Poetry and Water

Does anything that touches water bend it?

Or does the water bend to receive it?

Is water subject to gravity?p1410974

Or does it make an empty space under a willow tree, for the leaves to fill?p1410973 Is that what we drink? The emptiness that is fullness?p1410964

If water fills what is empty, might it not simultaneously empty what is full? This tide flat in Borgarfjörður, Iceland, at dusk (2:30 pm in November), for example?


Does it have a double spirit?


Hraunfosser, Iceland

Is that what we bring to it, or is it the gift it gave to us and which we give back?


What if looking into water really is looking into the mind?


Are not words only pools, cupped mouths, that can fill with it, or empty with it?



Yes, this is a choice, to place before words, or after, or, like water, between: where they simultaneously are and are not.


There are also rushes.

Selfless Living

Imagine, you put your heart here for a time.p1210913

Then you walk here across the grass and leave your mind. Perhaps it will meet a bear later.

Then you walk further into the grass, where a glacier left some good soil a while back, and leave your tongue to taste the wind.

It’s a game that takes a slight suspension of disbelief. I hope you’ll bear with me for a bit. I can’t reveal where we’re going, because if I do we won’t get there, but we’re on our way. Here we go, under the firs, where it hasn’t rained for 500 years and the ant lions have set up shop. Here you can leave your hunger.


And you walk on without it, across the blue green algae that made the sky blue, and covers the soil like a skin.


Yes, here you leave your skin, and walk on without it, open now to the wind.It’s like that that you come to the water. Look, your skin is following you. Hello, skin.


But we have a place to go to and move on. Ah, look, your heart has gone underground and has appeared out of deep time, through our subconscious. Hello, heart.


Skinless (please remember, these are subjective states not concrete ones, but they’re no less able to impact the world) and knowing your heart has grown and is full of trout, you move on. Ah, there’s a thought.


Look at it folded in the ancient folds of that brain, soaking up the sun the rock has absorbed and the lichens have been feeding on. Leave your bones here and move on as the wind.


Here you are fire. Fly to the sun. This is not the stuff of fairytales. This is what you do every day. This is the point of you. This is why you are here. Now, walk on with nothing at all, and to no destination, perhaps to what the soil was like before it was grazed or tilled…

p1220481 … and what you were called before language bound you. Do not judge. If you judge, you will lose the world. Stay in it. See?p1220140

Look at the fire rising from your heart! Look at your body standing up from it and holding it at the same time. Now, find your way back. Start here.p1220425

This is how I live now. This is just one hour in one day.


Tomorrow we go further yet.


Sustaining the Okanagan 18: Truth and Reconciliation Through Indigenous Selfhood

Five days ago, I found a psychological diagram attached to a dropped hand-out for the truth and reconciliation process for creating healthy selves in adults who had suffered personal or cultural violence during Canada’s residential school program, which was intended to erase indigenous political issues in Canada by removing indigenous languages and cultures, including attachment to land and place. The diagram was a black and white variation of this famous pyramid:_69571892_triangles_464

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

It works on this principle: you need to sustain your body; only then can you look after your security; only then can you love and build community; only then can you receive positive reinforcement and find pride; only then can you actualize a particular technology within your body, called a self, which directs this step-by-step program and internalizes exterior cultural and environmental forces. 

I was struck by how colonial this process is, and how it is, in itself, a form of de-indiginization. After all, it contains a hierarchy, in which having a “self” is given priority, on this hierarchy:

  1. Food and shelter. These are”resources” taken from the environment (which is not on the chart).
  2. Safety, security, and so forth. These are things separated from the environment and from the environment of other people competing, seemingly violently, for the same “resources”.
  3. Love, family and community. These are things built within safety, which is separated from the environment, which remains as a competitive, violent source of “resources.”
  4. Esteem, honour, praise, worth. These are things built out of family or social life, which is built within safety, which is separated from the environment, which remains as a competitive, violent source of “resources.”
  5. Self Actualization. This is a integrated, interiorized representation of the entire pyramid, which makes this ladder of competition and protection into a self-standing process, both supporting society and independent of it.

Nothing could be more “US American” in the world. In Indigenous identity, the very premise of this hierarchy is not present, because identity and environment are one. That means that there are no resources, that safety and food, or community and earth, or praise and shelter, and so on, are not separate as they are on this list, but are all present at once in a unity, which is not “the self,” actualized or otherwise. Sort of like this:


Toad Hanging Out

… or this Native American image of all that:


There is no hierarchy here. The diagram shows four different forms of the same energy, which is the energy at the centre of the wheel, or this (for example):


Thule Reeds and Kayak Waves

Houses, mats, food, sources of feminine power, vital trade goods, and important energy for many other living forms of energy, such as loons and dragonflies and beavers and trout.

In comparison to that, all that this …


… can do is to replace indigenous identity with a social code, for use in interacting with a non-indigenous culture that forms abstract patterns and divisions in place of unities. And that is the colonization project in a nutshell. It has some use in a power-oriented society based on certain classes of privilege, but at the very least the image could include a foundational step, called Earth Needs. At best, it should be a circle, with the understanding that humans are part of their environment, are formed in response to it, and that all points of self, from 1 to 5 on this chart, are always present, although always formed by what comes through from the “previous” level. If the levels are barriers, or doorways, then only what can pass through barriers or doorways can pass and be available for the next level. If the transfers are points of unity instead, then what can pass through unity will be available for the next energization. If all transfers transfer unity, then 5 won’t be self-actualization but world actualization, instead of the actualized self living inside a 5-walled fortress, in a world it has a part in only by “taking” and owning. I’m sorry, but we can do better, by giving not taking, along a unified flow between spirit, body, mind and emotion, from one to the next, within unity. Like our sister, Siya?


Who gives. Who we know as the sound of children moving through her and accepting this gift, among birds and deer and bees. Who we care for so we can give her to them, and them to her, for their training. These children who bring us berries on her behalf. Berries which bring us into the afternoon summer sun:


World actualization, earth actualization, valley actualization or indigenous actualization would all help sustain us in our earth. This…


…does not. We should put it in a museum.


Why Beauty?

Beauty is a signature that a human was present, using its bodily senses to measure the precise balances in a landscape and to align its body with them.palepond

Some beautiful early morning light on the Big Bar Wetland, for sure, but also beaver, fish, frog and bird habitat, under precise conditions, and damselflies, which give life meaning.damsels at dawn

Yes, that’s another sign of a human presence, and is the resting place for an apprehension of beauty, recorded in memory. These physical abilities are useful, and powerful. Memory is consciousness.P1200646

Early Morning Moon Over Big Bar Lake

Consciousness is beauty. It is the reading, for example, of a hawk at rest and in flight, with one’s own body.


After awhile, you become it. That’s the point.

The Human Signature

Rock (and marmots)…P1040936

… rock and water …P1140094

…the thing that makes them similar is you. Here, the same signature shows up again, in an old gold mine in Conconully.


Fascinating, isn’t it. Here it is again at Ozette.P2270593 And here at La Push.P2280645

It’s comfortable to call these natural forces.


As soon as you do, you’ve made an unbridgeable separation, which makes your relationship to the earth …


…a matter of personal identity and emotion: forms of possession.P2230770

Let’s try honesty.


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 …


Humans Go 3-D

Yesterday I talked about how humans (and dogs) navigate the world through one- and two-dimensional patterns and the intersections between them. These are less qualities of the world than qualities of the human and canine minds doing the navigating (and sniffing). At the end, I brought you to a fields. Now, there are no fields in the earth. It just doesn’t make them. Humans do, though, as representations of their bodies, just as walking in a ditch is a representation of dogness. But then weirdness starts, because what do humans do in their fields, which are their bodies? Well, mostly they stand under the sky and scare all other humans away with barbed wire. That’s right, they’re kind of like scarecrows, really, the humans, the darlings. And what are these dear creatures doing while out there in the grass, surrounded by their barbed wire and their No Trespassing signs? Ah, they’re going 3-D, that’s what. They’re building two dimensional representations of their ways of seeing on top of two dimensional representations. Back in the day, humans got the idea of making images of themselves, which they called art. They looked like this:

P10302363-D Sculpture of a Human

Now considered as art and gaining its power when abandoned.

And this…
P1010098 … and then, because humans are always building new lines of energy on top of old ones, this …


Eventually, after all of this, humans came to look like this:


Human Field Turned into a Cube of Electricity

And that’s history. No more Michelangelo, no more Buddha chipped into the rock in Afghanistan or poured out of gold in the jungle, no more Venus de Milo with her arm snapped off, oops. Now, in the age of practical men, most humans build a body for themselves (well, OK, hire young men with hoodies and broken down cars to build it for them), that looks a bit like this:


Two Human Bodies on a HIll

Such bodies are expensive 3-D structures that a human, who has recreated himself or herself as a set of ideas, can inhabit. Come on, why get stuck with a simple biological body when you can have more, and be an ego, and build a new body, and use your body in it as an idea, and move it around, and get some wine out of the fridge, and slosh, and even invite guests over? What’s the use of a great big expensive body like that if you don’t show it off, eh. After all, not only does it have a view (social cost and environmental debt, $100,000 off the top, $1,000,000 if it’s lakeshore), but it has oodles of social status to spare, which is really great if you are going to have a field, because fields are all about  some basic personal control over who you are going to let into yourself and who not. A girl (or a guy) has a right to say that “No means no, buster!” Yeah.


The $800,000 Mid-Line Version Body

When you make the mistake of putting a body like this in the wrong darned field, in the wrong darned country, you go down to Mexico in the winter, and rent a second one there. What’s really great about that is that José brings  you drinks.

Um… isn’t it a little odd? You kill the earth to put up a field, which has some chance of paying off its environmental debt, but then you remake the field as a house, and then you don’t live in it? Folks, that debt is never going to be paid. It’s like people are starting to think like these big wooden bodies. I guess it can’t be helped. Truly smart critters like dogs wouldn’t have seen the point in it, but humans, ah, they’re smart chimps, and you have to admit a house is a much sturdier barrier around you, your darling spouse and the scurrilous kids and their dangblasted technological doodads than barbed wire, plus, bonus, houses are impervious to quail, pheasants and coyotes, that might, you know, raid the, gasp, fridge. Now, you might think, why these particular bodily representations, when you could choose this instead…


I choose her.

… or why you’d choose this particular house-body, when you could wander around in the grass in the Glory of God (humans talk like that in their better moments) …

Well, OK, Weeds, but, still.

… and let it teach you how the grassland is your home (where else, after all, is your field, hmmm?)…


Thule Reeds

The plateau people built their summer houses after seeing how well these things folded and wove together. You try thrashing through that after a duck, you’ll get the idea real quick. Barbed wire is amateur work in comparison to this stuff, especially when a house made out of this stuff puts you in the grassland, without the need for a field, but, hey, humans don’t always think things through, and they get a bit traumatized by violence, and what with all the field building and environment wrecking, and all the dear darling spouses, there’s a lot of violence. For this reason, humans like to huddle together. (This is because they are descended from mice.)


Strange, isn’t it. You start out with a field, and that is you, then you build a body to live in, with a view, then the walls aren’t enough and you huddle there with your neighbours, for, you say, the view, but only one of you gets the view, so … darn it, that’s dog society, isn’t it This is because humans and dogs learned to be dogs and humans together, and I think they got a little mixed up along the way. Still, it is what it is, isn’t it, and you can sure say this: humans aren’t just individual bodies but social creatures. They see arrangements like this one (the oversized humans obliterating a field, above) as the most natural thing in the world (so natural that they don’t even see it at all. Why, they even think this is the way things are.) This, too:


A Body for the Young

A multi-facetted training installation, to bring the young up to speed on individuality, communality, ownership, privacy, and the importance of viewing nature not through the grass, not through a field, not through a scarecrow, not through art, but through a house body you set up in a field, in which anything you imagine is real. Um… shouldn’t the young be starting with this …


Bunchgrass in the Snow

… and working their way up from there? Because if they’re not, then the education is social, and not physical, which is fine, but, get this, the world is physical. Shocking, I know, right, but there you go. We might as well speak the hard truths, because, I think, the coyotes are getting tired of yipping them to us at night. Alright, hard truth number 1:


“Tree” House, Aborted

There are lots of aborted bodies like this at the bottom of the hill. That’s the thing about human males. They had so much fun building their body out of the grass that they … go out and build one for the kids, instead of letting the kids build one for themselves, and then when the kids are mainlining YouTube instead of hunting gophers with the dog, they wonder what’s going on. Um, Dude, that’s because you have to build your own body yourself. You have to start from this:


That’s what bedrock looks like around here. Green planet! If you build it for the kids, it’s never there. That’s the thing about thinking in 3-D, you see, which male humans are truly great at: you might forget what female humans excel at, which is thinking in 4-D, because they were the ones who had to go out and pluck the darned desert parsley before you got scurvy, and they had to know, like, when. The fourth dimension is, of course, time. It is space, it does not flow. It’s here. If you think it flows, look again. That means you’re not here.

Tomorrow: islands in a grassy sea (and other non human spirits of great significance). Yeah, and dogs pee on them, too, geez. Until then, enjoy that body of yours, eh, and, body, just this:

Keep your mind on a leash!

Dogs and Humans: the Showdown

Here’s something cool about dogs.

P1060346Footprints in the Snow

Dogs follow edges. When you’re a dog, you don’t even think about it. You go for boundaries, and you stay there. Since the boundary in the above image is straight, the dog has gone straight along it. It’s not because the dog likes straight lines. He doesn’t. He likes edges, and if you put him on a hill, like one of the coyotes around these parts, he goes along the ridge lines of small gullies and canyons, follows the base of the gully itself, if it is clear of trees, and follows the contour of the land. In other words, he is following an energy curve. No need to think about it. It’s the most natural thing in the world. Now, humans, who learned to be humans from hanging around dogs, make use of lines, too.

P1060118Fencing Hell

Just not as well. Poor things.  They tried to pick it up, but weren’t really paying proper attention. You can’t blame them. They got the idea that lines were some kind of magic, that you could make a line around a piece of earth and a horse would stay there, because to a horse a line is uncrossable. The barbs on the wire are actually military technology, not for dogs or horses but for humans, who see a line and want to cross it. They don’t even think about it. To them, it’s the most natural thing in the world. And a pheasant? Ah, yes, they’re not even on the program. Where humans and dogs are, they go the other way, five minutes before or five minutes after. They don’t have to think about it, either. It just makes sense that way. Actually, it makes a lot of sense. Clear out, I say. Those things (dogs and humans) are dangerous.

P1060189How to Share a Landscape

So, you can see, perhaps, why dogs follow edges? Edges bend lines.

P1060194That means that if you track along a natural edge, you’re more likely to follow a track than cross it briefly.

P1060198 Thank God for Edges!

 Otherwise, human tracks are the ones you follow, because when you’re a dog you not only track edges but you follow, and because you’re a wolf that learned to be a dog by hanging around humans, you bend your energy line to the straight lines that are all that humans can manage, because they follow light, which moves in straight lines, rather than land, which moves like water.

P1060190Good Boy

And what do the humans like? Apart from defeating themselves with a simple wire, this kind of thing:

P1060085Anti-Human Defense Support (aka Fence Post)

And what is the defence against? Well, it’s not necessarily defence, that’s the thing. Remember: humans aren’t so good at lines. It’s more like offence. After all, this fence was put up around an apple orchard. Apple trees don’t escape. And it wasn’t to keep the deer out. They go over and under. And coyotes? Sorry, right under the wire. And pheasants? Over we go! In fact, the fence is useless except for one thing: it keeps humans out. And out of what? Aha, that’s the thing. It doesn’t keep them out of a line. They’re free to follow it and be a dog all they like, but not to cross it and be human (or a pheasant.) What is inside the fence is this most important thing:

P1050085A Field!

That’s what humans like. Nice two dimensional spaces: not lines but flat expanses that represent the human body in space. Humans can’t help themselves. Pay it no mind. Oh, and what are that darned coyote and those magpies doing in that human’s body! Well, that’s the thing isn’t it. Eeeyew. It’s like getting a wasp down your shirt, isn’t it. Well, that’s what happens when a human doesn’t occupy the space he claims. It’s not his. Line or field, space is social, and the social group involved is not just a human one, like it or not. That’s interesting, but it’s not my main point. My point is that the next time you catch yourself looking at a field as if it were a normal thing and part of the earth, stop for a moment, look your field in the eye and recognize it for what it is: something that humans make to represent themselves. They can’t help it. They might suck at the point of lines, but they do boundaries around two-dimensional space very well. They get so sure of themselves, they even do this:


They fill their bodies with lines, all of them straight and going nowhere. This is hardly the grounds for a system of economy that will lead to a healthy planet.

Tired of one and two dimensions? Well, come back tomorrow, for the strange and exciting story of what happens when humans move into full 3-D!