Open and Closed Air in Indigenous Switzerland

In Zurich, this is nature. A sobering thought.

Or, rather, it is a school sports field. Note the tree. It is placed where there is room. Note as well the aesthetic, architectural arrangement of elements. There is a human world in which nature is an architectural element. What the earth is, well, that’s another matter.

Whose Land is This Anyway?

No-one’s. The question is absurd. It’s not land.

It’s earth. One can ask for room, not ownership.

You can’t own Earth. She gives everyone room.

A request for land is a request for social rights. These requests occur within societies that divide social respectability and power by dividing earth into rooms of social power called land. If your goal is to escape the constraints of such a society, claiming or buying land won’t do it. You will only continue the constraints in another form.

We do it, at best, in the hope of protecting the flow of life between earthly and human spheres in that place, so we can be a part of its flow. This is called life and all creatures need it. When that flow is capitalized, it becomes part of the system of privatization. It’s a tricky balance.

Surely, we can protect that flow together.

Learning Balance from the Birds

The earth is a plane of balance. After all, it spins. Whatever humans do to the earth changes the balance it achieves. It’s the same with birds. I suspect they did this.p1300891

You’re looking at two trees growing as one. That’s a rowan, with fruit, on the right, and a hawthorn, without, on the left, high up in the Swiss Jura. They’ve worked it out well. Likely they feed the descendants of the birds that dropped their seeds in a crack in the stone they are growing from. Likely, they feed them in alternate years.

What Changes are Happening in the Earth?

That’s what a Secwepemc man asked me on an evening like this, with this view in front of us. What is the earth doing?
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He didn’t mean, what are people doing to her, but how is she responding? What changes do I see? What will she do? “You’re not a white man,” he said to me, “so I’m asking you.” Look at me, I said. My hair is white, my beard is white, my skin is white…I’m about as white as anyone could get! We laughed. “Yeah,” he said, “but look at me.” He looked Secwepemc. “I’m a white man, he said, I have white ancestors, I’m a Mormon, so I’m asking you.”

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And that’s what it’s like to sit down on an evening with Coyote the Trickster. I’ll say this much: as long as people turn away from the earth, the earth will replace them; as long as they turn towards her, she will turn towards them. That’s not the same as care. She might want to make us lean. “The animals and plants are early this year, months early,” my trickster said.”Is Earth changing the seasons?” It was the middle of August. The frogs are out, I said.

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They’re over a month early, I said.

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“The caribou are coming back,” a young Secwepemc man with him said. Well, that’s good, I said, realizing as I said it that no, it wasn’t. It was neither good nor bad. It was what was happening on the earth, and what the earth was doing. It was what we were watching. It was the story we were in: the time the caribou came back to the southern plateau. It is not the story of the why of it. That was the story I was being asked, not, I think, because anyone on that esker thought I had an answer, but because maybe I had seen something, some part of the story.

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Well, if you cross the road, I said, it’s a jungle of bear trails over that way. Spooky! Pacing back and forth through the trees, this way and that. They perked up. So I had seen something. He gave me permission to take pictures, but not of him. “My face would break your camera,” he said. I laughed. I told him I didn’t want his picture. “Good,” he said, “because it would break your camera. Blow it up.” He made an exploding gesture with his hands. I laughed, then I walked up the esker to see what I could see.

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It’s not dark yet. That’s what it’s like to meet Sen’klip the Trickster, father of all the people in this country. It’s not about pictures. It’s about finding the story that is there. There are no clues. There are no maps. There are no directions. Or they are everywhere.

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This knowledge is in complete contrast to contemporary Canadian poetry, which is a moral art, seeking to change identity politics within an unchanging world facilitated by technology and paid for by it, in order to tame technology and harness it to the soul. It is a creative act, meaning one that recombines manufactured objects and ideas into new forms according to the will. I was in Okanagan Falls yesterday. At sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ, the syilx were welcoming the red fish home. Across the river, white folks were listening to an aging man dressed as a black Elvis and his wife singing electrified country tunes at a deafening volume, even though the invitation to cross the river was open to everyone. White folks weren’t going. It’s like going to Palouse Falls, the heart (and this not a metaphor) of the entire Plateau …

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… among Americans on holiday, with the capacity to appreciate natural beauty but lacking  anywhere else to go or do except to wander wordlessly and in genuine awe.

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Nature can be like that. Is that the earth’s doing? Is she rewarding attention? Is she turning from the lack of it? Yes, of course. Both at once. It’s not that she’s a trickster planet, because tricksters are tricksters and earth is earth, but tricksters do come from her, as do people to whom she does not reveal the ancient stories in this rock down by the falls, and those to whom she does.

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And the thing is, I’m not telling those stories. The only terms North American culture has for them today is fiction or fantasy, and they are not that. Silence can be respect. That’s why meeting Sen’klip from time to time does one’s heart good. Eight years ago, on the pilgrim’s path to the East, I left my self at Point Alpha, on the old Iron Curtain, and a cherry tree came back. This summer, Sen’klip taught that tree to talk using silence. He led it to the earth, and then he let it go on there, and when it turned around all other paths were closed. Here, let that be said again in North American lingo: This summer, Sen’klip taught me to talk using silence. He led me to the earth, and then he let me go on there, and when I turned around all other paths were closed. The thing is, that second statement is wrong. It has no poetry in it and there’s no way forward from it, except back to town and a community of I’s talking through the reflections off the edges of words, in shadow effects and nuances. I’m going here.

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At some point, the question “What is the earth doing?” is the question “What am I doing?” I’m going out for a walk. What about you?

 

Living in the Air

These are clouds. P1190120

Just a bit of Okanagan bedrock, yes, but, yes, clods , or clouds. Here are some more clouds, or clods, clots and thickenings.

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Just a few clouds torn by the wind and sailing east, yes, but rock did that, too once. This is the planet that does that. Here they are together, mixing it up.

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And again.

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And again. What waves breaking on the shore!

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Rock is cloud. We live in cloud.

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The “earth” is far below us. Every lake is a star creature, just one cloud among many.

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Every tree.

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Every grass blade.

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Every stone. P1040936

And you and me.

 

The Resistance Begins

There are no words for this.P2280519The sun uses wind …. P2290983… and water …P2280631

… to move sand. You could say it was gravity, or resistance, or wave forms …

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… but really, those are just words. It’s all of those things at once, and more.

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It’s also the earth moulding the sun into its own image, after all.

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Really, there is no earth and no sun. There are both at once.

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It’s not in language that humans are most wise.

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It’s not in language that they are most earthsun …P2280623

…and sunearth.

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Machines can’t do this.

 

Earth and Her Two Suns

Sagebrush. It loves the heat and it looks so grey, right.P2240395 It loves the cold and it looks so grey, so very grey.P2250529

But it has a secret.

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It’s really saturated with light, which it concentrates out of the air.P2240839

It takes great contrast for human eyes to see it, but to the sagebrush, pshaw, normal, you know.P2240842

149,597,870,700 meters from the earth (or about 149,597,870,700 of those sagebrushes up there on that hill above you), the sun is caught from the air, the way a spider catches flies, and springs to life, where there was otherwise only particles and waves passing through darkness. That means there are two suns. One made of hydrogen, and one a sacred plant that smells like split stone, right at the moment of splitting open.

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Worth a bit of love.

Beauty, Art and the Self

Beautiful, isn’t it.
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This, too.
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Note the patterning in this kind of thing.

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Sure, it was carefully framed, but oh so many frames were possible.

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They all have pattern.

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They’re all beautiful.

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The patterning is the gift of human observation. In order for there to be thought separate from the world, the kind of sensory connectivity shown in the images above must be separated from the world. It must have an observer and a thing observed. It’s a game, designed for certain ends. To achieve them, the actual connections between the two, that unite them into presence, must be given a name, separate from the moment of presence, or the separation cannot take place. This word is ‘beauty’. Just up from the water, for instance, separated from it by the frame of contemplation, is a rich community of water plants that have adapted to living in air …

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… and just up from them, a bearberry plant that is living in the heat gathered by a boulder left by glaciers, like the ones in the pond above.
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It is the same moment. It can be studied, contemplated and used to further many ends, including human security and culture. The great discovery of scientific thought, a form of book culture, is that this unity can be divided into pages, which can be studied one at a time, as if they were words, discrete and without connection to others, yet look how the carpet on the soil adapts to minute changes in circumstance and light, such as in the image below, beneath a fire pine taken down by beetles.

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Those subtle changes and continuities are part of human presence. By people who have learned to inhabit a tool called the self, a kind of cognitive freeze-frame camera, they are beauty, an enjoyable aesthetic frame that pleasurably satisfies an ancestral, genetic self. Yet it is the world. Look how it changes, as recorded by the image below. Note that these are not discrete moments, as the photographs suggest. They are connected. They are a flow of energy. You know how to read them. This capacity is called beauty. It is a profound order, an inhabitation of order, a being, a being there, here:

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A camera is a tool that can create the separation required to sever this human connection, so that the remaining physical or cognitive material can be used to create a secondary, virtual world more suitable for severed selves to inhabit. The camera can be used for other purposes, but it is a constant battle to do so. The machine freezes time and uses that moment of freezing to recreate ghosts of bodily presence. That’s what it’s for. Take a look at this sequence. It is three views from one kayak at one moment in September, looking to the north, to the east, and to the west, all within about a second or two.

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Such descriptions of time are meaningless in the moment, but are of great use to the self that is a book. Just a moment away, the forces of energy and matter and time that those photographs render into images, look like this:

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It is the same moment, but extended differently into spiritual space. This, too, up on the shore.

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Presence would be better served by a term other than beauty, because that term does not differentiate between the book self and the human capacity to be present in a continuum. To the book self, the continuum is meaningless, and can only be intuited by yet more divided knowledge. To presence, the divided knowledge is a machine, a device, a tool, and not identity. The need for better differentiation is clear. The word that keeps getting in the way is “creativity.” This, for instance, is not a creative photograph:

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Nor is this:

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To be creative, it must serve the expansion of the virtual self and the replacement of the world of presence, and the infinitely gradated ability of the human body to read and extend that presence, through the combination of pre-existing elements. This would be creative:
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Those are beautiful things. They represent the colonization of the world of the self by the world of presence, its humanization, shall we say. It is another representation of the ability of the human body to find spirit, wherever it may be found, and in whatever form its presence may take. We should be very clear about the differences and similarities between that and this eagle (below.)
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The world, and other people within it, have become prey. It need not be so. Ah, here you are at last.

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