Southend, Hells Canyon—a deceptive image of a kind of 'false harmony' . . .
from Hells Canyon Reservoir, Northeast Oregon / Idaho . .
On the road in the Northwest of America.

Harmony, Evolution and the
Watercourse Way . . .

Harmony—in the sense of 'fitting together'—is, to my way of thinking,
the primary feature of evolution. What evolves, or changes, or unfolds,
is not merely a relatively autonomous individual species, but rather a
vastly more complex and robust movement of highly interdependent
smaller movements, the two distinctive attributes of which are an ever-
present mutual, co-generation of strands within nested hierarchies,
and a kind of highly unpredictable yet dynamically stable creative,
generative chaos. This is what I call the watercourse way. The two
most striking examples of this watercourse way are living sound and
watersheds. The simplest form of the first is harmonic sound. Here, the
ground tone or fundamental generates the overtones, and the overtones
in turn co-generate the ground. The simplest form of the second is the unity
of stream and forest. The measured life-pulse and rhythm of the stream
depend of the sponge-like water holding capacity of the forest; What is
demonstrably less clear is that the forest in turn depends on a reciprocal
and remarkably subtle through-flow of the water cycle, moving freely
from mountain to sea and back again. The latter includes the many
features which in very recent times have become so inimical to the
ways of industrial man, such as wetlands and floods. This natural
harmony is both self-organizing and vastly beyond our own thinking
about it. We disturb it at our own peril. That is because small, seemingly
inconsequential changes tend to resonate throughout the whole in
essentially unknown ways, and, when luck is not on our side, can
lead to unpredictable large-scale catastrophic results. Imagine a turning
bicycle wheel: One spoke in a wheel breaks, and nothing happens;
A second spoke breaks, and we are taken by surprise as the entire
structure collapses from under us at the very moment we were moving
so smoothly down the road.

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Photograph by Cliff Crego © 2008
(created: III.17.2008)