Puddinhead Mountain Wakes

In the valley that raised me and gave me my children, the old volcanic country of the Similkameen, filled with the gravel glaciers gouged out of the Okanagan to the east, the mountains are the sky, and a form of weather.

This is the crest of Puddinhead Mountain at sunbreak this morning. If you’re from the prairies, you might be forgiven for wondering what all this rock is doing in the way of the sky, but if you’re from here you know: this is the sky. And it is breathing.

To watch it, you stand on a river of stones some 350 metres deep.

To climb the mountain is to enter the sky country, the Seeahpoo, the country of sight.

I met a badger on this mountain when I was twelve years old. This is not my spirit mountain, though. That’s a little to the south, but this is close, and she is waking with the year…

…and me with her. Who on earth mis-named her Puddinhead, and why? Does anyone know?


I Am the Mountain

Today, let’s go on a little journey to my home valley, the Similkameen. I’d like to show you the link between a part of the earth, my recent posts on photography and light, and how this blog came about as an exploration of the power within earth systems to generate, store and move energy. This is more than personal. Here’s the old Similkameen moon.

P1130273 Moon Setting Over the Shoulder of K Mountain

These photographs were taken from an orchard I was pruning in Keremeos. I was a child and learned the ways of the earth five miles to the east. What I want to show you today is consistent in both places. Here’s the view east to my home farm.

P1130325Lousy pictures, I know, but, hey, I was pruning. The pic is just good enough to show you  that in an environment like this the whole idea that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west is not immediately apparent. Here, this is the view to the North over the eastern shoulder of Puddin’head Mountain and the post-glacial flood chute leading to the Okanagan.
P1130302 See that? Same darned sunrise! What about to the south?

P1130326 Yup, same thing! Oh, and the moon? Well, the clouds shift this way and that, so a few seconds after I saw the moon above, this happened:

P1130305 See that? Moon’s going down, sun’s coming up (to the south!) and it’s doing so on the mountain itself, not in the sky. Now, just imagine Harold at 4 years of age, sitting in the crotch of a peach tree and learning about the world from a trickster valley like this… and contemplating this kind of stuff:

dalyCloud Shadows on Daly Mountain

See that? The mountains are the sky. Clouds skitter across the earth most everywhere, but not always in the air. When you look up to read the weather, you read the mountains. If you crane your head up to look at the atmosphere, not only are you risking hurting your neck but you’ll only see chopped up bits of blue and white (black and white at night). At no time do you get the idea that there is a dome of air above the earth, or an atmosphere around a nearly spherical planet: you get a river of light above a sky of stone. The moon shows itself and disappears at wildly different times, too. And what is the moon’s light? Why, a reflection of the sun.

P1130419Sunlight Reflecting off of the Cawston Creek Draw

Spots of light like this change by the minute.

When I was 5 years old I was sitting on a branch of a ponderosa pine tree, kicking me feet and watching the mountain (again.) My favourite spot was a grove of aspens trees high up above the farm. Every fall they turned bright yellow. I thought they were talking to me. I also thought it was the sun. The sun part was right. Well, it’s the wrong time of year for golden leaves, but here’s Young Harold’s grove of trees, a bit blurry, but, hey, it’s been half a century, right?

P1130420Aspens Among the Douglas Firs, Kobau Mountain

Notice how the shadows and light have changed places. In the Similkameen, the twists and turns of the valley, and the steepness of the valley walls, mean that different vertical faces get heated differently by the sun, and at different times. The result is wind, either from cold air flowing into the valley from an unheated slope or air shifting from one side of the valley to the other because of heating high up. If you’re thinking of Young Harold in his pine tree, remember that the branches are swaying and the needle brushes of the pine are scattering light in all directions as they move. After enough years of this, you’re going to start putting things together and coming up with a project about environmental energy harvesting using the power of the sun as it intersects with the forms and energies of the earth, and, presto, you have this blog. Not only that, you have this:

P1130423Clouds on Daly Mountain Again

The town of Keremeos remains in the shadow of K-Mountain. It’ll take awhile for that to change.

I’d like you to contemplate those clouds as a form of photography: light and shadow making patterns on a mineral plate. It’s just, well, ever-changing, that all. It’s not “fixed” in a single image. Here’s a form of photography that’s a bit more fixed in that sense, though:


Macintosh Apple Trees 

I mean, aren’t trees the same thing as a photograph? Light strikes the earth and forms an image, that remains stable over time? Well, yeah, it grows and changes, but that’s where 12-year-old Harold comes in. Harold?

12-Year-Old Harold: I’m learning to prune apple trees this spring. My father is teaching me by putting me out among the trees and letting me figure it out on my own. It’s very frustrating.

But isn’t it a great way to learn? Think of the close attention you have to pay to how the trees are growing!

12-Year-Old Harold: Ask me in 44 years. Right now it’s just hard. 

It’s beautiful, though, and the branches are warm in the sun.

12-Year-Old Harold: Yup.

I’ve thought for years that that pruning was my first art form, as it was very sculptural, but I realized yesterday as the sun and the moon and the clouds played across the stone sky of the Similkameen that, really, it was a kind of physical photography, that I learned to walk through. Here’s some of that light glowing like the moon Puddin’Head Mountain, a big heap of basalt and shale over towards the ancient volcano at Crater Mountain.

P1130330I guess that with this kind of photography the developed image is in the mind of the observer. I guess that if you’re a kid there, you become the photograph. Well, that’s a human thing. You become the environment that raised you. It imprints itself on you and you become it. If I had been raised in a city, human-earth relationships would not be so vital for me, or I’d understand them cognitively and wouldn’t be out in Keremeos at 8 a.m. pruning on a February morning, watching the eagles catch those valley winds and soar almost a mile above me. That’s why I’ve been taking so many pictures of ice lately, taking the energy of this valley one further step.

Next: Ogopogo — a step further yet!


Birds at Work

Want to get your colour palette right? Follow the birds! They make art, too.

P1180114 Staghorn Sumac 

Think of it like a paintbrush.

And what do the birds make of it?


Jackson Pollock, move over. The kings are here.

Yes, it’s random. No, it’s not art, because it’s not human, but it is the same thing, only expressed through the actions of a different species.

If humans continue to search for intelligence in the universe, one lesson they will have to learn well is: it won’t be human. Another is: it won’t fit neatly into contemporary concepts of individual behaviour. Those are just fashion.

pommeSimilkameen Apple after a Heavy Snowfall, Bahati Farm, Keremeos

 Art, as the Universe lives it.

Hi-Tech Water

Trees don’t always need much water. Here’s an apple tree that is doing very fine, thank you very much, without irrigation:

Apple Tree Standing Like a Horse in a Field

Coldstream Ranch

Here’s a pine that simply shrugs the idea of water off …

Pine up High on Noble Canyon Ridge

This limestone conglomerate is perfect for cave formations, but no one has found one yet. Maybe this pine has.

Here’s one of that pine’s cousins, just along the ridgeline …

Pine in a Crack

Clever, huh! To heck with drip irrigation systems. This pine shows that we can plant anywhere that water gathers, no matter how briefly. This pine is the vertical expression of water that really wanted to flow downhill. It bloomed instead.

And that’s the secret of this planet. It is surrounded by oxygen that should not be here but is because plants reverse the natural processes of energy loss. Planet-wide, it means that the atmosphere is dynamic, and not stable. Up close and personal, it means that plants make water flow uphill. Here’s the human method of trying to duplicate that:

Irrigation Pump, Keremeos

A blue water system for making water flow uphill. It taps into the vast river flowing through the deep post-glacial gravels of the Similkameen. Notice the green water pumps on the backside of Daly Mountain, above Siberian Flats, in the background.

Trees are showing us a way of moving the rain and the sun through space and time. One with no monthly bill.

Smart Architecture

Architecture is an art that balances functionality, beauty, innovation and tradition. It gives us stuff like this:

American Robin Summer House, Keremeos

Grass and mud living quarters, decorated with binder twine and resting on an anti-shock foundation of packing foam, tarp shreds, bubble wrap, and greenhouse plastic in an old Summer Red Apple Tree.


Human View Houses in the Fog Okanagan Landing