The Great Artwork

This is what the present looks like. You can see how a 100,000,000 year old seabed, lifted into the sky by a collision with North America and silted up with the drift of a river running alongside a melting glacier is covered with life, the present state of the earth, and gathering rain to feed it.

The following is what time looks like. This is 10,000 years ago. You can see that the land has been scraped down to post-glacial rubble, contemporary life-giving water is piped across the land’s ancient face, the life is exclusively immigrant weeds, and houses have been erected on shelves of gravel taken from this slope and dumped on the hill. The goal is to re-create the moment when European cultures first stepped onto this human space, and claimed it as an art installation re-creating the moment when Homo sapiens first colonized post-glacial Europe.

It was an attempt to get past history. It is, as you can see, a fortress culture. This is the hill above my house. Millions of dollars were spent to create this bittersweet romantic artwork. Not a penny was spent to maintain the earth it relies on for its illusions.

That’s because the “wildness” of that space is one of the illusions of the artwork called time. What if we stopped looking?

Imagine Aesthetic Tourism

Today, another lesson from Iceland.
p1390461It’s almost 2017. Now that art is no longer in the galleries but in the world, shouldn’t art tourism be outside of the galleries but in the light. In Iceland this month, it is sunset all day long. The palettte is exquisite. p1390144The “galleries” sell handcrafts.  The light goes on.p1400031
We do well to remember that “art” is the indigenous handcraft of Europe, taken up by the bourgeois class and extended. Now that the bourgeois class has Facebook, we can all move on, back to the light.


Even a highway with potholes is worth a gallery visit now.

Growing an Old Language New Together

A language is not a string of beads on a wire that you hook around your neck, fiddle with, mumble along with, and presto, you have a smart phone. An indigenous language is rich, complex, dynamic and strange. It contains the nuances of this image:


English is such a language. It is a form of poetry, wit, delight and play. However, if you are a human needing to communicate across languages, then the thing for you is Globish. Don’t take it from me. Take it from the BBC:

Globish — a distilled form of English, stripped down to 1,500 words and simple but standard grammar. “It’s not a language, it’s a tool,” he says. Since launching Globish in 2004 he’s sold more than 200,000 Globish text books in 18 languages.


“If you can communicate efficiently with limited, simple language you save time, avoid misinterpretation and you don’t have errors in communication,” Nerriere says.



You also don’t have this.


These are cultural choices. For an English speaker, Globish requires mental surgery. You have to hack away at your mind and your earth with a rock, against a long tradition of cultural, linguistic and environmental development that stretches back at least 2000 years. In the Okanagan, in the North American west, for example, language means a choice between being colonial or one of the people and the land. Globish is vital, but it doesn’t address that issue. It is not this:


The end of human effort today s enriched communication between humans and the earth, all together, in the deepest, most dynamic method possible. That is the task before us who still live on and with this earth: to put the earth back into the language, before we are only left with colonial experience. We owe new speakers of English the respect of giving them the ability to find this and include it in their global discussions:


To “meaning”, “understanding,” “intention” and “communication”  another real need can be added: poetry. English and Globish are separate languages, with separate purposes. There is much we, as native English speakers, can do to make bridges with the native Earth speakers in other languages, to bring their intimate knowledge to the conversation. At the moment, Globish can’t do that. It can only grow from such effort.



We can only grow from such effort. Let us begin.

Why Beauty?

Beauty is a signature that a human was present, using its bodily senses to measure the precise balances in a landscape and to align its body with them.palepond

Some beautiful early morning light on the Big Bar Wetland, for sure, but also beaver, fish, frog and bird habitat, under precise conditions, and damselflies, which give life meaning.damsels at dawn

Yes, that’s another sign of a human presence, and is the resting place for an apprehension of beauty, recorded in memory. These physical abilities are useful, and powerful. Memory is consciousness.P1200646

Early Morning Moon Over Big Bar Lake

Consciousness is beauty. It is the reading, for example, of a hawk at rest and in flight, with one’s own body.


After awhile, you become it. That’s the point.

The Human Signature

Rock (and marmots)…P1040936

… rock and water …P1140094

…the thing that makes them similar is you. Here, the same signature shows up again, in an old gold mine in Conconully.


Fascinating, isn’t it. Here it is again at Ozette.P2270593 And here at La Push.P2280645

It’s comfortable to call these natural forces.


As soon as you do, you’ve made an unbridgeable separation, which makes your relationship to the earth …


…a matter of personal identity and emotion: forms of possession.P2230770

Let’s try honesty.


The Mysterious Surface of Water

When the tension of light on the surface of water is randomly broken, the water no longer looks like water.P1050323

The random patterns are more attractive to the human mind.P1050321

It’s because they’re worth figuring out. They can’t be. What can be achieved is a sense of beauty.


And beauty is a point of balance — just a different one than narrative or understanding. The solution is not about material and its designs.


Seeing the water is absolutely the wrong thing. In fact, seeing is the wrong thing.


Being present on earth is to be in body and mind together. In Western tradition, this is the end of art.


Here on the Columbia Plateau it is only its beginning.P1050469

It is a beautiful dance.


Even light breaks itself to it.


Everything completely open.


Everything moving across boundaries.P1050475

But remember: these images aren’t the goal.


They are what is broken and, being broken, creates balance. Even the wind  breaks it.


Even the water itself.


Even a grass blade.P1060398

Even the light …P1060423

… and the rain.P1060288

I could say “Welcome to your mind,” but that’s the wrong thing, so I’ll say “Welcome to your life.”


You can call them your thoughts, but they are, of course, only ducklings.P1060625

They have the capacity for flight.