Fly-Fishing Guide for Newcomers to the Okanagan

When salmon come back to the rivers from the sea, they cease to feed, but will snap at beautifully-tied flies out of reflex, and are hooked.

jock-scott1280

Well, ya. Wouldn’t you bite at that? No? Well, then you are a human salmon, looking for a home at the end of work and strife, a place as wide open and warm as your dreams, and for that you need to travel, and what should be there, at the end of the road, beyond which no cars lead, but a very special kind of fly tied just for you.

p1480154

Yes, this is the real estate development sales office. It sits comfortably at the side of the road, for easy access, is often repurposed, has some lovely brick appliqué, so you know we’re talking quality here and not an industrial portable building like you’d see in a mine office. Let me repeat. This is no gold mine attempting to part you from your cash. This is serious fishing. See?

p1480172

That is genuine hand-set stained glass, that is. That is the sign of respect. Of course, there is more than one developer fishing in the same pool. There’s another fly cast up on the hill. See it? Oh, which to choose?

p1480155

Well, there’s still time. The nesting bed is still incomplete.

p1480170

The nesting bed of a salmon is called a red. That won’t do for humans. We have happier colours. Go on, settle in. You know you want to. Not even a little nibble?

p1480153

Don’t worry, there’s no power yet. It won’t hurt at all. You’re good.

 

Reviewing David Pitt-Brooke’s Walk Through the Grasslands

I spent the early winter reading a beautiful and, unfortunately, incomplete book: Crossing Home Ground, by David Pitt-Brooke. It records an epic walk through the grasslands of Southern British Columbia: my own home ground. My detailed review was just published today in The Ormsby Review. You can read my review here (with beautiful photos by Pitt-Brooke): http://bcbooklook.com/2017/01/26/in-praise-of-grass/#more-30105. I’m thrilled that it is out. My goal in writing the review was to honour the book and the conversation of which it is a part. I’d like to show you a few images from that context. They are beyond the scope of the book, but help to anchor its discussions, I think. Here’s the mouth of the Okanagan River, as it enters the inundated Columbia. It is here that the private armies that invaded the Okanagan in 1858 crossed the big river on their way north, and it is here that scouts tagged invaders for later skirmishes in the Okanagan and Similkameen.

mouth

This is The Forks, a major stopping point on the ancient trail to the deep north and the Hudson’s Bay company brigade trail that followed it. It is here that the route forked, to the Similkameen Valley to the distant left (the trail is a county road now, as you can perhaps make out), and to the Okanagan to the right. The image shows the Similkameen River joining the Okanogan.Tforks2

This is some of the Similkameen Grassland, above the Similkameen Gorge and looking towards Hurley Peak in the Pasayten Wilderness. Pitt-Brooke camped high above this country, just over the Canadian Border behind you as you view this grassland, and looked down on it at dusk.hurley

High up on Kruger Mountain to the left in the image below. This is Richter Pass. That green hayfield in the bottom is lost Richter Lake, drained to grow sileage corn. This is British Columbia. The Washington side (above) is in better shape.

He saw farms down there in Washington. Well, mines.mine2 The grass in this country, as Pitt-Brooke accurately points out, is damaged, but not irretrievably. Here is some grass and sagebrush above Nighthawk, Washington.  chopaka3

Areas directly on the Hudson’s Bay Company Trail, such as Garnet Valley below, have suffered the worst — grassland ruins that have not created a lot of prosperity, either.garnet

Here’s one of the culprits at work in Priest Valley, above my house in the North Okanagan. She is being grazed on a landscape of invasive weeds. That’s dalmation toadflax around her. You can see she doesn’t like it. Rush skeleton weed, though, well, she likes that. Almost all the bunchgrass is gone. That looks like a stalk of needle-and-thread grass in her mouth.

That missing grass is the original human habitat, and almost none is left on earth. Our bodies were made for this landscape. This is who we are. Luckily, there is some left. Here’s some bunchgrass that is grazed responsibly in Farwell Canyon, in the Chilcotin.

This is the grass that Pitt-Brooke loves. So do I. Please read David’s book, and then go out yourself to see what you can see. You might see wonders, like the virtually pristine grassland in the bed of Dry Falls, a waterfall that was once 30 miles long, falling 300 feet over these basalt flood lavas, from a river 300 feet above them. The only weed here is one stalk of toadflax in the foreground.

Before this became a Washington State Park, it was a ranch. The grass came back. We can do this.

 

And Yet People Complain About Winter. Huh.

Why?p1450117

Isn’t it beautiful?

p1450012

Maybe they should leave the north and go home. I feel so sorry for them. They have to endure this:

p1440994

And this:

p1450247

It must be very hard. I know, for my part, it would be hard, very hard, to endure a winter that was not at 20 Below Celsius, at least one night. And in this January moon we had a week. Oh, glory!

p1450162

But, seriously, I have to listen to these complaints on the national broadcasting system of the country that I was born to and must pay allegiance to, to live here? Really? That’s shameful. Well, time to go for a walk and forgive.

p1450020

I am, after all, on this earth, to learn humility. Sometimes it’s easy.

p1440418

Sometimes it’s hard.

p1430544

 

Against the Descending Night, A Prayer in the Rushes

I am not angry.p1470038

I am sad.

p1470037

My elders taught me that these were cat tails. They taught me that poetry was a fairy tale.p1470033

They taught me that these were swamp weeds. They taught me that words expressed thoughts.

p1470020

I learned later that these rushes were the winter food of snow geese, who summer in Siberia, when it is like our winters here in this fjord lake valley. But that was not enough.

p1470018

I learned later that the people who are this land that has brought me to the sky built their houses out of these reeds. Why did no one tell me this? Why were they separating me from my body like that? I am nothing but this body. These rushes are my thoughts. I am them walking.  It was not enough.p1470051

I learned later that I have ancestors, far older than my elders. To them, these were not plants. There were no plants in their world. There was the sound of wind rattling the stems, calling them. It is all that I am.

p1470012

It has not been enough. There is only the world of men, I was taught forty years ago. If you do not accept their way of speaking, and I promise you I was instructed in this, then you are an outlaw and can expect the laws to be used to suppress you. I am not speaking in metaphor. This was the point of philosophy forty years ago. Men wanted to build a world that consisted only of a social network.

p1420352

And they did do that, but not for those of us who are the world, who are a rush brushing against a breast with the sound of geese leaving to overwinter on the seas of the moon. As if that were up in the sky, and not right here.

p1420345

 

As I grew through adulthood into middle age and then past it and became a last remnant of a lost earth, under stars most men and women have never seen, younger people began to correct me.

p1420320

They had learned well. They were very helpful. They told me that this was a wetland. Not the moon. I do not think that they were trying to kill me, the poet, the man of the rushes, but the effect was the same.

p1420318

I am not angry.p1470014

The people who lived in books told me that my ancestors were simple people, who read themselves into the land, but “we” understood reality now.p1470054

They told me that what you see in these images weren’t the sound of the cold calling through the sun and the sun answering. They told me about reality. I think they thought I knew what this stuff was. But I am not sure.p1460999

In return they were very helpful. They told me that my languages, English and German, were not languages of the world but were very useful systems of social codes and abstractions.p1470015

They were even more helpful. They told me that mathematics was true, that cold-hardened steel was true, but that spirit was not one thing or another and so not “true” because it could not be cold or hardened.

p1420296

They told me that Beauty was not a measuring device for the presence of life in a land and its people, or in a people and its land (if it’s useful to say one thing twice) but a pleasurable response designed by a force called evolution to create babies, which, to reason, which they understood, was a clever product of randomness and an elegant expression of it.

p1420343

In their world, there were no men of the rushes. But there were reasonable things.

p1470008

Where they saw wetlands, that could clean water for their cities of asphalt, steel, concrete and glass, I saw bows, arched, and water fields, and arched with them, and was arched, but it did not matter.p1410980

I did not see grazing grounds, or a lump of rock circling the earth, and that was that. They told me they did. Sometimes I suspected that they were looking at words, but I didn’t know that for sure. They did say that what I saw was “poetry,” though.p1410981

I saw the sky. I knew that much. Written in the earth.p1410989

I saw the geese were the moon flying. Written in me.p1410986

Who could I speak to of this? I live in a country in which such talk is called romance. It is not a complement. It is something to be corrected. It is also called poetry in this country. It is something to be corrected.

p1420290

There are people in this country who are called people in authority: professors, city planners, property developers; it is all the same. They come from other countries to this one. They correct me. They don’t say, “We call this a wetland.” They say it is one. When I say, your city is in the middle of my valley, and I wish it would go away, they are shocked at what they call my naiveté. I think they think I live in books, but I’m not sure.p1420291

They use the word ‘we’. I don’t. I’m sorry about that. It has caused confusion.p1420292

We the rushes, I should have said, and not cared that they don’t think they have a language for the earth that accepts its personhood. I should have said, we the children of the moon, meaning the eye of a bird in the night, and if they insisted on a stone then a stone thrown into a pool, rippling.p1420293

I kept silent. I am sorry about that.

p1410997

I did not know myself. I was deferent, as I learned from the water and the land, bending with the wind and the rain.p1420043

It’s not that I didn’t feel the energy within this body and world I am. It’s not that the rushes didn’t hold the answers to every question in the world. It did not matter.p1470001

I was well trained, and believed them when they said these things were all separate, and only the seeing of them had form, and this seeing was less than theirs and was called “poetry,” which I didn’t feel they liked much.

p1470044

I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. I, of course, wanted to live among them. Some of them I even loved. Some I still do, more than myself.p1470009

Some of them, though, told me that the stuff in the image below (for example) was Nature. They told me about the seriousness of literary committees, and that there was one way of doing things, and it could be taught, and they would run the committee now, because I was talking about rushes and land and they were busy people and needed to talk about important things. Serious things. Things they could say to each other, not to rushes. I suspect they didn’t know how to talk to rushes, but I’m not sure.
p1420639

Of course they needed to talk to each other. They were young. I was too much a child of my ancestors and not enough a child of their books. I was a knot of tangled threads.

p1470017

By their pride, they taught me how to untangle that. They tried to teach me that poetry was a thing made of words, set in metres and rhythms, and even that these things could be fixed, and that poetry was not snow geese and not the waiting for snow geese and not houses made of the body by plucking its hair the way a musician plucks the strings of a lute. They taught me that men — a kind of puppet that a soul can operate in the way a robin operates an apple tree — speak this way, and that women had other things to talk about. I’m happy for them, and though at times I have wished they would have said what that was, what they needed to say, one of my friends, a woman and a philosopher, has kindly explained to me that this kind of talk is just the puppet talking and it should just be ignored. I was excited. This sounded smart and new.
p1470003

Caught in the spell of young professors of literature, one of whom even said, despite my protests, that all men hate the earth and want to destroy it, I forgot myself and tried to argue, and when I failed at that, predictably, forgot myself again and stopped writing poems for the world, even though I had had elders who taught me the old ways, even though they only cloaked them in the words of literary men, for their own protection.
p1470029

They could not protect me from my misunderstanding.

p1470016

I did not tell the important literary people, who know how things get done in their world that I cannot see, who know the traditions of how to train people, which looks like the training of horses to me, that the boat of my ribs is the lute, that I am singing with old Vaïnomoïnen, the smith of the Milky Way, here on the star road, as my people have sung since men found iron and struck it with a hammer instead of making war.p1470028

I am sorry. I should have told them. I should have said, “I do not want to make war.” I should have said, “I would like it if we loved each other.” Well, the last time I said “I do not want to make war” was the day, thirty years ago, on which I learned that many people, who call themselves poets, and I presume they know what they’re saying, want war. They delight in it, they told me.

p1420298

I am repeatedly told that as a man who speaks the words of his ancestors, I am of their kind. A tribe, they call it. No.

p1420011

I did not tell them about the mind that was a spark from the anvil of the world.

p1420318

I should have, right then. I did not tell them about the darkness that is light, the matter that is time, in the little time I have in the world before I am the world again, without time. I didn’t expect that they would understand something that is beyond understanding, and so I was silent, partly out of deference and partly to protect myself, lest I be torn from the world into words and when I turned around again there would be no world at all.p1470026

I was afraid of that, and in my fear I failed them and myself.

p1420127

But I am not sad. Sure, they would not have listened. They would not have heard. How could they? We did not share a language. But, even so, some things are not said for people. They are said for the rushes and the wind.

p1470010

I should have forgiven them easily and at once. These were, after all, people like myself, who understood war too well, whose ancestors had been driven, as mine, into its throat and had been swallowed alive, as my people were.

p1420295

After all, this land was captured by countries across the sea, not by love but by violence, and if I grew up in that violence and read it as love, and if they grew up in that violence and read it as my own, why should I be bitter? I am not.

p1470024

I am joyful. I catch the sun. I am not sad because of that. I shake my stems in the wind. It is a small gesture, I know, but it follows the winds of time, just so. Just so.

p1470023

I have found myself at last, just so. I am weaving the sun and the earth together, not because they are not already there, but because I love them.p1470030

Because I hear them speaking.
p1470031

This speech is not in words.

p1470046

(Well, unless you will accept that these are words, which is generous and bold of you.)

p1470047

Is that too much to ask? I don’t know.

p1470050

I don’t know how it is among you.

 

p1420294

I think sometimes you do.

p1420126

I think of the children, often. I think of the poets among the children. Those who have not found their voice in the world yet. Those few who run their fingers along a blade of a sound and feel the foundations of a house, the stretch of a thought, the music of a heart lifting as a snow goose on its way to the Siberia, where it speaks the language of ice with all that is.

p1470039

With all that it is possible to be.

p1470040

These are the wings.

p1420005

Listeners, please, if you think I am making a poem, then I have not used my words well. Here, this is a poem:p1470041

Please read it again and again and again. Don’t look to me. I am just a rush speaking the wind. I am just the wind, speaking a rush. I do not mean poetry by that. That is something we were all taught.p1470042

That term is something I have lost. I don’t need to go looking for it.  I do not need to put one word on top of another word on top of another word until they make an image of the world.

p1410983

Nothing’s lost, but things are found. I am already here.
p1470043

I have always been here. I don’t need science to do this for me, either. That was for people trying to escape a war, and that’s a fine thing.

p1420290

There was a time I was a child in a school. I was being taught that one form of literature, science, is true in the world, and all others are entertainments, which can be studied by science and then, observed and classified, would be true, as they had not been before. I was not taught about the smith who sailed the boat of his ribs down the Milky Way. I found him on my own. I walked outside. I breathed.p1470045

Please, forgive me for reminding you here of what might sound strange to you. Breath means the world to me. This is not poetry, I should add. It is the world speaking. What goes by that name today — poetry — is a dark magic, but it is not the world, or me, or speech, or, I suspect, you, and the words it uses are not the words of my language, or, most likely, yours. They look the same, yes. These words I write here, and you read, though, are not the words of my language. If you sense any poetry here, perhaps I have managed to move myself just enough out of the way that you can feel the rushes brushing against your cheek, and … can you smell them, too?

p1470084

I can. They smell of dry water. It’s hard to explain. But why shouldn’t it be. Explanation is a game of words and this is not words or a game. This is the world.p1470085

I love the body of you.

p1420290

Don’t you? My brothers and sisters, the wind has been waking into the sound of rushes. That’s all. It has taken some time.p1420293

It has been growing into itself to find you. I was born knowing this. I have been remembering before it is so late that I am no I at all.

p1420011

I apologize for the delay. I was born to people who made a hammer out of the language of my ancestors, that spoke the sound of a goose’s wing, that came from the lungs, and because I loved them I believed them. That is the right way to enter the world.
p1420297

But now I am the elder. I can let those old stories go.

p1420351

I can let them go to Siberia.

p1420352I can follow them.

p1420345

I am the elder to no-one’s children, not even my own. I know that. I write for the rushes, as I always have, because that is what they have heard as they have written me. I dare not stop. Do you?p1420344

Whatever children may follow, they might have need of the language of the earth. They might find each other on its paths. I don’t know. I pray they will. I know only that night is coming. The machines are coming for us. They will live in our place. We the rushes will be the silent dead.

p1420036

 

Young men write language for the machines now, while young women write the story of their bodies and measure the world to strip it of language and cast it naked on the sand for the sun to write upon. I do not profess to understand. It has to do with dreams, I think, but the young women aren’t saying. Many of them are quite angry, although they have difficulty saying about what. I understand. It’s a hard journey, life. It’s hard waking.
p1420343

I hope the young men find them there, though. I hope the young women will have them, in their wordlessness. I hope there’s enough wordlessness to go around. It’s awkward, but it can’t be helped. There is no other way to see in the dark. I hope we will protect them.

p1420342

The machines are merciless.

p1420340

I speak out of turn, perhaps, but I do so because love is merciful.

p1420338

I know it is an indulgence on my part, but what else? Every child must learn the old ways by touch alone, by breath and blood and bone, by skin and lip and teeth and tongue.

p1420339

Only that way will they learn of us and live, and we will live on through them.

Sustaining the Okanagan 21: The City of the Okanagan

In keeping with my conviction that we would do better to build things than tear them down,  I would like to propose a new form of civilization in the Okanagan Valley. By “civilization” I mean the creation of city environments and the forms of human organization that follow. The current form of civilization gives us this:

p1430256

That’s an image from Kelowna, a Canadian-American city in the Okanagan Valley, but not an Okanagan city. You can tell because what is for sale on this car lot is an extension of American industry, focussed, through trade agreements and from there through a beleaguered  automobile manufacturing culture in central Canada, a place called Ontario, which is full of Americans with a different form of government from those down south, but not that much different, as the American technology sales centre above shows. The city, you can see below, is designed for this technology, and not for people.

p1430247

It is remarkable. If Kelowna were an Okanagan city, it would be filled with local technology, offering local culture, and extending its roots into the future. What it is currently extending is its connections to the Canadian and American rust belts, and, as you can see above, to the investment culture centred around global big oil. To understand that clearly, let’s take a step back to the big picture.

p1410547

The Okanagan Valley, a former grassland in British Columbia, is a collection of droughted weeds between certain foreign cultural interventions including golf courses, vineyards and subdivisions. It has severed its ties to its grassland past through the hard work of a lot of people, including some in the tourism industry who sell the current city’s American-Ontario offerings instead, like this:

Urban and rural; nature and culture; playtime and downtime: Kelowna isn’t just one destination. It’s a whole bunch of them, located in one uniquely beautiful place.

Kelowna lies in the heart of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, the largest city on Okanagan Lake. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly holiday, a romantic getaway, a weekend with friends, or all three, you’ve come to the right place. https://www.tourismkelowna.com

Tourists will be well-catered to, in concrete hotels in strip malls, on golf courses or on ski hills, eating at chain restaurants, and taking trips out through subdivisions to golf courses and vineyards and ski hills. It is, in other words, a theme park, a kind of Disneyland. The real economic driver behind the enterprise, though, is the sale of property in the sun to people from the colder Canada to the east: a kind of permanent tourism.

V0021656

The newcomers are happy, because they are living within their dreams. The people who’ve been here for a couple generations or more are not, because they are forced to live in the dreams of others, within an environment further degraded to support them because any environment can only support so much. This is called progress. It is based on the principle of “change”, which, in this water-starved environment is really the principle of desertification. It’s not a very successful form of civilization that can’t last more than four generations without being aquatically bankrupt. Currently, the valley is attempting to manage the acute, self-created water shortage of an improper civil model by limiting access to water on both a class basis and on the claim that the valley is a desert, and people need to learn to live in one. The thing is, it’s not a desert.

P1150953

It’s just that  there’s not enough water to sustain the current imported civic model. We need something better in its place, something in keeping with the climate we live in. The grasslands were good at that. We can solve many of our water issues and our social issues by rebuilding them. Other positive things we can do include developing new water technology on the model of our grassland plants, instead of new smartphones apps or new animated films to be shown on TVs or small screens across the world. At the moment, we have an American-Canadian-American cultural education institution, absorbing the talent of our children, who live in Kelowna and use the former grasslands not as a classroom or a living room but as a foundation for imported playgrounds (ski slopes, beaches, golf courses, vineyards and so on) as we have for generations.

Centre for Arts and Technology Kelowna is one of the top audio engineering schools, film schools, animation schools, fashion design schools, interior design schools, and photography schools in Canada. We are home to dedicated photography, interior design, and fashion studios, a film production studio, two digital recording studios, and 2D and 3D animation labs. https://digitalartschool.com

Sadly for our kids, we can’t afford this gentrified luxury any longer. The land and water are calling in our debts. All the petrodollar-based tech money flowing into the valley in the world just won’t create more water, or reduce the social strife that lack of attention to water has caused. Luckily, though, if we can keep our technology clean, simple and inexpensive, we could take it around the world. That’s one way we could sustain the Okanagan: by making it a part of the future instead of fighting to retain a past through advertising imagery.  We can only, after all, convince ourselves of so much before the gap between reality and fantasy is just too great to sustain. This is a problem coming down on us like a runaway train. We might as well face it now. To do so means that instead of following the culture of the United States we are going to have to replace it. We are going to have to learn to be home, which is a new thing for Canada, but there’s no longer any way around it, except into poverty. I have spoken about these ideas earlier on this blog. Today I’d like to add a note about civic organization, because it’s the principle of civilization that the method of organization creates the result. We have subdivisions and weeds today? They are both the result of how we have structured urban life here, period.

land

They are the same thing, viewed across a class divide.

P1050220

Neither is sustainable. The subdivisions are mining the wealth of communities across Canada, to which they belong, and the weeds in the grassland display the removal of water-carrying capacity from the land, which the presence of subdivisions and the technology that supplies them has created. The reasons are complex, but, as I mentioned, a reorganization of civic principles would be a good start to addressing them. But don’t take it from me.

Whenever and wherever societies have flourished and prospered rather than stagnated and decayed, creative and workable cities have been at the core of the phenomenon. Decaying cities, declining economies, and mounting social troubles travel together. The combination is not coincidental.

So, what do we have right now? We have a chain of communities, which were all once about the same size but have grown differently, according to different development models. They are spread for about 200 kilometres on a North-South line. The biggest of these towns today are Osoyoos, Oliver, Okanagan Falls, Kaleden, Penticton, Summerland, Naramata, Peachland, Westbank, West Kelowna, Kelowna, Lake Country, Vernon, Coldstream, Armstrong and Enderby. They all have an equal cultural claim to the valley, whether they are small ranching towns, farming towns, indigenous towns, former orcharding towns, former railroad towns, former real estate development schemes, former sites of Belgian Congo rubber money laundering schemes or former enclaves of the English aristocracy, and yet I was at a winery in the town of Okanagan Centre (in the city of Lake Country) three years ago, at which the young woman serving me wine chatted to me in a conversation that went much like this:
Young Woman: We have the oldest gewürztraminir vines in the Okanagan.
Me: Really? Older than the ones at sumac ridge in Summerland?
Note: I drove a truckload of gewürztraminir vines up from Sunnyside, Washington, USA, in 1978. That would make those almost a decade older than the ones she was referring to.
Young Woman: Well, but I mean here in Kelowna.
Note: Kelowna is the largest city in the valley, at the middle of 135-kilometre-long Okanagan Lake. It has 100,000 people and most of the advertising copy-writers.
 Me: But this is Okanagan Centre, not Kelowna.
Note: the towns of Oyama, Okanagan Centre, and Winfield joined together a couple decades back to prevent being absorbed into the city of Kelowna, which would have meant a loss of political agency over their own affairs.
Young Woman: Well, those of us from Kelowna call it the Okanagan.
And that’s the thing: it’s not. The Okanagan is not an American-Canadian city plunked down in the middle of a valley, dominating the valley with its imported culture. It’s the whole thing, including the ignored grass and its indigenous people. Now, we could complain about the gap between the colonial model and what we need to survive here, but that’ll get us nowhere, so we might as well stop with all that and join together into a common vision instead: one valley, one people, many centres, great diversity, one environment, new technology and every attempt at centralization to be met by dispersal. That means building not only technology but culture out of the local environment, what we need in it, and what it can teach us. To be clear, that doesn’t include grapes, which are European plants, or at least tearing most of them out as the water-hungry weeds they are. It means building an urban model that lives in the valley, rather than from it or upon it, and that ultimately supports the valley’s land, air and water rather than concentrates them in imported, dream environments, which create deficits elsewhere. The environment should not be a space for class struggle. It should be a space of class cooperation. To achieve necessary change, the current competition in the valley, between rural and urban space, between industrial and residential water, between indigenous and stolen land (well, it is), between grasslands, wetlands and asphalt lands, between farmlands and sidewalks, between water and ethics, between one town and another, between gentrified restaurants and greasy spoons, between food banks and ice wine vineyards, between low crop yields and high profits, between foreign workers and unemployment, has to end. It has to be replaced by a system of mutual support and celebration. The valley is weakened whenever one of these threads is focussed onto the particular urban model of Kelowna, where the rooftops are surrounded in razor wire so that local people don’t sleep on them. We can come up with 100,000 reasons why this isn’t practical, with many historical models, and many sociological studies, but the simple fact is: we have fouled our nest and have to do something completely different to get it ready for our grandchildren; doing more of the same, or refining what we currently have, is not an option, because it will lead to what we already have. This, for example, is not a life-sustaining environment. It is a view of a dead arm of Okanagan Lake.
p1430523
Traditionally, this kind of work has been the role of the arts. It still could be here as well, but the principle of dispersal will have to take place first here, too. At the moment, the valley’s largest cities, Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton have all built large performance centres to showcase American and Canadian (largely a sub-branch of American) “big-name” talent. They are, in other words, American cities, or at best Canadian colonial versions of them. It is part of the program that sees New York called a “major city” and Oliver, in the Okanagan. as a small town, with this slogan:
Oliver is located near the south end of the Okanagan Valley, in south-central British Columbia. Just 25 km north of the USA border, Oliver sits in the only desert area of Canada. The attractive climate fosters popular tourist activities including summer water sports, golf and sight-seeing. Oliver is an ideal setting for growing Okanagan wine grapes and producing among the best rated wines in the world! Of course, its mild weather year-round, also makes Oliver a great place to live for local residents. http://www.oliver.ca
This relationship was set by New York, not by Oliver. We can change this. The first step is to develop the remaining farmlands and grasslands within the cities of the Okanagan as more than viewscapes —to build them as integral parts of the civilizing experience. And I don’t mean this:
p1430561
And I don’t mean this:
mh
This is good work, worthy of our young people and our ancestors on this grass. We will know we have succeeded when the downtown core and the heart of our 200-kilometre-long city looks like this:
We will know we are deceiving ourselves when it continues to look like this:
 Let’s be people our grandchildren can admire, and thank.

The Canadian Invasion

How do you make a country out of a series of industrial art works?

p1430250

You take the sun and all that it does out in the red medicine willows …p1430345

… add some myths about the cold North left over from the expulsion of English patriots to Indian Territory after the American Civil War, and get Kelowna…p1430254

… a kind of Martian colony in the grass.

p1430358

It is a safe place for people who are a long way from home. It is a fortress.

p1430247

Oh, did you think that space colonization was fiction? Why, meet the life forms of this place, invisible aliens picking the snow out of the air. Well, invisible to some.

p1430472

It is a form of breathing. We live among wonders and artificial suns.

p1430256

We have all we need to find the light on our planet among the stars.

p1420818

What stories we could tell the Canadian-Americans…

p1430250

… if there were just a language we could share!

p1430140

 

 

Do the Rich Have All the Fun?

p1420726You tell me. That’s their houses up above, and some beautiful ice drifting in. Below, is Okanagan Lake the next day after the wind did its thing all night long.

p1420773

I have no answer to the question, but these nests do manage to privatize public water, wind and sun, don’t they. I wonder if that makes the nesters happy. With any luck they’ll be down there composing poems and music for the ice right now.

 

The Real Work is to Take Down the Fences

The task is to provide young people with support for their energy and visions, and space for them to open them into physical and social expression.

p1260350

All young people have a need for space, both among the living and among their ancestors.

p2080007These ancestors include the earth, their fellow creatures upon it, and the spirit world.

p1420188

Young people need space that is not already committed.

p1410706

Elders need to be allowed to guide them into giving visions a living context.

p1410977

Together, youth and elders work to erase lines of ownership that deny access. An example of a limiting line of ownership is the privatization of land and water; they control access to spaces of interchange.

p1410379

Another example is public land with committed purposes not serving the young people of that space. These might even include parks, national forests, roads or dams.

Typically in these countries that sprawl across my land, roads lead to points of private ownership, or between them. Some of these private lands are public.

p1270350

In space oriented to youth, lands alienated from the commons for one purpose must be returned to the commons when that purpose fails, or when it ends. Returned land must be in the original state of the commons. When it isn’t, compensation must be made.

cloud

Youth have a right to guidance by their elders. Elders have a right to guide youth. Both have a duty to support each other. Both are their ancestors singing.

p1190501

For example, tribal lands stripped of aboriginal ownership do not revert to national forests when they prove unsuitable for agricultural settlement; common lands removed from common wealth for agricultural purposes do not revert to housing development when the agriculture proves to have been a bad idea or draws down the wealth of the land until tillage or pasturage becomes untenable. It must return to the people from whom it was removed, with compensation for its degraded state.

This compensation does not have to be monetary. There are many forms of currency.

v0022168

True elders build new series of common governments or common access, to create space for the fundamental right of young people: movement.

p1270104

The act of creating space can be the act of creating common social space.

p1190566

At the moment, agricultural land is managed for profit, efficiency and lack of labour input. 1000 boxes of apples instead of 2000 on the same water, for instance, with less employment, for more expensive food, for people who, lacking work, cannot purchase it.

vulture

Food is not an export product. Work and food are rights drawn from common resources. The youth are the land. They have rights to this work. It is theirs.

robinsm

 

Elders have rights to support youth with appropriate labour in place.

palousse2

The mechanical replacement of labour should be taxed if it replaces more labour onsite than it creates. The creation of labour in another area, or the replacement of the labour of water, should be taxed to maintain the primary relationships of labour and youth, and labour and land. For example, the 60% of water that evaporates by being moved to the valley floors of the northern Syilx Illahie, should be compensated.

p1210668

Similarly, underused land should be made available to youth with the vision and labour to work it.

rose2

The task is to replace land ownership with land stewardship.

p1270887

Past and present infractions of the commons should be held to account, as a replacement of the current system, in which infractions of private rights are punished.

salmon2sm

Infractions of the capacity for stewardship are the true infractions against the commons and its people.

p1270924

Indigenous people, currently fenced by Indian Reservations, should be supported to build stewardship plans for lands and work outside of their reservations and to become stewards over commons.

palousse4

Currently common lands are industrialized by government, or are turned into recreational spaces by it. Both are forms of privatization. Like Indian Reserves, both are forms of fences.

cloud

Incomers to environments should continue to pay infrastructure fees, to compensate existing communities for the costs of their immigration. To these, should be added commons fees to compensate the commons for the added load.

p1230646

If the load cannot be compensated, the right of habitation should be limitted to time frames, conditions or specific locations that can bear the load.

rose

At all times, the effort is to increase the capacity of common land, instead of drawing it down. Turning ancestral space into monocultures is a form of drawing it down. It is a killing of the dead.

trail

To kill the dead is to kill our youth.

p1260182

Movement is life. Every effort must be undertaken to mitigate and even erase borders that constrict it. Singing is a form of movement. Poetry is a form of government.

p1230495

If education supports concentrations of urban intellectual capital rather than its dispersal to the commons, it should be taxed. Distributing its products is trade. The two activities should not be confused any longer.

p1230468

The desire is not to create hubs of industry but networks of care. A land without people is the clearance of people from land. This includes the turning of land into property.

p1230472

A series of wilderness access points should be created, with support for access to people who can create visions to extend the interweaving of people with space.

p1230657

 

 

Those forms of nationalist intervention that support the nation state over the historical nation must be erased.

p1260147

Education must work to build common life, rather than to extend a self-declared common individuality and the boundaries of force, both physical and intellectual, by which it is maintained.

p1230441

Plant materials cannot be privatized.

p1230127

Stewardship, of the commons, with profit drawn as a share of the increased wealth or health of the commons which it has created, can be granted.

p1230611

Current models of education train youth to access common settler space, nation space or global  space. Common space is any other sense is considered personal. It is not.

p1230083

Let us give it to the young: to act, to speak, to be heard, and  to be followed as youth stewards, but not as owners.

p1230466

You cannot own the earth. No man or woman has the right to grant ownership.

p1230300

 

Talking space is common space. Artists weave common knowledge with individual experience so they are one.

p1230045

This unity is youth.

p1230205

Cities built out of the energy of natural systems which have not returned that energy to the natural systems have a debt to it which must be repaid: through  efficient gardening, greenways, fishways, and even in planning offices — that administer real benefits for natural systems.

p1230142

Ultimately debt must be repaid.

p1230755

 

It is time.

p1230006

Urban footprints can be huge: Toronto living off the North; Vancouver living off of all of the land west of the Rocky Mountains, and so on. These lands have been emptied of people by these privatized cities.

p1230793

Nature is a form of human clearance.

p1230740

It is a poor replacement for living space.

p1230780

 

Right now Vancouver ships its garbage across the mountains to Secwepemc lands on the Cariboo Plateau. That is not a repayment of debt. That is a transferal of a portion of the debt to those who subsidized the profit in the first place. It is garbage.

p1220135

The degradation of the grasslands and their replacement with monocultures or weed cultures is the same.

p1240010

Their replacement with ingrown forests maintained by fire suppression is the same.

p1240021

Increased ecological wealth is the principle. Its harvesters are youth.

p1240002

Elders plant space.

p1240076

 

They are on their way to becoming ancestors.

p1240042

Everyone is at home through giving.

p1240051

Taking and selling come at a price.

p1240079

It is possible to live instead.

p1220440

That is the task we learn from our teachers, who came before us and are here to guide us.

p1220197

It is time to call things by their proper names.

p1210913

It is time to speak them in their own language.

p1210120

It is time to listen and then to let life speak for us all.

p1220757

This is the real work.