What Crows Know About People in Cascadia

When Coyote trades his eyes for pebbles like Crow’s below, he can’t see a thing.P2280807

It’s very funny. Each pebble is the world.


Hard to choose! Each one really is the world.


In each, the world appears to a differing degree of purity, but each one is the world.



With an eye like that you can see the forces of the universe. Nebulas, star clusters, black holes, dark matter, that kind of thing.


But you might not see the audience.P2290460

Crow, who’s telling this joke is happy about that, because he’s having a bad hair day.


A really bad hair day.


And, really, he wants you to see him like this:


In my country on the north eastern Pacific shore, this is funny stuff. The world is a joke here. It’s not something to deflate human pretensions. That’s a human pretension. Best just to laugh. You can’t hide here.P2290166

So, which one is it?


A pair perhaps?


One note: you can’t tell this story, because you’re in it. Here’s its author.


As for human pretensions, they’re not funny. Oh, wait, yes they are.



Even when they get away from themselves they do it together. Now, that’s a joke worth sharing.


Bad hair or not.

Creativity in Iceland

Iceland was long isolated from the rest of Europe and maintained ancient, pre-industrial modes of creativity, economics and land use long after they had been rendered obsolete elsewhere. Many parts of Icelandic culture did not leave an indigenous sense of land until the Second World War, when occupation by American and British military forces completely transformed the economy.


Abandoned Turf House, North Iceland

The wind, I promise, is unforgiving here. The house is built directly in it, on the crest of a hill above the Greenland Sea, so that the wind will take the winter snow away. The rest of the year is scarcely warmer. I would have left, too. And I love the wind!

For one thing, in Iceland you’re always under the observant eyes of ravens, who range out to the left and right of the god Oðin, acting as the harbingers and scouts of all identity: thought and memory. Here’s one keeping an eye on me.


You Are Never Alone in Iceland, Hengifossá

One of the technologies that Iceland brought forward into the present is Nordic Mythology. It was preserved here, although lost everywhere else, and provides an alternate world view to all others. For one thing, it has humans dwelling on Middle Earth, between worlds of Fire and Ice. Middle earth is where they battle for dominance. The fire …


… and ice are never far, and come from beyond the world.


Snæfells, with Reindeer and Geese

This is a complex and deep heritage, which contains such creative technologies as haying …



Haying is the Art of Creating a Book out of the Sun

You can read it all winter long, or your sheep can. My book The Art of Haying explores these mysteries.

… the string …


Icelandic Horse Obeying The String That is a Human Will

… non-human personhood …


Icelandic Horse Scratching Its Head at the Mystery of It All

… the self living in the forms of the land…


Elf City, South Iceland

…in union with ancient story …


Raven Mountain, North East Iceland

… and creativity rising not from person but from space, in an ancient conception called the Tun.


Cow, Calf and Tun

 All these technologies and many more meet in the culture of Iceland. The culture is their expression. Humans pass through this culture’s forms, in the same way they ride (or walk) across the land.



Golfing With Elves and the Dead, Too

In Iceland, nothing gets thrown away.

It’s the tun I’d like to talk about in terms of creativity today. A tun is something that you can observe (and take part in) everywhere in Iceland (and in the North). Here’s a tun in Denmark (the former colonizing power, grrr):

010Half-Timbered Danish Farmhouse

Den Fynske Landsby, Fyn, Danmark. The working courtyard in front follows the ancient Norse (and thereafter Icelandic) architectural model of a tun, an open air working room between buildings. 

A tun is a building without walls or roof, where the money-making activity of the farm took place, and where the manure (the dung, a variant of the word “tun”) was stored, which could be spread on the fields to create future wealth. It is the source of economy.


Horse-drawn Wealth Spreader Waiting for Re-use

Hedge fund version 1.0.

The tun usually connected to the track to the next farm, or out to the world of trade. Here’s a variant on a tun, from East Iceland…

landhusLandhus Farm Barn, Fljótsðalur

In this case, the tun is the road itself. It’s the architectural space (within the landscape rather than the farmyard) that carries forth the energy of the tun.


Icelandic Highway 1 in March, Mývatnssveit

Park your car here on the way back home from work. 

The word “tun” is the German for “to do”. The English word is “doing.” 


A nice triad!

It is a place of energy that creates the economy and trade and activity of a country (or a farm), or lets it efficiently take place. It is the place where the future is created. Without it, the activity of humans would not be as organized as it is, nor could it be efficiently packed up and exported from the farm (or the country.) Iceland, of course, is a sophisticated modern country, so we can expect this source of energy to take many forms today. Here are a few:

Parking Strip.

streetArt Project in Downtown Reykjavik

The pattern of tun-in-the-pasture is reversed to pasture-in-the-tun. (The tun is Reykjavik.) This pasture, though, is in the shape of a disused turf house. Clever stuff!

Movie theatre.

theatreThe Reykjavik Movie Theatre is Also a Place of Exchange.

Note that this is a re-purposed building. In other words, not only is the movie theatre a contemporary tun, but the building acts as one as well.


church2Vik Church, South Iceland

 A very useful tun for work with souls. In this case, the houses of the village take the place of the buildings of a farmyard.


treehouseSummerhouse in Kirkjubærjarklaustur

The trees are part of a nation building program of the Icelandic government. They represent not only shelter and beauty, but future money in the bank. In this sense, they operate as a dung heap in a tun. The land itself has been separated from itself into a special tun space here. Here’s something different…


truckA Movable Tun

This tun represents a combined cognitive, social and bodily space. It moves around and around through Reykjavik, invading people’s dreams and re-shaping them into effervescent images of mineral water. Not into the dance scene? No problem…


Icelandic Farmstead. 

Note the elf house in the foreground. It’s good to live close to your neighbours.

From the perspective of a capital economy, this capital has depreciated to the point of needing to be replaced with a new depreciation sequence paid for with interest. In a tun-based economy, the expense of taking wealth from the land in order to build structures upon it is a debt that will be erased only when the creative (tun-ish) potential given from the land and embodied in the building and the tractor are mined dry and these materials (dung-wise) rot back into the earth. They are, in other words, a fertilizer. You don’t paint fertilizer. You also don’t throw it away. Want something more adventuresome? Iceland has that too.


Svinafellsjokul, Skaftafell National Park

A glacier is part of the common wealth of a country, that which belongs to all of the people and brings water and energy to all. It’s not just the people, either. It also brings energy to the land itself. Here, you can see what that looks like, on the other side of the glaciers.



Aka glacier turning into light. Very good for the soul.

A glacier can attract tourists (and mine them for wealth), provide healthy recreation for the people (an idea of nature, imported from coal-smoke-choked industrial England), and even provide habitat for fish …


The Laugarfljót, with a view to Snæfells

These are both tun spaces. The mountain generates snow, which generates water. The lake collects the water, to provide habitat for fish. By concentrating energy in this way, mountain and lake make it available for human harvest. (Not that this is their plan.)

Unfortunately, capital-intensive economic systems can mess with that and simplify the idea of a tun almost to unrecognizability, like this:

P1390140 This is propaganda in the service of art.

Or art in the service of propaganda. Or a statue in the middle of a hydroelectric dam outflow channel that has diverted the water from Snæfells into the wrong fjord. Something like that. Here, here’s another look: P1390165 See that? The ship steams upriver, loaded with generic manufactured goods, towards the economy created by turning Snæfells’ life-giving properties into cash, that can pay for electric toasters and Swedish toilet paper. It never, of course, arrives. Here’s its goal…P1390138

The Heart of the Mountain

The statue was erected on the notion of eternal wealth, just before the economic collapse made the whole notion questionable. Here’s a construction site (abandoned) in Reykjavik, based upon the economic version of this dam …


OK, So Maybe Not Such a Great Idea After All

If you get too abstract with your tun, you run the risk of running out of manure. Good to know.

Ah, perhaps you’re tired of farms by now? Well, here you go, way up in the north…


A Sea-Going Tun Space

Powered by human energy (doing). Any fish brought into the boat (the tun) are instantly converted into wealth. Well, as long as your arms are strong and the weather holds.

This particular moveable tun has been sitting on the shore for a long time, but the principle still holds. When you start powering that boat with diesel, then a good chunk of the fish you bring in are not wealth, but payment for an operating debt, and, if you bought the boat on credit, a capital debt as well. If you’re not careful, the whole thing becomes a debt. Instead of organizing the wealth of your labour on the sea (very wet common space) for delivery to social space, the tun organizes social relationships for delivery to you. You have, in other words, lost your tun (doing.) Here’s a solution:



The Akureyri Botanical Garden

This garden is planted in Iceland’s northern capital to see what plants will grow in a cold, northern climate. The concentration is on decorative plants. That is part of Icelandic nationalism, a way of dunging the country so that it brings forth wealth (in the sense of a tun economy, organized around human relationships to common space (land and water, mostly), beauty and fecundity are both forms of wealth.) So is this:



Hotel Edda, Akureyri

In the summer, the richly-endowed residential high schools of Iceland are converted into hotels, serving travellers. This doing (tun) allows for them to be sheltered and fed without capital-intensive infrastructure on the land, that would not turn a profit (dung) and would be a drain on the community (a kind of field.) In other words, without the Hotel Edda concept, travel in Iceland would be greatly reduced. That is pure tun! In the winter, the schools are tuns of a different kind, gathering Icelandic youth together for their common education. It would be best, however, not to think of these multi-use spaces as either schools or hotels, but as a space which allows for and serves both relationships to the land. See? Pure tun! Similarly…


N1 Gas Station in Blondüos

In sparcely-populated Iceland, a gas station is like a city in itself (Icelandic Staður, German Stadt [city] or Staat [country], English State, and in land terms a Stead, as in a farmstead. Here it’s a gas stead.) Everyone stops (where else?). Everyone eats (hamburgers, chicken, pizza and hot dogs, the national dishes of Iceland, and for the lucky soul a liquorice ice cream bar [available only in Iceland] if you root around long enough in the freezer.) The places so interrupt the roads in a tun-ish kind of way that even the police stop here. Rather than waiting at the side of the road trying to nab people of interest, they just hang out at the N1 and interrogate people while they’re filling up with gas.

Here’s a somewhat more esoteric tun from Kirkjubærjarklaustur:


A Window on the Tun …

… is part of the function of the tun, even when it’s a bit wonky from a stone cast up by a weed eater or, perhaps (judging from the repaired state of the wall) earthquake.

Similarly, a piece of propaganda-art (or is it art-propaganda?) in downtown Reykjavik provides an anchor point for tourists wandering down to the waterfront (very tun-ish, that)…


Leif the Lucky’s Aluminum Ship, with Modern Adventurers

If I was crossing the North Atlantic in a longboat, I’d want it to be a made out of aluminum, too.

… while reminding the Reykjavikers that the money that built their glittering waterfront…



Reykjavik: Iceland’s Tun

It interacts with other national tuns to create the worldwide tun network.

… came from the aluminum smelter (and glacial-melt electricity) across the mountain in Whale Fjord.



Aluminum Smelter with World War II Airstrip (aka bird sanctuary), Hvalfjörður

Leif’s ship points straight this way. This is a capital tun. That it needs space (Iceland) is rather incidental. It might have been British Columbia. Oh, wait, they’ve dammed rivers and diverted them through tunnels and extirpated salmon for an aluminum smelter in British Columbia, too! Like tuns, capital is everywhere. Sometimes it flows right through a tun and obliterates it.

Here’s Reykjavik’s most interesting tun, right on the waterfront …



The Reykjavik opera house and performance centre. It also houses a CD shop, a cafe, exhibition space, practice space for dancers, fashion shows and classical, folk and rock concerts. In other words, it provides a space for the concentration of cultural activity of all kinds in sufficient quantity and quality that it can be delivered to the people, the country, and the world. It’s also a beautiful piece of architecture that captures the sun light and casts it in coloured rectangles on the concrete plaza at its base, like sketchings made out of chalk. Tun all the way.

Not all tuns are so complex. Here’s one of the most basic (and powerful) of them all…



Right Between Church and House

Note the road that comes directly to it. The tithes that came to a church accrued to the landowner who had built the tun space for the people and were, as such, a major form of wealth for Icelandic farms. The byproduct was the dead, who were planted in the tun — a kind of social dung, fertilizing the future (Heaven) or the present (built as it is on human memory, the more the memory the richer the present.)

In this conception of wealth, capital (and money) aren’t exactly the goal, but a product of the tun space. The carefully-bounded space below, on the other hand, added to the tun space…


field Stallions at Skriðuklaustur

Without the line that bounds this field, there would be no inputs to a tun space. It would only be a potential space. Never underestimate a line, in Iceland or anywhere else.

Here, this image may illustrate that more dramatically. Here we are at Myvatn (you may recognize this image)…


Volcanic Slag, fenced and dunged = Field = Horse 

Simple math.

If we lift the camera just a teensy bit, we get some perspective…


Volcanic Slag + Capital + Cleverness = Geothermal Power

Our horse is behind the rock.

You see how that works? The land has potential. It has a form of potential energy. The application of a particular technological approach towards defining it as space allows for different forms of energy to come out of it. A line gives us a field, gives us a horse. It will be brought into a tun, where this elementary relationship is retained. Capital gives us a  geothermal power station. It will be brought into a city, where it’s own elementary relationships are retained. In the first case, the earth is full of life and living relationships. In the second, humans are separated from the earth, which is a field of energy, that can be harvested. The interrelationship between these two ways of being is complex, but at all times the elementary principle remains: creativity comes from the space that is outlined by technology; the outcomes are predetermined. In other words, we who are humans are not separate from technology and cannot just direct it to our will. All we can hope for is to create spaces, which create energy flows that lead to where we wish to go, but we should be very clear as to where they might lead. Here’s a kind of tun that got its start in Iceland over a thousand years ago:



The Thing Place in Þingvællir

The world’s first parliament convened on this spot at the confluence of the walking trails of Iceland in the year 930. All the people came and collectively decided their social arrangements, then followed the trails back to their home farms. This is the tun of tuns.

On the principle that space creates function and energy is latent in the land, some tuns are geographical spaces. Like this…



Arnarfjörður, from Hrafnseyrie

This was the view that Jon Sigurdson, father of Icelandic independence, took in as a child.

Here’s a slightly altered version:



Stikkishólmur Harbour

Here’s an example of a common Icelandic tun: a ruin of a lost farm.  The people of Reykjavik come from places like this that were no longer tenable in a capital-fueled society. They do, however, remain.



Ruined Farmhouse near Arnarstapi

The mistake should not be made, despite the astute and chilling observations of Iceland’s Nobel Laureate, Halldór Laxness, that such buildings were a betrayal of the debt of humans to their land, as they were too capital intensive and not constructed within the flow of seasons and fate. Instead, it’s better to think of them as graveyards and memory artefacts, that continue to bind people to the land, although only in potential, and offer the chance of return. The energy that was squandered (as Laxness saw it) on these buildings, remains in them, as it also remains in the land, and can be mined again. Only in the sense of capital is it lost.

Well, there are many other forms of doings in Iceland. Cataloguing them won’t add to that appreciably. But perhaps this image might sum it up:


bridgeLike the string that defines a field and allows for concentrated activity, a bridge is another technology both similar to a tun and connected to its energy. It allows for improved delivery of material to the tun, without the contamination of important water sources with the mud generated by foot traffic. In this case, perhaps not so well, but, hey, I used this bridge on my way to the Dwarf Church in Seyðisfjörður, and it did its thing. Oh, and as for bridges, here’s one…

Golf Course.

golfSlowly, a people who have lost their connection to tun space are refinding it, in the golf course surrounding a church which was set up next to an elf city in the lava fields south of Reykjavik. Humans are like horses in a field. They really can’t wander that far.

Well, that’s the tun (our contemporary ton, or town), in many of its forms. It is in these spaces that Icelandic creativity takes place, because the tun (not the individual self, not God but focussed activity rising from location, here in Middle Earth, between cataclysmic forces) is where creativity takes place. In Iceland, it is Middle Earth, Miðgarðr, that is creative space. A similar set of illustrations can be worked out for the other technologies (string, etc) with which I introduced this post, but for now, I think you get the point: in Iceland there is a form of creativity and a corresponding land sense with little if any connection to American, French or German land senses. The culture, however, is more creative than those others. That’s worth sitting down in for awhile and getting to know. So, until next time when I will speak about Indigenous creativity on the Columbia Plateau, thank you for spending some quality time with me among the elves.

Godafoss and Lake Myvtan 342

Harold Among the Elves on Miðgarðr


The Spiritual and Technological Roots of Individualism in the Environment, part 1

Boundaries give focus. They’re also wildly frustrating.

Grey Canal Trail, Bella Vista Hills

A general human glance does not have boundaries like that. Neither, though, is a human glance — or human presence — like this:

Big Bar Ranch, 31.12.15

The same frustrating boundary appears. Human sight — and awareness — is not so clearly bounded. What about the following, then, not a photograph but a painting, a landscape?

Full title: The Avenue at Middelharnis Artist: Meindert Hobbema Date made: 1689 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright ?The National Gallery, London

The Avenue at Middelharnis, Meindert Hobbema 1689 Source

No. That doesn’t do it, either, but it’s clever, let’s admit that. A landscape, a landschaft, is a created environment, an artificial garden, invented in English country houses…


Estate Near Evenley, UK

The low wall is called a ha ha. From the house it is invisible, but it keeps the sheep down on the field where they can’t do their sheep thing on the shrubberies near the house but can still give a fine view of wealth. Here’s the view out from the house. See? No ha ha.


It’s not just decorative, but highly symbolic. The trees are carefully planted, in symbolic patterns, in balance with sight lines, sky and water.


Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire

On the estate of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Note the windmills in back to pay for all this. Note as well the oaks as carefully planted as elements in a painting, symbols of nationalism leading up into the sky. Not an accident.

The idea was taken up with aplomb in Europe thereafter. After that, painters took it up: a revolutionary idea; the theft of the aristocratic right to turn the land into a poem and its dissemination to all through the gift of sight alone. Fiery politics, that.



Landscape With a Couple Alone at Sunset, Cornelis Lieste, date unknown (mid 19th century)

Staring straight into the sun? Not an accident.

Little differentiates this from the country estates shown above, except that the whole country is now the estate of the entire people. Or so it seems. Actually, the country presented is artificial and the people present are just to draw the eye, like a ha ha’s sheep. Still, we’ll get back to them. First, a closer view of figures are doing in landscape. Here’s Caspar David Friedrich’s take:


Caspar David Friedrich, The Monk at the Sea, c. 1808-1810 Source 

In this romantic view, the landscape is so large and powerful that it completely dwarfs the human figure. The presence of the human figure provides a reference point for the recalculation of rather abstract image of nature. It’s as if viewers, you and I, for example, are viewing the human figure with the eyes of nature, while at the same time inhabiting the figure, because, as humans, that’s what we do. It’s part of being conscious. 

Despite this trick, the image is still bounded. It still has, so to speak, its ha ha. It still has this:


The Barbed Wire Fence: Military Technology at Home on the Range

This is the new country estate: privately owned, fenced to keep cattle in and people out, and ecologically trashed.

All of these images have a root in pre-modern landscape, in which the earth was symbolic and narrative was created by the observer. In this conception of time and space, there was no time and space.


Lucas Cranach the Elder, Paradise, 1530

Note that Adam does not say “She did it.” He takes the responsibility for eating the apple from the tree of knowledge (in behind) onto himself, as bound to her, not to God’s dictates. Of course, he had to do so, and he had to take the apple from Eve, because he was made in God’s image. That kind of thing goes straight through a person. And an image? Well, the Garden was God. The revolution here was difference and separation.

There is, of course, an observer. If there weren’t, the image would look a little like this:



Mind you, that’s just a trick, because without an observer there would be nothing, and we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. We wouldn’t even be a we. Splitting hairs? No, not really. Take another look at the painting …

PAradise ANnotated


See that? Christ, the third part of the Trinity, is missing. He is about to be created, though, by God, through the banishment of Adam and Eve to the world. In that narrative, Adam (or, if we’re following temporal narratives, one of his descendants) will eventually end up here, raised up mockingly into the sky above a hill of skulls.

1532crucifixionLucas Cranach the Elder, Crucifixion, 1532

In other words, in a world read as time and space, timelessness (Adam in Paradise) dies. That was Adam’s choice, too: to live not for himself, but through his descendants. Adam did not blame the expulsion from Paradise on Eve. This sense of honour negates his death, because it embodies the image of God.

Don’t take it from me, though. Let’s go to the source:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. John 1: 4.

As I said, Adam had no choice. Eve it was. And that living for one’s descendants? Ah, that was also God.


The Creation of Adam, MIchael Angelo, c. 1511

Still, the crucifixion, eh. Like Michael Angelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling centred around God and Adam…

Plafond de la Chapelle Sixtine


…for an action that takes place on the earth, Cranach’s crucifixion …


…is remarkably empty of earth and spectacularly crowded with (very symbolic) people, including Mary Magdalene kneeling at the foot of the cross, and reappearing as St. Katherine in her martyrdom, kneeling again and at peace now:



Watch that feminine gaze, from Mary Magdalene looking up to Jesus on the Cross, to St. Katherine looking out of this image, to Mary looking down to God and God looking up to her,  Eve gets gets a similar (but more loving) role to Adam’s, in that her heart, that love that is God, materializes within her live in the world, giving her forgiveness and grace instead of separation, and a chance not to kneel but to take God’s place on earth and look down at her new Adam (Christ)…


Lucas Cranach the Elder, Virgin and Child, 1516

Folds within folds within folds. Modern popular imagination holds that these ancient icons no longer have force in the identity of individuals, and no longer provide identity narratives for viewers. The imagination of the slovakian marxist cultural critic an philosopher Slavoj  Žižek, however, …


… who argues in this book …


Mary and Son Again! Note how he turns away from the breast to be seen.

…that the separation between humans and world within Christian faith is the single most important point in history, because it creates poles which can be reunited with activity, holds that this form of directionality is very much a part of contemporary human consciousness, and look…


the boundaries are there, built right into the art of photography, and the way in which it denies context, which must only be constructed by an exterior, viewing and contemplating intelligence, which is separate from the act of viewing and heavily influenced by the structural forms of the technology. There is no difference between what this camera sees and this…



… or this …

Goodwood House, Luxury Events Venues, Prestigious Venues

or this …


or this:


Protest however we like, the story hasn’t changed, and if it hasn’t changed, then definitions of the self in modern psychology, such as the humanist psychology of Abraham Maslow …


132847-132478… who defined creativity like this …

It looks as if there were a single ultimate goal for mankind, a far goal toward which all persons strive. This is called variously by different authors self-actualization, self-realization, integration, psychological health, individuation, autonomy, creativity, productivity, but they all agree that this amounts to realizing the potentialities of the person, that is to say, becoming fully human, everything that person can be. Source

Like Cranach’s crucifixion, there is no earth in that picture, only the self, only the boundary around this image and the choices inherent in making it:


It is ultimately not five aspen stalks in a copse, one dead, but a choice. All of this activity has profound consequences for the physical world, because, somewhere, outside of all this artistry and technology there are five aspens stalks in a copse, one dead, and that, too, is part of the self, although represented only peripherally in this entire tradition. The consequences for landscape and creativity are profound, because both Maslow’s and Žižek’s conceptions of creativity are focussed on their actualization within the mechanisms of human consciousness. These are profound legacies of a long spiritual tradition. They inhabit contemporary science, psychology, and art, and they got there through the window of the development of science in the 18th century. If we’re going to save this planet, we have to deal with this tradition, so, let’s talk about that tomorrow, ok? Till then, a few more stalks of that aspen copse, but this time in summer …


Real Plants Don’t Do Drugs

In a petro-state, these are called dead leaves.


In a petro-state, the image below is called life.


Look closer.


Those are the green leaves of petroleum-based nitrogen fertilizer, those are. Life, however, looks like this:P2150321



Choose life. Choose your beautiful sisters.


Real Plants Don’t Do Drugs.


Poor enslaved thing.

What Do You Call a Photograph When It’s Not Made With Light?

Photography: writing with light. A more anglo-saxon suggestion is sun print. There’s more to them than prints on paper.


See that? That snow buckwheat is light written or (im)printed on metamorphic bedrock, or, actually, drawn out of it. You could also view it as a drift of light, much like a snowdrift. That view might be clearer in the image of moss on Turtle Mountain below.


Snowdrifts, of course, form on the lee side of objects. They are physical shadows. In that sense, the image of an ingrown grassland in Ellison Provincial Park shows tree drifts.


Those shadows are virtual trees. They are tree graphs. They are also grass writing, because they are holes in the sun that have drifted in with reflected light from the grass and bushes around them. Like this:


In the above case, the holes have been filled with grass, but following the logic, that grass is a shadow, a hole in the sun, a photograph drawn out of the earth. They are spirit prints. The image below shows an entirely different kind of writing:


Dust graphs! This earth here is swirling, invisibly, in the air, like a solar corona. It’s an earth corona. The dust storms we see, the ones that are thick in the air, are earth flares. Everywhere, this earth is blowing through the sky. It takes little to stop it. You could say, its will is to stop.


Its will is to write, to solidify, to print, and to form, out of the swirl, drifts, not of light, but of earth. Look at the footprint left by a human who walked right through this magic, above on the right. That’s charming and mysterious, too. Down the centre of the image below are what look like coyote tracks, passing through the art work, too.


For the earth, this is not a linear event. It is not a walk, but to humans, and no doubt coyotes, it appears as one. It imprints as one. Humans ‘read’ it as one. That’s who human are. And coyotes. We are the ones who see this unbroken series of writing as linear stories created by our walking through them. Humans call that fate. They call it god. What does the earth call it? Nothing, but it thinks, like this:


And like this:


And like this:


And this:


These are stories of gravity, the heart of the earth, working its way through matter into the light, and then, with the light, creating life. You could call that life a sun print.


You could call it an earth print.


Montana, Looking West

It’s not a footprint. Life is not just contained in biological entities. What are they but a series of earth prints and light prints and water prints and sky prints?


Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump

Thought is not just a product of humans. Or coyotes. (Always include the coyotes.) This is all thought. This is all thinking. The robins below, gathering at Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, getting ready to migrate, are thinking, and they are also the thinking, as is the stone, the orange lichen, the wind, and Harold who made this light print, but didn’t have a camera that could take all these other images.


The earth is that camera. She focusses the sun. You can see her doing it in the three images from Yellowstone below.




And she does it everywhere at once.

Of Universities and Love

Universities are  the place in which Western societies educate their youth, create knowledge, and pass on social values. I wonder why that doesn’t happen here:

SALMONThe Salmon River Enters the Snake

It used to. This is an old Nimîipuu village site. Increasingly now, the  model of the university is replacing other social structures with a particular kind of  knowledge arranged in  branches of learning,  organized in faculties, such “Arts”, which might include “Theatre” or “Germanic Studies” and “Science”, which might include “Biology” and “Physics”. The image below is not physics, or biology, or theatre or Germanic studies, and it’s not art, and it’s not science:

P1010543 It’s three horses of the Deadman Band of the Secwepemc Nation in a field of weeds. The only indigenous plant there is the sagebrush, and it’s a weed, too.  What is it, then? History? Reality? The world? There’s no name for it, because it’s not part of the scheme, nor is this …IMG_0734Chopping my Beetle-Killed Pines into Firewood

… nor this …P2000855High Density Apple Orchard in the Summer Fires

These are the things that a university might study, but the categories in which they would be studied do not rise from them. This system creates a particular type of technical knowledge. There are assumptions behind that choice, which is problematic in the grasslands of the Northwest, my country.

P2050745Yelllowstone Grasslands

The eastern rim of the North West. The other rim is the Pacific.

Notice the image above: it is not science, not art, not theology, and yet study of the place illustrated above, in Western culture, requires the application of training in at least one of those fields, which will create knowledge, within the hierarchical system of one of those fields. You can’t escape it. Even my photograph belongs to one of those systems: technical science. If it could be called “art”, then it would be a consequence of a human creating a bodily space within that technical field. This humanization is what humans do. It’s very urbane social behaviour, which universities attempt to train in particular directions for particular ends, yet let’s not forget that there is a Yellowstone, and there is a grassland, and none of the fields of organized study say very much about it as it is, or interface with it except through the hierarchical systems of their disciplines. Why is that? Is it something to do with the act recorded in the image below, in which a grassland hill, again in Yellowstone, is turned into a particular social space by placing a cairn of stones at its crest?

P2050646It changes the hill, for sure, yet before that change any human perception of that hill was also a perception of human space. Even the pine below, at the Norris Geyser Field deeper into Yellowstone, is a perception of human bodily space, despite its great foreignness to what has come to be called “human”.P2060045That means that that tree is human, but not necessarily socialized; its pine-ness, its foreigness, its mystery, is, in this conception, as much human as is, say, this …

P2000683Messing Around at Chukuaskin’s Grave While the World Burns, Keremeos

… and this …

P2070327Fishing in the Firehole River, Yellowstone

… and even this …

P2080007Young Black Bear Chawing Down, Kaslo

That is all self evident. The system of thought dominant at today’s universities would point out its irrelevence: it’s just observation. It hasn’t been organized. Well, that’s speaking from within the paradigm. From outside it, this linkage, this extension of the human beyond the human body and its structured, cognitive social expressions also expands the range of human experience to include the earth, and to respect the importance it has in human affairs. That bear is not important because it is a creature representing diversity, or because is integrated into an ecosystem, or because it is beautiful. Those are all expressions of minds culturally divided into categories. That bear is us. It is, of course, a bear — not because it’s also a bear, or because there are two ways of looking at it, but because We and Bear are the same thing and different. Sure, it’s a paradox, but paradoxes are real. Similarly, the following three images from Big Bar Lake capture light from the same being:

P2020866 berry3 P1970786 Yes, they’re taken at the same place, with the same apparatus, by the same person, on the same day, but beyond that commonality, those three things are also the wealth of difference within the beings and objects within the images, and that difference adds up to unity: not as 1+1+1 sequence, but opening out of each other all at the same time. It is not the job of universities to teach this process, but here’s the thing: this unity is the conception of land of this country’s indigenous peoples. Dismissing it is the same as dismissing them. It is profoundly disrespectful. So’s this, actually:

P1870928That’s an image of Yellow Jacket and Wasp, above the Clearwater (Kooskookie) River at Lapwai. There’s a highway pullout so you can admire this ancient Nimíipuu story of a yellow jacket and an ant fighting and refusing to stop until Itseyéyeh, the Trickster (aka Coyote) turned them into stone. It has been afforded some respect, for which I am grateful, but what’s not respectful is that this story is presented as a belief, and the rocks as  eroded basalt. No, respect allows them to be both: not to be studied, or analyzed, but to be entered into in all their dimensions at once.

P1870919There’s a second silence here: the old village site now at Lapwai, five miles up the valley, and fifty years ago at the Spalding Mission, a mile up the river, was actually here, but is now buried under that highway, and the parking lot you stand on to view this story from the beginning of the world. Until these things, story and understanding arrived at by science, are one, our universities are not a part this land. This hill in the Snake River could easily be the focal point of a school of Social Work.

P1880636 The walls of the Canyon are far back. Above them are the Camas Prairie. The centre of women’s power. Under dominant contemporary culture, and the systems of its schools of learning, it is “nature”. P1880577This silencing and silencing through abstraction has a long history.

mosesMoses Coulee

Just a glimpse from the road today, without a marker that this was the winter village of the Sinkuse people for many thousands of years, or that here, beneath these cliffs, was the ancient road from the north of the world to the south, which had been there since the glaciers melted and the vast river that cut this channel had flowed to sea. It was also the old Hudson’s Bay Company Road, and the road 10,000 genocidal miners took to the gold fields at Fountain, on the Fraser River, shooting Syilx people as they went. If this was Europe, the road would be celebrated and honoured. It is likely older than the Silk Road, after all.  Here, it has been “returned to nature”, although “nature” is one of the classification terms of university science and doesn’t exist in the world. This is a form of racism. Racism is not just a social problem, not for people who live as the land. This is one face of racism, or at the least profound disrespect:

P1860349This the Camas Prairie. This is the food basket of the Nimíipuu, before it was wrested from them through manipulating their treaty, plowed, and sown into wheat. The one good thing, is that the people are no longer in the cross hairs of rifles, although road signs have taken their place, as a kind of symbolic reminder of the power inherent in the scene. One way of eliminating camas was to remove the people, but another was just to plow it under. In order for all that to be possible, people were categorized, along with their ways of viewing their land, on racial terms: the Skoeilpi, the Palu’us, the Syilx, the Smlqmx, the Sinkuse, the Kittitas, the Nimíipuu, the Wanapum, the Klickitas, and all the other peoples of the grass, became “Indians”. The people who had been there for decades trading with them, who were the sons of native women (usually Cree or Iroquois) and Quebec or Louisiana Canadians, and who married local Cayuse, Couer d’Alene or Umatilla women, and raised families with them, were suddenly politicized as Canadians (a bad thing, when the land had just been whisked away from Britain by illegal settlement), and racialized as métis. Their futures were limitted by these categories, while the newcomers, a collection of Americans, Brits, Scots, Germans, Finns, Norwegians, Poles, Bohemians, French, Danes, Italians and many others, became “Americans” and “Whites” due to the categories allotted to them by what was, at that time in the United States, a slave culture. Black people were blacks and Chinese were Chinese and both suffered the categorization that came with that. Chinese and Indians were particularly vulnerable to torture and murder, for sport. I’ll spare you the horrible details. The land, though, and this is my point today, suffered  segregation and dehumanization along with the people. After all, it was the people. White, Brown, Black, or Red, as they were called, it didn’t matter, each one of these designations removed people from the land that was there and which was there to experience in its wholeness. It was all consciously done, by followers of a Methodist Christian system, who believed that the path to God was through American-style civil works: land ownership, work within approved social norms, courts, a system of government and education, military obedience, and so on: only that way could a body be purified of nature and made ready to receive the graceful inhabitation of God. Beauty, or a belief in the physical world and its spiritual presence, were strictly scoffed at as being womanly and weak. I have the texts here. I won’t burden you with them, except to point out that following the belief system that broke the connection between people and earth here, the following was not considered a right point for spiritual contemplation or illumination:

P2040358Mammoth Hot Springs

This would have been:

P1820720CN Rail Line, Vernon

A shack like the one below was more than sufficient to remove a piece of land from indigenous inhabitation and transform it into private property. Now that the land serves no purpose but to be weedsprayed in the spring so nothing will grow there at all, it does not revert to indigenous use. It remains forever alienated.


Priest Valley

Take a look at it. It was originally meant to be a Syilx Reserve, but that got manipulated. Look at it again. That’s much like this image below of a bunch of men hauling red listed sturgeon off of the isotope-poisoned bottom of the Columbia River in the shadow of two military grade plutonium reactors at Hanford while the Yakama grasslands, removed from the Yakama people dishonourably in the Yakama War, fill the air with smoke. Then the men drop the poor ancient fish down again and then haul it back up. This is called sport.

sturgeon This is the replacement for living as land. This madness is nature. Take a look. That’s what she looks like. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be like this, and universities don’t have to play this game. Here’s one that doesn’t:

n’awqen” ~ En’owkin

The word En’owkin is an Okanagan conceptual metaphor which describes a process of clarification, conflict resolution and group commitment. With a focus on coming to the best solutions possible through respectful dialogue, literally through consensus.

En’owkin Centre

The En’owkin is a dynamic institution, which puts into practice the principles of self-determination and the validation of cultural aspirations and identity.

This institution is in Penticton, British Columbia, in the Syilx Illahie. It could as well be in the land forms below, in the midst of the village complexes at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers in Idaho. Under a hierarchal scientific system, they became “cliffs” and “basalt columns” and “part of the Columbia Basin flood basalts”. They were once as much story as wasp and ant at Lapwai. The fear of the “other” remains latent. I walked out there in June of this year, on a day of 105 degree Fahrenheit heat, a woman called out to me by a boat in the river, about where I took this image the next day, “Aren’t you afraid of snakes?” Why would I be afraid of snakes? I grew up with rattlers, for god’s sake, and that river trail was no place for rattlers, and they knew it and I knew it, too.

P1900245I long for universities, beyond the En’owkin Centre, that actually live in this place, and rights these divisions, brings ancient knowledge, and the languages that support it, forward, and build a right relationship with the earth through alignments of structure and logic that come from the process of the grasslands themselves. I long for a university that does not ultimately discredit the very information contained in an image like this…

blueBowron Lake at Dusk

…by describing it as beauty, an historical artifact, or abstracting it as “a human projection” without also embedding it in the earth, or one which describes the information contained in this image…

P1870284Heart of the Monster, Kamiah, Idaho

… as a rock onto which ignorant people projected comforting stories. This is the  centre of the world! I find it profoundly disrespectful that the centre of knowledge of greater than 12,000 years is dismissed by a system a couple hundred years old. Look at it. This is the cut up remains of a monster that swallowed all the Nimíipuu people at the beginning of time. The people came from here. It is described in university culture as a volcanic plug, onto which a people have projected their creation story as a social act. Well, no wonder, that’s the society that dominates today, but, you know, the En’owkin Centre doesn’t play this game. The students come because they need that program, because it is anchored in their lives, and because it is embedded in their land and culture. It doesn’t work against those, to embed them into a system of abstractions anchored elsewhere and which are ultimately placeless and, placeless, ultimately destructive of the earth. It doesn’t matter how you apologize for it or how much good you do within your discipline. At some point, it must touch the world and abandon all it knows for all it can be. Many scientists and artists work to that end, but they do so against the system that is always biasing them against it. You can’t get to the earth by going away from it.


You can’t keep yourself alive in the broadest sense without keeping the earth alive in that sense, too.wings3It’s a paradox, but paradoxes are real. It’s time to stop teaching racialized knowledge. It is time for brilliant university educated people to stop attempting to solve vital environmental problems solely with the tools that created them, as if you could just go further and further and further into technology and come out into unity at the other end. Unity is not something to observe, dissect, analyze or critique to excess. It is something to embody.  In the world of Charles Marie Pandosy, Oblate Missionary to the Yakama during and before the Yakima War: “We have to love them enough.”


Photography and Human Survival

Pretty sumac leaves, huh.P2090736

Look again below. Culturally, in Canada, people have the right to cut sumacs down like this and stack them up beside the street so they look like this the whole winter through, to be hauled away in the spring time and chipped up into a kind of sawdust called “mulch,” which is mixed with sewage waste, fermented, and sold back to gardeners and landscapers. This is called “green thinking” and “dealing with weeds” and, look, it is green, isn’t it!

P2090729 I think the cause of such behaviour is just the inherent gap between clear thought and the kind of populist thinking that passes these days for science. Here are some other sumacs, male like the ones above, up higher on the hill, and like them gone feral.P2090711

The first step of populist scientific thinking is a kind of triage: value assessment. It could, perhaps, be put like this: “What can I do with those things?” Most of the effort in considering sumacs these days goes into research into spraying chicken breasts with sumac juice in slaughterhouses and butcher shops, and measuring how much longer the things stay fresh (i.e. don’t smell baaaaad) on a supermarket shelf. Important, for sure, but, please, don’t tell your chicken friends about it, ‘kay?


The first step of true scientific thinking, however, is observation. Notice how some of the leaves below are one colour in the early Autumn and some are another. The second step should be asking if there is a pattern. Perhaps you could compare the colour differences to the patterns of shade that the leaves produce, and then compare that to the patterns of shade over the years that these bushes have been growing? A painter would, so we know it can be done. You are now, I trust, ready to move to the third step of scientific thinking: asking an answerable question. It might be this: is there a relationship between the two? (Well, yeah, there is, sure. Anyone who has observed trees over time knows that. The female stag horn sumac around the corner knows that.) See?P2090310 Look at her, with her multiple years of branches and fruiting structures. Last year, the dead twigs here at her crown were sprouting leaves, but time marches on, wood ages, and, look, that’s a spider web way up there, isn’t it. Why, yes it is. All of these relations gets expressed in the leaves (well, maybe not the spider; she’s not there very long), and look at them!  They’re very fine.P2090308

But the scientific game is a little different than just experience and observation: it wants to be able to demonstrate, in a yes-no question, one step of that process, and then another single step, and then another single step, and so on, so that, eventually, all the steps can be put together, and a process, or flow, can be known: not observed, because observations would then have to be proven, but known, textually or figuratively or in tables and graphs and data, and a simple statement that says precisely under what conditions, at what time, chemicals are laid down, or stripped out of, leaves to produce these effects, under which other specific conditions. A tall order. Now, a tree person might just say,

yeah, look, dude, I know that already, eh,

but that’s not the point. Those are different forms of knowing. The point, though, is that “science” is just a word. It stands in for “a process of rigorous, ordered thinking”, but it is a little different than that. Here’s it’s pedigree:

science (n.) mid-14c., “what is known, knowledge (of something) acquired by study; information;” also “assurance of knowledge, certitude, certainty,” from Old French science “knowledge, learning, application; corpus of human knowledge” (12c.), from Latin scientia “knowledge, a knowing; expertness,” from sciens(genitive scientis) “intelligent, skilled,” present participle of scire “to know,” probably originally “to separate one thing from another, to distinguish,” related to scindere “to cut, divide,” from PIE root *skei- “to cut, to split” (cognates: Greek skhizein “to split, rend, cleave,” Gothic skaidan, Old Englishsceadan “to divide, separate;” see shed (v.)).

In other words, it is a process that began with shedding information deemed excess, like cutting apart a corpse to see how it was put together. At heart, science today is just what it’s popular image takes it to be: “a process of determining the use of things and practical applications of materials in the world,” with the caveat that “practical applications” means “technological or material applications” or, in a more modern sense, also “psychological applications.” The selection process, the cutting away, has cut away everything but “usefulness,” however that is defined. That’s cultural. That’s not the other side of what is taken to be science, which is: “life, the universe and everything, as it really is, not how people see it to be.” In this popular conception, this is science:


No, it’s a moose in the sagebrush. To science, the art of shedding personal information, how a sumac makes Harold feel in the fall can be psychologically measured, and then put to use to help Harold feel better or worse or make him buy a camera, maybe, eh: planting more sumacs, perhaps, or having a sumac festival or something like going down to London Drugs and plunking down some cash. Cheating is allowed. In fact, it is encouraged, because, let’s face it, there’s no way that all of the trillions of connections between those leaves, space, light, gravity, water, air, insects and times are going to be worked out into a complete system, especially when Harold is involved, sheesh! You have to let some things go. For example, in the images of sumac (and a sagebrush moose) above, the bias is, well, contained in the apparatus that made the image. Here it is:


Here’s the cheating: instead of measuring all of the different light and chemical values, displayed by the colour differences in leaves, to work out a pattern of a tree’s life and how it interacts with the person holding the camera, that discussion is temporarily set to the side, the camera takes an “image” of the tree, which can then be passed around as if it were the tree or as if it were all the trillions of connections contained with the colour patterns of the tree and even with the observing human, looking through the lens, like this…


Ape Up to No Good

The photographic process exists because it has a “use”. Sumac trees have traditional human uses, too, such as (depending on species): tanning leather, making sumac tea, flavouring and preserving food, making medicinal teas and smoke (yes, medicinal smoke…that’s why it’s called a “smoke bush”), decorating gardens, making wax, creating ultraviolet light (fun for kids and 1970s black velvet painting aficionados) and so on, but a sumac tree? In and of itself? We don’t know, because our science doesn’t look at that. That has been sorted out and “shed” before we even began. Instead, that data set is what is called an “existential” question, a question of “being” or “is-ness” or, if you like, “identity” or “self” and is left to philosophy, religion and, especially, to art, which are, in and of themselves, also processes of rigorous, ordered thinking. Well, except in the romantic conception of science, which sees all of this hard thinking as “the world” when it’s in science and “personal values” when it shows up anywhere else, with the caveat that “personal values” have only personal uses. Poets aren’t even as romantic as all that, but that’s the world we live in in 2015. Now, hey, maybe, you might think that all of these kinds of thinking might easily fit together, into a system in which an artist (let’s say) could look at this sumac…


… note the colour patterns and, because of observation and experience (the first steps in science), and skill at “reading” colour and pattern, (the second steps), make an image of the tree’s “being”, or the totality of its presence. There’s even a word for this, as you probably know, a German word, because, well, Germans worked all this out first: “Gestalt”. An artist will claim the completeness of the pattern (its gestalt) as proof of its authenticity … and then pop culture science steps in, and instead of working out a system of questions and experiments, integrating, perhaps, some of the artist’s patterning processes, asks a few questions to sort out the worth of this investigation: does it have a “use”, can I get funding to study it, and how is that not just an emotional response, and since the mythology of science says that “emotional responses” must be shed, to get at the true, underlying forms of things, that’s that. The thing is, this “use” thing is a cultural bias. If “science” really does have to shed information, to make itself possible, and to build up a body of knowledge, that’s not necessarily the shedding that has to be done. In fact, it biases what follows in terms of technological processes, and that’s all fine and good, but an earth that can support humans well is dying, which is to say, that a conception of the earth that doesn’t include non-technical values is dying, and making it difficult for humans to survive.


We can do better. Let’s.

Photo on 15-10-06 at 9.36 AM

Cascadia: Land of Fire

Cascadia rises out of the seabeds of the continental plains, where a hot, conductive current rises from deep in the earth and shears and curls around the impenetrable ancient rock of the North American Craton. We call this column of fire Yellowstone.P2040102It is a wave of energy and resistance that creates mountains.


They rise from fire and create zones of cold, commonly called snow, in the ocean they made into the dry prairies of the Upper Missouri River. So are rivers born out of mist.


So is winter born out of summer air.spill It too pours in rivers over the plains.livingston It reaches out.fog1

Rivers are everywhere in this ripple in the sky. They squeeze the sky onto the dry earth.


Just as they are squeezed by rock that is still rising in a massive wave.


Not all leave the fire mountains, having molten the sky, or at least not yet. First, they pour through the caldera of the volcano, in a country of fire.


The fire here is green, but it burns just the same. These are the great fire pines of the North West. They are born in fire and die in it.P2060570And are born in it again.


They live on the caldera wall.wall Look at them lick with flame among the bones of their mothers.P2060583 Look at them drink the molten sky.P2060606 Look at them grow on the ash of old volcanoes.P2060622 The fire is not still. It still drives hot water out of the deep earth: snowmelt and rain and water squeezed out of the beds of ancient seas.P2060527 Here, too, fire pines burst into flame from the soil…


…and the water …


…grow old in the sky…P2050485

… and return to the fire.


It is not a linear wave. It is happening all at once.

P2050346 The fire does not consume.P2050370


It is the fire. We who walk here are in the fire.P2060276 It is the water. We who walk here are burning water.P2060145 And it is the sky. We who walk here stop, as the land has stopped, and give ourselves over to new forms.pool Some volcanoes erupt very slowly.P2050790

This is one. In it, water and fire are one.


In it, we live, who live in Cascadia.


Nature is a foreign word in this fire country. As soon as you see nature, you know you are not here.



As I was making an image of the pines below …


… a woman walking past looked up and said, “I don’t see anything there. Just a whole lot more pines.” She didn’t see this…


… or if she did, she didn’t see that this lone aspen is this hot pool…


… or these splashes of magma…


… or that there are creatures …


… who eat this fire …


Calling it nature makes it random and wild. Look at it…


… it’s not random. Look at it …


… it’s not wild. Humans have the capacity to be this energy.

pool2 When they are not this energy …prismatictres

… they invent nature, where, before, the fire rose up…

P2050800 … and rose up higher …P2060145

… and sang.


Without poets, we would be living on a dying earth. We would be dying and contemplating turning ourselves in to machines. That is the age that abstract culture has made in its own image. This is the world that humans live in…

P2060042 These differing worlds are equally abstract. They are equally simple.P2070086

But you do have to choose.


I have. I hope you can find your way to the earth, too.

Canada Geese Making Art

Geese eating rotten apples.geese2b2Geese making art.



The Dance of the Geese.


Mass choreography, with geese.


Never underestimate the perspective changing ability of a Canada goose. Here are some geese dancing to Bach.


Here are some doing the Stravinsky Honk.


No need to clap. Geese make their own applause.



Imaging Making Beyond Photography

Photography is a means of recording temporary effects of light. It began by a process  in which light energy created structures of silver crystals on a glass plate. Now it is created by processing input from light-sensitive censors. Let me introduce you to the early forms of a different kind of image-making, which records time and pressure, instead of light: the mud puddle. Three forces are at play to form its images: water, air and temperature, along with a possible initiating disturbance. Here are some of its images. Notice the tracks of the vineyard operator, going back and forth to check his thermometers, to see if it’s time to make ice wine or not.


In each image, notice how the sun’s interaction with the puddle environment has created a water shadow.

P1570507 I think that’s a secondary form of image making.

P1570509 P1570517 P1570516 In the following image, note how the disturbance of the large pebble has been recorded by the gas structures of the puddle, extended across time.P1570513

And of course, in each image sun and tires have made their own shadow images. Precise records do not require precision technology. They require eyes.