The Bounty of Water in a Dry Country

This is water.


It is called Okanagan Lake. In Icelandic, where indigenous European language survives, it is a vatn, specifically a space of free water. Of that, it is a special form, called a læk, or a lick: a domesticated space of water, of agricultural use. Metaphysically and socially, it is both of those, but in terms of its own essence and how it works in this dry landscape, it is neither. This is water.

It is also called a weed, or an unwanted growth. It grows on disturbed land, or land set aside for agricultural use but then abandoned and left in this state of abandonment, which is called wild, after the Old English (essentially Icelandic) wildeornes, a point (nes) for wild (wil or wild) beasts (deor.) In this dry country, such a space is one that is removed from agricultural space and given, generously but purposefully, to our brothers and sisters. This is water.


It is an industrial orchard and garlic field (in winter ground cover), irrigated by industrially-supplied high country water along the model of the California Gold Rush of 1849. It is not vatn and is fenced against wild and other humans. It is, thus, as constricted as the flow within the gold rush technology that supplies its water. It is a form of sluice box (a hand-mining technology that harnesses water and gravity to separate gold from gravel.) This is water:p1410838

It is also known as crested wheat grass, an introduced pasturage species to replace blue bunch wheat grass, the native grass of this grassland, which doesn’t suffer well the predations of cattle. It is not vatn, læk or wildeornes, but because it has chosen to escape the rather loose boundaries set for it it is known as a weed, and is called wild, or nature. It is none of those. It is water. This is water:


It is also known as grazing land, a kind of dry læk, although it has been grazed down to cheatgrass (an invasive weed, green in the image) and big sage (which is covering land denuded of blue bunch wheatgrass by cattle, in the land’s attempts to stop water from seeping out of life as vatn). This is water.p1410538

It is also known as a deor trail (or path, from pad (tread), from pfot (foot)). It passes through a mixture of weeds, big sage and blue bunch wheatgrass, like a river. A dry river. This is water:

This is the Columbia at White Bluffs, the great river of my grasslands, in the smoke from a grassland fire. It is what is known by the mouth, the throat and the lungs as a RRRRRR! A roar, a run, a river. It is known by them at the same time as an OOOOOO! A Strom (or stream), a roar, a flow. It is a flow, not a substance. This is water:


It is known as blue bunch wheatgrass in the fall sun, waiting for the rains that it will gather and hold through a season, keeping them from leaving the land as vatn as long as they can. It is water doing that itself by climbing a ladder of carbon and hydrogen towards the sun. Look at it catch the sun. Look at it re-create it:


Each drop of water is now a tiny earth called a seed. If one places, or plants, this seed, it will respond with a gesture of growth equal to the intention of the planting, whether that is done by the wind, a bird, a deer knocking through the grass, or the intention of a human hand. This is water. That’s the way it is here.


That’s what you know if you live here.

Poetry and Water

Does anything that touches water bend it?

Or does the water bend to receive it?

Is water subject to gravity?p1410974

Or does it make an empty space under a willow tree, for the leaves to fill?p1410973 Is that what we drink? The emptiness that is fullness?p1410964

If water fills what is empty, might it not simultaneously empty what is full? This tide flat in Borgarfjörður, Iceland, at dusk (2:30 pm in November), for example?


Does it have a double spirit?


Hraunfosser, Iceland

Is that what we bring to it, or is it the gift it gave to us and which we give back?


What if looking into water really is looking into the mind?


Are not words only pools, cupped mouths, that can fill with it, or empty with it?



Yes, this is a choice, to place before words, or after, or, like water, between: where they simultaneously are and are not.


There are also rushes.

The Okanagan’s Missing Water

Here it is.


Blue Bunch Wheatgrass

This 10-year-old re-seeded slope shows the likely historical condition of the valley under Syilx stewardship. This grass is very much alive.

The valley hasn’t looked like this since 1858, but as you can plainly see it can be replanted. Look out your window right now. Do you see someone out there replanting the bunchgrass? No? This grass that translates water into hydrocarbons, which in turn hold rain and snow from evaporating and flowing away, while using it to nourish themselves? Do you see Saskatoon playing the same trick out there?

We could have that. We could even more easily incorporate its process, which is this:

The land we love in the Okanagan has been made by a process of stopping the flow of water. It is the process of holding it and keeping it.

There’s a trick to that. It means that the valley’s big lakes, like the old double-spirited lake (now called Kalamalka) below…

… are not water but reservoirs of potential water, which can be delivered by evaporation and cloud to replenish hydrocarbons and the web of life that moves through them, such as the balsam roots, saskatoons, douglas firs and ponderosa pines in the foreground above. In other words, in this inverted landscape, in which the sky more often removes water than delivers it, this guy …

… and this one …

… and humans, such as I am and such as you are (if you are a Google Bot, eat your heart out, sorry)…

… are marine creatures moving through an aquatic environment in which water is a series of connections in a matrix of carbon, not nineteenth century colonial technology like the stuff below (a vineyard intravenous tube).


Piping Water Downhill, Using Gravity

Our work here is to help water stop flowing, or, perhaps better, to help it flow as slowly as possible, through the greatest possible hydro-carbon web and the greatest possible connections between its joints, where we, the weavers, excel in our work of transferring energy. That is not the same as harvesting water or energy, but there is a point of connection:

When there are abundant points of connection between carbonized water, there is abundant excess water for us to live from.

Call this water gravity. The trick is to stop it from flowing, so that we can flow, not to use it quickly and wait for the snow from somewhere to bring us some more. We need to take care of these things ourselves.


Surely we’re not so proud that we can’t learn from the grass.

Using Gravity Propulsion to Reach the Sun

The grasses below, in a rainwater pool in Grundarfjörður, Ísland, sure do. They are expressions of a force stronger than gravity. It is the force that holds water molecules together, and holds them together with each other. There is nothing in the image below which is not water, except for some carbon and some light.p1380044The grass is water, the water is, well, water, the carbon is bound with the water, and so is the light. If you look closely, you will see how the water’s surface actually denies the pull of gravity, when it strikes the edges of carbon strings (it could have been stone or any old thing). That is the force stronger than gravity which the grasses constrain in ladders of carbon, which they then used to force the sun to draw water up the ladders. By building the ladders tightly behind this rising flow, the grass has built a stalk, and onto the stalk, in the same process but drawn into far subtler dimensions, it has grown seeds, from the same process. It is all a process of water, soil and sun, held in tension by gravity but not defeated by it. Gravity, you see, doesn’t just pull things down (which it does well.)


Berserkjarhraunfoss from Behind

It binds them as well, but then, it is a binding principle, formed from a spinning world. The surface tension of water is just such a force, formed from a stronger energy: the cores of suns.


So, when someone tells you that the Okanagan is a land without water…


… you might tell them that when it was like Iceland (55,000,000 years ago), the stuff flowed all over the place, but now that gravity has woven the water into the land, it is more filled with life. It is dense with it, where we don’t force the water out and make it flow again.


If you work with that life, you will find that water, and you will begin to understand gravity as a living force.

Learning Elvish

You can measure the hardness of iron by how easily it drives through a softer metal, but you can’t measure its iron-ness.


You can measure the nature of elvish landscapes, but not their elvishness. That’s the way it is with wild land, and wild humans. To create “Nature” you have to break human bonds with the earth.


That is self-murder. Don’t let anyone convince you of its value.

What is Water?

The human body finds water by its affinity for light. It is a way of finding energy concentrated by gravity’s record left in stone. Once we find it, we approach it, and are nourished.


Helgafellsveit, Iceland in the Winter Rain

The nourishment is not just physical. It is also a gift of weight and, as these things always go together, weightlessness. Note the elf on the left.

The Road Home

Nature is a pretty thing.


A bit of death mixed with birth makes it perfect. If you think “The Garden of Eden,” yup, that’s about right.



But these are just words, which come from a long tradition of words, in a chain that works like this:

God speaks the world. We live in the world and are, thus, God’s speech. We speak, and so, by opening our lips, utter God’s word.

In other words, if I say “mountain,” that’s the same as this:


A cinder cone on the edge of the Berserker Lava Field in West Iceland…

…and some water and life doing their magical thing in the lava.

Hardly.  If that mountain is a word, then it’s one that comes from a Nordic tradition, outside of the Christian one that gave the concept of Nature to our European ancestors. It strides in and renews the concept of gardens by making them wild and violent, as they are.


Imagine something like this popping up in your cow pasture one day, eh.

In Iceland, things like this happen.

“Nature,” as understood today, came about a couple centuries back when the Nordic conception of the eruption of otherworldly forces into this meeting place, Middle Earth, met the Christian garden and freshened it up. That is powerful stuff, and I’m grateful for it. It is a point of intersection, where life flourishes.


It has, however, taken over human relations with the earth, which have nothing to do with nature or this intersection of cultures.


Luckily, there is one other tiny thing.


Oh, Just Another Mountain From Outside the World Paying a Visit

There is a road home.


I have European ancestry, and roots in an indigenous world that has been concealed for too long. When I began this conversation four years ago, I had no idea that I would find this world, or its words, but I am thrilled to be on this path, and grateful that it has chosen me. On this Day of Remembrance, let us remember this: we can make peace. The enemy is war.


A Walk in the Fog

Boundaries show the limits of consciousness. When they are foggy, magic happens. Look how this grove inhabits the fuzzy boundary of the fog. It holds to itself and yet extends, not only across the pasture but into the fog. It makes sense. The grove is all about holding to itself and yet remaining open, drinking wind and eating light. Is it an active force? The question is absurd. It is a balance.p1300783

Now, look what happens when we pull back and include a human boundary called a wall. The tree is ‘contained’. It does its magic work within a human frame. That frame is what we call ‘civilization’. Note how it walls us out as much as it walls the tree in. To get to the tree we have to pass through the wall. We can be either on one side of it or another, but not both at once… unless we take the wall down stone by stone and carry them back to the quarry where they were once dug.


Fortunately, we have other metaphysical technologies. The one below is called a “way” or a “path”. In North America, we would call it a “trail”, but that’s a peculiarly colonial word, as fragile and riddling as a wall. A path is better. A way that extends to no end, from no beginning. A dancing ground, so to speak.


The trees know this. Look.


These paths for water rising into the sky don’t dissolve with the seasons. The tree neither lives outside of them or only at their tips. They are not histories. They are moments of presence. Now, add the wild. In this case, an ibex. This non-human point of view makes the entire scene as wide as the universe. It looks back, not just out of this animal, but everywhere at once.p1300861

That looking and that presence is who we are. Walls have contexts. They are not the path.


They are not the way.p1300903

The way is not through the trees. It is among them.

Meeting Your Earth Self

There are waterfalls. You can chase them. It’s lots of fun.



Some are spiritual. You can hike to those ones.



You can also set your desire for acquisition aside and step out to meet the light.


Un-named Foss in Hvalfjördur

And the dark. They are one. You will lose and find yourself right there.