A Sky Map of the City of Coldstream

Downtown Coldstream, on the valley bottom north of Kalamalka Lake,  is the hole in the centre of this map of clouds. The ribbed clouds below it are the eastern edge of its uplifting energy. The illuminated cloud in the foreground is related. It often hangs above Middleton Mountain, at the north end of Kalamalka Lake and the southern edge of Coldstream, at the confluence of the Coldstream and Priest valleys. Time and time again the pattern is repeated. When the illuminated cloud is being blown north (as it is here, slowly), it reforms within fifteen minutes. Similar mountains taking form in the air are evenly spaced behind it. What a beautiful map. What a beautiful dance of earth and sky.

In Praise of Great Basin Giant Rye Grass

It would be beautiful if we taught the children of the Okanagan and the Okanogan that in our country grass doesn’t compost and make food for worms. Actually, this is a story that stretches from California to the Boreal Forest, in the channel of fire between the mountains. Look.
P1050036That’s Great Basin Wild Rye, three years of it, perhaps four, standing tall. No composting. No humus. No soil building from the leaves. No worms. None of that. Those things come from Europe. They don’t know what to do with a grass that lives in the sky.

P1050017Notice how it holds seeds for years. P1050037

They only fall when you, or someone with four legs or two wings, rustles through them. The concept of years, or the cycle of the seasons, is nonsense in the vicinity of Giant Rye Grass. We should tell the kids.

Reading the Sky

For perhaps 16000 years on the North Pacific islands called Haida Gwaii, the Haida people lived just above the intertidal zone. They were creatures of the sea, like clams, safe in the mud, and mussels, clinging to rock. Their dreams and ancestors, though, were largely in the sea.

SkedansSkedans Village, Haida Gwaii

Things don’t look like that anymore.

800px-Skidegate1

Skidegate Village, Haida Gwaii Source

Or do they?  The Haida weren’t the only people living on the boundary of worlds.

P1220389 Turtle Mountain

50,000,000 year old volcano created from a 100-kilometre-broad slip along the Okanagan Fault when North America collided with a collection of mid-Pacific volcanic islands? A surviving piece of grassland habitat in downtown Vernon, British Columbia? For sure.

P1220359 Mullein Singing the Praises of Mullein. Turtle Mountain

Which is another name for the sun.

It is also, however, an image of a civilization that considered itself to be from the sky, and stranded here on earth.

P1220475Grasshopper Flying Above the Snow Buckwheat, Turtle Mountain

These days they scatter up in front of you as you walk, making your presence a half-circle, five metres across. They clatter and click and chirr and flash their yellow and red wings and sometimes land on your cheek and then spring off with the strength like sprung steel.

Some members of that civilization still feel that way. Here is what one man said about this at the beginning of the modern age:

The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who… looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space… on the infinite highway of the air.

Wilbur Wright

Well, actually, it was more like they were trying to read it.

P1220639Clouds, Writing in Space and Time

Educated men were once those who could read this script, and read what spilled across it.

P1220614Hawks at War

When men could no longer read the clouds, they read this new language of birds. The men who scoffed at that, and whose descendants eventually built aircraft so they could do their own writing up there, instead of learning to read…

Doppeldecker in der Luft

World War I Caught Between Worlds

…are now up to this kind of thing:

P1140185

Power and Light, Bella Vista Road, Vernon

Now, educated men are the ones who can read this language, either aesthetically, as I often do, or practically, as do city planners and electrical contractors, but the ancient stories of man’s fall from the sky to the desert of the earth is as strong as ever.

P1140150Staghorn Sumac Writing its Ancient Language in the Sky

It’s just that the words for it are lost and only its visual appearance remains. I suggest that within those images, we, humans alive today, can still read the ancient scripts of the shores on which we live. Perhaps if we just tweaked it a little, into a form a little more like the shape of a poem, from top to bottom instead of left to right, like a novel?

erticalWhat the Sky Says

Home sweet home? Well, no more or less than this:

P1220504The Sun and the Air Taking on the Form of Snow Buckwheat

If you and I can read images, we can read the sky. In fact, the genetic code of snow buckwheat (let’s say) is just such a reading.

 

The Oceans We Live In

We are at sea. There is no solid ground. It’s time to stop thinking about soil. Here’s one ocean. It is an ocean of air.

P1160681Orchard Machinery Riding the Waves

The ground-up refuse of glaciers keeps this junk from settling into the underground sky. It is an ocean of oxygen, complete with clouds, in a rich bacterial community. That’s what those weeds are growing in. They are rooting in one sky and leafing in another. The rock the truck knows is only there as a shore between atmospheres, where humans, the shore people, live.

This is another ocean of air.

pushThe Mussel Beach of La Push

This Pacific Ocean shore on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is an ancient story of the Makah people. Under this water, a rich community of plants, animals, and fishes thrives. To many coastal peoples, this undersea world was their native home. In contemporary terms it was the subconscious. When Indigenous peoples today lay claim to the land, it’s really such stories they are laying claim to. The Haida people, who lived on the shoreline, considered themselves, wisely, to be intertidal creatures.

Oceans of air are called the sky. Here’s one sky …

lakeOkanagan Lake, West Arm

The sky here is under the surface of light on the surface of the lake’s water. Fish and shrimp swim through this sky. Mussels live on the ground beneath it. High above, there is a surface of light. Above that is a sky of nitrogen and oxygen. Above that is a sky of stars. If humans lived in that underwater sky, they would call the airy sky above the water and below the stars the land of their dreams.

Here is another ocean.

lightAn Ocean of Light

Here on the bed of the ocean of the air, bottom growing sea plants, like wild cherries, saskatoon bushes and poplars, reach up to catch the light. The light has its own sea, high above, which breaks in waves, again and again, over the earth.

Does such a universe have a centre? Yes. In many places, including this one …

centreuniThe Centre of the Universe, Vidette Lake, Bonaparte Plateau

A group of Buddhist monks searched for the centre for a decade. They found it. Here.

Tomorrow: What it means to be indigenous.

 

 

 

 

 

Water Planet

I tell you, this is one beautiful planet. It does great stuff with water and light, for instance…

 

 

Okanagan Lake, Friday, 3 pm

Of course, as a child of this planet I’m not a neutral observer. I’m meant to see this stuff and feel completed by it. But, still, it’s pretty great. And the earth does great stuff with light, too, or what makes it through the water…

Okanagan Lake, Wednesday, 3 p.m.

And it mixes them up, very finely, too…

Okanagan Lake, Thursday, 3 pm.

The sun at the bottom of the lake, laying a moon road across the water?

 

Whoa. What’s it leave for the moon to do?

The moon at its old work of pulling the heart’s sea here and there

Ah, like I said, this is a great planet. Even the water is infinitely variable here.

Water Passing Over the Grasslands on Its Way Somewhere Else

While down here, far below, the water of the grasslands holds increasingly still…

First Ice on a Flooded Vineyard Road

Building in patterns like clouds driven before the wind.

The clouds, however, take the idea a step further …

Right Above the Neighbourhood Kids, as They Were Walking Home from the Schoolbus and I Was Nearly Tripping on Them Because I Had My Head in the Clouds (Again)

It’s time, I think to head over to the Cloud Appreciation Society and rejoice together.