What Colour is a Damselfly Anyway?

Note how the damselfly in the water is tall and full of energy, while the one on the butt of the birch log is weary and weighed down by the weight of the sky.

And look how the one in the water has taken on the colour of the birch, while the one in the sky has taken on the colour of oxygen. What a beautiful world!


Gardom Lake

Water at Work and Play

Water + Carbon + Air + Sun, tensed like a bow against the wind, waiting to be knocked loose by the deer of the sky.

Water + Carbon + Air + Sun, lying like wind on the face of the water.

Water + Carbon + Air + Sun, waiting to be carried on the face of the wind.

Water + Carbon + Air + Sun, aka Poplar Cotton, catching in splashing waves of green.

Out of a few simple elements, untold complexity and immeasurable delight. The word for that? Why, life.

We are the children of the sun.

I Love Water


Big Bar Lake, with Damselfly

The green colour comes from the bright lake bottom, which is the remains of the bed of an underground glacial river, made of tiny, flat, oval pebbles ground off the uplifted seabeds of the mountains just above the lake. The river flowed 10,000 years ago as the continental ice sheet was melting, then flowed around a 5-kilometre-long block of ice, no doubt encasing it in blue-grey gravel, which kept the sun from it. Eventually, the ice melted, the gravel became the lakebed, and the ice became this water, which is replenished with every winter’s snows, with its waving underwater leaves and that damselfly, moving between the dimensions. 

Who would pump this stuff into the rock to extract oil, and remove it from life forever? Only an agent of death.

Jezersko Village

My friend Tamara in her botanical garden in Slovenia noted yesterday that some of the images in my post a few days ago about Big Bar Lake on the Cariboo Plateau could have been interchanged with hers on the old Roman path across the mountains. You can see her  haunting images by clicking here. Those are a follow-up to her first set of images on the theme: Jezersko Village Flora in August. To tempt you to have a look at what she saw there, here’s a teaser:

What Tamara Saw at Jezersko Village

After seeing those, I wrote that compared to my original images, such as this …


Big Bar Esker

… hers placed people right in with the mix. I asked for more information about that, and she volunteered, generously, with her observation that there at the conjunction of humans, stone, water and wood, culture thrived, and has remained as it developed in place over thousands of years, and that what made the images appear similar was that both landscapes were carved by glaciers and water, and humans seem to be following in their ancient flows. And then she asked, “What do you think?” Well, I think that’s beautiful and wise. I also think this:

P1200750Wild Lettuce Waiting for the Wind

I think it’s not just people who find life in these points. I also think we can add wind and air to the mix. I also think (Whew! what a lot of thinking!) that that’s the signature of this earth.


The Earth, Signing Her Name

Yes, there are people on the Cariboo Plateau in British Columbia who are indigenous to the place, but none living in the kinds of houses they invented on this land, which were underground pit houses for the winters, and houses of rushes for the summers. Still, I’m intrigued by the idea that those of us who inhabit the colonial space made out of this landscape have a chance (now that that experiment has been going on for 150 years or so) to bring our indigenous sense of water, stone, air and wood, the one buried in our languages, to this place. We could change history.


The New (and Old) Face of History, Big Bar Lake

Are not our languages the voices of our ancestors? Of course they are. That’s where words get their meaning, and where languages get their structures. They, too are houses that we live in.


Voices of Our Ancestors

Damselfly and Driftwood

There are Secwepemc and Tsilqh’otin languages for this place, but there’s also just the languages of wind and water and stone and wood, that we speak with our bodies.


Moth, Grey Canal Trail, Bella Vista

I think now that book culture is on the wane and a culture of imagery is taking hold, words are at a powerful moment in their development: they have sculptural tools again, once again publishable in the world, rather than in the substitutes for the world, called books.

P1200847Choke Cherries in a Tent Caterpillar Net

The words and their visual representations are very close right now in the Spirit of the Age, in the Zeitgeist, in the present presence of time, just as they are Jezersko Village. I’m sure glad to have friends like Tamara who have run ahead of me down the path and call back, “Look! Look what I have found!” Thanks, Tamara, and look at what I found:


A Botanical Garden for Tamara!

This is what you get when a farmer’s wife teaches French Language and Literature at the university down the road. And again …

P1200813 … and again …

P1200814 … and again! P1200816I should put a table out on a road, with a bucket and a sign:  Words, $5 a bucket! And just fill it up with words. Maybe a coyote will stop and have a sniff, eh!

Living in the Sun

Look at how the water bends around the feet of these water striders. It’s like walking on an electrical force field.

striding2 We call it “reflections on a lake”, but this is the same kind of plasma found in the core of the sun or in a nuclear reactor. In fact, look what it is doing to the light of the sun.

waves2 It’s worth remembering that it’s a ‘solar system’. The sun may be at its centre, but it’s really all one thing. We are living in the sun. That looks like this sometimes:


Ponderosa Pine

Or even this:

scratchMoulting itches.

Here, this might make this idea of unity clear. Here is one part of a complex living environment, much like the solar system:

fishYoung Trout in Conconully Lake

It’s like looking at the stars. Here is the same image, seen with a different lens filter:

osprey3Osprey and Osprey Architecture

The fish that is eaten by the osprey and the osprey that eats the fish are one. What does it mean, then, to be living in the sun?

P1040958Damselfly in the Sun, photo Diane Rhenisch

It changes everything.

A Damselfly in the Wilderness

I live in Oregon Territory. My part is owned by the Government of Canada now, but it  started here, in the musings of an American in his last hours. His name was Henry David Thoreau.

The sun sets on some retired meadow, where no house is visible, with all the glory and splendor that it lavishes on cities, and perchance as it has never set before–where there is but a solitary marsh hawk to have his wings gilded by it, or only a musquash looks out from his cabin, and there is some little black-veined brook in the midst of the marsh, just beginning to meander, winding slowly round a decaying stump. We walked in so pure and bright a light, gilding the withered grass and leaves, so softly and serenely bright, I thought I had never bathed in such a golden flood, without a ripple or a murmur to it. The west side of every wood and rising ground gleamed like the boundary of Elysium, and the sun on our backs seemed like a gentle herdsman driving us home at evening.


So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bankside in autumn.


Henry David Thoreau, Walking, 1862.


Sounds like this wilderness is a pretty beautiful place! There’s only one snag: it was recently cleared of its Indigenous peoples; the wilderness that Thoreau sees to the west of New England, and which the United States will soon populate, is a created object. Thoreau treats it as a refreshment for inbred intellects and a place for re-creating wild life within humans — which he identifies as “Indian” life. What Thoreau doesn’t mention, and likely didn’t know, is that it had to be achieved by killing those “Indians”, because they were in the way of this life-giving wildness. Ironically, they are to be honoured by creating wildness within American souls. And so we get this …


Vernon Rowing and Paddling Centre, Swan Lake

Settler culture re-creation on the shores of a Syilx food lake.

That is the point of North American history. It comes down to that image. For a time, there were dreams of growing food and healthy children on this earth, but, well, a look around the paddling centre (a former farm) will show you just how temporary that idea was …


… and a closer look will show you something amazing…

damselsnailbDamselfly in the Invasive Weeds

Still making a go of it after all these years; still turning the sun into pure spirit; still moving it around.

The earth just doesn’t give up! In contemporary Okanagan culture, the rowers, the weeds and the damselfly live in the same relationship to agriculture and its attempts to find a language halfway between local and distant cultures. They have all gone wild. The only difference between them is that the damselfly has moved from non-wild Syilx earth into wild Syilx-less earth, while the others have moved the other way. It’s the only one not looking for wildness, because it’s the only one already in it. In other words, the wildness was never in Syilx territory. It was in Thoreau’s head, and in those of his countrymen. all along. When you row on Swan Lake today, you are rowing in Thoreau’s head, laid as a map over the water and the land. Beautiful, eh!

Next: Wildness Moving Back to the City; culture and respect moving back to the land.




Life Without Oil

There was a time in the world in which technology and the work of the planet were intimately related. It was hardly romantic, but it has come to be known that way, because it looked like this:

Industrial Holding Pond, Jonatal, Switzerland

Throughout the old textile regions outside of Zürich, water was carefully collected from the mountains, held in ponds like this, and released to run machinery in the weaving mills at set times in the day.

One of the things that inspires me about this kind of technology is that it does not prevent natural life from flourishing. In fact, it might encourage it. On the surface of the pond, for instance, damselflies are having a grand day in the sun…

The Pond Takes Wing

Of course, in the days in which it was used industrially, this pond would not have been such a rich environment, as the water levels would have fluctuated wildly each day. Still, there is inspiration here for a revolution of environmental technology that builds on the first generation of water technology rather than just copies it.

The next pond upstream is reached after walking or even on top of a long canal. This was the path the workers in the textile mills used each day on their way to and from their mountain homes. It’s also the path that the Keeper of the Water used, on his maintenance journeys. The land almost became a clock, but not quite.

High Technology from the Age of Water

Twice a day, the Keeper of the Water would release this pond to run the factories in the valley below, which were arranged one after the other in order to reuse the water over and over again on its way down to Lake Zürich.

 Unlike modern engine works and hydroelectric power plants, this is a living environment. One can expect life to come from it.

The Soul of the Machine

A fish cruises through the heart of technology. Living environments are suitable for humans, too.

There’s no going back, but it is possible to go forward, without oil.