The Heart of the Shuswap

Some rocks are sacred.

The twins that allow water to reveal its spirit. The two halves of the heart.

And what a spirit!

Spirit on spirit on spirit. This red blood.

The rock that is a heart and … oh, what ‘s this crawling out from the water to it?

Spirit indeed!

It’s not hard to find your way on Shuswap Lake. It’s not hard to read the land.

By reading it, I read my self.

In the country I used to live in, this was called belief. I live here now.

And here.

How The Sun Makes Rich Soil

It’s simply beautiful how it is done. First, water sorts out the finest grains of silt, and deposits them on the surface of low points in the earth, filling them in. Then the sun evaporates the water, and  cracks the silt all crazy like.
Wind and gravity (and birds passing through the seasons) deposit feathers and leaves. The angular effect of the sun on the fluid shape of the silt holds them from drifting.
When the rains come again to the lowest ground, it fills the cracks, softens leaf and feather, and then deposits new silt around them.

They are now mixed in.

The cycle repeats with each season, or each thundercloud.

This is the lightning of the earth.

Beautiful, isn’t it!

What exquisite music.

The Troll’s Toad

I was writing a week ago how the stone in the Basalt Sea where I live breaks apart along fracture lines that reveal, over and over again, faces. For some reason, stone like this matches the patterning of the human mind, which suggests to me that I, at least, have ancestors who were at home for a long, long time in volcanic landscapes, or that there are energies in the universe that have shaped my mind, and my genes, in the same way they affect rock of this kind. Have a look at my horned toad.

She’s very nice. Earth is alive, and we are all her life.

The Resistance Begins

There are no words for this.P2280519The sun uses wind …. P2290983… and water …P2280631

… to move sand. You could say it was gravity, or resistance, or wave forms …

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… but really, those are just words. It’s all of those things at once, and more.

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It’s also the earth moulding the sun into its own image, after all.

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Really, there is no earth and no sun. There are both at once.

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It’s not in language that humans are most wise.

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It’s not in language that they are most earthsun …P2280623

…and sunearth.

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Machines can’t do this.

 

Living Soil

Here’s some soil:

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It’s a series of shelters, which capture water, minerals and heat, and amplify the conditions for light and seed germination, in the warm area in the first millimetres above the earth’s surface.Yes, I know, this isn’t “soil” as the dictionary defines it:

The top layer of the earth’s surface in which plants can grow, consisting of rock and mineral particles mixed with decayed organic matter and having the capability of retaining water.

But look at this:

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That image of moss fulfills this definition of soil (the 5th of five in online dictionaries):

 place or condition favourable to growth; a breeding ground.

Such a breeding ground can become complex:

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That’s definitely soil, and is full of life. It’s also a growing surface. The common definition looks like the corn (and tomato) field below:

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Note the chopped up cornstalks, and the chopped up and shredded plastic sheeting, designed to heat this ground up to achieve a similar effect to the one the mound of moss in the image below does on its own.

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Mounds have been shown to dramatically raise the temperature of their environments and are the chosen form of plants in extreme environments. Notice how the mound above has a fellow traveller, a sprouted flowering plant putting out its first leaves. The flat, warm surface of the earth has been amplified, and in this heat, with the water that is trapped in the moss, like this water caught between these pine needles, …

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… the plant has many basic needs fulfilled. Rather than flowing away, the water is held by the tension between two surfaces, at which point its own surface tension, amplified by the support of the surfaces around it, is stronger than gravity.

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The “agricultural soil” that is “the top surface of the earth” is doing no more: the soil has one surface, but beneath that surface all the grains of mineral of which it is formed amplify that surface area many millions of times, and allow that water to bind and defy gravity. It makes a web not that dissimilar from the multi-year complex of this stag horn sumac:

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Plants pick it up from there. Above ground, none of that is visible. It looks like “soil” is a magical mineral and compost mix, not that that is a clumsy approximation of a complex life-giving environment.

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This subterranean story is not much different from the moss story except that the agricultural version of this soil is a simplified, manufactured material. Plant growth is chopped up and tilled into a mineral substrate, along with its plastic heating technology; simple bacterial and fungal growth, feeding off of the petroleum-based fertilizer which has provided nitrogen, essential for plant growth (and otherwise obtainable from the atmosphere, at least in complex living environments) decays that material into water-absorbing cellulose filaments and releases trace minerals, which another generation of plants can use. It’s an intervention.

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It’s not pretty, though, and it’s a very simplified system that, without the application of nitrogen fertilizers or industrially-grown and sown seeds, produces only simplified weed cultures, of little value to anyone.

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It is a new age of the earth. No-one knows what these weed ecologies are doing, because no-one is watching them. Certainly, they are building soil, and that is most true, but what, then is soil? The manufactured, mulch product, such as this desert landscape with unpicked tomatoes?

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No, it’s far more. It is recreating life. Here’s a clue, from the shade under an old sagebrush plant on the hill.

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Soil is a complex environment of fungi and bacteria and other microorganisms. They are the living things that cluster around the roots of plants like these blue bunch wheat grasses…

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… or around the roots of larger plants like this robin-rich cottonwood …

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… and recreate the living soil surface in the complex weather patterns of the underground atmosphere. Yes, there is one. When the air content of soil goes below a certain threshold, through either compaction or water saturation, everything dies. Air is key. After all, these plants couldn’t tolerate drowning.

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Neither can their sisters underground. The atmosphere above the soil is turbulent. In it, water is released from saturation into precipitation and is taken back up again to balance the pressure of the air.

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It’s the same underground, except there the process is expressed through the work of up to 1,000 different species per cubic metre of grassland soil; there, water, clinging to the mineral particles of the soil, attracts minerals, extracted not from the clouds by the sun and the cold, but extracted by microorganisms, and passed onto plant roots, which provide them with oxygen, which they breathe out. The large cousins of these microorganisms on the surface are doing this work, too. There we call it photosynthesis.

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Each leaf is the earth. The earth is a leaf. Soil is not mineral. It is a living process of breath, as is the way leaves breathe the sun and the air and make stone move and bloom.

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~

Next: more on the relationship between photosynthesis, soil atmosphere, plants and the sky.

Soil and Water: Children of the Stars

Within a slope constructed at the angle of gravity, that’s to say at the angle that is the balance between the earth’s spin and the concentration of that spin at it’s core, water flows downhill at a rate balanced to the evaporative potential of the air above it, and the plants (in this case bunchgrass) that represent it (and mine it). When these lines of energy are cut, such as by the Grey Canal (now a walking path) in the centre of the image below, the balance is changed, water pools, and wetland life colonizes it. The seeds drifting on the wind that created the cat tails below are blowing everywhere through the valley. They materialize as a new wetland only when there is a wetland to materialize in, which is dependent on alterations to the balance of pressures between the atmosphere and gravity. The Earth is a child of the stars, and we can harvest their energy, should we watch and pay attention. Soil is the story of this balance. So is life.

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Tomorrow: the beauty of surfaces within the story of soil.

Gravity Pools

Soil.

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Not soil.

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9 years, nothing growing yet.

Soil

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Not soil.
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Nothing even germinates here.

Soil.

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You find soil where water pools. (Rocks, too.)

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It is life — a gravitational effect that manifests itself at boundaries.

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Mineral earth is just mineral earth. A good place for bees to burrow.

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Very small bees.

Plants prefer even rocks over that stuff.

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The life that grows in mineral earth is growing in the soil within the earth, not the earth.

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Plants, after all, came from the sea. They know about stuff like this. Gravity pools, a form of dry land tidal pool, help. Below is a pool of green water in a deer’s footprint (centre left).

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Here’s a gravity pool collecting rain within a stone.

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Here’s one flowing, as water will.

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Plants root in life like this. Dirt is just an environment of ground up mountains that allows soil, a kind of living weather, to form, if the conditions are right.