Monday, August 31, 2015


Things are still not back to normal.  Maybe with the start of school?  I have been doing lots of reading, but not finishing anything.  I have a bunch of projects underway, but nothing to show yet.  I did finish painting my shoes.  I had been wanting to do a pair for a long time and I was quite happy how my ravens turned out. 
I am trying to figure out a not quite teen.  Trying to help my other child a non reader to be set up for a good school year.  There is so much I want to do and the time seems limited.  Until I stop and think about how much media I consume and maybe it is not a question of time but one of focus and priority. 
I am trying to live in my circle and make that real.  To forgive myself when I don't and let go of all my anger at myself for past failures.  I went gathering a brought home cedar and dandelions.  It felt good to look at my neighborhood through another lens and see the abundance around me.  I held a baby and was amazed by how strong and smart such a little person is.  I have thought about turtles and how they survive on land and water.  The advantages and disadvantages of the shell.  I thought about my cat who does not know she is cat and does dog stuff cause she sees that around her.  Am I doing dog stuff sometimes?  Do I need to do more?  I have been trying to watch Kookum moon and slow down a little to be aware of her in my life.  Maybe randomness is not so bad sometimes.

Monday, August 24, 2015

September was crying month

I was really inspired by this shirt and the message to remember that September was crying month for many people on Turtle Island.
First Nations refer to September as "crying month" it being the month children were removed from their homes.  “I finally get it, that the feeling of worthlessness and insignificance, ingrained in me from my first day at the mission, affected the way I lived my life for many years. Even now, when I know nothing could be further than the truth, I still sometimes feel that I don't matter. Even with all the work I've done!” Please wear an Orange shirt on September 30th to promote reconciliation.

I decided to make everyone in the family a version of this t-shirt to remind us of the two sided nature of education for indigenous people which I discussed in this post.  I traced Runa's foot and began to paint.  I really love to work with the fabric paints as it gives an almost chalk affect.  I drew a different animal for each family member and in the design of each on I included the names of family members who went to residential schools.  These names are broken up and sideways or upside down. 

These last two paintings were done last year.  I was playing with a funeral scene but I did not get the dimensions of the coffin quite right. I really like the colors in this piece so I am using it as part of the shirt I finish for Joel.  I wish I could draw better, but we have to work with what we have right?

Finding your way back to you

Lisa Congdon
I continue to work my way through  Richard Wagamese's book "One Story. One Song" which I discussed in a previous post.  In today's essay Wagamese discusses his marriages.  Of his current wife he writes "Debra has never tried to save me.  When I fell, she was strong enough to let me flail until I found my footing again." and "Love is not about's about allowing.  In the Ojibway world, love is the process of you leading me back to who I am.  You do that by stepping back and allowing the creative nurturing energy of the universe to work.  That's the most courageous thing you can do when you love somebody."

I remember my father in law saying that you choose your partner based on what they will bring out in you.  Different people will bring out different parts of you.  I choose my partner, despite his disabilities, because I liked the parts of me that he brought to light.  Even if he can't get out or do things some of the time, I like the conversations and the humor we have.  I think that Wagamese's words are also wise ones for all relationships both in navigating those relationships that you need to leave and making decisions about which relationships we invest in.

I am seeing this a lot recently with my daughter as she moves from the friendships of proximity, to those based on shared interested.  Sometimes the old friends are not letting you go into spaces that you need to.  But it is hard to let go of friendships and not have it be a negative thing.  It can be hard to learn that some friendships are finite.  This essay has also given me a lot to think about in the context of parenting and our role to help people find themselves.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Really bad jobs

One show we have loved as a family is "Time Team" which is basically competence porn.  A group of professionals comes together for three days to investigate an archeological site.  They all work from their different disciplines to tell the story of what they think happened.  It is all very polite and British and even when they disagree it is very collegial.  I like how it shows my girls how the whole range of disciplines and ways of thinking have something to add to understanding how we live.  I also like how the show reminds me how much people are people regardless of the time or place.  It reminds me of the role I play in the link of ancestors.

Lately we have been watching "Worst Jobs in History" by the same presenter and he goes and learns about these horrible jobs and tries them.  Most of them are stinky, hard and/or boring. Again, this is a good reminder that as my job may frustrate me at times, overall I have it way better than many people most of the time.  I am not required to work with offal or risk death. 

I enjoy watching this with Runa as it gives us lots to talk about and really brings the history alive.  One show also addressed people in the workhouses and the attitude towards poverty at the time.  This segment horrified Runa when she learned that they thought that poverty was a reflection of your goodness as a person and a moral failing.

Horrifying to her, but really still the mindset, although we pretend it's not.  Are you poor?  Then you must be lazy or stupid.  As a society we don't want to think about what actually got people there or interventions that would help.  We don't really care that you were systematically abused, suffer from mental health issues or lack the social capitol that we take so for granted. 

I have long been working through a book about the invention of statistics after the French Revolution - where the creation of aggregate unemployment data, the author argues, allowed people (States/churches) to look at poverty from a new collective level.  No more were you dealing with a real person with a name and a story that you knew, but you could deal with "the poor" both distancing them from the society as a whole and making it more morally acceptable to generalize them and treat them poorly.  I may have a relationship with a specific poor person, but likely will not have the same relationship to the poor.

As a civil servant, I have seen the dimensions of this issue come up again and again.  We can best care for people when we see them in the whole context of their lives and stories - in an indigenous world view.  But, that is potentially more expensive up front (maybe not in the long run thought if the interventions are successful) and more open to complaints/legal risk.  We seem to be swayed most often by the higher up front costs and less open to the stories we here around the successes of these alternative approaches. 

As an economist I try to tell the full cost story and hope that supports the moral imperative behind some of these changes.  Is that a cop out?  I hope that I can bring my skill to the table and that I get to work together with all those  professionals who have other tools and parts of the story.  There is so much I want to do once I get these children launched in their lives and able to read and take care of themselves.  Sometimes the dysfunction in my own house is overwhelming, but I am working on being where I am and doing what I can.  Do you feel overwhelmed with these big social issues sometimes?  Is that maybe why competency is so appealing to watch?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Insect Orchestra. It is the smallest of things in life that can matter. I love a cricket chirp. Think of those who cannot hear it. CH.Even with the windows closed and fans going full blast I am annoyed each night by the cricket chorus that will not stop.  I am trying to see this as a lesson and think about what I can learn from my annoyance about this non-stop song.  Trying to find a picture for this post, I was reminded about all the stories of crickets and their songs.  But none of these gave me an overwhelming wash of warm emotion for these night friends.  Crickets make me cross.

I think the most frustrating thing is the almost, but not quite rhythmic nature of the song.  Just when you think you have the pattern and can thus relegate their song to background noise a song starts a fraction late.  Maybe that is the lesson.  As much as I want to understand nature and thus "control" it, it will not be held to my standards and that very disruption to my illusion of control is what is so annoying.  Each chirp is a little reminder of mortality and a lack of control. 

This is threatening unless I can find that place in me that floats in that chaos and knows it to be a part of the deeper patterns of our life and part of the circles we live.  In that space the crickets good.  They are summer.  They are safety - nothing too scary is on the street.  They are reminder.  A reminder to let it all go and sink more deeply into the circle.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Believe what you see

Christopher McKenney is a conceptual photographer from Pennsylvania who manages to find true art in the dark and twisted. He specializes, as...
Christopher McKenney
I am continuing to clear out an old writing book and came across this quote which I think I first heard on Oprah

"Believe people when they show you who they are". 

I spent a lot of time not believing friends whose behavior showed that they didn't deserve that title and trying to make excuses for them. 

Believe them.  Those who care about you will show you.  They won't ask you to just rely on their words.


I have been reading "Looking at Mindfulness" by Christophe Andre who presents a picture with each section and then uses it to address various assets of mindfulness and ideas for building a practice of mindfulness into your life.  I like the use of words and images together and his writing is very clear. These work very well as daily meditations as there is a lot to think about in each small section. 

I have been thinking for some weeks about his essay "Making Space for your feelings" about the need to observe your feelings rather than prevent them from your consciousness and pretending that they don't exist.  This spoke deeply to me.  I want to have life clear from the churning of emotions and to be able to respond with logic. Logic makes me feel safe.  Emotions are dangerous and turbulent.  It makes me mad at myself when I fail at the calmness of logic.

Andre talks about just being present with the feeling and seeing where we are.  "Our emotions, however unpleasant, are not "weeds" in out mind.  They are part of our mental ecology.  Accepting them is possible and viable only if we are aware of them and their powerful or subtle mechanisms of influence.  Having feelings is natural for us.  We need to act on their influence rather than their presence.  And the goal of what psychologists call "emotional regulation: is not emptiness, calm or coolness - at least not straightaway, or not directly.  The goals are awareness and clarity."

The weed metaphor is doubly powerful in the indigenous context where those viewed as weeds can be important medicines.  My feelings and reactions are there in the landscape.  I can ignore them, but it does not make them go away.  He goes on "We can't leave a place unless we have admitted to ourselves that we have reached it, and we can't free ourselves from suffering that we have never allowed ourselves to acknowledge."  I feel that there are lessons here that will take a long time to work through.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Back to normal

After a few intense weeks at work with absences due to illness and vacation, things should start to get back to normal which should leave me with more energy to get to my posts at the end of the day.  I was very happy to get a chance to meet with an Elder again last week.  I wanted to talk to her about Sophie's moon time and how I could guide her through this period.  The Elder was very helpful and most of what she told me was very similar to that in the Kim Anderson book on the life stages of women.  Even more than that, I came away with a sense of acceptance.  So much of my learning has been by books and learning just enough to keep ahead of what I am teaching that I feel a little lost sometimes.  But the Elder expressed her happiness that we are trying to learn, the teachings, the medicines, the skills and the language and seemed less worried that it was chaotic.  That acceptance meant a lot.  While, I might fall off the path I am trying to follow some days, I am on a good path.  A good red path.  That is some peace for me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Inhabiting your body

Brain MakerI recently finished reading "Brain maker" by David Perlmutter.  Noting reservations about medical research and the journal process, I found this book very interesting.  I haven't ever spent a lot of time thinking about my microbes, but this book make a lot of sense in the story of the circle.  I am trying to see myself holistically in a way that includes all these parts and tries to understand how they all fit together.  I find myself so often falling into the Cartesian duality and while I am working to translate my life in terms of the sacred circle I end up paying attention to the big parts of my physical existence and forgetting all those little spaces.  This book was a good investigation into one of those little spaces.  As the Elder I met recently said his Kookum always told him to pay attention to the ants.  This book was an interesting look at the ants.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Making things Porch Edition

Runa set us up on the porch to craft over the weekend.  I love working with her and watching her creative process.  Above is the last touch on Sophie's dress.  I added the elk teeth I got at the Powwow, one to each side under the gears.  I also got myself together to finish the hemming so it is finally done.  I learned a lot making this dress and doing the research for it. 

Below is some bark and leather that I was playing with to make earrings.  I encountered a number of technical issues, but it was fun to work with these materials and learn some more about them.  I also finally had a try at a necklace I have long admired of a cat with a ball of string.  I did one version using a plastic base and one in cardboard.  I especially liked how the ball of yarn turned out with the variegated yarn.

Lessons from the Trees

While we were at Powwow this year we got to try cedar tea and since we liked it I decided to make some at home.  Once I started looking around our neighborhood I was amazed about how much cedar I could find. I decided to harvest from a tree that comes over into our yard.  As the branch was high I brought a close hanger to help bring it closer, but that did not work so I was left trying to whack the branch. 

I was starting to get frustrated and ready to give up when I noticed that the ground was littered with bits of cedar that had come off in a wind storm.  Collecting those I was able to get enough tea.  Once I started looking for these I was amazed how many there were.  So many I had just walked over while my focus was on the big tree in front of me.  While I enjoyed my cedar tea the next day, I think I enjoyed what I learned collecting it even more.  What else am I overlooking while trying to get to the big thing?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

In case you didn't hear...

The RCMP recently settled with an indigenous woman they locked up with no water covered in her own moon blood.

Beading meditations

Started a new beadwork project.  I am doing a cuff with a koi and trying to think about water and letting go.  About finding the balance for the times you need to swim upstream and when you need to let go.  I am enjoying making a figure and frustrated with the fill stiches.  How do I make the ordinary background space something beautiful too.  There is a lot to learn on that little stretch of leather.


Runa and I did some crafting this weekend and I made a number of new fascinators including this summer treats one.  She was a bit jealous and wanted some for her dollies.  I really love working with her an seeing how she works through things. 

Trying new stuff

Perusing Muskrat Magazine last night and came across this article "2015 JUNO AWARDS INDIGENOUS NOMINEE PLAYLIST".  The list is from January but I really enjoyed working through it.  I worked through the first video by Tanya Tagaq and came to another place.  We see so many older people around us who get stuck in what was who don't become elders as they are still trying to be other things that have passed.  Have you tried something new today?