Where the Woods Meet the Water

Yesterday, I mentioned that Naomi Klein’s critique of this past season of storms and fires missed a Cascadian perspective. Here’s one, from Shuswap Lake.

Let me decode that. When one is of a place, instead of moving into place from a position of external power, one cannot speak of the trees, the rock, the fire, the air or the water without speaking of oneself. The image of the ponderosa pine tree “reflected” in Shuswap Lake is a good approximation of what that is like. So is this Kokanee, from Redfish Creek on Kootenay Lake:

Kokanee are what are called “land-locked” salmon. I doubt they see it that way. There are powerful political and economic forces that make the story of Big Oil critical to weather patterns this summer. There are equally powerful local forces, often expressions of external forces, that make the land susceptible to these global forces, which are called weather but are really economic, social and political, which have great power to amplify or deaden the effects of such global patterns as Big Oil. When we as the people of Cascadia develop intellectual traditions that begin with this migrating loon on a lake drenched in smoke and the light from a red sun, rather than from the smoke and the red sun, we will have the ability to resist Big Oil:

Until then, we will be helping Big Oil along, no matter how much we protest. In other words, protest against Big Oil is vital. Beneath its veneer, however, deeper structural work of bringing the earth into the human social group will need to happen if we are to heal or be in any way whole. We can do this. But it has to be whole, and it has to begin here:

Distance is a dangerous  illusion.

Global Warming is Half the Story

Naomi Klein has written a strong, compassionate article about this summer’s fires and hurricanes, and has illustrated it with stunning and heartbreaking photographs.

https://theintercept.com/2017/09/09/in-a-summer-of-wildfires-and-hurricanes-my-son-asks-why-is-everything-going-wrong/

Her title suggests that her purpose may have been to answer the question as to why in a summer of wildfires and hurricanes “everything is going wrong.” She talks about global environmental catastrophe and big oil. If she were a Cascadian, she would speak about how land use policy, governmental and business policy towards Indigenous people and earth, American personal mythology, as well as forest policy, and water management policy errors have catastrophically intercepted the effects of Big Oil to create extreme situations. Every fire, and every hurricane, needs breakable conditions to create breakage. Ms. Klein also speaks about the necessity of protest and resistance, which are, without argument, important political tools, yet she doesn’t speak about Henry David Thoreau, who insisted, before and during the American Civil War of 1861-1865 that the issue at hand was slavery and the mechanism at play was industrial land use. To speak so transformatively is the real resistance. Thoreau’s resistance walked hand in hand with the creation of Cascadia out of the struggles of slavery and freedom in industrialized mid-19th century USA and its corollary forces in Britain, and their intersection with Indigenous struggles to maintain the earth within human social relationships. You can’t talk about the place without talking about this intersection. Anything else is to talk about the United States, or Canada. That’s like trying to speak about Mozambique by talking about Slovakia. If Ms. Klein were from the grasslands of Cascadia, she would use the words summer with great care. It’s not a word that fits very well here. I was quite shocked to hear her talk in such an elite way about the fires that are still burning in my country, in an apocalyptic fashion, too. The task of speaking better, and indigenously, gets harder all the time for all the smoke.


Shuswap Lake

The rising sun should just not be this darned red.

Humans and Geese and Weather and Geese and Humans and Geese

Canada geese always push their ability to withstand weather by coming back from migration wayyy too early in the spring and then toughing it out. That come-too-early thing is what Canada geese are all about. For the past twenty years or so, a goodly flock of them just haven’t bothered to leave. Local governments pay people to go around and shake their eggs in their nests, so their numbers don’t increase — this is considered a humane way of keeping beaches, so important for tourist dollars, free of goose poop. Here they are, childless, on the ice at Minus 20.
p1450268

The sun is going down. Night is coming on. But don’t you worry about them. Other humans come by in their cars, dozens every day, and feed them, which is all strictly forbidden. These humans consider this feeding of hungry animals to be humane. Pushing the weather, or humans, that’s who geese are. I love the way they encourage people to come outside for even five minutes in the cold and be the weather. Honk.

 

 

The Resistance in Prague

In communist Prague, resistance meant to plant an apricot tree, like the yellow one in the foreground below. The resistance was a denial of borders, prisons and proletarian culture.
apricot

Here’s how to resist capitalist Prague:

twocansThe resistance is a denial of property ownership within public space. What these two visions of resistance share is a denial of Prague, written within the city. Kafka, who was from Prague, tried to tell us all of this trap long ago. Here’s another form of resistance in Prague:

swans1

Resistance? Why yes, one is not supposed to feed the swans. Just across the river, there is a tiny nature reserve, of no value to bird life, with a sign forbidding the feeding of these creatures. And the resistance? Look again above those swans…

bread

 Bread for the Swans

The city is an artwork. It has appearances. The people who live within it exert their humanity by resisting those boundaries, and it is those boundaries, in turn, and the resistance to them, that lead to the image of the city, such as this image of the nature preserve:

swans2

An iconic image, for sure, and a perfect illustration of the principles of classical art, but the swans are actually begging for bread. And so, in a city proud of its regained independence from soviet control, the revolution continues, just under the surface. It is the revolution that is created by the city, and within its walls. As for art…

 

parking

It’s a lure, as obsolete as these baroque statues…

digging

Superseded by the practicalities of building waterworks and good stone paths for tourists, nonetheless they remain, even as they originally were: icons pointing to a past that never existed and yet which generates one often-overlooked thing that takes two identical forms: resistance and bondage. As Kafka knew, you cannot escape Prague. Literature was his way of standing solidly in this paradox. Now that literature is the past and cities are even more ubiquitous, what is resistance? This?

wallIs resistance the tagging? Is it the ivy, left to eat at the wall? Is it the eye that sees, stops, and is present in this moment of paradox? Is it here?

canal

Does art, in other words, still have its old power, but within the city rather than in its galleries? If so, what aesthetic training is necessary to help this resistance flourish?