Okanagan Centre, twenty kilometres down the lake. It shows what those stones should look like: old volcanic cores gouged out in the over deepening processes of a melting continental glacier.P2200050

Unfortunately, I had to search for those stones. The image below shows what it really looks like, for kilometre after kilometre, at Okanagan Centre (below.) These stones are covered in green slime (like in the picture from Vernon above) in the wet (summer) season.

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Look, I know I’m as old as the hills, but I think it’s completely beyond acceptable that this has happened. In 1970, you could drink this lake. The water was clear for three or four metres, at least.  You could swim in it. Now people do this:

swim

You could make soup out of that junk, but would you spoon it up?

This is in Vernon, by the way. The  slime and weird whiten and purple crud photo at the top of this post was taken to the left of this image, where the brown resort apartments meet the lake. The current $900,000,000 (!!!!!!) water improvement project for Greater Vernon includes dumping millions of litres of treated water into this arm of this lake, letting the lake miraculously clean it, then pumping it back out again and spraying it on lawns, orchards and vegetable fields. From beginning to end, this is obscene. Ah, you think that is bad? Well, the image below is no better.P2190102

That’s the main channel of Okanagan Lake, ten kilometres north of Okanagan Centre and forty kilometres north of Kelowna. What you see is cloud, and below it a layer of smog blowing up from the city. In 1970, this air was so clean, there were no impurities in it at all, and certainly not brown smog blowing in. I remember the first time I saw smog in the Okanagan. It was in 1980, rolling south from Kelowna. Now, many people say,

that’s progress,

or even …

You can’t stop progress.

That’s bullshit. It’s a crime, that’s all, pure and simple. I know. I have the memory. I carry the grief within me. Just look at this!P2170755

That’s four days ago. Look at the brown smog in those clouds. Chances are it has blown north from Seattle or Vancouver: hundreds of kilometres away. It does that. Look at the lower level of smoke drifting up the main body of the lake, moving north from Kelowna, 35 kilometres to the south. Look at how it pools in the Shorts Creek Draw (in the middle right of the image, between the two low white clouds.) For the love of all things decent, hundreds of people get their drinking water from that creek!

Grass and Poetry in Cascadia

The grass is a cultural being. So are cat tails and so is poetry.

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Talk about a rhyme scheme, eh!

First, the grass. Not only does it have its own culture, but it is part of the body of human culture in these valleys, canyons and plateaus between the mountains, on the west of North America.

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Yellowstone, North Gate.

You are not looking at dead grass here. You are looking at water catchers, upside down umbrellas, which the grass has made to draw water from the air. You are looking at upside down wells.

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To keep them from matting on the ground and reducing the land’s productivity, fire burns them away, so they can be renewed. Traditionally, people have set those fires. It was the first stage in the primary, human civilizing impulse: cooking. First you make the land productive with fire (you make it into an art form), then you harvest it.

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Bella Vista

Here’s a different way of being grass, one not native to this place, and one not harvested. It is, accordingly, not an art form, but is wild:

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This is cheatgrass. It bursts like flame out of the soil in October, grows all winter under the snow (yes, under the snow) and has replaced hundreds of indigenous species in the tapestry that is the body of this place. Look how it collects water. It urges it to flow off into the soil, where old thatch holds it from evaporating, and then it uses it all up, denying its use to all other plants. It loves monocultures. That is not the bunchgrass way. The image below shows what happens when fire is suppressed in this landscape…

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Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park

Do you see that bunchgrass there, at the end of 8,000 years of history, encroached by soap berries and escaped farmyard grass? It will soon drown. Below is an image of what happens when trees are not controlled by fire. The ponderosa pine below has showered the land with fire, or needles, if you will. They burn the alkaline soil down to acid. Look at the bunchgrass drown.

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Rattlesnake Mountain

This is happening on our watch, in our time, in our parks, in what contemporary culture calls nature and “wilderness,” while attention is directed towards smokestack emissions and pools of plastic in the middle of the sea. We don’t have to go that far. Nature itself is the culprit.

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Turtle Mountain

Let’s be clear about this nature. All of the parks of the west were created out of former indigenous cultural space. That’s to say: around 150 years ago, there was no nature here; only social space. Then it became “wild,” when dispossessed of its people and left fallow. It became a different art form: one that created emptiness where there had been fullness, and a mechanical earth where there had been a living one.

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Royal Gala Industrial Apple Plantation, Bella Vista

This process started in Washington in 1892, when all federal lands purchased for tiny sums during rushed treaty-making processes and not by then already dedicated to Nez Perce or Spokane or Skoielpi use (among many others), were rededicated as national forests. Land that had formerly been maintained by fire, now was expensively protected from fire, to preserve its “pristine” nature.This “pristine” nature is, in other words, a culturally-created thing.

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The culturally-charged process of plant succession.

Rattlesnake Mountain

This process moved to British Columbia in 1922. The fire still burns. It costs hundreds of millions of dollars to combat every year, to no avail. That’s the fire we can see. This, below, is also that fire, though:

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It is burning within Syilx space. The grass that has almost been replaced here by “nature” is still a cultural being, but it’s now  viewed with terms appropriate to “nature,” which are not the terms appropriate for viewing culture: beauty, for instance, wildness, for another, health, for yet another, inanimate, for another, plowable, for another, and developable, for another. And that brings me back to poetry. Here is some Cascadian poetry (Please click on the link to view. It will open in a new window.)

Very Serious and Full of Vegetables

That is a cultural product produced in this place, one which heartfully honours a tradition, but it is, as you will have noted if you clicked on it, a poem about people and human attitudes towards all kinds of things, but includes no attitudes of grass or fire or rain to anything. It’s not about that, likely on the anti-romantic presumption (accurate enough) that no-one can speak for these things. In their place, I think the poem is about taking wild human energy (a created art form) and distilling it down to points of social utility, and through a process of manipulating that social machinery enabling people who live within it to ultimately come to a physical experience of grass through the only route the tradition allows: through the mind; not the body. The body plays the role of memory. This has been the American poetic project for over a century now. Here’s an early draft of it, from the American poet Hilda Doolittle, written a century ago:

Hermes, Hermes,

the great sea foamed,

gnashed its teeth about me,

but you have waited,

where sea-grass tangles with

shore grass.

Hilda Doolittle, from Hermes of the Ways

It’s beautiful, and lands solidly on grass and brings it to life in the mind, but it is a thing of the mind trying to escape itself by means of the earth. It can’t shake that. It is, in other words, bookish. Often Hilda tried the trick she uses in the following poem:

O white pear,

your flower-tufts

thick on the branch

bring summer and ripe fruits

in their purple hearts.

Hilda Doolittle, from Pear Tree

In this one, she uses the same memory trick but also speaks to the tree, yet her identification is incomplete; it is an artifice only; she is not the tree, nor is she its flowers. Her poem is a construction of words and energy contained with words — a thing of memory, in other words, a funereal ode. Her identity is untouched by it, and is not transformed by it. It is infused with it, for sure, and, no doubt strengthened, but, still, untouched. And the poem is very beautiful, too. It is not of this place, of course, nor did Hilda mean it to be. I use her words only as an example of how poetry and land can remain separate, even in intimate moments, and how American identity engineering often places the land within fences, called words — farms, cities or streets, if you will — and observes them from there. That is a very anglo saxon thing, of course, but for me, as a man of the grass, this is a step away from the earth not one towards it, because for me the grass is not just a part of a social group, but also of a self. To say “O white pear” just won’t do. It would be like saying, “Oh me.” And then there’s Paul Nelson’s riff on Whalen, with his

“having the curious ability to make one think

that a mind has been slowed down.”

Very Serious and Full of Vegetables

That’s beautiful, too, but it is predicated on the conceit that mind has been sped up in the first place, with a secondary conceit that any subsequent slowing down is only illusory. I dispute that. I think it needs to be strongly challenged. According to settler ideology, the grass is wild, and is the canvas for paintings of human will. In other words, it is this:

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A weed-filled bunchgrass slope, a choke cherry tree, and a ponderosa pine, set in front of a monoculture hay field. Coldstream, British Columbia

No-one would want the social identity of that hay, because it is enslaved to individual and social human will. What’s more, to enslave it is to enslave (or fence) human selves, including those of the wielder of will. It’s not about a mind slowing down or not slowing down. It’s about whether that image above shows wilderness or cultural space. It’s about who you belong to: the grass, or other men. Unifying those opposites is not as easy as creating a national forest and building new parks within it for poets to walk through and find beauty.

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Fire Pine, Yellowstone

They can. That work has been done. Now it is time for the land to speak. Now it is time for people who are the land to speak — not as a conversation within American or Canadian or Western poetry, and not as an address to or for that fire pine. It means, among many other things, making this tree the centre of the world — not as a symbol of anything. This tree, right here, right now. That kind of thing. Rilke found it a century ago. We are that far behind here. To find that tree probably means finding new words. That is good, honest work. It absolutely means finding new forms. That is powerful work for people engaged in finding poetry in the world and working with it. It means being present, not in memory but in the unfolding that is memory’s form in the present.

P2050845Yellowstone North Gate

That is why I have stepped aside from traditions of Cascadian poetry, although few people in this land know it so intimately or have been the channel for poetry within it for so long. I just can’t do metaphor anymore, that’s the thing. I can’t do nature, and if I’m to be bound by a line of will, I want it to come from that pine, not traditions of politics and the poetry of identity politics from a foreign country and foreign traditions. That is or the citizens of those fields. For me, in this grass, joy will do just fine. This is partly what I meant in my new book The Art of Haying: it’s possible to live well as the earth; the ego is just the book talking as it keeps us in line. It’s possible to walk out into the grass. Here’s an article on The Art of Haying in BC Book Look. P2010552

Big Bar Wet Land

Blessed be.

The Illahie: the Braided Country

Here’s an old word: illahie. Here’s what it looks like to me today:

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Well, that’s a teeny tiny bit of it. If you look it up in a Chinook Wawa dictionary…

45667_1…the trade language of Cascadia …

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… on the North Pacific Coast of North America, you’ll find it defined as: “country, land.” Ya, well, it’s also this…

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Mammoth Hot Springs in the September Rain, Yellowstone

… and it’s not a claim to legal land title. It’s a person’s illahie. It’s the land that one is. It has an interesting story, too. All words in Chinook Wawa, or Chinook Talk have an origin. Some come from Tsinuk, the language of the old traders at the mouth of the Columbia River. Some are from other indigenous languages, in this illahie rich with them. After all, the Tsinuk (Chinook) were trading in Wawa long before Europeans lugged themselves out this way. Some are from French, like leman, for “hand” or lapote, for “door.” Some are from English, like sugar for “sugar.” Some come from playful echoes of sound. Wawa (language or talk) is one of those. It’s the sound a baby makes (wa wa), and the sound a person makes when no one understands him (blah blah, for instance), and that’s kind of the way traders were, and kind of the way of pidgin language that lacks a certain amount of subtlety, shall we say. Illahie, though, oh, that’s an interesting one. Here’s my guess: it’s French, from the métis traders of the Hudson’s Bay Company, who came overland from Canada, or perhaps the French-speaking Iroquois traders who came before them, before history, and are only recorded in Skoeilpi legend, but are no less real for that. You could have Scots ancestry, too. That worked.

05 Angus MacDonald

The Great Coming Together

If I’m right, the word is “la hai”, a hedge of sticks (it’s how you planted one), even a fence (they were often woven from willows) [note: the spelling change is because the recorders were English and spelled “hai” the English way, as “hie”]…

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A Stick Fence from the Day. Source

…and the prefix “il”, which makes it “il-lahie”. Does that come from the French pronoun “il” for “he”? Or does it come, perhaps, from the nsyilxcen word, “yil”, for a braid. If it’s French, it would mean “his fence”, but the French would be poor, pidgin even, so perhaps Iroquois, and perhaps Sahaptin or Salishan, spoken by someone just learning the language and poking fun. That works. If it’s “yil” it would mean, “the hedge of sticks that is braided together.” That would work, too, because the hedge of sticks in Cascadia is a game, called s’lahal. It’s an ancient game. It goes back nearly 14,000 years in this illahie.  We know, because it’s called “the stick game”, the “sticks” are made of bones, and the oldest set of s’lahal bones we have are nearly 14,000 years old.

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S’lahal played in Vancouver, in 2011  Source

It’s played today with sticks, lengths of wood, because no one has much of a source of mammoth bones anymore. It’s a game played with drumming and songs, as you can see above. One old s’lahal song sings that in the early gambling to see who was going to be the hunted in the future, after the people were separated into people and animals, it wasn’t looking so good for humans. This hairless and sickly lot were down to one s’lahal bone and it looked like the soup pot for them, but then one of the spirits of one of the animals took pity on these weak mewling, naked, clawless and toothless things and gave them a song. That made the difference. Life came to humans from the song’s ability to change the mood of the game in their favour. Ever since, s’lahal has been played with songs, drumming, polyphony, antiphony, swagger, bluff and laughter. If you’re thinking, hey, that sounds like coyotes teaching their kits to howl outside their dens under the warm August moon, you’ve got it about right.

Too Young to Play S’lahal (May)

Sometimes, s’lahal can be bad for your health, though. That’s because it’s played with mammoth bones, or with arrow shafts tipped with them, signifying men. Each arrow is a song. Each song is a wager. And…when French métis traders (typically the dark-skinned sons of Quebec French men and native women) arrived it became a splendid cross-cultural joke: in French “la hal,” or “la haie,” is a pun between “a hedge of sticks” and “a suntan” — in other words, “lahal” is the stick game of the people with dark skins, or “the forest people,” because the French word “La Tenne” has always meant the celts, the forest people who painted their skins dark with walnut or fir sap (Tanne, or Tannenbaum in German), just as the English word “tan” has always meant exactly the same thing: to get a tanning, in other words, is to get whipped, which colours the skin bright red; to get a tan, in other words, means to have children with the people of the forest, and to bring their darker skin colour into your family line — a fine métis bit of wit. And maybe you’re going to get whipped, or beaten, in that game of s’lahal, eh?

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E.J. Kipp, 26, (left) and his brother Andre Picard Jr., 33, of the Nez Perce Nation in Lapwai, Idaho, demonstrate how a game of Sticks and Bones might go. Source

Hey, if you can’t laugh at yourself, what’ve you got? Laughter aside, though, there’s deep, ancient wisdom here: humans and spirits and animals are all woven together in s’lahal, and they are woven together in the land that s’lahal made: the illahie. The earth, and all its interwoven creatures, the illahie, is the game. It’s s’lahal. It’s the play. It’s the weave we are.

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A Bunch of Bison After Losing the Stick Game

By the way, in Wawa, “sticks” are what English speakers call trees and French speakers call des arbres and Germans see as Bäume.  The bison know them differently.  Look at them there in Yellowstone with their game pieces! And that’s the illahie, the land that is all woven together, with the spiritual foundation, woven together from the beginning of the world, and keeping that beginning alive, and woven with all the rich diversity of the land bound together in a game of mutual communication and respect. Today, we have much to integrate into the illahie, after a century and a half of trying to cheat the game.

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It’s going to take quite some singing. Let’s begin!

Why stop there?

 

Riding Across the Face of the Sun: the Case for Beauty

A sail is a solar-powered device, which inserts itself within the intersections of solar, aquatic and atmospheric energy, all of which ultimately formed either by the sun or by the forces of gravitational attraction which created the solar system and which remain in the spinning of the earth.P2010217

Sailing On Lake Okanagan on a Smoky Afternoon

A sail acts, in other words, like water tension, as demonstrated yesterday in the shared (although reversed) mechanisms of the water strider…

… and the leaves of the big sage.

If you missed that post, you can read it here: click. For today, here’s another creature riding the winds of the sun.

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I know, solar winds are winds of energy, photons and waves, ejected from the sub-nuclear processes within the sun. My point is that once they strike the earth, a planet in which light, stone and the orbiting water of crashed comets are united in matrices much like water tension, called life — a planet in which the sun joins with atmosphere and water to lose its straight lines and flow in new form — wings, sails, splayed legs and leaf hairs are all devices for moving through the sun. Your lungs ride boundaries in much the same way. So do these sumac leaves:

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They too are walking on water. They too are riding the winds of the sun. I point this out because the world is beautiful, and this conception fits with the beautiful order of the universe, but also because it can lead to new technological breakthroughs that will bring technological science closer to the universe and will lead technological civilization farther from the impoverishment of the earth. Beauty matters. It can change the world.