How to Travel in Time, Seriously: an Indigenous Journey

Well, to travel in time, you could just wait, like this stink bug on this mustard.

Here it is, three generations ago:

It’s blending in better now!

European thinking holds that we are now at the end of a year (a circuit of the earth around the sun), with life coming to fruition in death. That’s Celtic, really, and ancient. It is a powerful story that controls the way human minds and bodies interact with Earth.

Earth Creature, you know where to go here, because this is your body, and your mind. It looks like it’s “out there,” but that’s trick of consciousness. Don’t be fooled too much.

If you postulate time, you see it as self-evident that the seasons progress one from the other, in circuit. If you don’t build time into the system, then you move through the earth differently. Take a look at the snow buckwheat below. Note the variation in ripening.

The orange snow buckwheat bloomed in a dimension called “three months ago.”

The white individuals, especially those at the immediate bottom of the slope…

… are blooming now. That’s how it is in narrative time. Outside of time, in time-space, shall we say, they are blooming all at once, just in different dimensions. Western thought might call those micro-environments, or variations in a species. Earth thought would call them environments of time: rain capture, soil structure, snow melt, genetic variation, the gamut. In that sense, this wasp from 15 months ago is clambering through the snow buckwheat now.

By stepping between one and the other, by moving from the dimension of one plant to that of another, you move through that time. Western thought would call it space and memory. Note the high altitude lake, run through the houses of the city below, then filtered, now pumped high up here to irrigate a vineyard.

That’s part of Western thought’s attitude to time and space as well, sculpted for maximum use of machinery, although not maximum use of land, and is part of the picture, obviously. You can’t pick and choose. You get the whole thing.

 

I suspect that might all sound strange, so look here, if you will at an image of a little meadow of wheat grass, arrow-leafed balsam root, big sage and lots of weedy cheatgrass, in bloom.

Here, look again. Western reckoning places this dimension in parameters called June 7. Look how the cheatgrass, an invasive weed, is already red with Autumn, while the plants of 5,000 years ago are standing up to their waves.

Ah, you spotted the doe. She never left. Here she is. That’s her trail leading downhill to the corner of the vineyard fence…

… and uphill in the image I first showed you, from the same spot. 

That spot is a point of human presence in time. A dog would smell its way through this. When I start walking, time shifts, to reveal and hide its parameters and its dimensions. A hill moves as I move through the bodily shapes that form my sense of it, that push my body to where I have to go, from this …

… to this …

 

Note how the shifting of the hills has nothing to do with legal boundaries.

… to this …

 

… to this …

 

… and then to this…

… as I move through time. Note the deer trail. Today, I let it lead me, let the hills push me between their forms, accepted that the forms were my thoughts, and was swept uphill and to the west…

… and higher…

… following the deer trail the whole way …

… — the trail of the deer who were being swept in this direction by the land as well, as it matched their own bodies and their own minds. This deer is right here, right now, I realized…

…because it always present. It can be in no other place. And sure enough …

… we are in the same place.

I turned away, because driving them from their grazing was not in my interests. Keeping on the uphill path was. Again, I let the land guide me.

Because I have the ability, as an Earth creature, to see through space, that is to see form behind a screen of spring, or saskatoons and choke cherries, if you like, through my peripheral vision, that is, where I’m not even looking, I was seen in turn, and stepped just to the right for a better look…

Note that there’s something on the hill above me that his attention more than I do. A hawk perhaps. They follow wanderers, screaming, to see what flushes up in front of them, or me. I dunno, but…

… when he passed behind the Saskatoon and I passed higher up the hill so it would turn the earth to face me, he passed across time so that the earth would put the does in his site again — too early to approach, but early enough to keep them in mind. It’s not hard to find your way when you are the land.

Such a simple thing. Look at the wetland hiding behind the hill, home of bears and porcupine, woodpeckers, grouse and deer. It is a herd up there. One can expect herds from it, because it moves time across what Western thought calls the seasons. Look how green those trees are, watered by a fold in an old seabed 100,000,000 years old, while the land the earth turns to the sun is dry with invasive cheatgrass and the big sage that crowds in after cattle have over-grazed the earth.

As you would expect, it forces the deer off it. All that’s left is land humans have claimed for themselves. It’s a pretty spare life on the edge of time and space. Do you see that clump of Great Basin Giant Ryegrass at the edge of the gravel?

 

It’s more than at first meets the eye.

And at night, which is not a time but a dimension, a space, the coyotes go partying in the vineyard and then burst out.

Look. They are here right now.

Note the deer tracks entering from the left. The paths join here.

At all times they know where the deer are. They walk the same path. So do we, if we let the land walk us.

What It’s Like to Belong to an Ecosystem

So, remember the early moons of the year, when Siya? (Saskatoon) was opening out of winter’s buds that she held in offering on her stems?

Well, look at the offering now: light. Siya? is all offering. That’s a way of saying that this is our plant. It is for us. That’s why I can see it and can say “she is all offering.”

And what is this collecting of light and its extension into my mind for? Ah, for this:

They are meant to be taken. They are incomplete if we do not, but not just us.

This is what it is to be a part of an ecosystem. Western culture calls our reaction to Siya? “thought”, “hunger” and “desire.” It is none of those things. It is more.

Why Populism is a Bad Thing

Populism is a form of political system which furthers the beliefs of a class called “the people” against a class called “the elite.” We could call “the people” any of the following:

regular folks, white people, local people, indigenous people, poor people, and so on;

and we could call “the elite” the following:

rich folks, intellectuals, scientists, bureaucrats, career politicians, town houses, land owners, property developers, and so on,

or if we like, we could call the elite the following:

regular folks, white people, local people, indigenous people,  poor people, and so on;

and we could call the people the following:

rich folks, intellectuals, scientists, bureaucrats, career politicians, town houses, land owners, property developers, and so on.

Oh, brother. Let’s do a little experiment. Imagine, for a moment, that this fellow is “the people”:

And imagine, for a moment, that this is “the elite:”

Sound far-fetched? Not really. The porcupine lives in a riparian area draining from the back side of this hill. This upthrust lump of seabed, in other words, creates the conditions in which the porcupine lives. But, alas, look again:

The porcupine does not exist in a “natural” world. It uses a culvert as a short cut under a fence, to access a walking trail in an old irrigation canal to access its trail down to a farmer’s compost pile, which has fed its family for generations, well, in between nibbling on choke cherry bushes in the winter snow. At the same time, the “natural world” is not a proper elite. Look at it, just a kilometre to the west:

The elites of this city (and this is in the city), who tend to be retired oil men or the people who are developing the land for their houses, often call this a wasteland of weeds and cactus. They are rather correct. Look again:

A thousand hectares of once-productive grassland for one cow? No, two. The other one was behind a rock off to the right of the image. This is land that once powered the elites of Canada in this region, ranchers for whom the grasslands were sacrificed and for whom all property rules were created. 150 years ago, the act of privatizing this land, fencing it from indigenous use and putting cattle upon it was called development. Now the so-called elite wants it to be developed into productive farmland, with the weeds (both weeds and natural grasses) cut down to make good grazing, or the land broken up and turned into housing lots for “the people,” who tend to be “the elite.” This is not an elite which provides direction for the people. It’s just open competition. So, let’s look again:

When this land was first settled, it was farmed as “common land,” with open access to all. That meant that open grazing of cattle was available to everyone, which sounded mighty egalitarian but resulted, sadly, in the end, with the first man who could get his cattle on the land, often due to his wealth and power, getting the benefit of the grass and the rest of the ranchers (and the indigenous syilx) getting, well, dead cows. Privatization of land was meant to settle that. In other words, a form of populism.

The result of that, however, is that whoever places a house on this “privatized” or “popularized” land gets the benefit of the land, and changes the nature of the land, not for the common good of the land but for whatever purposes he wants, with no oversight other than the populist principle that a private owner knows best and his rights are inviolate. This is one reason that populism is a silly idea. The German sociologist Karin Priester, who has studied, among topics, Italian fascism and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, calls populism a relational idea with an empty heart. It is, by the way, this heart that populists such as Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini filled with mystic substance, in the place of rational analysis. In short, the term is a mess, and yet its ideas, and the relationships they present, are rife in contemporary society. They create a gap between oil men, on the one hand, and indigenous peoples, on the other, which governments then try to bridge, often against the protests of “the people” and, often, the protests (called appeals to the Supreme Court) of the oil men. This is the normal state of affairs. It can only, ultimately lead to one end, this: 

“The people” might want a grassland hill, or might want development, and “the elite” might want a grassland hill, or might want development. In reality, though, the productive capacity of the land has been destroyed. You are looking at a couple hundred hectares of richly productive indigenous land that can’t even support a single cow, and whose grasses have been replaced by weeds. You are looking at weeds. You are not looking at nature, because there is no “nature” at the heart of populism, even though Hitler and Mussolini argued that “natural man”, i.e. the heart of populism, knew best. That’s the trick of populism: it makes dichotomies where none exist, legitimizes, even creates, bad behaviour, and leads, always, to the dehumanization of the earth in the name of human values. These are issues which Karl Marx blamed on capitalization and its distortions of social relationships. Sure. Maybe. The smoky forest-fire light that this loon is swimming in could be called the result of capitalist distortions of healthy forest policy…

…but it might be more usefully called the distortion of populist policy, that places “nature” as an elite, which “the people”, i.e. humans, have a basic political right to draw upon, and which will support them unquestionably, as long as they adjust their courtly behaviour (land use plans) to fit the moods of the elite (the land.) Populism is dangerous, not because it pits one group of people against another but for 2 reasons:

It creates separate groups of people.

It is a series of relations without a heart (a good definition of death), which replaces a series of relations which create life.

Relationships will always be there, but there is a big difference between a wooden house filling an ecological niche and a loon filling it, or between people who weave relationships which include the earth (i.e. weave relationships between so-called elites and so-called “people”) and those which treat it as a queen (nature), which will always return energy, forever, without input of any kind. It is a dangerous seduction.

Hidden Water in a Year of Drought

In a year of stress, everyone, from those ants to the right to the leaf miner that left its trail in this cottonwood leaf, is mining the last pools of spring water for life. Deciduous tree behaviour doesn’t just benefit trees. It stores large amounts of water, builds protected environments, and maintains them with deep, underground water through the heat. Without this so-called inefficiency, the land would burn to a crisp, even the fire-adapted grasses, native and feral together, below.

The End of White Privilege in the Okanagan

For about 125 years, my valley has been the setting for the creation of a White homeland. It started in a British Empire that was largely Asian, looking for a racial state for a Britain driven to overpopulation by industrialization: the same force that drove Americans west across the continent to dislodge native peoples there. After the First World War, the whiting of the Okanagan continued by embracing other Europeans, after the British population was decimated by insane class-based military bungling in the trenches in France. During these two seminal generations,the indigenous population was confined ever more tightly to tiny “Indian Reserves” and the land that it had cared for for 6,000 years, was now approached out of european ignorance as “nature.” Its wealth was soon drawn down ecologically until now it is a ruin of weeds and burning forests and smoke. Well, it’s all over. It ended this summer. It is the end of White privilege in the Okanagan.

“The Rise” Development

Government ecological-protection legislation allowed for the legal ruin of essential grassland here in Vernon, through, in part, its replanting with native bunchgrass. This image shows how invasive cheatgrass is rapidly making inroads. It will soon replace the bunchgrass with a one-species wasteland of drought, because no one is minding the show. They’re not doing so because this is “nature”, and hence outside of human control. What nonsense.

Sure, land will continue to be abused, indigenous people will continue to be excluded from decision making processes or land use, but it’s all done on borrowed time now. Still, white culture continues to build for its views (all that foreigners can understand of a landscape) and continues to play, even when the valley is full of the smoke of burning forests caused by a hundred years of forest mismanagement, in general, and 25 years specifically. The smoke is “nature”, the pillar of whiteness, burning up.

Okanagan Lake, Below Bella Vista Road and Okanagan Hills Boulevard

 

White culture is so affluent that even in the smoke it can continue to offer elite views to the working class. Working class? Yes. The wealthy part of it. You can be sure that the elite white classes have already packed up for their second or third homes in Maui or Bermuda or Portugal or are the colonial elite teaching English in China.

As it was in the beginning, White settlement in the valley is fortress culture….

…and every view of smoke and shame is for sale, on the bluff that it is still a view of “nature.”

Even a view of smoke and shame. As I said, White culture has so much power it will continue for a long time here, but it will do it out in the open now. It does not own this land. That’s not to say that the syilx, our indigenous people, do. No-one does. But we all do together. Fire certainly does. At the moment, we all own the shame and the smoke. We could all own the pride. This couple just over the mountains at Willow Point already do:

 

Gymnasts in the Lavender

Oh, hello.
It’s a thing. With legs like hers (she is, let’s say, about 7 centimetres from tip to tip ), you can jump from twig to twig, in three dimensional space. It’s not like a bee in the flowers, though. This is hunting.

There were four in this bush, hunting together. So, here’s the thing: there are regulations for protecting indigenous landscapes, for the planting of bunchgrasses, mostly. These improvements are welcome, especially in disturbed lands in housing developments, but when the mule deer are locked into them and eat all the wild flowers down to their roots, and it gets on the middle of August, the place is close to a desert. Planting lavender and  Russian sage helps, so does the dill in my garden, not to mention a bit of queen anne’s lace and some red orach, while we sort out how to make deer corridors, hack down the sagebrush, and replant the wild flowers, especially thistles and all the species  that used to grow along the borders of valley bottom wetlands that are no more. Our wetlands are our houses now. The survival of wasps, like these beautiful gymnasts, is up to us. “Wildness” does not come into question. That’s just White thinking, and we don’t need that any more. Or maybe just some wild lettuce. We could manage that.

Or just some smokebush. Look at this tiny wasp below. She likes smokebush.

And, hey, smokebush, that’s a pharmaceutical plant. We could do our lungs some good at the same time.

People of the Wind

One after another,the grassland opens further. Something is ripening here.

It’s easy to share space if you are thin, and working on rhythms of opening and closing that intersect at the point at which one species needs water and another needs to release it.

It is the way a trout holds still in a flowing pool.

It helps to signal your presence.

Even petals can rise and fall in the rhythms of this pattern. Look how they are falling out in the bloom below in the opposite sequence from which they came in.

Going to seed in sequence helps. There are no clear seasons here.

It’s all one-after-the-other here. For humans, it’s all-at-once. That’s how a migratory, predatory species thinks through individuals that come together into groups by releasing its defenses and including the other within the self. That’s profound, but so is the grassland that thinks together. Every space that is closed opens.

This is water’s journey. It falls from the wind, opens into life, and then, when the wind is a closed space, opens again into the wind: opening after opening after opening opening openings.

Only a grassland thinks like this. Only water thinks this way here.

This is the spirit of a grassland. Here, and this is the big secret, humans can let down their boundaries and live in the sky as well, by extending the social group to these ends.

We are not just a predatory species. These grasslands are our ancient homes. Much has been forgotten, but much has been remembered, too. We are remembering it now as we put a close to the closings below.

 

 

 

 

Flittering Beauty

You know, swallowtails are striped so pretty. It makes for camouflage, when you’re in among the leaves… but is that really the whole deal? Have a look …

It’s a motion blur! The wings are separating into many wings, but only in motion.

That’s how to vanish in plain sight!

Gorgeous. It’s a “mind” carefully calibrated to bring butterfly and bird together into the same ladder of light.

Look at that tail. It has become a wing looked at on edge.

Now, that’s beautiful, given how they flitter and all.

Gorgeous beings!

Apples Make Their Own Heat

Here’s my Spigold opening up last week. Note how the sun drew the leaves out quickly, but the flowers take their time, drawn out more slowly by the heat their fur traps close to their skins and the heat the red spectrum of their first show of petals gathers from the sun. What tiny worlds. What tiny energy effects!

This isn’t global warming. It’s local warming!

In the end, 500 gram apples are the result. It takes time. We have that.