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.

Do You Think Light Moves in Straight Lines?

Not when it combines with water. twist

Or with wind.


Then it flows like water.

With a spring of light added to it.p1420046

We begin here in this land.  Then we go further.


We could abstract straight lines from this landscape, but then we’d make our poetry out of emotions about the world, instead of reading the world in its own forms.


In the end, we wouldn’t be at home in the world.p1420188

We would call this beauty.p1420184

Instead of living in it. This is not nature.


It’s time to come home…p1190976

… to the flow.

Wind Light Water Light Wind

The water is grass in the wind.p1420172

The grass is water in the wind.


Again? The water is the sun in the wind.


The grass is the sun in the wind.


And without the wind?


Without the wind, the water takes its place.


Images from Priest Valley, including Okanagan Lake




Using Gravity Propulsion to Reach the Sun

The grasses below, in a rainwater pool in Grundarfjörður, Ísland, sure do. They are expressions of a force stronger than gravity. It is the force that holds water molecules together, and holds them together with each other. There is nothing in the image below which is not water, except for some carbon and some light.p1380044The grass is water, the water is, well, water, the carbon is bound with the water, and so is the light. If you look closely, you will see how the water’s surface actually denies the pull of gravity, when it strikes the edges of carbon strings (it could have been stone or any old thing). That is the force stronger than gravity which the grasses constrain in ladders of carbon, which they then used to force the sun to draw water up the ladders. By building the ladders tightly behind this rising flow, the grass has built a stalk, and onto the stalk, in the same process but drawn into far subtler dimensions, it has grown seeds, from the same process. It is all a process of water, soil and sun, held in tension by gravity but not defeated by it. Gravity, you see, doesn’t just pull things down (which it does well.)


Berserkjarhraunfoss from Behind

It binds them as well, but then, it is a binding principle, formed from a spinning world. The surface tension of water is just such a force, formed from a stronger energy: the cores of suns.


So, when someone tells you that the Okanagan is a land without water…


… you might tell them that when it was like Iceland (55,000,000 years ago), the stuff flowed all over the place, but now that gravity has woven the water into the land, it is more filled with life. It is dense with it, where we don’t force the water out and make it flow again.


If you work with that life, you will find that water, and you will begin to understand gravity as a living force.

The Earth Will Be Saved By Leaking Waterpipes

They call it a mud puddle, but, shucks, the frogs were croaking up that way a few weeks back.P1010480

Wear a long shirt after dusk. The little floating logs are mosquitoes. No wings yet. But very soon. The little black floaters are some kind of water beetle, with two rear oars. The little floating orange bits are very photogenic. No idea what they are. In this ocean, the ancient shoreline trees are quick grass.


There was a day not that long ago when the rhizomes of this grass were braided around the peat fires in the Hebrides, then cast out into the tides to catch flounders. I think these immigrants remember.

We Are Doing This Together



The bird that builds the nest builds it in the shape of its body, remembering the nest, and the egg, it comes from.P2320794

Every moment with the earth is an act of memory, whether given to words, or not. There is a language all people speak (not just humans), which is the language of bodies, which is the language of ancestors deep in time being spoken (lived) now. We are all opening.





Why It’s Important to Talk About Creativity

Over the past month I’ve exploring human identities and creativity and their impact on the environment. I do this because I have brothers and sisters, not just humans (but humans, too, including you), who I care about:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Those are just a few of the people I live with and who make my life. Living without them would be this:


Downtown Vernon, British Columbia

Over the last few weeks, I’ve presented a history of the development of the contemporary Western idea of self, and related that to three traditions of creativity:

American, which tries to activate a private Christ-like self to create a human who acts at one with God but leaves emotions as a mystery;

French, which leaves mystery and creativity to God, and encourages a self which makes refined objects out of received inspiration; and

German, which places creativity as part of a group that stretches back a few thousand years back in time.


The Green Man of Davos, Switzerland

This is indigenous memory that goes back through the first Cro Magnon settlers in Switzerland (their descendants are called the Swiss today) to the Himalayas, at least: to the roots of what we call human, at any rate.

Sure, Swiss. German is not a people. It is a language. You get up into the Swiss mountains and that German starts sounding like the French and the French like the German, and both of them sound like the Welsh from Caernarfon, which came from ancient Assyria long ago.


Caernarfon, from the Eagle Tower

One of the reasons I am doing this is aesthetic. I have two degrees in Creative Writing: the first, in 1980, was a degree in writing and the world, taught by a witch, who was a world expert on surrealism, poetic forms, literary modernism, the poetry of World War II, Robert Graves (the mid-century master of Mediterranean and Welsh mythology) and Welsh verse:



Robin Skelton …

… holding poet Susan Musgrave’s Surreal Art in his back garden.

The second degree, completed in 2007, was a masters level course in how to write in order to fit into North American pop culture, which, nonetheless, presented itself as a course in world writing. At that point, I realized that the discipline of Creative Writing had purified its American roots, and that earlier attempts to merge it with world literary culture had been overwhelmed. Social expression had supplanted art — the tradition of craft that had raised writing (and painting and sculpture, etc) as a vital member of the Enlightenment Triad of Art of Science and Religion that came from the dismemberment of the pre-Enlightenment Unified World. I am concerned that art is now expected to live wholly within the boundaries of a technological society, and interact with its citizens and technologies, first, and with the world through them. The thing is, though, I live here:


P2190425Coots Waiting to Migrate North

And one local gull looking for sandwich rinds or, well, hey, anything, really.

If anyone were to suggest, as contemporary Canadian forms of creativity and “art” do, that I have to give up my natural habitat, as encroached as it is …


… and take on a purely social one ….


This Blackbird Needs to Be in a Fir Tree Next to Those Rushes

Later, he needs to move into brown birches, and then the rushes themselves.

… that would be an unacceptable and dehumanizing demand, and yet that demand is made hourly and daily.


Rock Scaping

To adapt human lives to a technological water system, which has replaced the natural abundance of indigenous water systems in order to satisfy the needs of industrial agriculture and the political and social demands of deliberate overpopulation caused by inappropriate political systems, the land is turned into a parking lot. Better to recreate living human relationships with more than over-simplified social boundaries.

And so I have taken my long experience with art and creation and the reading and creation of texts, as well as my long experience with the quite different genre called Creative Writing, and have walked with them out into the world. The story today is not human. It is the earth.


Fraser River Sockeye Salmon NOT Making it to the Spawning Beds

It is a story of a warm river, the warmth of which is caused by certain ideas of the social embeddedness and rights of certain types of individual behaviour at the expense of others.

It is by expanding the sense of the human, based on accurate measurements of past human identity and creativity systems, that we can best change the earth. The image of the restaurant employee smoke pit and natural gas valve system is not a natural human environment. It is the environment for people constrained by technical definitions and power structures…



… that are very real and completely unacceptable. To expand this social conversation, I will next introduce other forms of creativity, from other cultural traditions —Icelandic, Native American (Plateau), Byzantine (Russian orthodox) and Islamic (Sufi). We could go on for months, around the world, but that’s a good start, and should be enough to make the point out of my own experience. I don’t want to talk about things which I do not know. That would be disrespectful.  Somehow, the human image below, needs to be reconstructed…


19th Century Human Technology

A will extended across a ruined grassland slope. The fence represents the boundaries of both body and will — the American actualized self — and converts the earth into land, or, to clarify, into a series of independent actualized selves creating a common culture through their interaction. No intellectual or artistic comment is allowable, because it is this act of conversion which is the root of the culture. The state of the grassland (see any grass?) shows just how little of the earth this concept is capable of maintaining.

To this, we all have to contribute how we can. By the offering the story of my experience with creativity, I hope to be able to enrich the language with which we all speak with the earth, and which becomes the earth that speaks with us.


This You

When you feel that without words, you will know that we are walking the same path. I call it human. It doesn’t matter what I call it. It’s life.

After completing my exploration of creative context, I will explore the nature of the self in its contemporary creative contexts, including artificial intelligence and other artificial human contexts. Then we will talk about the world and what we can do together.

The Earth Puts Her Roots in the Sky

I want to draw a correspondence today between leaves and soil. I think it’s pretty cool. First, here are some leaves doing just fine without soil. Welcome to mullein.


When it finishes its second year, it looks like this:


Notice as well, how the seams of quartz and agate in an uplifted and dynamited bedrock wall, create tracks of water and gravity which mullein (and its friends) love.


The sand and clay kicked down by deer following similar patterns through the rock face as they skitter down is not what the mullein below has spent the summer growing in. Instead, it has thrust its roots deep into a seam in the rock, and is using the film of water and minerals between the two walls of that seam, drawn towards it by gravity and the capilliary action of the sun on the hot rock face, which draws the water out like wire.


Here’s what that space of surfaces and the water between them, drawn outward and upward by the sun, looks like when it becomes self-replicating. The wasp is a bonus!


Now, one more ingredient: within all life, including this guy …



… DNA strands are folded in just such a way that they are open to receive just the right genes, in order, and no other. Leaves are extensions of this principle as well.


Cottonwood, Vernon, British Columbia

They extend this precision folding in a way that transfers chemical molecules and photons of light in a specific order, rotates them to expose their weakest electron links, and pressures them to transfer electrons across a membrane. Out of these transferred electrons, they recombine hydrogen, carbon and oxygen in specific ways to create sugars. The biosphere is powered by these sugars, just as the earth is powered by the sun.


Fire Pines in the Yellowstone Caldera

To recap: the root in the crack and the leaf in the air are doing similar work; the root is tapping into minerals transferred from deep in the rock by the molecular bonds of water drawn into the sun; the leaf is using folded, replicated pieces of bonded hydrogen, oxygen and carbon to allow electrons to drift out into positively charged space, and be stored there in sugars, from which their electrical charges can be released later. It can be a beautiful thing to watch. There is, for instance, more sunlight in the sumac leaves below than there is in the air around them.


Male Staghorn Sumac After Flowering

It works both ways. Those leaves are roots in the sun.

Rowan, Opening in the Spring Sun

The plant is a point of balance: the membrane, or series of surfaces, given form.


Next: the beautiful mathematics of soil surfaces.

Living Soil

Here’s some soil:

It’s a series of shelters, which capture water, minerals and heat, and amplify the conditions for light and seed germination, in the warm area in the first millimetres above the earth’s surface.Yes, I know, this isn’t “soil” as the dictionary defines it:

The top layer of the earth’s surface in which plants can grow, consisting of rock and mineral particles mixed with decayed organic matter and having the capability of retaining water.

But look at this:


That image of moss fulfills this definition of soil (the 5th of five in online dictionaries):

 place or condition favourable to growth; a breeding ground.

Such a breeding ground can become complex:


That’s definitely soil, and is full of life. It’s also a growing surface. The common definition looks like the corn (and tomato) field below:


Note the chopped up cornstalks, and the chopped up and shredded plastic sheeting, designed to heat this ground up to achieve a similar effect to the one the mound of moss in the image below does on its own.


Mounds have been shown to dramatically raise the temperature of their environments and are the chosen form of plants in extreme environments. Notice how the mound above has a fellow traveller, a sprouted flowering plant putting out its first leaves. The flat, warm surface of the earth has been amplified, and in this heat, with the water that is trapped in the moss, like this water caught between these pine needles, …

… the plant has many basic needs fulfilled. Rather than flowing away, the water is held by the tension between two surfaces, at which point its own surface tension, amplified by the support of the surfaces around it, is stronger than gravity.


The “agricultural soil” that is “the top surface of the earth” is doing no more: the soil has one surface, but beneath that surface all the grains of mineral of which it is formed amplify that surface area many millions of times, and allow that water to bind and defy gravity. It makes a web not that dissimilar from the multi-year complex of this stag horn sumac:


Plants pick it up from there. Above ground, none of that is visible. It looks like “soil” is a magical mineral and compost mix, not that that is a clumsy approximation of a complex life-giving environment.



This subterranean story is not much different from the moss story except that the agricultural version of this soil is a simplified, manufactured material. Plant growth is chopped up and tilled into a mineral substrate, along with its plastic heating technology; simple bacterial and fungal growth, feeding off of the petroleum-based fertilizer which has provided nitrogen, essential for plant growth (and otherwise obtainable from the atmosphere, at least in complex living environments) decays that material into water-absorbing cellulose filaments and releases trace minerals, which another generation of plants can use. It’s an intervention.


It’s not pretty, though, and it’s a very simplified system that, without the application of nitrogen fertilizers or industrially-grown and sown seeds, produces only simplified weed cultures, of little value to anyone.



It is a new age of the earth. No-one knows what these weed ecologies are doing, because no-one is watching them. Certainly, they are building soil, and that is most true, but what, then is soil? The manufactured, mulch product, such as this desert landscape with unpicked tomatoes?


No, it’s far more. It is recreating life. Here’s a clue, from the shade under an old sagebrush plant on the hill.



Soil is a complex environment of fungi and bacteria and other microorganisms. They are the living things that cluster around the roots of plants like these blue bunch wheat grasses…


… or around the roots of larger plants like this robin-rich cottonwood …


… and recreate the living soil surface in the complex weather patterns of the underground atmosphere. Yes, there is one. When the air content of soil goes below a certain threshold, through either compaction or water saturation, everything dies. Air is key. After all, these plants couldn’t tolerate drowning.


Neither can their sisters underground. The atmosphere above the soil is turbulent. In it, water is released from saturation into precipitation and is taken back up again to balance the pressure of the air.


It’s the same underground, except there the process is expressed through the work of up to 1,000 different species per cubic metre of grassland soil; there, water, clinging to the mineral particles of the soil, attracts minerals, extracted not from the clouds by the sun and the cold, but extracted by microorganisms, and passed onto plant roots, which provide them with oxygen, which they breathe out. The large cousins of these microorganisms on the surface are doing this work, too. There we call it photosynthesis.


Each leaf is the earth. The earth is a leaf. Soil is not mineral. It is a living process of breath, as is the way leaves breathe the sun and the air and make stone move and bloom.

P2070619 P2020335 P2110471


Next: more on the relationship between photosynthesis, soil atmosphere, plants and the sky.

Gravity Pools



Not soil.


9 years, nothing growing yet.



Not soil.

Nothing even germinates here.



You find soil where water pools. (Rocks, too.)


It is life — a gravitational effect that manifests itself at boundaries.


Mineral earth is just mineral earth. A good place for bees to burrow.


Very small bees.

Plants prefer even rocks over that stuff.


The life that grows in mineral earth is growing in the soil within the earth, not the earth.


Plants, after all, came from the sea. They know about stuff like this. Gravity pools, a form of dry land tidal pool, help. Below is a pool of green water in a deer’s footprint (centre left).


Here’s a gravity pool collecting rain within a stone.


Here’s one flowing, as water will.


Plants root in life like this. Dirt is just an environment of ground up mountains that allows soil, a kind of living weather, to form, if the conditions are right.