Walking with ghosts and angels

Painting by Jacky Hosford

As part of LitFest New West, an exhibit is up at Anvil Centre that paired writers of short text with artists who were to interpret the short text or poem.

I was paired with Jacky Hosford, a New Westminster resident originally from the U.K. Through layers and frames she painted her interpretation of what I wrote below. I like the way she’s put the frames into the painting to hint at it being a window into the past, and into the future.

Executive Director, Arts Council New West: Stephen O Shea, Poet Aidan Chafe and LitFest Chair Janice Bannister

I had a really good time at LitFest this year. I was on the planning committee so after all those meetings since September, it was good to see what transpired in real time when the weekend finally arrived.

 

 

 

Nasreen Pejvack, J.J. Lee, and Janet Kvammen

With the kick off at the library via the PopThis!Podcast  paired with J.J. Lee through to the Read Aloud event, I felt perhaps for the first time in the five years since I’ve lived back here, the real strength of community that flourishes in New West and that gets talked about on social media by local residents.

New West residents do a good job of branding themselves, I’ll give them that, thanks to small local businesses with great social media such as Steel and Oak, 100 Braid Street studios, Banana Lab, Tenth to the Fraser and others. And I think City Council and many other residents have a really progressive approach to things.

There is a lot going on here when it comes to words and writing and the people involved. I especially loved the In Your Words event that is put together by Alan Girling and takes place at New Westminster Public Library on a monthly basis.

Kyle McKillop reads Patrick Lane

It’s really great to hear others share their favourite authors and poets, highlighting some of those authors’ books and then giving their perspective by reading the authors’ words and sharing some background about the writers’ lives. The Lit Fest version shared Evelyn Lau, Patrick Lane, Thomas Hardy and a travel writer, Jan Morris. I’d never head of Jan Morris so right after the event was over, I went upstairs and checked out one of her books. It’s called Contact: A Book of Encounters about the people who she’s had the pleasure of connecting with during travels.

And I dropped by the New West Writer’s Group Critique session which was interesting as people shared their feedback on some writing pieces.  The Read Aloud Event was great with fantastic readings by Aislinn Hunter, Nasreen Pejvack, Catherine Owen and Carleigh Baker.  And it was interesting to hear the winners of the Short Fiction contest that got sponsored by local lawyer Dale Darychuk, Q.C.

New West Writers Group and their monthly feedback sessions

Poet Kevin Spenst and Shauna Kaendo doing performance piece to his love poems at Anvil Centre.

Carleigh Baker who read from her new book Bad Endings.

Anna Camporese, playwright Elaine Avila and me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s what I wrote:

Walking with Ghosts and Angels

When you return to the small city where you were born, you can’t help but walk with ghosts and angels.

As the radius of your routes expand, you carry in memory everyone who has ever accompanied you.

Landmarked meeting places.

Dad. There. Plaid shirt and black lunch kit full of tuna fish sandwiches made dutifully by mom.

That vacant lot you weren’t supposed to set foot in as a kid and that old woman, Snookie, [was she lonely?] who lived above that garage across the street.

Backyard forts. Baseball diamonds. Lacrosse boxes. Willow trees.

First crush on lifeguard at Kiwanis pool.

Even strangers. Their faces stick.

You carry their hearts on your sleeve as if you’re leading an invisible parade.

Over there. Your grandparents’ backyard and their cement birdbath.

A purple plum tree, its marbled gifts dropped in late summer.

The cobwebbed wooden shed where your Grass is Greener Syndrome first arose as if Grass is Greener might actually be a place that you’d find if only you were better at reading maps.

Now, walking through the cemetery on the hill, you’ve left this era behind, retreated — perhaps to the 1950s — ignoring what the world has become.

Convincing yourself species aren’t disappearing and you’re not afraid of what’s coming down the pipe: oil, the Big One, and even a lack of imagination.

Not the most uplifting ending but written quickly and in line with how I’ve been feeling, about how many people the world over surely have been feeling given the state of international affairs at this point in time.

To fuel creativity, write from a place of curiosity

photo by gayle mavor, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand

I went to this wonderful animated feature last night called Window Horses by Canadian filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming. The creativity of imagination through storytelling and drawing, poetry and music flowed across the screen in unique and refreshing ways. Perhaps, because of the degree of collaboration that went into the film, the end result was that much richer. It sounded as if the film had been percolating for a long time.

Ann Marie Fleming had drawn the character, Stick Girl, about 20 years ago and at the preview at VanCity Theatre on Mar. 2, her connections from Emily Carr (Veda Hille), a meeting from the past, a poem, all lay in wait, mingling and transitioning in a quiet process of the subconscious to come together for a wonderful project.  

And doesn’t that just describe creativity in general?

We see something. It reminds us of something else. We meet someone whose work is leading us to follow a different path in our own or to raise an awareness about a way of being that isn’t working. We bring two things together, dismiss one of them, a third comes into consciousness. Creativity is taking a journey in  real time and then leaving us with gifts of conversation, mind pictures that stay with us being dredged up to fill in a scene we never imagined would stay with us. The way the light falls on the wall in a moment that has never left us or a memory of a person from the look on their face when they said goodbye. The sounds of a kitchen while lying in bed one floor above. What was going on with us emotionally at that time and how that emotion, like a thin veil, a transparency, was a contributor to interpretation. It’s endless.

Maybe that’s why I like writing to an image. It’s the smallest way we have to examine what is not possible to know about the depth and breadth of what’s really there in the muck of our minds and our hearts in any given moment. 

Writing to an image for a short time isn’t really about writing at all, actually. That’s the least important thing about it for me. It’s about introspection and the surprise of what’s there.

Having said that, I am going to post a photo tomorrow at 8 am (PST) and I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and give it a shot. Write for 5 Don’t focus on the writing.  It’s about the amazing things that will come to you, when you stare at an image.

What do you focus on first? What next thought does that bring you to? Even if it doesn’t happen immediately, stay calm. It will. You will begin to make connections from whatever image you look at. Your mind can’t help itself.  What’s the most pleasing thing to you about the image? What questions immediately come to mind?  Do you think of people? Who might inhabit the space? What about this person in the image, if there is a person? Do they remind you of anyone?  How would you feel in that space? Would you like being there? Would you be there alone or who else would be with you? 

A demand for curiosity.

I really want you to see what comes up for you if you’re brave enough to give it a try on Saturday. Let’s have some fun.  And, this time, I’ll give a prize like last week except this time I’ll just choose someone who participates because something about their response touches me. I’ll choose it for you from books I already own and I’ll mail it to you with a note.

Have a happy Friday.

Finding love and finding meaning, the human reasons to keep going

buddhaWhen we entered the temple last week we were told that we couldn’t go into the Hondo because a family was grieving and we’d have to enter in a little while.

Later we learned that it was actually the family of that young woman , Natsumi Kogawa, from Japan who had gone missing in September. Her body was found on the grounds of that mansion on Davie Street in Vancouver’s West End. They had come from Japan to plan her memorial service. It’s impossible to comprehend the sad reality that her family is now facing.

All I could think of was the excitement this young woman surely felt in coming to Vancouver, in improving her English. In thinking about all the new friends and experiences she imagined having before stepping onto the plane from Japan, and how unlikely it was that something like whatever transpired and that led to her death would happen to her here. 

As my attention focused back on the room, I wondered what had motivated all my fellow students to take an introduction to Buddhism course. I wanted to know their real motivation, deep inside, not the sanitized reason they shared about being interested in Buddhism and wanting to learn more.

For myself the past few years have all been about seeking, some people might say to my detriment. They would say that I just need to find a way to accept my life where I’m at. But I think I’ve finally recognized that it goes against my temperament to ever be satisfied for lengthy periods of time if things just stay the same and if I know I could be doing so much more, and I can’t seem to make that work where I’m at.  Isn’t that what “life” is about – experiences and moving through change?

Some things haven’t worked out, in fact, sometimes it feels like nothing has worked out very well in the past few years, and with  Salt Spring as the contrast where everything just felt like it was seamless and worked out with ease and little effort, the opposite has been a shock, another disappointment, an ongoing frustration and endless questioning about what I’m missing that surely must be right in front of me. 

On the other hand, the trying to make things work have led to the meeting of many people I wouldn’t have otherwise met and learning, and yet, I’m missing the key ingredients it seems: love in the way I feel I need it or would like to share it (which may be the problem and I’m smart enough to recognize that)  and meaning.

Zen Buddhism was the topic on our last week given by Reverend Michael Newton of Mountain Rain Zen Community at 2016 Wall Street and a professor in religious studies at SFU.

There were two things that really stood out for me from his words. The first was about how when we wake up from the stories we’ve been telling ourselves, stories that others have told about us since we were children that may or may not reflect who we really are, and we let go of those stories from the past, we can begin to step into the beautiful, clear presence, that’s the essence of Zen.

Each person according to their past and their uniqueness finds unique truths and that is why the truth cannot be told. Someone else cannot tell you your truth. You must find it within. Truth comes from your own experiences, your own practice.

That really resonated with me in the moment because I feel that looking around, looking at others isn’t giving me the answers I need, isn’t showing me my own very personal path. Their answers, their way of living, is not mine. So it requires that I get to the heart of what matters as my own very personal truth about my own life.

Yesterday as I was driving to a friend’s place to hear about her recent trip to Morocco, I was lucky to catch a radio show, Meaningful Man, on CBC Sunday Morning. It was about Viktor Frankl, the former Holocaust survivor, a brilliant man, and the author of  the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, a book that apparently poured out of him in nine days, and one that he had to dictate into a recorder to capture the manic stream of thoughts.

Today on Twitter, I’ve learned that Oct. 10th is World Mental Health Day, and I think some of the ideas spoken within the above documentary have the potential to bring comfort, or at least food for thought, to anyone who is struggling.  Please set aside about 50 minutes to listen to it.

Hair Crazy: Mothers and Daughters and Hair Obsessions

Lemonup from MORE Magazine

Shampoo from the 1970s from MORE magazine

For as long as I can remember my mother was obsessed with the hair of her four daughters.

For my identical twin sisters that obsession seems to have infiltrated their hair follicles, and gone straight into their brains like a yet-to-be diagnosed brain disease. Even in their sixth decade, they are still obsessed with their hair.

They live 500 miles apart and have for years, but until recently, when one of them let her hair go completely white, they were always colouring, cutting, wondering how the other cut it, suggesting they needed to cut it, wanting to colour it, wishing they hadn’t used THAT colour. Sometimes because they are identical twins, they got the same haircut on the same day, unknowingly. Sometimes, even now, when they greet after months and months apart, one of them is likely to say, “What’s with your hair?”

The one who has let her hair go completely white is, I think, emulating my mother whose thick, black, wavy hair turned into a beautiful silver-white sheen in her elder years.

gingerhead

Ginger head as a baby

I am the only person who had strawberry blonde/red hair in a family that consisted of six black-haired people. I think I got the ginger gene from my dad’s side. My paternal grandfather had light auburn hair.

1982withLilian

Circa 1981. With Lilian, a friend from that time.

I’m just going to say it, and it took a lot of therapy to be able to proudly utter this: I had, and on some days still have, beautiful hair. I didn’t think about it and wouldn’t have described it that way back then but I used to have the kind of hair colour where middle aged and senior women would come up to me at a bus stop in my twenties to admire my hair, to comment on the golden-copper light of it in the spring sunshine. I’m not making this up.

That reaction was surprising to me, and nice. It was both of those things because at home it was always, “Gayle, what are you doing to do with your hair? It’s just hanging there!”

Well, guess what? Fifty years later, it’s still just hanging there, thick and coloured to try and match my former natural colour. I comb it once in the morning and that’s it, done, and that’s how I like it.

curlyhair

Permed beyond recognition

What is hair is supposed to do?, I wondered, especially after the fail of hairstyles through the decades. Can you even spit out the word “perm” (left) without inducing a bit of a PTSD reaction?

Then there was my absolute favourite statement, favourite for its astounding level of unconsciousness on how not to speak to a girl child, as in, “I like you better with long hair!” And this was after I’d finally caved in and agreed to a shorter haircut.  Crazy making!

When I was a teenager I’d get so mad whenever my mother even dared get that look in her eye, eyeing me up, and I knew she was about to mention my hair because by then I’d figured out that she had some weird hair fetish in general, but only female hair, the hair of females that she had birthed.

I never could quite figure out why it made me so angry, and I hadn’t really thought about it too much in the past decade until I heard about this book:  Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-seven Women Untangle an Obsession.  It turns out that when it comes to daughters and their hair, my mother was in good company. If only I’d known I wasn’t alone back then. We could have started a support group. And the issue, of course, is that another human being is focused in a critical way on a personal characteristic of ours and most importantly, that personal characteristic in the big scheme of who we are as a person, seems rather innocuous.

Herbal Image 1970s

1970s version

There is an entire chapter written by Deborah Tanner,  Why Mothers and Daughters Tangle Over Hair.  In one of the stories, a woman describes how after she appeared on television standing behind the president of the United States in a bill-signing ceremony, and her mother’s comment later was, “I could see you didn’t have time to cut your bangs.”

The author goes on to acknowledge that any choice a woman makes around hair (and other personal choices) is “marked”, that is, it says something about her. This is not true for men. (Well, before man buns it wasn’t true).

Manbun

Don’t even think about it from www.manbunhairstyle.net

Hair, said Tanner is a secondary sex characteristic. Our mothers were desperate for us to be the best reflections of themselves (not ourselves) that we could be, because inevitably THEY felt they were being judged by how WE looked.

I find that really sad but it explains a lot.

Repeat after me. You are not your mother. You are not your daughter. And have a happy upcoming Mother’s Day.

Got any hairy stories about hair? I’d love to hear whether you had the same type of experience in your house growing up.

Writing desk as home

mydeskThis is my desk.

A lot of famous writers or published authors have taken to showing where they work. I’m positive they clean it up and manipulate it. I didn’t even bother to dust.  I wanted to give you the authentic experience. Oh the glory!

Of course, I’m neither famous nor published (at least not in book form), but as a tip of my hat to all writers who spend hour upon hour alone with their thoughts, music or not playing on a DVD, and engrossed in a story they want to tell, I pay tribute to you, my friends. It doesn’t matter to me whether you’re published or not. I have a small sense of what’s in your hearts and how much of yourselves go into what you’re creating out of nothing but your memories and your imaginations. You are the experience. The experience is you.

I have a relationship with this space that’s as every bit as real to me as those I have with people in the flesh. Even though in the past four years, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve spent way too much time here in this five foot rectangle. I’m not denying that being out in the world, interacting with people, seeing places near and far is a good way to live and explore. It’s the best! But there is a world so rich and so deep inside that Dr. Seuss got it right even when he didn’t mean for the expression to encompass what I’m talking about: Oh the places you’ll go! The people you’ll meet! Even inside your own head. ha ha.

Like most people, the things I’ve chosen to have around me hold meaning.

Clay mask

I have this weird mask that I bought in a small art gallery called Marigold Arts on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was made by Allan R. Bass. I spent more money on it than I’ve ever spent on a piece of art. The pamphlet that came with the piece says he “developed a style of firing that combines Raku and Pit-firing techniques to achieve an Ancient yet contemporary expression.” He lives in a Kiva-styled pit house in rural New Mexico. In other words, he’s my kind of guy! But I bought the mask because it was just so different than anything I’d seen.claymaskArbutus Tree

I took this photo of an Arbutus tree on Salt Spring, of course, on a visit in 2007 with my friend Lisa Wolfe. She was recovering from an operation and still chose to come camping with me. I was being interviewed for a job at the Driftwood which I didn’t get. Gotta love rugged women! I just loved the patterns and the green bark. This tree is in a special place in Ruckle Park that I go to where few people ever are, and it takes me back to so many times of happiness and peace. The first time I ever saw it was with Will Gerlach whom I am eternally grateful to for introducing me to Salt Spring.

arbutustree

Buddhist Temple

In 1987 or 1988, I went to San Francisco with a friend named Pam Melnyk. She was a quintessential hippy, a few years older than me. Pam had been to San Francisco many times and was the perfect person to travel with, especially for me a newbie to the city. We stayed at a hotel in Union Square. She took me through Haight Ashbury and because she was such a music buff, I got the whole history. At the end of a most memorable few days we got bumped from the plane and got paid to stay. We were so HAPPY you would have thought we’d won Lotto max. One more day! This Buddhist temple was at the end of a fantastic walking tour of China town and it was high up in a building that overlooked the financial district. I still recall the experience of lighting those incense sticks.sanfranbuddisttempleElephant

I have a little gold elephant in front of me bought by my dear friend Colleen Eaton on her trip to India. She has a fantastical story about getting on the back of a motorcycle to go back to this shop to have these little prints framed. I love elephants and elephants with trunks up are lucky. Did you know that? Never buy an elephant print if the trunk isn’t up!

elephant

Ruckle House

Below elephant is Ruckle house. This photo taken by a very dear friend Tom James while I lived on Salt Spring. I just love the reflection through the window and the photo of original Henry Ruckle with his wife and baby. I have peered into this window so many times, a ritual whenever I visit Ruckle farm, and it never changes. It hasn’t changed in 30 years. There aren’t many places or things you can say that about and that really appeals to me.

Ruckleportrait

BC Women Artists

A poster I purchased at the Art Gallery of Victoria on a week-long trip to Victoria in 1986. I used to look at this poster and wonder about it, not really understanding the second to last shape. Now that I am that shape, I get it. Damn! I have always loved this poster. There is something profound in those five shapes representing the five phases of women which is its title. By the late Victoria artist Margaret Peterson.

MargaretPeterson

Paper weight

A paperweight with raspberry’s inside. Takes me back to a simpler time, a time in the country. I imagine this lying on a half-finished quilt in a small house with a wood stove and I just love it. A Value Village find.

paperweightIdog

Hey, it can get lonely here. Sometimes as a distraction I press the nose of my little yellow Idog and he shakes his head and barks. Often he’ll be silent and then out of the blue he’ll let out some robotic yelp and scare the hell out of me. Bad dog! Unpredictable! He wants attention but he’s so much less fuss than a real dog, if not quite as unconditionally loving. idogPhotos

A picture of Colleen and I on a trip to Salt Spring way back in 2001 to visit her sister who owns a house there in Vesuvius Bay. A particularly nice weekend.

colleenandme

A saying

Whenever there is a problem repeat over and over. “All is well. Everything is working out for my highest good. Out of this situation only good will come. I am safe.” A gift from Colleen, probably at a time when I wasn’t feeling very good.

newagesaying

Another card, hidden behind the one above. A card from Catherine Bennington, a woman I shared a workspace with at UBC in the basement of the David Lam building when I worked at UBC Multimedia Studies between 1995 and 1999 and she worked for Teaching and Academic Growth. She still works there. We’re Facebook friends and I know she would probably be amazed that I still have this card. But it was perfection and she captured what really matters to me in this simple handmade card. Thank you Catherine.catherinecardThere’s also a photo of the house I grew up in on Hamilton Street at Canada Way across from Moody Park in New Westminster that was ripped down in 1980 to make way for condos after my parents sold and moved to Langley. mavorhouse

A photo taken by me inside the old barn at Burgoyne Bay.  I love the colours of the wood and the beautiful vines across the window. I used to go there on my own with my camera and the enjoyment I got from that old run down place is impossible to describe or perhaps even understand. The sound of the starlings. The aroma of the grass in summer. Those moments are embedded inside of me and this photo helps to remind me of how special my time on Salt Spring was; how much contentment. It almost makes me cry now thinking of it.DSC_0746

I could go on but this is already way too long. Suffice it to say that our things are special to us. And this tiny space, my desk, so easily dismantled, is also a reminder of how little is truly required to feel at home when the richness of life inside of us is equal to that all around in the world.

Maybe you’d like to tell me about your writing space. Or show me.

The importance of year end musing

TarotcardsA quote that struck me as particularly relevant by Paulo Coehlo – “Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all, or by having everything happen all at once.”

Even though I know that the end of another year is an artificial marker, I think it’s truly important to spend time reflecting on the 365 days that have passed.

Beginnings and endings are a container for life and it’s good to sift through that container and discover, to remind ourselves annually, what has been deposited in that time frame?

What am I hoping to do better in the next 365 days? It seems, especially as we age, if we begin to recognize the significance of one day, each day, everything becomes more urgent.

I don’t want that urgency to manifest in a panic stricken, deer in the headlights, rushing around, never having the capacity to be alone kind of way. No. I just want to accept that no matter where I’m at, no matter what is going on, acceptance is really the only way to calm down and get through it.

If I’m not pleased with the way I have spent too much of my time in the past year, with the way relationships have unfolded, or even if you are exceptionally delighted with all that has transpired, it is good to remind yourself that this is no dress rehearsal. The challenge, then, is to weigh that conscious awareness of what your ideal reality might look like, then realign the structure of your current endeavours to fit better with that ideal. It sounds so much easier than it is.

These past few years have felt really challenging, emotionally. To use a cliché, two steps forward, three steps back. That’s how the past couple of years have felt to me.  I’ve thought about it a lot and wondered about it deeply without being very successful at finding the ultimate solution. Expecting that there is one is probably the problem.

I know that part of it has to do with the move back from Salt Spring. It was as if the biggest dream I could ever dream, one that I never imagined could ever happen, happened by my spontaneous move to Salt Spring for a few years. Then, I returned to a place that I never really wanted to come back to for a variety of reasons that made sense then, and after all, it was only temporary so no big deal.  That’s what I told myself. It was time for other things that I didn’t think I could make happen from that island and I was right about that.

Temporary has now been four years. I’ve struggled with trying to understand what this is and why, as my former shrink once said in reference to my leaving the island and my subsequent feelings about that, “It’s as if you are mourning for a long lost lover.” Perhaps Salt Spring was my ideal lover. It fit so many of the experiences that matter to me – nature, community, creativity, solitude, relationship with self – that I experienced much less of prior to that move, and didn’t really know how much they truly mattered to me until I lived on that island and experienced them to a degree I hadn’t experienced previously.

So to leave that ideal and return to the muck of my own history, by returning to the place where I was born and lived the first 20 years of my life because it was close to my elderly father, because the rent was cheap, was not what I would call a well thought out decision.

Some people think my equating my feelings about the past four years with a place is ridiculous. It’s just a place! We have the ability to determine how we think about where we are at, geographically.  But anyone who thinks that hasn’t thought very deeply about how childhood shapes us, defines us before we can define ourselves, and how much work it took, especially if that childhood was less than ideal, to throw off that cloak and walk towards something better in the first place.

Given that, how could there not be psychological consequences to return to such a defining place. Places are memories and experiences that have led to ways of thinking about ourselves, not just dots on a Google map. Anyone who has made a move to a new location, found a new home, will have experienced that feeling of rightness or out of placeness. “Wherever you go there you are,” but sometimes where you are truly isn’t the best place for who you’ve become.

And in spite of my resistance, the decision has resulted in some personal growth. Since I’ve been back, I’ve travelled to Cambodia and Thailand and my favourite big island, Hawaii. I went through the Writer’s Studio, I wrote a lot, I met some new people. I’ve then taken a bunch of courses towards a different goal related to counselling and met a smattering of other types of people – wannabe counsellors are different from wannabe writers. I enjoyed observing the differences and mulling over the similarities.

I’ve never felt so in between things in my life, except, as I say that, I think that’s wrong. I think that experience, that in-between, has been the theme of my life for a very long time. Not quite settled. One foot in the past. Another in the future. Hovering above the present.

These past couple of years have been a test of my patience which is limited at the best of times. It’s been a test of being forced to examine the past, layers of memories around every corner where I now live, and there is some minor inkling that this reluctant return is not a coincidence even if born from a less than insightful choice.

There is a sense that at some point in the future, in my writing, or in my life, that this detour, will prove to have been the returning to the source that was required to start anew no matter how far a stretch that seems as I write it.

So tapping into intuition, or perhaps yearning for it to be so, I’m feeling that 2016 is going to be a year that finally frees me from this stuckness. I think it’s going to be a very good year. Better than I can imagine right now. Hoping I’m right. Hoping I have the will to make it so.

I hope that for all of you as well.

Cultural appropriation or reverence?

nativebracelet2With all the talk in Canada these days fuelled by the new Liberal government in relation to Aboriginal peoples, I opened this blog, my blog, and realized not for the first time (but with deeper consideration) that what people see is a photograph in the header of a bracelet created by an Aboriginal man and I’m a middle- aged white chic.

What’s THAT image got to do with anything relevant to my life?

I wear this bracelet every day, and a silver with gold ring that was given to me by the UBC Department of Computer Science, after I worked there for almost four years doing Communications for them.

It was such a special gift and so amazing to receive because it was something more than I could have imagined any work place would ever give me, and because it represented something that I really revere: Aboriginal art and the culture it emerges from.

After all these years, (I left there in November 2006), I almost never take it off and it has become a part of my identity, a comfort, a symbol of rightness in feeling, when it’s on.

I realize that I have never even acknowledged the artist who created it, and now, unfortunately, I’m having trouble really recalling who that was. It could be Tony Hunt Jr.  The image on the bracelet is representative of the Wolf.

mynativebracelet

I’m thinking about this now because it is so heartening to see that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is at least moving in the right direction in terms of inclusivity and acknowledgement of Aboriginal peoples trying to build on the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

As a non-aboriginal person, it can feel awkward speaking to aboriginal anything. Are you using the right terminology? What’s the difference between indigenous, aboriginal, and First Nation’s? Here’s an article from UBC about this topic of terminology. I’m hoping it’s as up to date as it should be in terms of understanding.

Where’s the line between appreciation and cultural appropriation? Is it wrong to call in aboriginal dancers and carvers at every major event (think Olympics) while throughout our country our lack of valuing Aboriginal peoples is carved into the landscape in reserves without running water, in missing and murdered aboriginal women whose numbers continue to grow, in the homeless,  in our prisons where the percentage of Aboriginal people is disproportionate.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2013/2014, Aboriginals account for one-quarter of admissions to provincial/territorial correctional services in spite of representing three percent of the Canadian adult population.  They made up 26% of total custodial admissions in 2013/2014.

Recently I was reading a paper written by Amrita Roy from Manitoba about Inter-generational Trauma and the implications for Mental Health in Aboriginal Women during pregnancy.

One of the sentences in this paper that really struck with me was this one: “The explicit patriarchy embedded into Aboriginal societies by missionaries, residential schools and the Indian Act have yielded inequities and oppression based on gender (LaRoque, 1994). It goes on to talk about how “the symptoms of the Intergenerational Trauma experience have been absorbed into the culture and transmitted as learned behaviour from generation to generation”(Sotero, 2006, p. 96).

When I read what now seems like such an obvious statement,  I had this lightning bolt realization that of course there is a connection between  missing and murdered aboriginal women and this history relative to Aboriginals, especially Aboriginal women, in Canada.

Now, you might think to yourself, “Duh, where have you been?” But, to really realize how the history of patriarchy has played out in the individual lives of aboriginal peoples, and focus that lens on how that continues to impact girl children and women, with the most obvious signs being that of Missing and Murdered Aboriginal girls and women, seems pretty key to learning how to overcome the humanitarian crisis in Canada in relation to Aboriginal people in general, and girls and women in particular.

So, that’s a very convoluted thought process to say that I wear this bracelet because it was a beautiful gift, because of what it represents to me in what I have overcome in my own life and how that specific job was a part of that, and for hope that understanding through cultural sharing can create a bridge to emotional recovery and success.