Breath, Like Water

An Anticolonial Romance

Norah Bowman

In Breath, Like Water, Norah Bowman blends poetry and natural history to simultaneously express a critique of colonial land ownership and celebrate the spirit of her beloved Okanagan Mountain.

“Look, I come from a line of angry women. / I am not in love with mountains, or rivers, or poetry. / I am in love with Mountain.”

In Breath, Like Water: An Anticolonial Romance the narrator, a settler-colonial hiker, grapples with her attachment to the Okanagan Mountain alongside her desire to honour the Land Back movement of Indigenous peoples and the harmful history of white colonizers. She is critical of her own role in this system, yet cognizant of the lack of power she possesses to return the land to its rightful owners. Instead she walks—hiking the Okanagan Mountain regularly, learning the rhythms of snow, heat, bears, pine trees, mule deer, and ticks—sharing its joys with lovers. 

In styles both experimental and familiar, a tangential narrative takes off. Sparked by a mysterious plane crash in 1950, the narrator contemplates a fire-hungry tree-people inhabiting Okanagan Mountain. Blending poetic prose with free verse, Norah Bowman weaves a narrative of magical speculation and natural history to decolonize human-nature relationships and celebrate the spirit of the mountain.