Lessons On Blending In at a Stag Party in Coyote Country

You can hide behind stuff. Sure, you might get spotted, but I bet that most times you don’t.

And, in the end, the sagebrush masks one’s intentions. In a landscape that’s a bushy maze, the first move is critical. You remain in control as long as you can hold both that move and enough distance to take advantage of it.

And once spotted, break your movement up into periods of freezing. You remain unpredictable. For this reason, freeze in the open, not when hidden. When hidden, move fast, so you can freeze where everyone can see you, but can’t read your mind.

Being truly hidden is a disadvantage, unless you aren’t seen in the first place. That is the position with the greatest openness of all, and openness is everything. This lesson in reciprocal respect is invaluable.

Excellent colour matching helps distract predators drawn to beauty, too.

More Fun Than a Jigsaw Puzzle

It’s the time of year for laying out a jigsaw on the kitchen table, but if the rest of the family is setting the table for dinner there, what to do? Aha! Play a game. This is the main trail out of the deer nursery. Why not climb it in your mind, to get the year started by getting yourself into your deep deer mind? So many ways to go… or is there? Here’s a hint: the triangle below is the nursery. The trail goes right through the centre of it… and then?

Keep your head down! That’s the most important thing. Have fun!

Indian Reserves and Language

Let’s be humble for a moment. There is a global culture today, and it is not humble. It looks out through human actors, apprehends the image below through their complex biological organs …

… and sees leaves. It is proud of itself. As the humans this culture controls, let’s not set aside that pride, but let’s set humility alongside it. The global culture looks through its humans at the moment broken by apprehension below and sees an ill poplar leaf, suffering  predation by leaf miners in a season of drought.

It may or may not view the three ants at work within the image. This global culture is language-based, in a conception which views language as the expression of individual humans, learned in social environments. Such languages exist, of course: English, Spanish, Swedish, Hallkomen, Urdu, Nysilxcen, Hopi, French, C, and so on. There are thousands of them. They are powerful. All humans use them. Or, rather, all humans are used by them. Consider stag horn sumac (again):

 

To global culture, the sum of individualized, word-based language, those are leaves. The word “leaf” determines what the humans, who use the word, will see. A human can come by, now and then, and say that these are “tongues” or “wings” or “feathers,” but global culture will soon explain that such “use” of language is “metaphor” and “poetry,” and move back to “reality,” that holds that the image shows “leaves.”

 

 

It was not always so. The culture of my ancestors, for example, once held —not very long ago — that the image showed the Word of God, in a conception that a primary force, called God to give it a tag in language, spoke the world in physical form, not in the words now used to point to it, such as “leaf” and “stag horn sumac.” What’s more, these ancestors held that this language was being continually spoken by this God, and continually spoken back, in a form of mutual interwoven consciousness neither human nor divine.

In other words, my ancestors understood themselves as physical bodies in a physical world. Language, or the strings of “words” now known as language came later. What’s more, these word strings embodied the place of mutual, interwoven consciousness represented by bodies interacting with bodies, in a social, human sphere. That was its role: it has now replaced the earth.

Well, only if we let it. I can, for example, give myself over to global culture and treat the mule deer doe above as an animal, foreign to humans and separate from them, determined by the word “deer,” contained within concepts such as “environment,” “flight behaviour,” and so on, or I can honour my ancestors, and the power of my presence in the world, by treating this deer as my self. Or this wasp hunter.

Or this limestone cliff. And here’s the thing: if I am the limestone cliff below…

…I am the seabed it once was, and the clams and other bivalves whose shells once made (and still do) that limestone out of atmospheric carbon…

 

…and the forces of subduction and uplifting that raised them here in the sky in patterns that, like language…

…guide where I walk and where I do not…

… what I will find there, when I will eat choke cherries and when I will pick saskatoons that sing off of their stems with the sound they are known by in the human language of this place, nysyilxcen: siya?.

It is both the sound of the tongue making the glottal stop of the “?” in the written approximation of a vocal word that is the mouth eating a plucked berry, and the sound of the berry leaving its stem while being plucked. It is both at once, and their coming together, and their transfer into a human social language, without the loss of their ground. This limestone is part of the complex of forces which lead to that moment. Here it is three months later.Its story is still opening. When you live in space, you read it, then create objects to extend the power of that reading. That’s what bodies do. Let’s be humble and proud at once: it is not about words. The land created the deer trail imaged below, at the intersection between gravity and the architecture of deer skeletons and musculature. Our bodies follow it. Words are no different.

In this way, humans are an invention of language, and are kept by it. It might prompt them to create the proto-petroglyphs and proto-sculpture of the cliff-face above, or it might simply open through the physical experience of human bodies into narrative. 

If you know how to read these artful transfers of energy, you can translate them into cultural amulets, such as words, baskets, houses, food stores, stories, spirit traditions, and by extension into the worlds of those amulets, into automobiles, avocado peelers, radial tires and so much more, even private castles made out of chipped aspen trees, glued together in sheets, hung on the milled bodies of spruce trees, sheathed in plastic, and decorated with a thin patina of manufactured stone to assert its place in global culture …

… and even the red sun from the smoke of a summer of fires caused by the failure to maintain this story.

 

Folk traditions are serious when they say that the earth is our mother. It is not a metaphor. It is not an abstraction. It is not an idea, or a symbol, or a myth. My ancestors say the same thing as the tradition of the indigenous people of this place, the syilx. We are interwoven. The land speaks us. In Canada, the country which has laid claim to this space of earth-human weaving, bridges between indigenous and non-indigenous people are fraught. They needn’t be. That’s the language, or in the case of Canada a system of Indian reserves and land privatization, that determines these boundaries. Let’s be humble and admit that. Let’s be proud, and admit that we know the way forward.

Every word we speak comes from our ancestors.

Every one.

 

Everything else keeps us on our reservations. Yes, “our” reservations. Indian Reserves are not just there to contain indigenous people. They are there to contain everyone else as well. Let’s take that wall down.

 

This Land Must Burn

In the panorama of the hill, there are flashes of colour, very specific, which signify human food and the season in which they will be found. Indigenous humans spread seeds from those asparagus, hawthorn, rose, and Saskatoon bushes, so they can come again.

There are also cows, choosing to live only in a world of weeds that have sprung up in areas they have lain in before and shat out weed seeds from off-mountain hayfields and pastures. They make their own environment. Most of the grass you see in the distance is cheatgrass, which came with the cows but then went feral and made an environment hostile to everyone. It limits movement but doesn’t make it impossible.

Pretty sick and sad-looking animal, that. On the hill, there are also other people, who won’t be found in the cow muck.

They blend in.

They make the trail I used to climb easily up a steep hill, which is where I found him. Of course, he found me first. He made possible the relationship we stood within for five minutes.

His environment is still here, but highly-constrained, just as narrowed as the human one, yet the old relationships are still here, and can still be rebuilt. For that, today, I rejoice.

How to Travel in Time, Seriously: an Indigenous Journey

Well, to travel in time, you could just wait, like this stink bug on this mustard.

Here it is, three generations ago:

It’s blending in better now!

European thinking holds that we are now at the end of a year (a circuit of the earth around the sun), with life coming to fruition in death. That’s Celtic, really, and ancient. It is a powerful story that controls the way human minds and bodies interact with Earth.

Earth Creature, you know where to go here, because this is your body, and your mind. It looks like it’s “out there,” but that’s trick of consciousness. Don’t be fooled too much.

If you postulate time, you see it as self-evident that the seasons progress one from the other, in circuit. If you don’t build time into the system, then you move through the earth differently. Take a look at the snow buckwheat below. Note the variation in ripening.

The orange snow buckwheat bloomed in a dimension called “three months ago.”

The white individuals, especially those at the immediate bottom of the slope…

… are blooming now. That’s how it is in narrative time. Outside of time, in time-space, shall we say, they are blooming all at once, just in different dimensions. Western thought might call those micro-environments, or variations in a species. Earth thought would call them environments of time: rain capture, soil structure, snow melt, genetic variation, the gamut. In that sense, this wasp from 15 months ago is clambering through the snow buckwheat now.

By stepping between one and the other, by moving from the dimension of one plant to that of another, you move through that time. Western thought would call it space and memory. Note the high altitude lake, run through the houses of the city below, then filtered, now pumped high up here to irrigate a vineyard.

That’s part of Western thought’s attitude to time and space as well, sculpted for maximum use of machinery, although not maximum use of land, and is part of the picture, obviously. You can’t pick and choose. You get the whole thing.

 

I suspect that might all sound strange, so look here, if you will at an image of a little meadow of wheat grass, arrow-leafed balsam root, big sage and lots of weedy cheatgrass, in bloom.

Here, look again. Western reckoning places this dimension in parameters called June 7. Look how the cheatgrass, an invasive weed, is already red with Autumn, while the plants of 5,000 years ago are standing up to their waves.

Ah, you spotted the doe. She never left. Here she is. That’s her trail leading downhill to the corner of the vineyard fence…

… and uphill in the image I first showed you, from the same spot. 

That spot is a point of human presence in time. A dog would smell its way through this. When I start walking, time shifts, to reveal and hide its parameters and its dimensions. A hill moves as I move through the bodily shapes that form my sense of it, that push my body to where I have to go, from this …

… to this …

 

Note how the shifting of the hills has nothing to do with legal boundaries.

… to this …

 

… to this …

 

… and then to this…

… as I move through time. Note the deer trail. Today, I let it lead me, let the hills push me between their forms, accepted that the forms were my thoughts, and was swept uphill and to the west…

… and higher…

… following the deer trail the whole way …

… — the trail of the deer who were being swept in this direction by the land as well, as it matched their own bodies and their own minds. This deer is right here, right now, I realized…

…because it always present. It can be in no other place. And sure enough …

… we are in the same place.

I turned away, because driving them from their grazing was not in my interests. Keeping on the uphill path was. Again, I let the land guide me.

Because I have the ability, as an Earth creature, to see through space, that is to see form behind a screen of spring, or saskatoons and choke cherries, if you like, through my peripheral vision, that is, where I’m not even looking, I was seen in turn, and stepped just to the right for a better look…

Note that there’s something on the hill above me that his attention more than I do. A hawk perhaps. They follow wanderers, screaming, to see what flushes up in front of them, or me. I dunno, but…

… when he passed behind the Saskatoon and I passed higher up the hill so it would turn the earth to face me, he passed across time so that the earth would put the does in his site again — too early to approach, but early enough to keep them in mind. It’s not hard to find your way when you are the land.

Such a simple thing. Look at the wetland hiding behind the hill, home of bears and porcupine, woodpeckers, grouse and deer. It is a herd up there. One can expect herds from it, because it moves time across what Western thought calls the seasons. Look how green those trees are, watered by a fold in an old seabed 100,000,000 years old, while the land the earth turns to the sun is dry with invasive cheatgrass and the big sage that crowds in after cattle have over-grazed the earth.

As you would expect, it forces the deer off it. All that’s left is land humans have claimed for themselves. It’s a pretty spare life on the edge of time and space. Do you see that clump of Great Basin Giant Ryegrass at the edge of the gravel?

 

It’s more than at first meets the eye.

And at night, which is not a time but a dimension, a space, the coyotes go partying in the vineyard and then burst out.

Look. They are here right now.

Note the deer tracks entering from the left. The paths join here.

At all times they know where the deer are. They walk the same path. So do we, if we let the land walk us.

The Land Speaks and We Listen

When the land presses energy out, it makes a trail. Water can follow that trail, or that trail can be picked up by shrubs and lifted to the air, as in the image below.
p1480103This old principle of the earth is called Dicht, or thickening. It is the earth’s way of distilling energy into form, as it does with the saskatoon bush below.
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It does the same with these mule deer does.p1480468

In their case, because they have great agility of movement and great endurance and strength, the Dichtung (thickening) that the land does to create them is very complex. Still, it is understandable. They are at this distance, because it is as far as they wish to go to be safe, given that this is the sunny slope and the snow is difficult everywhere else. They are on the ridge line, so they can watch both ways, with their escape route open. p1480469

I mean, why go to that shadier snow to the north?p1480436 These does are, in other words, following the same pressure of the land’s forms as creeks, ponds, and bushes do, and the fact that I found them here, by chance, is because I was following the same flows. What’s more, these flows are mapped out across the land by these does.p1480439

As anyone who knows this land of volcanic outcrops and sagebrush knows: if you don’t follow the deer trails, you’ll be retracing your steps. Follow the trail.

p1480238 But it works both ways. Here are the does fifteen minutes later. I’m far below by this time, looking back up the hill. You can see them grazing in a tight group, far tighter than when I first found them. This is the group they made in a defensive posture from me, in a position determined by my presence. It will slowly open out and shift across the grass.p1480521

And don’t think they aren’t still watching. Or that I’m not watching, too.
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We are all flowing together. None of us are flowing in any direction not given to us by the land. Well, the land and the sun.

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Shine on.