Gardens of Water

I left the garden today, and all its lettuces, kale, spinach and dill, and went up to the water, where the birches rise out of the cedars and the wild roses.

The ducks were feeding on the blue damselflies and shrimp as clear and white as clouds.


The water showed the directionality of the sun, the coloured space that was blue from one angle, green from another, and from another all gravity and tension.


To my ancestors, there were languages: the language of birch, the language of cedar and the language of water, and sometimes they joined together and then there was song, or consciousness. My ancestors began there in that offering.


Being together with these languages, at the point of their meeting, was like reading cloud or reading the sea room for the weather coming from the north.


I am learning this language again. Poetry was once the tool for speaking it in human form. I learned this art in an old age of the world from a man who had gone to the old ages of the north of the world to find it.


It still is this art. It still is this age of the world. It is still this old earth. It is still this new.


It should not, however, be confused with literature or “communication,” as beautiful as they are. It can be spoken of alongside beauty, if by beauty we mean balance or organic or earthly form.


Speaking it as a garden is not a confusion. From high lakes like this, water leaves the sky and enters the streams and pipes that take it to my red orach, my oregano and my egyptian onions. They drink this. I feed on this, and not just physically.

From high lakes like this, light leaves the sky and enters my garden, too, in a form fitting of these heights. As I am this land, I am this water. It is not, you can see, what is normally called human. Of course it isn’t. This is the old knowledge. It is not humanism. That is a beautiful but far different thing.


To my ancestors, the cupped hands, or the skull, were raised in thanks and blessing. Skold! they said. They didn’t mean the skull, but the bowl it made that held the mind. They didn’t mean the hands, but the bowl — the old world was scale, or Schale, as they said (and say) in German — that held, that was the power of holding, lifting up and offering and that created them through this offering or lifting up.

 

This is the holding up and the offering, this language of birch and cedar and water. This is where mind becomes.

This is the garden.

Saskatoon Follows the Sun

Commonly, we say that plants “spring” up or grow in the ‘spring,” but look at siya? here. All she is doing is following the sun, and being drawn out by it like a thread. All those flower clusters pushing the bud shells back… what a clever bit of mechanics and a smart work-around for the hardness of stone.

This is consciousness, but far from human. I like that.

Thought and Memory on Watch Over the Grasslands

The grasslands are ruined and replaced with a colony of weeds from the russian steppes, with toxins and diesel fuel in their veins. It is often true, and a source of our grief. Is all lost? Not, perhaps, in Oðin’s world, that civilization that almost rose to be the equal of the great civilizations of the Orient, India and China, able to describe our one world in unique terms and provide unique solutions. Here are the ravens Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory, which replaced the eye that Oðin plucked out of his head and threw into the pool at the roots of the World Tree, and which gave him all the wisdom on the world. They’re watching out from a gravel pile made of an ancient grassland. But which is which? Is that Thought in the clear, looking out, and Memory, leading the way but screened by knapweed from Russia?p1480300

Or is it the reverse? Is that Memory below, in the clear, while Thought is hopping down the slope, teasing in the dream of laying an egg soon enough?p1480375

What world are they planning to hatch? What does Oðin see through this eye? In Mediterranean-based traditions of civilization, we would describe their independence and darkness as the pupil or puppet in an eye, the self that the will directs in the mind before releasing into the world, but in Oðin’s World, is the thought and memory in the world, and mind, in its egg of bone, as the sky is an egg, what is hatched from it? Look at them discuss the possibilities.

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Thought and memory are always watching. They are the black hole in the eye.

p1450476 The sky is the eye. What we do beneath its gaze, thought and memory “see.” It is possible, in other words, to think with the world, outside of individualistic consciousness. It is a path that is our heritage. Our ancestors turned from it during the last century. We live in the ruins and weeds that turning made. It is perhaps time to go down to the well. It is time to take up the banner of civilization again.

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It is time to rejoin the conversation. It is time to talk. Kalook!

 

 

Poetry and Water

Does anything that touches water bend it?
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Or does the water bend to receive it?
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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?

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Does it have a double spirit?

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Hraunfosser, Iceland

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

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

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

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Borgarfjörður

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

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There are also rushes.

The Mind of a Thistle

This is russian thistle in her glory.p1270507 Look at her climb a ladder of carbon to the sun, with precisely placed synapses to receive the wind. The colour of her sepals (not petals) are for the sun, not to attract insects.p1270362

The human brain is more complex than hers, but hers is a brain as well.
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She too is conscious, but in the context of the world, not of herself.

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We shouldn’t be greedy. We can praise intelligence where it finds us, right?

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.

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

The Spiritual and Technological Roots of Individualism in the Environment, part 1

Boundaries give focus. They’re also wildly frustrating.
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Grey Canal Trail, Bella Vista Hills

A general human glance does not have boundaries like that. Neither, though, is a human glance — or human presence — like this:
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Big Bar Ranch, 31.12.15

The same frustrating boundary appears. Human sight — and awareness — is not so clearly bounded. What about the following, then, not a photograph but a painting, a landscape?

Full title: The Avenue at Middelharnis Artist: Meindert Hobbema Date made: 1689 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright ?The National Gallery, London

The Avenue at Middelharnis, Meindert Hobbema 1689 Source

No. That doesn’t do it, either, but it’s clever, let’s admit that. A landscape, a landschaft, is a created environment, an artificial garden, invented in English country houses…

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Estate Near Evenley, UK

The low wall is called a ha ha. From the house it is invisible, but it keeps the sheep down on the field where they can’t do their sheep thing on the shrubberies near the house but can still give a fine view of wealth. Here’s the view out from the house. See? No ha ha.

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It’s not just decorative, but highly symbolic. The trees are carefully planted, in symbolic patterns, in balance with sight lines, sky and water.

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Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire

On the estate of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Note the windmills in back to pay for all this. Note as well the oaks as carefully planted as elements in a painting, symbols of nationalism leading up into the sky. Not an accident.

The idea was taken up with aplomb in Europe thereafter. After that, painters took it up: a revolutionary idea; the theft of the aristocratic right to turn the land into a poem and its dissemination to all through the gift of sight alone. Fiery politics, that.

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Source

Landscape With a Couple Alone at Sunset, Cornelis Lieste, date unknown (mid 19th century)

Staring straight into the sun? Not an accident.

Little differentiates this from the country estates shown above, except that the whole country is now the estate of the entire people. Or so it seems. Actually, the country presented is artificial and the people present are just to draw the eye, like a ha ha’s sheep. Still, we’ll get back to them. First, a closer view of figures are doing in landscape. Here’s Caspar David Friedrich’s take:

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Caspar David Friedrich, The Monk at the Sea, c. 1808-1810 Source 

In this romantic view, the landscape is so large and powerful that it completely dwarfs the human figure. The presence of the human figure provides a reference point for the recalculation of rather abstract image of nature. It’s as if viewers, you and I, for example, are viewing the human figure with the eyes of nature, while at the same time inhabiting the figure, because, as humans, that’s what we do. It’s part of being conscious. 

Despite this trick, the image is still bounded. It still has, so to speak, its ha ha. It still has this:

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The Barbed Wire Fence: Military Technology at Home on the Range

This is the new country estate: privately owned, fenced to keep cattle in and people out, and ecologically trashed.

All of these images have a root in pre-modern landscape, in which the earth was symbolic and narrative was created by the observer. In this conception of time and space, there was no time and space.

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Lucas Cranach the Elder, Paradise, 1530

Note that Adam does not say “She did it.” He takes the responsibility for eating the apple from the tree of knowledge (in behind) onto himself, as bound to her, not to God’s dictates. Of course, he had to do so, and he had to take the apple from Eve, because he was made in God’s image. That kind of thing goes straight through a person. And an image? Well, the Garden was God. The revolution here was difference and separation.

There is, of course, an observer. If there weren’t, the image would look a little like this:

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Mind you, that’s just a trick, because without an observer there would be nothing, and we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. We wouldn’t even be a we. Splitting hairs? No, not really. Take another look at the painting …

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See that? Christ, the third part of the Trinity, is missing. He is about to be created, though, by God, through the banishment of Adam and Eve to the world. In that narrative, Adam (or, if we’re following temporal narratives, one of his descendants) will eventually end up here, raised up mockingly into the sky above a hill of skulls.

1532crucifixionLucas Cranach the Elder, Crucifixion, 1532

In other words, in a world read as time and space, timelessness (Adam in Paradise) dies. That was Adam’s choice, too: to live not for himself, but through his descendants. Adam did not blame the expulsion from Paradise on Eve. This sense of honour negates his death, because it embodies the image of God.

Don’t take it from me, though. Let’s go to the source:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. John 1: 4.

As I said, Adam had no choice. Eve it was. And that living for one’s descendants? Ah, that was also God.

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The Creation of Adam, MIchael Angelo, c. 1511

Still, the crucifixion, eh. Like Michael Angelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling centred around God and Adam…

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Source

…for an action that takes place on the earth, Cranach’s crucifixion …

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…is remarkably empty of earth and spectacularly crowded with (very symbolic) people, including Mary Magdalene kneeling at the foot of the cross, and reappearing as St. Katherine in her martyrdom, kneeling again and at peace now:

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Source

Watch that feminine gaze, from Mary Magdalene looking up to Jesus on the Cross, to St. Katherine looking out of this image, to Mary looking down to God and God looking up to her,  Eve gets gets a similar (but more loving) role to Adam’s, in that her heart, that love that is God, materializes within her live in the world, giving her forgiveness and grace instead of separation, and a chance not to kneel but to take God’s place on earth and look down at her new Adam (Christ)…

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Lucas Cranach the Elder, Virgin and Child, 1516

Folds within folds within folds. Modern popular imagination holds that these ancient icons no longer have force in the identity of individuals, and no longer provide identity narratives for viewers. The imagination of the slovakian marxist cultural critic an philosopher Slavoj  Žižek, however, …

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… who argues in this book …

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Mary and Son Again! Note how he turns away from the breast to be seen.

…that the separation between humans and world within Christian faith is the single most important point in history, because it creates poles which can be reunited with activity, holds that this form of directionality is very much a part of contemporary human consciousness, and look…

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the boundaries are there, built right into the art of photography, and the way in which it denies context, which must only be constructed by an exterior, viewing and contemplating intelligence, which is separate from the act of viewing and heavily influenced by the structural forms of the technology. There is no difference between what this camera sees and this…

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… or this …

Goodwood House, Luxury Events Venues, Prestigious Venues

or this …

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or this:

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Protest however we like, the story hasn’t changed, and if it hasn’t changed, then definitions of the self in modern psychology, such as the humanist psychology of Abraham Maslow …

 

132847-132478… who defined creativity like this …

It looks as if there were a single ultimate goal for mankind, a far goal toward which all persons strive. This is called variously by different authors self-actualization, self-realization, integration, psychological health, individuation, autonomy, creativity, productivity, but they all agree that this amounts to realizing the potentialities of the person, that is to say, becoming fully human, everything that person can be. Source

Like Cranach’s crucifixion, there is no earth in that picture, only the self, only the boundary around this image and the choices inherent in making it:

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It is ultimately not five aspen stalks in a copse, one dead, but a choice. All of this activity has profound consequences for the physical world, because, somewhere, outside of all this artistry and technology there are five aspens stalks in a copse, one dead, and that, too, is part of the self, although represented only peripherally in this entire tradition. The consequences for landscape and creativity are profound, because both Maslow’s and Žižek’s conceptions of creativity are focussed on their actualization within the mechanisms of human consciousness. These are profound legacies of a long spiritual tradition. They inhabit contemporary science, psychology, and art, and they got there through the window of the development of science in the 18th century. If we’re going to save this planet, we have to deal with this tradition, so, let’s talk about that tomorrow, ok? Till then, a few more stalks of that aspen copse, but this time in summer …

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The Spirit of Birds and Trees

Watching the magpies watch me today, in their way of leapfrogging from tree to tree to fencepost to shrub to shrub to post up the slope, always 70 metres apart, always keeping at least 70 metres distance, I realized in a flash that there is a magpie mind that is not just the magpie.
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Instead, it’s the sum of all the watchful eyes of all the magpies. In the weaver ants of the grasslands, this sum of points of observation becomes the chemically-controlled mind of the hive, a living brain in which the neurons are individual ants, living out the community centred around their queen (but fully able to replace her if need be.)

In the birds, though, and this is the beauty of it, there is no queen. Among magpies, there isn’t even a flock. What there is, though, is a fluid grid of attention cast over the land that the magpies, singly and in series, observe, re-observe and react to, which becomes the spirit of magpie in the air. It’s the same for the other birds of the grasslands. Here’s a robin mind of this kind.

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Here’s a couple of synapses in that mind. They have memory, which sustains the spirit between them.

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Here’s a flicker, caught in the energy flows of the tree and making out of them a perch that is both flicker and tree together.

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Here are a couple of starlings at the point of moving the point of observation along the line of trees — multiple perspectives, that’s the thing.

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Bees do this trick, but they use multiple eyes, linked together (much like ants to a queen), to create this intelligence.

Birds, though, are able to expand and contract the scope of this space.

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It can be the spirit of the air …

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… the spirit of the hill …

P2140274… slyness, mirth and cunning …

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… the spirit of the trees …

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and so much more. We all live together on physical earth, but we all live together in this earth of spiritual or observational interactions and relativities as well — like the resonance effects thrown off by the earth’s core, that move continents through the deep seas. This spirit, this memory, both its physical form as bird (or human) and its carrier of ecosystem relationships and innovation stretch deep into time and space …

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… and beyond them. We live in that world, too.

What We Need to Talk About, Darling

The land I live on was an island that crashed into a continent. It buckled and smashed and was pushed up into the air by the collision.

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The old seabeds of its foreshore we dragged under the ground, pressurized, and their water, turned to steam, turned them to lava, and they rose and splashed over top of the ruins.

 

 

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These landscapes were broken by glaciers, which lie now in long inland freshwater fjords in beds that sink far below the surface of the offshore seas.

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There are many of these islands.

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They stretch from Oregon to Alaska, all broken up…

P2100867 …, all welded together with old volcanoes from their deep stone seabeds.P2100825

Many are stilled rimmed by water. Many are still seabeds.

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Many still have tide pools.

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Many are still given to shoreline grasses…

 

 

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… even though the skies, torn by newer uplifted islands to the west, are the reverse of ocean air.

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We are still at sea. Storm still drains off of the rock.

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Generation after generation …

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… the creatures of the water have adapted to living in the air and making a living from the cracks in stone …

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… that catch the sea the mountains, the old islands, strip from the sky and give back to them. Even a stone can be a tide pool in this ocean.

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Our birds are sea eagles …

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… that come from India.

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But so do many of us. My ancestors did, long after the ice melted here.  We are travelling, among islands.

starlings We are gathering and giving away.P2100521 We are falling and rising up.P2060603

As humans, it is our gift to see all these things as one. All creatures have this gift. It is called being present.

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Humans have developed a science that takes apart this natural ability to see, in order to create stories of causality. It is a positive and powerful tool, as are one of its products, photographs such as these.

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This is not the human faculty, this science. The human faculty is to see all these images as one, as physical things in the world, and simultaneously as spiritual forces and as forces of energy deep in time, and to experience in something as simple as a breath of air or the movement of an arm, or a moment that humans call beautiful …

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… because it too is profoundly present, which is to say, all its energies are combined at once. Awareness is a word, not a human faculty. The faculty belongs to the earth. The word is us. This is awareness:

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The photograph is the word.

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Humility is the gesture. Again, it is a faculty of the world, not of humans themselves.

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We are given this gift of putting things together. Don’t accept it that science must take them apart.

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Our bodies know more than that. Of course they do, they are of the earth.

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And she is of us.

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This is a different thing altogether:

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The people who build a golf course like that, on a rich, living grassland, are not of this earth. This is their habitat.

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They are now dreaming of going to Mars. They are practicing.

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They are building their space ships.

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In many ways, they have already left.

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They are almost wordless now.

P2000484 They have become their words.P2000542 When someone becomes a word, and writes it in the world of manifested words …P2000506

… they erase it.

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The world is a weed to them.  The people of the world are weeds to them.

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They are shadows.

 

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They are grand romantic shadows, physical spirits who use their bodies as puppets, cars, and other machinery of transportation and communication.

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Their ancestors were trees…

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…  living on islands on the sea.

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These islands are still here.

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We are still here.

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Our bodies, which are of this earth are still here.

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We need to speak of this.

 

Living on a Sphere

If the earth were flat, she would be half as much fun. The grassy slope would always have the same orientation to the sun, for one thing. With a tilted earth, sometimes it faces the sun directly and sometimes it’s almost flat and the sun flashes over it like a wind, barely rustling the tips of its grasses.

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And what about that cliff, eh! Because this spherical earth is spinning on its axis, sometimes during a day it faces the sun directly, and sometimes is in various degrees of shadow or illumination. The edges between these effects create the wind, or the tension between gravity (our point of view) and wind (our other point of view) that we live in. How cool is that!