The Power of Words

If we call this wetland, runoff, mud, rot, ditch or swamp, we are talking about a social relationship to it, and not the thing itself.

If we call the beautiful surface of the water “water tension,” we are reducing this living force of the universe to a category of thought, or at least an application of a “law” of “nature” — something to be judged and dismissed before we consider the next case before us.

If we call these photographs, such as they are, “art”, however poor it may be, or comment on Harold’s “eye,” or “creativity” (whatever that is), we rely on a social relationship that places an image, such as the ones above, in a non-practical space, one that moves no energy or does no “work,” in the sense of the forces described by the science of physics, as follows…

In physics, a force is said to do work if, when acting, there is a displacement of the point of application in the direction of the force. For example, when a ball is held above the ground and then dropped, the work done on the ball as it falls is equal to the weight of the ball (a force) multiplied by the distance to the ground (a displacement).

Work transfers energy from one place to another or one form to another. Source: Wikipedia.

I dunno, but that sounds like a description of this to me…

Perhaps it is not considered so by the science of physics because the energy involved does not move things from one place to another, except, well, light, protozoa, human hearts, and so on … rather passive energies that flood into empty space not by moving but by filling or appearing.

And that is called, for some reason, “art” or “poetry” instead of “physics.” Here, let’s see what the collective porridge pot of the world has to say about that:

Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author’s imaginative or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.[1][2] Source: Wikipedia

Well, that’s simply untrue. It says that art is a way of creating artifacts, that these artifacts express imaginative or technical skill, which is limited, and that the artifacts are defined by an intent for them to be appreciated for beauty or emotional power. The human or bot that wrote that is neither an artist nor a maker of tools for physicists. Words have such power to bring us close or to distance us. What, though, if we chose words that did not set us at a distance, and called this…

Skin.

Or life. Or breath. Or mind.

Could we make that “work”, in the sense of physics, by moving our cities from one state (environmental decay) to another (environmental integration and growth)? Sure, but it wouldn’t be “work,” and so an attitude embalmed in language deems it not to be. It would be “art” to this distancing attitude, and thus can be dismissed, should one choose to, as “not practical.” A new physics, an indigenous one, that starts from the land, will have to start on different principles, one in which any equations include the observation that this…

… is this …

… is this:

… is this …

… is this:

W = τ θ

In other words, every calculation of physical forces contains calculations of perceptual forces. The forces are all equal, socially, but their disruption into different realms gives them roles to which they are then bound. These are strong 18th and 19th century European values regarding social order. Indigenous systems of law do include such calculations. So can all.

 

 

A Sky Map of the City of Coldstream

Downtown Coldstream, on the valley bottom north of Kalamalka Lake,  is the hole in the centre of this map of clouds. The ribbed clouds below it are the eastern edge of its uplifting energy. The illuminated cloud in the foreground is related. It often hangs above Middleton Mountain, at the north end of Kalamalka Lake and the southern edge of Coldstream, at the confluence of the Coldstream and Priest valleys. Time and time again the pattern is repeated. When the illuminated cloud is being blown north (as it is here, slowly), it reforms within fifteen minutes. Similar mountains taking form in the air are evenly spaced behind it. What a beautiful map. What a beautiful dance of earth and sky.

Okanagan Woman and Magic

Strange, the things that come in the mail all on their own. There I was reading over coffee, looking over a manuscript about this valley, and thinking about the mail. So I got the mail. “Okanagan Woman” came in the mail. I think she was a message. But what?  Are there forces out there which wish to speak to us? Is this the only way they can speak? If so, what is she trying to say?

What about women who aren’t white ancestral figures? What do they make of approaches like this from the long pre-modern history of the Baltic? I don’t know. What about the real power of spirits like that — Hans Anderson’s 1844 “The Snow Queen” is mentioned in the magazine — who froze children’s hearts? She is a combination of ancient gnostic religion, the Lady of the Lake, the well at the root of the Tree of the World, from which the god Oðin received blindness and sight (in the form of two ravens) and a Christian sermon. There is also a troll, who creates suffering, in place of Eden’s more familiar snake. Is she telling me to stop reading Nancy Isenberg’s White Trash, which neatly dissects the class conflicts that created White culture in these grasslands, by showing their long, long roots in elite culture and its relationship to slavery, and worse? I don’t know. I am deeply troubled though. Perhaps, though, this is not what the reference is. It’s about beauty, certainly. Perhaps this is what this creature from deep in the ancestral past has become now, courtesy of the robots in Seattle (see below). Friendly stuff. But is it friendly? And Is it beautiful? What do I know. I’m not a good commentator, because I do take ancestral memory seriously, and I don’t jest about spiritual power and I don’t find class behaviour particularly beautiful. Many, however do. Look below.

Thanks, Robots of Google

So much devotion and labour has gone into all of these images, I don’t think they have anything to do with the Snow Queen at all. Still, it troubles me. Should these ancient powers of darkness — a Wicked Witch of the West who melts to water at the touch of a pure heart — be called forth so casually? Is this what an Okanagan woman is now? Why? Who hurt her that much? What is she afraid of? Yes, fear. Look.

 

But not just fear. It opens into desire. Look. Inside, she opens up. She melts!

 

 

And why does she look so bruised? I’m sure she speaks to a lot of women and a lot of hurt (and there’s more than enough to go around), but what I’m puzzled by is how a group of people could live in an indigenous valley, apply a European concept of winter to a complicated set of interwoven grassland seasons, pull in an image from Northern Europe, of a white woman laboriously turned into an image of pure Whiteness (whatever that is), couple it with aristocratic flourishes circa 1790 and a dangerous dressing in elven motifs (surely trouble) and then ship it all out as a message — and, if the cover means anything, a celebration of holiday. In my experience, you don’t take such liberties with the gods. Do the editors of this magazine feel they are immune? I feel like they are playing with plutonium. But what do I know. I am 59 years old, male, and my hair looks like hers above without the hours of makeup work. Not much of the golden colour anymore, either. Death has me in her sights. Is that who created this magazine and shipped it out?  Is that who is staring out laughing through those eyes? Ah, but the editors were thoughtful. They put a magic carpet on the back of the magazine to whip us away to safety.

Is buying a magic carpet the way to save oneself from peril? Might one want to try some real magic? Might one just walk?

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. But now I’m wondering: what kind of spiritual message was the last white thing that came unexpectedly in the mail?

It’s starting to become a thing.

Fall Rain in the Grasslands

So, it rains, right. 35 centimetres of snow have already melted. Now the rain.

Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain.

And the sun.

Melting stuff, even through the clouds of rain.

So, that’s fun.

But what’s it all going to do? Flow away? Not if we can help it! Let me introduce my friends, the beavers of the dry hills, the water keepers!

Look at them hold onto that rain!

They are not going to let it go, not these girls.

No way.

Or at least not yet. This is the grassland equivalent of a storage dam, a big lake in the mountains holding back the rivers so that the soil (and the roots) aren’t oversaturated, and moving the water out to the root tips, where bacteria can use it to dissolve minerals (for the roots) and roots can draw it in. In this case, when the wind comes and that sun will start drying things out again instead of just warming them up, well, down will come the stored rain, bridging the drying effect, and keeping the soil wet until the frost comes. Run off is prevented in this way. Soil health is protected from the air in this way. Isn’t this a beautiful aerial lake?

And my other sisters, the ponderosa pines, are in on it too. Look at them carefully aligning the water beneath their branches. When it falls, it will water the dryest parts of the soil, the ones protected by the needles.

Not only that, but look at this young one drawing the rain in, shedding it off her waxy needles, and then holding it on their rough undersurfaces. Right now, she is breathing through a cooling veil of water. It’s a kind of hibernation.

Not only that, look how needles, splayed horizontally by the weight of water, hold water droplets between them in stronger bonds, by their naturally-occuring capillary tension, making capillaries in the air. That’s a technology that can be adapted to water storage and transport systems. Yet other sisters in the grasslands use the rain to keep their fruit fresh, and keep a nice healthy bacterial environment, so the frosts of January and the sun of February can set those bacteria to work breaking down the acids of these fruits to sugar …

… right when the birds will need it. Until then, beauty keeps humans in thrall.

But who would mind with a grassland team like this?

What the Body Knows in Cold and Light

What is pale and drawn out by light and cold is not dead. The life is within, or, rather, it is concentrated, or distilled.

When you walk through the cold, every twig is power. If you grasp them, you can feel their line down to the roots, bound by ice to all of the earth and through ice to sky and stars. Now that you have found their power, come back in the light and find its concentration.

Welcome to the poetry of the earth, and the open secrets of red osier dogwood, medicine for body and soul.

 

 

Why It’s Called a Grassland

Look what happens! The grass grows, and dries in the sun, to catch the snow. No snow. A raven, though! But look…

… then it snows.

Now the grass is bent in an arc, down to the soil. The energy shift continues. Watch.

The even snowfall is soon uneven, built around structures created by grass, all with exposed faces collecting heat and lee faces collecting cold.

But there’s more! Soon, the hill, one even gradient of soil, becomes a series of waves.

Beautiful waves. Waves created by grass built to bend to the wind. Now it is bending the snow that is carried on the wind. That’s the same thing, isn’t it?

A day later, and the sun begins to work on the faces of heat and cold the grass has made out of the wind.

It creates miniature avalanches, slumps, and flow patterns in the snow, deepening wells and extending connective membranes. The snow will melt in these patterns. But that’s not all!

The grass also guides the deer. The grass turns them into wind.

They follow its patterns. So does the sun. Look at it, spilling between these clumps of snow buckwheat, which are holding the snow.

Just as the deer’s trails are made at the intersection of their angular anatomy, grass and gravity, so are the sun’s trails made at the intersection of their expansive planes, grass and the form of gravity known as exposure. The sun’s trails are flat. Look how grass makes dimension out of this flat world. The tiny avalanches in the image below show the grass at work.

The summer that will build new stalks of grass to harvest and sculpt the sun into the following spring’s water starts here, at first snow.

By the time spring comes along, most of the preparation has been done. Grassland people, this is your snow: