The Great Artwork

This is what the present looks like. You can see how a 100,000,000 year old seabed, lifted into the sky by a collision with North America and silted up with the drift of a river running alongside a melting glacier is covered with life, the present state of the earth, and gathering rain to feed it.

The following is what time looks like. This is 10,000 years ago. You can see that the land has been scraped down to post-glacial rubble, contemporary life-giving water is piped across the land’s ancient face, the life is exclusively immigrant weeds, and houses have been erected on shelves of gravel taken from this slope and dumped on the hill. The goal is to re-create the moment when European cultures first stepped onto this human space, and claimed it as an art installation re-creating the moment when Homo sapiens first colonized post-glacial Europe.

It was an attempt to get past history. It is, as you can see, a fortress culture. This is the hill above my house. Millions of dollars were spent to create this bittersweet romantic artwork. Not a penny was spent to maintain the earth it relies on for its illusions.

That’s because the “wildness” of that space is one of the illusions of the artwork called time. What if we stopped looking?

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:

 

Gardening in the Okanagan in 2017

Some things are sobering. Here’s a cold frame (a glassed-in seedbed, for early growing) from 1978, updated for the new Okanagan in the age of vineyardization. Before 1978, this was an orchard, that supported a family and grew apples, peaches, cherries and plums. After 1978, it became a place where people could raise that food for their families themselves. As people turn away from the land today, hire Mexicans on special temporary permits to do “their” agricultural labour (actually, the produce is for export, a series of capital-intensive cash crops; the produce locally eaten comes from California and Mexico), and pressure the water system with overpopulation (yet blame the water deficit on global warming) while continuing to extol the fruitfulness of the land (heavily-taxed wine, affordable only to tourists and the wealthy), gardens transform into a new image of society. 
A couple things to notice: the black cloth is intended to allow water through but to prevent weeds (or life of any kind). It has been augmented by some rocks, likely formerly a decorative garden wall, to keep it down, and has been growing some cheatgrass (like the green stuff in the foreground) in the fir needles (the tree is an important local hawk perch) that the stones have gathered. The yard is decorated with a pre-fabricated aluminum garden shed. The yard next door, which has replaced its garden with a small, decorative  patch of lawn amidst a vast swath of rocks and gravel (because of that global warming, but also because yards are now large barbecue entertainment areas, not spaces for gardens, i.e. they are now interior spaces), has collected un-needed garden equipment behind its new (large) garden shed, which mustn’t be for garden tools. It’s likely for general storage. Welcome to Canada in 2017. It took us some work to create this, but we managed in the end.

Fly-Fishing Guide for Newcomers to the Okanagan

When salmon come back to the rivers from the sea, they cease to feed, but will snap at beautifully-tied flies out of reflex, and are hooked.

jock-scott1280

Well, ya. Wouldn’t you bite at that? No? Well, then you are a human salmon, looking for a home at the end of work and strife, a place as wide open and warm as your dreams, and for that you need to travel, and what should be there, at the end of the road, beyond which no cars lead, but a very special kind of fly tied just for you.

p1480154

Yes, this is the real estate development sales office. It sits comfortably at the side of the road, for easy access, is often repurposed, has some lovely brick appliqué, so you know we’re talking quality here and not an industrial portable building like you’d see in a mine office. Let me repeat. This is no gold mine attempting to part you from your cash. This is serious fishing. See?

p1480172

That is genuine hand-set stained glass, that is. That is the sign of respect. Of course, there is more than one developer fishing in the same pool. There’s another fly cast up on the hill. See it? Oh, which to choose?

p1480155

Well, there’s still time. The nesting bed is still incomplete.

p1480170

The nesting bed of a salmon is called a red. That won’t do for humans. We have happier colours. Go on, settle in. You know you want to. Not even a little nibble?

p1480153

Don’t worry, there’s no power yet. It won’t hurt at all. You’re good.

 

Coyotes Dancing, You Come Too

Looks just like a pile of gravel, eh. Na, see those coyote tracks on the left?P2170696

These ones?P2170856

 

They come from several directions. Even from, sort of, this one (on the right.)P2170865

Now, what’s gravel to you or me isn’t gravel to a coyote. It’s an invitation.

P2170831

Bit of a scramble, really.

P2170861

And when you’re all up there, with all of your legs sorted out, what then?

P2170697

Dancing, by the looks of it. So, the next time you see a gravel pile in a gravel pit …

P2170867

… get up there and start dancing. That’s the coyote way. Great view, too.

P2170773

It was very polite of a property developer to put it there for us.