Water at Work and Play

Water + Carbon + Air + Sun, tensed like a bow against the wind, waiting to be knocked loose by the deer of the sky.

Water + Carbon + Air + Sun, lying like wind on the face of the water.

Water + Carbon + Air + Sun, waiting to be carried on the face of the wind.

Water + Carbon + Air + Sun, aka Poplar Cotton, catching in splashing waves of green.

Out of a few simple elements, untold complexity and immeasurable delight. The word for that? Why, life.

We are the children of the sun.

Whose Land is This Anyway?

No-one’s. The question is absurd. It’s not land.

It’s earth. One can ask for room, not ownership.

You can’t own Earth. She gives everyone room.

A request for land is a request for social rights. These requests occur within societies that divide social respectability and power by dividing earth into rooms of social power called land. If your goal is to escape the constraints of such a society, claiming or buying land won’t do it. You will only continue the constraints in another form.

We do it, at best, in the hope of protecting the flow of life between earthly and human spheres in that place, so we can be a part of its flow. This is called life and all creatures need it. When that flow is capitalized, it becomes part of the system of privatization. It’s a tricky balance.

Surely, we can protect that flow together.

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…”

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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.

The Mystery of Clouds and Ice

Clouds are water vapour held up by air, and are named after clods, or lumps of earth.p1490817

Ice floes are clods of ice held up by water. But in the world of light, which surely is a world, they are the same. There is a mystery there, as yet unravelled.p1490931

Western culture was working at it, until the guns of Verdun. We shouldn’t have given in.

The Return of the Water People

Coots love the water so much that they only leave for the deep south (100 kilometres away) when things get too rough in January. Then they come up and literally hug the ice, as if it were a floating bed of reeds they could nest on. Soon they will follow the edge of the ice to the high country lakes and ponds where they will raise their young, but for now they float in armadas on the lake. Here they are, from 150 metres up the hill.p1490086

And cruising among the gulls.

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And cruising.
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And looking through the window their reflection makes of the light playing on the surface of the lake, into the depths.p1490695

Here, this is one human equivalent of that deep look.

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And another. Welcome to your mind. Note the gull flying through it, just larger than a water drop.p1490474

It is a time for celebration. The lake is calling.p1490090

The water people answer.

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Your turn.

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The Spirit Whale of the Okanagan

Here’s what might sound at first like a fantastical story, but it does end with a deeply practical point. I hope you enjoy it! To start, look at the spirit whale of the Okanagan at the end of a winter day. The first people who came through here 12,000 years ago were ice-edge hunters from the ocean to the West. They would have known about whales moving through leads in the ice. The trees in the foreground would have been underwater then.p1480903

Look at the big fin of the whale’s tale to the south. That’s quite the whale.p1480921

Over time, she has risen from the water. The purple line below was the lake shore 12,000 years ago. The red one, 10,000 or so. The drop was rapid in each case.

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As you might just be able to make out above, when the tide was in (so to speak), the whale’s tail would have had three heads. Its fin would have been hidden. Swinging to the left, her head would have looked like this:

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She was underwater, that’s what she was. Her body was a canoe full of animals. That would have been intimate knowledge to oceanic ice-edge hunters, and common to a number of indigenous flood stories. Look below for a closer look of the prow. The whale’s head is just a tiny island, leading the way like a porpoise. In this image, the ancestral animals who are the cargo are more clear.

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The image below shows the stern of the canoe again, as it would have appeared above the lake, blunt-nosed as we would expect, with two trails of froth. The stern itself is a clown’s head, a motif we see on hundreds of sacred rocks in the Pacific Northwest. Whatever the reasons are is a discussion for another day. For now, let’s just be present on this ancient shore.

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There’s no way of knowing if people viewed the whale this way or not 12,000 years ago, but one thing is certain: over the course of half a day she lifted out of the water and left behind a lake in the shape of a snake. Two thousand years later, she did it again. Today, that snake is called, derisively, Ogopogo. With more respect, but in equally colonial terms, she is called a lake. That discrepancy between spiritual and European knowledge is worth keeping in mind, when assessing my story of the mountain that is a whale: whether they are indigenous or scientific, story-tellers bring their knowledge and see it reflected in conversation with the forms of the land. People who come from that land, however, see the spirit first.

p1480907As a man, if that’s what I am and not “tree walking” or something like that, what I see in the image above is my self. I can’t say I understand this, or do not. “Understanding” is the wrong concept to apply to that presence, and can only access deep threads of European knowledge and explanation. Like “lake” or “mountain”, however, such activity comes from somewhere else and does not describe the bond between my body, spirit and mind and those of the land. Even “land” is the wrong word for this stuff. I seem to be evolving past words. What’s next, I wonder.

All That Blood Spilling Out So Sweet

Taking away the leaves and showiness, and the sun reflecting in a white glare off of the scales of her limbs, and what is a saskatoon? Just look at her palette, from rose to plum, or as close as a camera and photoshop can come.sask Of course, she is a rose, so rose colours are just right, but look what happens when she puts her leaves back on to eat the sun. They’re just that process. They are her blues stripped of red and drenched with yellow, so that they are green. You need that to eat the sun, yet out of her core comes fruit, and what is that fruit but her pink and purple blood blooming, oozing out, spilling into the world, for us to carry away and bring inside us.
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The leaves and their yellow mysteries make what is winter’s bitter bark sweet, but at heart she is this rich blood spilling out.

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I mean in the language of bodies and the world.