American Dipper Among the Salmon

This is the bird that weaves the worlds of water, air and stone.

It walks into the water and out of it again.

To Dipper, these worlds are one.

Deep under the water, the earth is formed, and the sun, and the stars.

Dipper eats them all and sings. The salmon have come to lay some more.

They weave through Dipper’s tracks. You know the ones. The one Dipper lays down to lead us, if we will follow.

Our Ancestors Are Not All Human. Neither Are We.

The salmon come home, but they do not come home alone.

Sure, they have each other …

… but that’s not what I mean. They come home to the ancestors. Have a look:

There are ancestors here at Vancouver Island’s  Stamp Falls for many animals, and many combinations of animals and people. The human, fish, and animal morphs above, or the big cat and human morph below. For instance.

A snake-human. Even that.

A whole crowd, really. Are they in the stone? Are they in the observing mind? Yes. It doesn’t really matter. This is the Stamp River Canyon.

See who your mind can reveal from deep within you below. It is to this energy of revealed form that salmon return. “Words” and “thought” are songs, but our minds come from the earth. They are bodily organs. Like touch. Or breath.

Raven is waiting, too. He is a whole collection of people, really. Not all people are human. Some are stone.

And dog. He is the first to welcome the salmon home. Ignore the German photographer. Dog is.

Lizard waits, too.

It is not fantastical that a people who lived on this land for 10,000 years or more would develop their spiritual technologies out of the forms of the land, or would read the land out of the forms of their stories. It is not fantastical that man whose ancestors were indigenous to Bohemia and the Rhine would know this stone. Everywhere that the people of the Pacific Northwest fished for salmon or made camp, these figures appear. I could lead them to you here, or in Germany, and help you to see with indigenous eyes. To such eyes, thought is a form of spiritual technology with no boundaries between spiritual and physical life. Here’s fox. And friends. The mind sees what the ancestors know. They are within, and without, and it’s the same space.

One crosses back and forth. One enters

One comes back in a different form.

So many Canadians worry that talk of indigenous rights means a lack of rights to anyone else. This is hardly the case. Canadians have every right to Canada. Canada, however, is not this land, and, speaking as a Cascadian, a man of the North Pacific Slope, neither do Americans, who have laid their country over this land as well. They have every right to this country, but it does not make them this land.

Shuswap Lake

I have often heard it said that the first peoples of Cascadia (or elsewhere in North America) have no more or less right to living in this place than any of the newcomers of the last 150 or 500 years, because they, too, claimed this land from others. It is a spurious argument. They came as people of the land. They listened. This is what they listened to.

Most newcomers listened to this:

They did not listen. They saw, and built a place to continue that seeing, with windows, and walls, and a deck that allows them to be outside and inside at the same time. They came to retire from work and struggle.

This is not the place for that. If one believes it is, then one does not live here, and one has not spoken with the ancestors.

Dead or alive…

…they have much to teach yet.

The Redfish Come Home

Things are pretty great on Redfish Creek above the over-deepened trough of Kootenay Lake these days.

The kokanee have come home.

The work of mixing the sun with the earth and the water continues.

It is good work.

To live is to rejoice.

To be here is to rejoice even more.

This is a human-made spawning channel.

A gift freely given.

And freely taken.

That is the circle. That is the way.

Salmon On the Way to Sea

While making arrangements for my father’s funeral a week ago, I walked down at dawn to the mouth of Simm’s Creek, on Eastern Vancouver Island. No, this is not rain.

Four years from now, with some incredible luck, this plucky little salmon will be coming home.

Others like it will be returning to the fire forests (note the smoke) over the mountains to the east. Fire, water and fish: it is enough.

Where the Mountains Become Water

In my country, the rivers are born in the mountains. Here is born the Missouri, the Columbia, the Fraser and all their ancestors and all their daughters.

This particular mother is the Cascades: a sea bed melted in the deep earth and lifted into the sky by a younger sea. Look at its wave break in a crest of foam.

This is one of the old ones of the Columbia, the Washaptum. Here, the mountains become water again. Note how they turn to eggs of stone. Look how the current is the flick of a salmon’s tail. Look how the sun comes in waves. This is the wave trough. It is like the call of a whale.

Look how the water and the rock braid together in these depths. This is the deepest floor of the sun.

Look how water and sun and stone and sea mingle and part and mingle again in these depths. That’s how it’s done.

Since the beginning of civilization, long before the pharaohs, Owhi’s people, the Pisquouse, came here to meet the salmon the mountains were calling out of the distant Pacific where they fed on the sun. This is the power song. This is where fish make people.

Come, they called.

Come and be born.

These are the eggs of humans, as the mountains make them.

This is a man rising from the stream to breathe his sun.

This is what he sees when he looks back to his birth. This his mind and heart. These are his children’s children’s children’s children, calling for him to help them be born.

This is what we do here in Cascadia.

We are being born. Sometimes it means writing stories about all of this on our ancestral rocks, just as the pines do. Here the fish are born from the mind that is born from minding the fish.

Everything else is the dying. Does this sound fanciful to you? OK. What about this?

Poisoning the earth down the road from my house, in the Columbia Headwaters at Head of the Lake.

Maybe you like your royal gala apples with poison. When Woody Guthrie, the Traitor, sang his song, “Roll on Columbia…”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20ZffI6by3A
This is the impounded river: a chain of shipping locks full of southern, warm water salmon-egg-eating-fish.

… he bragged that the Columbia River, the great salmon river of the world, would live on in the electrical grid, translated into pure energy. That’s part of that above. Here’s some more, on the Okanagan Lake Shore:

That’s what these stones …

… look like after Woody’s betrayal. Let us love each other again.

Let us be the children of the mountains again.

By These Fish We Take Our Measure

From the shore where fresh water mingles with salt ….mount

…and the tide comes in and out and humans erect the stories of themselves they have always lifted into the sky…up

… and the stories of their shadows come to joke and feast …

crow

… to the tidal river, where salt water meets with fresh and forests are brought in from a depopulated coast …

tug

…and where people tell stories of conquest …

simonfraser… as if it were a game for children …soldier

… and build ancestral poles to live in, above a train station decorated with gigantically-enlarged computer pixels and a banner that Canada is “a tent upon a hill” …

train

… to the gravels laid bare by the drought created by the falling of forests far upstream and the burning of coal across the ocean that both paid for it and brought its people to it …

P2000133… and the Nlaka’pamux fishery idled at the feet of the old trail between the grasslands and the sea….P2000075… by the need for a few fish to find some place cool enough to spawn …

P2000140… fish which are stranded in channels cut away from their route upstream through the fresh-water tide zones that rise and fall each year …P2000200

… by 150 years of railroad and highway infill, such as here at Chapman’s Bar …

cut

… the fish, the great sockeye salmon of the Fraser …
P2000193 … are having troubles making it home this year ….P2000122…as the rains come too late …P2000194 … and in the warm water …P2000189

… our ancestors die too soon. P2000196 As we grieve for them after their journey to the open Pacific …P2000111 … and back …P2000128 … it is vital to remember … P2000094 … that this is not a romantic or bittersweet story …P2000100

… and it is not a story of nature and its excess and abundance, and the birth of life in death and renewal or any other such story …P2000088

…this is the year in which a people who have built a tent in which to live upon a hill watch the fins rot off of their ancestors ….P2000191… who circle idly…P2000099…unable to go on …P2000095…while we pray for rain to cool the rivers for the few with some muscle left, and for those which will follow …P2000190

…including us, who come from no tent but from these mountain tides …

P2000082 … and these ancient mid-Pacific volcanoes cast up onto the shore and ground down into bone …P2000216

… and rain …

P2000161 … and the memory that is not a looking back…P2000170

…  but a looking forward. Here are some of those sockeye salmon from the Horsefly River, two weeks of salmon travel north, in 2006.

horseflysalmon

…and here again today, as the glaciers melt away …

P2000094

By these fish we take our measure.

Blood of the Earth

I live in the country of the Columbia River, above the lake that spills into one of its tributaries, the Okanogan River. In this country, there are many rivers like the Okanagan, such as the San Poil, the Kootenay, the Spokane, the Methow, the Wenatchee, the Snake, the John Day, the White Salmon, the Willamette, and the Young. That is just one small list of many rivers of energy pouring into one great stream that flows out to sea. Each draws the energy of a piece of land, some of them almost four billion years old, others countable in the tens of millions, together into one flow that pours straight into the Pacific, without a delta or a single shoal, only an underwater bar that brings the desert to the mouth of the sea. Today, I was in the John Day. It looks like this:

redhill

Heart of the Earth, John Day River Valley

And look what I found growing out of this old volcanic ash:

bitter2That’s right, bitter root, the most important foodstuff in this country. And she was blooming…

bitter3These are the blood of the land. Together, they flow into the water, and out of the water comes …

,,,our hearts, here in the Columbia Country, the red fish, in this case the Sockeye of N’kmp, that have gone home to Siberia and have come home to the Columbia. This is more than the maple trees of the East. This is everything.

Meditation on Light

The human mind reads patterns.

panorama2 Perhaps it does so because it is formed from an earth rich with patterns.

panorama4 Perhaps the moment of apprehension of pattern is called meaning.P1360572

 

Perhaps that comes after the moment and is weaker than it is.

P1360581 Perhaps “meaning” is a false path, because there is none.

panorama2 But perhaps there is pattern, shared, and that is more. 200 years ago, Goethe proposed a science based on such principles. 100 years ago, Heidegger proposed a philosophy based on these principles. They have been discredited because their observations led to neither science nor democracy. No?

P1360461What if you include the earth and the water in the community of humans? Isn’t that where we need to go?

P1340092 The arrival of the first snow. Bella Vista.

Shouldn’t we include the sun?

P1310914 And our brothers and sisters teaching us how to come home?

header2

Nk’mip Sockeye Salmon Coming  Home, Okanagan Falls

What are we afraid of? Losing our identities? When we can gain the world? Isn’t this how we can stop being an endangered species?