Gardens of Water

I left the garden today, and all its lettuces, kale, spinach and dill, and went up to the water, where the birches rise out of the cedars and the wild roses.

The ducks were feeding on the blue damselflies and shrimp as clear and white as clouds.


The water showed the directionality of the sun, the coloured space that was blue from one angle, green from another, and from another all gravity and tension.


To my ancestors, there were languages: the language of birch, the language of cedar and the language of water, and sometimes they joined together and then there was song, or consciousness. My ancestors began there in that offering.


Being together with these languages, at the point of their meeting, was like reading cloud or reading the sea room for the weather coming from the north.


I am learning this language again. Poetry was once the tool for speaking it in human form. I learned this art in an old age of the world from a man who had gone to the old ages of the north of the world to find it.


It still is this art. It still is this age of the world. It is still this old earth. It is still this new.


It should not, however, be confused with literature or “communication,” as beautiful as they are. It can be spoken of alongside beauty, if by beauty we mean balance or organic or earthly form.


Speaking it as a garden is not a confusion. From high lakes like this, water leaves the sky and enters the streams and pipes that take it to my red orach, my oregano and my egyptian onions. They drink this. I feed on this, and not just physically.

From high lakes like this, light leaves the sky and enters my garden, too, in a form fitting of these heights. As I am this land, I am this water. It is not, you can see, what is normally called human. Of course it isn’t. This is the old knowledge. It is not humanism. That is a beautiful but far different thing.


To my ancestors, the cupped hands, or the skull, were raised in thanks and blessing. Skold! they said. They didn’t mean the skull, but the bowl it made that held the mind. They didn’t mean the hands, but the bowl — the old world was scale, or Schale, as they said (and say) in German — that held, that was the power of holding, lifting up and offering and that created them through this offering or lifting up.

 

This is the holding up and the offering, this language of birch and cedar and water. This is where mind becomes.

This is the garden.

Sufic Creativity

As part of my ongoing discussion about how different traditions of creativity lead to different human-earth relationships and, ultimately, different earths, I’d like to introduce you to some ideas I learned while writing my new book of poems, Two Minds.

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That’s Khedr, the Sufic power of unified nature and ethics. Let me demonstrate:

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P2190287See that?  Two moments of a continuous world are separately illuminated by the attention of the power of wisdom and by being brought together in one space embody it. This wisdom is not generated by human individuality or personality but by the act of a human stepping into space which is complete and unbounded, creating a division, and allowing wisdom, which is ever-present to reveal itself in a spark of wit, a quick realization, a moment of beauty, an artful spark, or any of its other manifestations. It is there for just a moment, then is gone. The manifestation, however, can be coaxed out again by a second pair of images or thoughts, such as this:

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Once again, wisdom is present, hovers in the air like light over the desert or a wind swirling dust, and then is gone. Through a series of these dances with the omnipresence of thought, an artful structure is constructed: not of words , but of the moments at which wisdom has inhabited the words and taken on form and shape in a dance with them. It is as if light has entered the beginning of one of these series of meditations or conversations, has trickled down over its ledges, and pools at its base.

Well, in Iceland (above) it can freeze from time to time!

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Khezr, the Hidden Prophet, Trickster Cook of Alexander.

Khezr is one of the afrad, the Unique Ones who recieve illumination directly from God without human mediation; they can initiate seekers who belong to no Order or have no human guide; they rescue lost wanderers and desperate lovers in the hour of need. Here he is:

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Source.

Take a look at the dragon wings he has instead of oak leaves for hair. With claws, and everything.

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In Sufic tradition, there is no separation between St. George and his dragon: they are one. This one-ness between wildness and civility, that is Khezr. Nature doesn’t have to be killed in this conception. It is a conception of balance. That’s the way of the ghazal. It’s also the way of a man walking.

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Salaam Aleikum!

Walking in the Snow

When the fog and the frost roll in and the snow crunches underfoot and the air nips at the fingers and the toes freeze in the boots, it’s time to go pruning fruit trees. In some cultures, it’s the symphony season. In others, it’s the season for trips to Mexico, to lie on the beach and turn brown (or red) in the sun. In my culture, which, unfortunately, as died out, it’s time to go out and prune fruit trees. My nectarine tree and all my memories are calling.P1610898

 

My apricot tree and the starlight I learned to prune trees by is calling.

 

 

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My Fintry apple tree is standing in the open sky, rising out of the snow, with all my hopes for her as a native apple pie apple for this corner of the earth.

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I know little about the seasons of Facebook or the intricacies of the poetry circuit in slam festivals in global cities, in which the young put their bodies on display, in electrified dances with their beautiful bodies, because I learned to dance with peach trees, and know them as my people. I learned to climb to the sky on a peach tree. I learned how to come back down to the earth: strange knowledge in the Anthropocene Age and the Age of Cities and Performance Art:

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Nature is a creation of the Romantic Age. With the old, earth-based and community-based, consciousness set aside for revolutionary individualism, the place for the precise knowledge of how to move through and sculpt bodies in time, in concert with the earth and fruitfulness, has become an emotional reaction. That is such a profound romantic way of being in the world, that it is scarcely noticeable, yet it is what it is. The photographs that punctuate this note, with their emphasis on bodily perception and spiritual sublimation in perception, are a technology of that age, but I know an older technology. Its images are made in life, and in the channels of life.

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Ah, Fintry, There You Are Again

There is knowledge in the romantic approach, and other knowledge in living inside the world it transformed. In my country, Canada, sadly enough, the pruning of trees is done just before harvest now, not as an art but as a technological intervention, to remove branches and to colour the fruit by exposing it suddenly to the fall sun. The fruit gains colour but no flavour, and the men who do this work (for it is men who do this work, men from the Caribbean) need no training and do not follow their trees through the years. There is no history in this. The result looks like this:

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This is not pruning. It’s hacking, and the apples taste of it. In the country in which I live, an ancient art of gaining sustenance from the land, in which winter is a time of the greatest joy and creation, has become an unskilled industrial task dependent upon the technological insertion of chemical fertilizers to replace human skill, and, I’d just like it to be on record, of joy. Here are the pink blossoms of spring and the peaches of next summer. I have been caring for this tree for four years. This twig is an extension of myself. I am these peaches.

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I don’t ask, or expect, you to understand. It’s an uncommon idea. Still, with that important social task, once shared by thousands, now being an almost private ritual of memory, I am left with memory and nature, not as loss, in the romantic sense, but as replacements for an entire language and wisdom tradition that was once known as art, and once in awhile a vineyard in the fog, planted much like a photograph.

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It is for this reason that I have been wandering away from the orchards (and vineyards) in this blog, as much as they tug at my heart, and deep into the land that was here before they came.

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My country was never about romantic images of the past. It was about definite knowledge and personal work on and with the land to create material of social use, with deep roots in the past and deep fruitfulness in the future. As a pruner, my job has always been to pay very close attention to growth, and to sculpt time. With the orchards now turned into industrial plantations, it is in old Indigenous land that I find a remnant of my culture. Yes, people in the romantic tradition of radical selfhood will call the image of a combined porcupine, mule deer and coyote footprint on a well used trail below a picture of nature …

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… but to me it is joy. This is how life is spread across the land. This is how the sun is captured and winter is extinguished. You can’t get that by flying to Mexico. This is what the future looks like, rooted in the past. This is what I know when I’m pruning fruit trees: potentiality, which can be developed into new technologies for the earth. Strange, I know, but I want this knowledge to go on record, in a country which has, for the most part, walked away from it, while still claiming ownership of the land under the concept of nature. Don’t get me wrong. Nature is beautiful. It’s just that the sagebrush twig melting its way out of the snow in the image below is not nature. The image is.

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This is a concept so foreign, I expect, to people in my country, that I can do little except leave it here as a record that in 2015, one man had a kind of knowledge that came down from 20,000 years of human care (and likely more), and would like to pass both it and the earth down to others who followed, before they both are lost. I used to think that I could pass on this knowledge through poetry, which I learned from pruning peach trees, but poetry has become an industrial art, embedded in book culture and a complex culture of courtly social clues, not in the culture of the earth. Perhaps, though, I can show you a few footsteps I have taken through my days. Perhaps you will share them and pass them on, like these crabapples, that the waxwings will come to in a few weeks as they pass north …

P1620381 … or these filberts, for whom there is no winter, only spring and summer.P1620428

 

Perhaps you will come and walk with me for awhile in the snow.

 

 

 

Three Suns, One Path

So, you know, I’m hanging out with my buddies …

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… waiting for the apples of springtime, the ones that have bloomed in the basement and which turn to stars when thrown onto the late snow. While I’m at it, I’ve been keeping an eye on the setting sun to the west …

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…which is moving south over the lake in the form of water. When I turn around and look up …

P1200182… there, due east, the moon is a-rising, drawing the water sun through the air, and what do I notice then …

P1200194… but the window of a house on the edge of the city, set up to look directly into the sun, because that’s a fine and pretty thing. So, I get to thinking, right, like this: “Hey, if I were in that house, enjoying that sun of light …

P1200272… behind the one the moon is drawing over the winter earth, I wouldn’t see …

moon2… this at all, five minutes later, when it was the only light left of the sun on this corner of the earth.” So, now I get to thinking, “Hey, that’s a strange thing, to follow the light and miss the sun.” The sun you see when you turn around and look the way you have just come is not the sun you see when you set out.

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It’s as simple as that, I guess.

Solstice, and the Wisdom of the Trees

Solstice. The sun is going through a tiny hole into the darkness today and out again tomorrow. It’s not a flower, exactly. It’s just the sun. It has been a beautiful journey walking with it into the dark this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, too. Today the earth here is almost entirely white and blue. All other colours are gone now. Time, which is not a linear substance (that’s a human interpretation) has come to the density of a seed. Light is pure. Here’s some time, and light, recorded in wood…

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The story of trees is not a human narrative, with rising action, climax, and falling action leading to death, with lessons learned and hope given for a new understanding in a renewed Eden. Here at the birth of the year out of itself, it’s good to remember that such interpretations of the lives of our sisters are only stories we tell to tell our own stories to each other in the dark. The tree’s story is about branches, arriving at the same place, through processes of breath. These creatures of the sky migrate in winter, like their sisters and brothers the birds. Instead of flying south to the Gulf of Mexico, though, like the egrets, or west to the Pacific, like the loons, they fly down into the clouds of the subsurface skies. All winter long, their roots grow there in the dark. This is the knowledge of the celts. Such knowledge looks now like vineyards and forests and piles of stones. That’s just words. It’s just the industrializing metaphor of the Romans. The knowledge remains.

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Menhirs

Yverdon les Bains, Switzerland

Blessed be.

Aboriginal Ways of Science

There is a way of organizing thought that uses human observers to rigorously observe the things of the world, deduces from them patterns of behaviour and organization and draws from those further patterns and opportunities for thought, understanding, and technological and social development. It is an aboriginal concept. Here is a written and graphic representation of something very much like it from Syilx culture. This particular aboriginality, however, is European. It is …

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A Book to Change the World

The cover image is of a water treatment plant built to replicate the wave patterns of water within plants and within high country streams. It effectively cleans an urban water system and has been shown to increase growth in plants and support more complex insect and animal life than the still water it is drawn from. 

Goethe believed that the most precise instrument of scientific observation was the human body, but that it did need to be trained to observe and pattern without changing the pattern it observed through intellectual or technological intervention. It was an early form of science that, curiously, is identical to the populist one that exists today, exemplified by the British Columbia Elementary School Science Curriculum, acknowledged as a world leader, here:

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British Columbia Science Curriculum

With a bit of colour added for highlight. 

There is nothing about this document that is limited to technological science, Newtonian science, Quantum science, or any other form of methodical thought popularly understood as “The world, the universe, and everything.” Interestingly enough, even though the document stresses the value of indigenous forms of science, including those of the Syilx, it does so in problematic terms like this:

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In other words, aboriginal science is a cultural product that can serve the ends of science. If you think that’s an unfair reading of the document, here’s what the document goes on to say…

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Tellingly, Western Science is not included in this list of traditional ecological knowledge and wisdoms developed by a given culture. One odd consequence of this approach is that indigenous forms of earth knowledge are asked to add holistic material to non-holistic science, in a world view in which “humans are not … more important than nature.” Shouldn’t that be, like, obvious? It’s in the primary texts of Western culture, too, and yet, for some reason, it is given away to one cultural group and denied to others, in a world view that separates ‘wisdom’ from ‘science and technology’. Really. Although it might seem obvious that science should show some wisdom itself, the document goes on to say that …

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Traditional science? Well, only in the sense of a cultural preference. It is, in fact, Goethe’s science that is traditional. Western science itself is revolutionary. I find it troubling that aboriginal wisdom is privileged in this conversation, while Western knowledge is characterized as being different than wisdom, although Goethe was certainly working from within a wisdom tradition thousands of years old. Fortunately, the British Columbian Ministry of Education is also troubled by this. Here’s what they say:

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Contrasting perspectives? Hardly. Goethe pointed out that wisdom and artistic, or cultural, approaches weren’t separate from scientific ones, and did so from within the Western tradition. Let me make a suggestion: aboriginal perspectives are understandable because they are familiar. All humans have aboriginal cultural roots. If it were otherwise, speaking with the Syilx would be like attempting to speak to whales or sea stars. It isn’t. It is as simple as …

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Dismantled Fence

Colville Indian Reservation

… taking down the barbed wire and walking out into grass that belongs to the grass.