Midsummer Autumn

Celebrate the season!

It’s a colour palette for rejoicing.

Art without four seasons. Life without four seasons. Life with dozens, often two at the same time, passing through each other like clouds!

What a beautiful dance.

Honouring Snow

Ten centimetres of snow fell last night. The wet season has begun. The snow falls, it evaporates, it falls, it evaporates, it falls, it evaporates, and so on, etcetera, etcetera, et cet er a, as it cycles from fog to soil to fog to soil, to, well, whew, you get the idea. This is the real Okanagan.

The Next Dry Season’s Broccoli Stir-Fry …

…or a wet season sprout salad, just days away. Not compost.

This is the season of fruitfulness and growth. It’s not the end of something.  It’s the beginning. Yes, it’s the end of certain dreams of life in the desert …


In contemporary culture, a $25 plant like this can be sacrificed to the weather, rather than brought inside for the winter and kept warm.

… but those dreams are not about living here anyway. I’m remembering that forty years ago in the springtime, a Canadian Army major sold (well, pretty much gave) my father, a young German survivor of numerous Allied bombing attacks, his orchard. The major had bought the place to turn swords into ploughshares, along the old roman model of turning soldiers into men able to build lasting peace. That’s why, after ten hard years, when it was clear he wasn’t a farmer, the major passed the farm on to the son of a former enemy and joined the new Canadian peacekeeping army. At this time of year, when flags are saluted a bit too loudly and trumpets blown a bit too briskly, I’ll salute that man and that country that was so generous that it could dream of peace and brotherhood and that knew there was a kind of honour greater than nations and armies, and worked for it. I’ll remember this, too:

Abandoned Russian Graveyard

Former Belvedere Palace Ornamental Garden, Weimar. These are some of the 30,000,000 men and women who died to win the Second World War. I will remember them.

During East German times, when all the churches were turned into the International Peace Centres that eventually brought down the Wall that separated the East from the West, the palace was turned into a music school. The peace centres are gone now, except for one, in Leipzig, but the music school remains. Let’s go out and make music. That sounds about right. And let’s remember:

Parsley Flowers in the Snow

 We don’t remember the stalk. We remember the seed. And plant it. This is a planet of life. This is the season where it all begins. In that snow. Ask any child. They all know this.

Snow. We’re made of it.

Okanagan Falls

If you want peace, plant peace.


A Year of Walking and Learning, Part 4

This is the fourth post in which I unravel a year long walkabout into threads, in preparation for weaving them together into book form, not to mention a presentation next week for The Okanagan Institute. The other three are here and here and here. For the presentation, I am going to give an overview, based around a dozen or so of the best photographs, but first a bit of thinking out loud…

In England, there are 4 seasons. One of the attractions of British Columbia to English settlers before the First World War, or one of the advertising slogans that attracted them, rather, was that it had 4 seasons. This was Good, and European, and not like this:

Monsoon in ThailandSource

Or like this…

Gathering Sticks, Kenya Source

God knows what they’re going to cook.

The thing is, though, it was exactly like that. Rainfall for Vernon in the Okanagan Okanogan is pretty much an average of 33 mm per month. It  would be close to a staggering 40, but the spring is dry. And yet, despite this consistency, the summers are “dry” and the winters are “wet”.

Three deer in the evening grass.

Deer in the Dry (Well, Sort of) Season, Bella Vista

The difference, seemingly, is heat. We get lots of that, and it’s very dry heat, too. This alternation between cold and heat is a lovely variation of the classical wet season/dry season situation.


Temperature? Ring Necked Pheasants Take It As It Comes

Temperatures can fluctuate between extremes of -45 Celsius and +45. Whatever it is, it  isn’t four seasons. Planting European crops here, that are dependent on four seasons, is a bit environmentally expensive. Does this matter? You bet. Waiting until spring to plant a garden, or even a field, just when the heat is drying the place to a crisp, isn’t exactly a prudent use of precious water. This is…

Winter Wheat and Abandoned Schoolhouse, Highland, Washington

Plant it in the fall and let it feast on winter water and take full advantage of the spring melt before ripening in the drought of early summer. Too bad the schoolhouse is in a kind of permanent drought of its own.

Heck, even these grapes in Okanagan Landing have figured it out…

Maréchal Foch Grapes Gone Feral

Note the multiple maturities in each bunch. This plant is ready for whatever comes its way. It doesn’t have a combination of European and American blood for nothing. Resilience is the name of the game.

The way I see it, we need to know what to plant and when the water will be there for it, no matter how the weather fluctuates. Besides, from a purely practical standpoint, in this day and age marketing an exotic wet-dry climate has more potential than marketing a tired colonial one.  When the climate, the story of the climate, and the products produced in relationship with it match, then, Bingo!

Choke Cherries in the Spring

Yup, Bingo.

Tomorrow: A story about the ethics of water policy and the coming crunch, and then, as promised yesterday, atmosphere, both above and below ground.

Winter in July

Here’s a thing about living in the intersection of climactic zones: the seasons are wrong. For instance, because this area of North America has been colonized by Britain, Canada, and the United States, it calls this month “summer“, in a calendar divided into four seasons, because that’s, well, English, and Canadian, too. Even so, it doesn’t really fit a location where ancient grasslands meet older glacial water at the point where new forests meet volcanic, mid-Pacific rock and where water is moved up into the high country and back down by lightning storms in the evening. Time and space are different here, but summer it is. Here, for example, is the beach and estuary on the Okanagan Indian Reserve at Okanagan Landing, yesterday morning as the sun was rolling over the hill like the open end of a welding torch …

All the Attributes of Summer

Water, sun, beach, leaves … it must be summer, eh. Sea-doo hour has not started yet, either. I mean, look at that retro wind-powered watercraft. Whoa.

Now that much of the earth is colliding with shifting climactic zones because of a warming climate, it is time to get the seasons right. For one thing, it’s a lot easier to describe the living processes of a landscape when the seasons are right, rather than to have them turned on their heads and winter lumped together with summer, dry with wet, spring with fall, and all in the name of (got a headache yet?), ta da!, summer. For another thing, it’s a lot easier to integrate new experience with indigenous experience in this space, if the terms used are as accurate as deep, ancestral physical knowledge. For another, if climate boundaries are moving some thirty kilometres a year (they are, and often more), it sure would be useful to get a handle on how the system worked before it became a moving target. But, for the moment, with a nod to convention, let’s call the image above summer, if we like, but, ah yes, then the troubles start. What’s this one, pulling back a bit on the zoom lens and looking to the right?

A Different Season

Altitude matters. This season is occurring a hundred metres or so above the lake. Let’s call it Fall. In this season, water that evaporates from the lake (and boy, it does, to the tune of some 351,000,000 litres a year) is shifted into high country forests by thunder activity. It doesn’t make it back to the grass. Not yet.

And this one, turning around?

Fall in Subdivided Land

In the winter, this terraced, stabilized cut in the post-glacial clay was rich with lush fungal growth and bright green grass. Now that it’s summer, so to speak, almost the last of its energy has left. Spring will come for it in October and will last through March.

And to make it even more confused, there’s this:

Grassland Beetle Crossing a Road to Get Back to Its Life

The greatest desert here, in a landscape that sells itself as a desert, is human made. That’s another problem with naming seasons for purely social reasons.

Here’s another problem with seasonal naming …

The Approved Form of Landscaping for Humanly Inhabited Environments in the Okanagan

In this way, water can be conserved for the summer environment down on the lake. Well, I think that’s the idea.

The water can also be conserved for this aesthetic splash, carefully inserted between gravel deserts:

Weed Seed Collection and Germination Device

This wild chicory collector is maintained for absentee investors from the Oil Patch by automatic sprinkling and a community landscaping (Um, mowing) contract.

This is silly. We need better terms. The ones we have seem to tend to draw the landscape into simpler and simpler relationships. So…….(deep breath) ….. What does the landscape offer by way of terms?

Hoary Marmot Guarding His Rock

Otherwise known as a complex mix of climates and seasons.

This land is the intersection of new water (rain, snow, dew) and old water (post-glacial meltwater lakes), the intersection of dry and wet environments (and seasons), including forest, grassland, and tundra, and the intersection of very hot and very cold climates (and a lot of foggy temperatures in between, where they mix in complex ways.) That gives a series of interleaved seasons existing in time: dry, wet, hot, and cold. Because it is a mixed environment, many of these seasons can be in the same place at the same time, as the marmot above knows. The intersections between these seasons (and not the main part of the season in itself) are particularly productive spaces. It is where energy can be moved from one form (and one time) into another.

Butterfly on Chicory

Wet season water becomes a dry season flower, which supports a dry season butterfly. If we just said, oh, look, summer flowers, we’d miss the way water flows through life.

I’d rather water flowed through life. I really like living on a living planet, rather than on an asteroid. The living things of this earth have that figured out, as expressions of this earth. So are humans. It’s about time that the cultures that we have made by rather accidental processes of history started to live here. If we don’t make the adjustments, our deserts, green, blue, and brown, will just spread. Oh, yeah, and concrete, too, in between the weed collectors and the rocks …

Beetle Turned into a Nomad by a Monocultural Understanding of Water

This is what is called Winter.