Monday, November 30, 2015

All my kookums (grandmothers)

My daughter Sophie is having suicidal thoughts.  This isn't the first time, but it is more realized than the other times with actual scenarios.  There is part of me that is totally terrified, but strangely there is another part of me that can deal with this.  With actual problems there is somewhere useful for my anxiety to go.  I am used to problems.  Living with my mother, life was a series of crisis.  That is the normal mode I was used to.  It doesn't feel good, but it feels normal in a way.  We will go through the process of talking and seeing medical professionals and getting the support she needs.  It is not a straight path, but one I have walked before, both personally and for my partner.

Wassabmosakwe (Walks Far Woman)
by Clayton Samuel King
But as I showered and wanted to cry I tried something different.  Usually at this point I feel very isolated as neither my parents or Joel's understand nor offer support.  I feel this lack keenly in these moment.  But this time as my heart ached for the mother who could support me, I reached out to all the ancestor kookums and asked them to share from all their experiences of dealing with children and hurting people.  I went to bed feeling calm and had a very strong vision of being held in their arms and touched gently.  I was cradled and held up and moved in many positions and understood very clearly from this the need to be responsive to the person I am caring for, to recognize their individual needs and to try and support them where they needed it, not just where I was comfortable doing it.  I felt them go back to the spirit world, still present, but not here and I was ok.

I have so much to learn as a Métis woman, but what I received yesterday was a great gift.  We really don't walk alone.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Nothing to fix

Yesterday I read the paper "Decolonising the Body: Restoring Sacred Vitality" by Alannah Earl Young and Denise Nadeau.  I thought this was a very good article that covered two areas of inquiry really well.  It provided a very nice indigenous introduction and contextualization of the authors.  The paper itself examines "unlearning ways of thinking and being that have been etched onto the body." 

The first paragraph is a lovely articulation of indigenous place and belief.  
"In writing this article we acknowledge our place in Creation, the Ancestors who have gone before, and the teachings they left with us for the benefit of the future generations.  We acknowledge the sacred gifts of the earth, the air, the fire and the water that give life and sustain us.  We acknowledge the minerals, plants, animals and the humans are our relatives.  We acknowledge the traditional ancestor territories in which we visit, work and live.  We honor where our original ancestors; linages come from, and the first they offer in our lives as the continue to direct our intention to reflect our spiritual teachings in practice."
The depths of the sea are only water after all by Michelle Kingdom, via Flickr:
The depths of the sea are only water after all
by Michelle Kingdom
This articulation is something that I have been thinking about.  How do we position writing with the same ceremony and seriousness that we would oral information transfer?  This one little paragraph has all the elements.  The authors go on to introduce their backgrounds both as people and thinkers.  The combination of these two paragraphs provides a sense of who the authors are and grounds the words they share in the rest of the paper. 

Later in the paper, there is reference to the part boat person (euro) author and her challenge to be accountable for that history and to recognize the benefits that she gained while also working to maintain the integrity of teachings from her other traditions, even working to "uncover, in her own tradition, teachings that complement Native teachings, rather than appropriating the later for her own."  This articulation struck me as even before taking on my metis identity, I had been working to uncover teachings from my northern European ancestors on connections to family and related belief systems.  For example, we now celebrate the solstice from an indigenous perspective and on another night from the Celtic, Scandinavian and Germanic perspectives.  I like this balance where we can recognize the teachings from all our ancestors.

They describe a program they developed and delivered which was geared for aboriginal women to support a stronger cultural identity as a means to help them "mediate multiple forms of oppression in "new" ways", to support reconciliation and to "lift up people's unique gifts and goodness."  They are explicit that the goal of the program was not to fix people but to support them to reclaim the personal and community sacredness of indigenous women, embedded in connections to "all our relations" which may have been damaged or lost through colonization.

The program works to support restoration of these connections, both within the singular body, but also within the community body.  This involves a practices of compassion of one's self.  It is "lived out in an attitude of kindness towards oneself - there is nothing to fix, one just allows one's body-spirit to do what it need to do at any particular moment."  That statement gives me chills and I have been thinking about it ever since.  I get so caught up in the exercise of self improvement and focusing on my flaws that sometimes overwhelms.  This thought is so other to me.  When I grew up I was never good enough (Jesus sees all that stuff you do) and you don't work to be nice to yourself.  You don't deserve kindness.  It was like a weight lifted when I read that sentence.  I can just be ok in this moment with nothing to fix.

The paper goes on to describe some of the exercises they do to embed these thoughts including visualizations to send acceptance and compassion to parts of the body that need it, mindfulness, grounding to increase connection to the earth, singing to increase awareness of breath and body work to reverse patterns of disassociation.  In this phase of the program they also talk about the medicines and the give and take nature of that relationship.  I never thought of this aspect on the medicines.  This is something I need to learn more about and I appreciated this little introduction.  I am going to try and find some other work by these authors.  Both the tone and the practicality of the paper were good.  I really appreciated these teachings they shared.

In speaking about female sacredness, I was told by an elder (I forget her name), that I was to serve  Sophie's food to her during her moon time.  I had mentioned this to Sophie a couple of times, but mostly we both forgot.  However, this morning when I asked her to make her lunch she told me she couldn't.  My initial reaction was annoyance, but I made it and was both glad she remember and pleased to take part in this everyday ceremony of female sacredness with her.  It gladness my heart to see her connecting with these practices of our ancestors and hopefully learning a more positive view of their bodies as women.  What do you do for yourself during this time?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ancestors and wise kookums (grandmothers)

Beatrice Ost from "Advanced Style"
I was going through old documents and pictures in order to develop richer pieces for our Ancestor alter that we bring out for celebrations.  It was good to find a use for all those cards and bits I had saved over the years.  I am also going to add little descriptions of things they liked or were noted for.  One colleague did a whole ancestors dinner and they ate only things that family members who had walked on loved.  I thought that was a great way to keep memories alive.  I am going to add favorite foods to the text as well.

Was reading a Buzzfeed article of "33 Beautiful And Hilarious Pieces Of Advice From Grandmas" and a couple caught my eye.

"Honey I never got anywhere without asking for it".  I see this so clearly with Sophie and Runa.  Sophie worries that she hasn't got what she wants while Runa just goes ahead, asks for it, has it and gets on with her life.

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and go hang out with someone whose life gave them vodka."  It is always better when you find someone who complements your strengths and weaknesses.

I was also reading an article about a beauty pageant for Holocaust Survivors to give them a chance to experience things they could not in the past.  There was gentle reference that some people thought this might be sensationalism that objectified the elderly.  Can women ever be grown up enough that they can decide to do something and people aren't worried that they are being manipulated and don't know their own minds?  Check out Advanced Style and get your awesome on even if you aren't on the runway.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Worrying about what is on people's heads.

This weekend I came across a very racist sticker against Muslims, on one of the lights in our neighborhood.  I took the sticker off, but it got me thinking again about what a silly thing it is too worry about what people have on their heads or that they worship in a different ways than I might when there are so many more important things we should be working together to fix.  How about we talk about what is on peoples heads after we have addressed the wage gap for women, minorities and indigenous people?  How about we get to that after we have ended child and indigenous poverty?  How about we have that conversation when we have seriously addressed mental illness?  Let's focus on what brings us together and what we can accomplish when we pool our resources.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Birthday Party Sadness

Sometimes I forget how far we have come with Sophie.  But celebrations usually bring that progress into the light.  All the expectations, noise and change of schedule are just too much for her.  She spent both Saturday and Sunday nights in despair after two quite nice days.  She lay on the floor and cried that nobody understood her and that she might as well be dead.  It is a lot to shift focus from eating cake to deep pits of sorrow, but such is Sophie.  In addition, Sophie is afraid of getting older and she sees it at getting closer to death and as having to give up the things she likes about her current life. She has always had this belief and first raised it when she was worried about not being a baby any more.

It can be hard to remember that this is not only her talking and to let her go through what she needs to in order to get out the other side.  It is hard to remember how long it can take to feel better after a panic attack, even when I live through them too.  From the outside it can be challenging to give that person what they need when often they don't even know what it is that they need.  She is sometimes so resistant to use her tools, she shoots down her calm cloud or does reverse yoga where she breathes and moves in ways that make her more upset. But I need to remember how long it has taken me to learn and apply these tools.  She is still little.

So while I think about Sophie's birth and the wonderful at home peaceful delivery, I also remember the weeks of insanity with a child who would not eat or sleep. I remember the little baby who would not be put down and needed so much.  I need to remember to keep giving, even as she enters a phase where she won't ask for what she needs as much.  We did get in some ceremony with the start of her berry fast and her repudiation three times of the offered berries.  I am going to follow up with teachings each month and try to get her time to spend with some Elders as well.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Winter Celebrations

I have been planning our winter celebrations over the past few months and almost have everything together.  I try to weave together a number of celebrations over time and space to tell an integrated story that focuses on the joint themes and explores why these common themes might persist over time.  As I previously noted, this in part reflects my desire to extend the focus beyond just Christmas with all its personal bad memories, but also as a means to sensitive my children to the reality that not everyone has the same holidays.  It also has been beneficial with a child like Sophie who may at any one moment not be able to do something (so many Birthday/Christmas eve tears) and reduce the pressure for any one event to be perfect -Hanukah is great as there is at least one good dinner in the eight nights.

This year I have added a count down to solstice.  In each of the weeks we will look at a particular natural element, thus recognizing and including all our relations in our solstice celebration.  We will take time during the week to think about that element, learn it's name in Cree and if time permits to build a ceremony around the element.  I have also tried to collect some appropriate crafts for each one, but that is a nice to do at this point.  I will post in more detail on each of the weeks.

The point of all this is really to be together as a family and to try and live out that winter part of the circle, being together, contemplating where we have been, planning where we are going and connecting to the ancestors.  In good years we get together most nights to sing and read a story around our greens.  Sometimes, life gets crazy and that doesn't happen.  I try not to have this be something that stresses me out.  I am trying to add to our lives, not take anything away.

So over the coming few weeks I will share more about our traditions for this period and I would love to hear any that you have.  I started this process a few years ago drawing heavily from the Celtic traditions and I am working to add in more indigenous elements.  Like life, it is a work in progress. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Who controls the plagues of fantasies?

I have just finished reading "Exorcising the 'plague of fantasies'; Mass media and archaeology's role in the present; Or why we need an archaeology of 'now'' by Rodney Harrison.  This paper was pretty interesting and a quick read.  He looks at the need to balance the idea of the "wisdom of the crowds"  behind things like wikis with the ease of erasing/burying "alternative accounts and non dominant narratives" in these same fora.  To counteract this pressure he calls for the application of archeology tools to online spaces.  By the title, he is explicitly referring to earlier work by Zizec discussing the dominant worldview favoring globalization and minimizing (or fetishizing) "ethnic particularisms".

While I certainly see the possibility of a continued suppression of difference online, I don't think that this is any more bias there than in the previously experienced creations of history where "what happened" was determined primarily by white, middle class, European men.  I may not see my ideas of indigenaity stay on a wiki, but I could at least put them up there in the first place, which really seems like an advancement overall.  Furthermore, while my blog may not be optimized in every search engine, it is easily findable.  Through following the links of other indigenous writers and artists and thinkers I can access a world of resources and voices. Furthermore, we don't need to be online at the same time or close in space to share an imagined reality.  We could talk about a lack of access to these online spaces for some groups - but let's put that aside for now.

But I do ultimately agree with his argument for an archeology of now.  I think there is a lot we could learn about how we can transfer information and preserve tradition in this new format.  Personally, I am interested to watch the development of "pan-indigenatity" arising through the easy access to a wide variety of indigenous voices, stories and songs online.  I also see opportunities to better support the domestic and global indigenous community through user controlled nuancing and tools to support "ethical solicitation".  I can hear about an issue and contribute, in a way that someone from that community has suggested is useful, not how the news has told me to do it and not through an "organization" perhaps controlled outside the community.  I am thinking here of the kickstarter like campaign started to build a new house on a Canadian reserve.

Now I would question, whose tools are we going to rely on to do this work?  I love Foucault as much as the next gal, but maybe a dead white guy shouldn't be in charge any more.  I am going to go back to my fantasy that Judith Butler is my mother and life is calm and Cartesian and logical, but then maybe I need a new fantasy with circles and not lines.

Decolonizing my plate

I continue to work through  "Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight" by Peter Walsh.  The current chapter is a discussion on the benefits on mindfulness.  I feel like I am receiving a messages from the universe about mindfulness.  Walsh describes a greed-reduction classes offered by Diana Winston who has her students consider a chocolate while completing an eating meditation that starts with thinking about what led to the chocolate being in front of them.  They are asked to consider all the people and natural elements that came together in it's creation.  To wander all the paths the ingredients may have taken.  At the end of the section he writes "Not only does this exercise teach you to get more satisfaction from less, it remind you that a lot of work and resources go into the food you eat and the material goods you buy.  So purchase (or eat) something only if you really need it.  And if you buy it, put it to good use."

This description struck me as a great encapsulation of the issues of modern consumerism, and the related lack of awareness of what goes into the food we eat.  If I really think about what is in that cheap chocolate bar do I still want to eat it?  It is that personal self delusion that allows me to scarf it down and forget about the politics of chocolate growing and how the food business is manipulating what I want to buy. 

I know that decolonization of food is something I need to do, but it seems like a hard one.  I don't know why is seems so daunting where there is evidence of the health aspects, both physically and for the related landscapes as well as community health in the cases of co-op gardens.  There are benefits related to the empowered nature of this type of eating.  Indian Country has a number of articles examining a return to traditional eating, moving away from bread and healing through diet.

There also appear to be lots of resources available like
 #nativeeats  cookbook
 The Mitsitam Cafe cookbook
Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest cookbook
Decolonizing Diet Project  which appears to be dormant but the blog is still available
Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking  
The Native Recipes blog which seems to have a lot of resources
Indian Country recipes for beef stew and sweet potatoes
Plus the cooking shows on the APTN like Moosemeat and Marmalade and this podcast I have tried yet from the Okanagan
Top 10 Fit Natives on Instagram
So with all these resources and inspiration what is stopping me?  Knowing how my current diet is not best for me, knowing the hard is does to the environment and the other benefits another way of eating would bring why is this decolonization so hard? I am going to keep thinking about this one.  Have you had a similar struggle?  Have you found something that helps?

ᒪᐦᐃᐦᑲᐣ (mahihkan) wolf

Runa's wolf vamp is coming together quickly.  I quite like doing the animals in beads.  I need to point his ears a bit more and finish his leg before I turn my mind towards adding in the medicine wheel elements that she wants.  I am planning to do winter with snowflakes and fall with leaves for this vamp.  I used some larger beads in parts to give him more texture.  It is always a little daunting beading something that is in somebody else's mind.  She wants a cat for the other vamp.  Not quite sure how to get that to align with the wolf.

I have been enjoying the blog I found from Half Breed Reasoning.  A lot of what she says is really resonating for me.  I have been thinking about her article on finishing school and carrying not only her expectations, but the expectations of her people.  That is a serious burden to add to an already hard process of getting yourself established in a career.  I really appreciate that she is sharing her experiences. 

I have been invited to a woman's drumming circle this evening.  I am going to try and take Sophie with me. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Morning circles

Idle No More:
Link with no name but this looks like Rande Cook
Had a morning of little circles.  First a conversation with another parent at the bus stop lead to  tips for best winter places to take a small person.  I shared online reading tips with a quite elderly lady on the bus and overheard some people on the bus talking about where the best AA meetings were and their tips for stopping smoking.  All these little momentary communities coming together was pretty encouraging.  What circles did you add to today?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Load-bearing skeleton:
Gotta keep working even when you
are gone. Found here
Really enjoying Cris Derkson this morning, the mood feels appropriate for what I wanted to write about today.  I am an analyst both by nature and training.  I think about things and find the fault with them, break them down into their parts and look at ways to make them better.  But it can be a fine line, you can't destroy everything all the time, people don't always want to know the faults you identify and it can be hard some days not to fall into the mindset of breaking the thing to see if you can build it better.  I see analysis as a dance in the shadows trying to find a healthy balance.

I think I learned a lot of my analytical skills from my mother.  I learned from her distance, as the Psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott wrote, that the child with a distant mother, will create a world of logic to protect themselves and make sense of things.  I also learned from going to church with her where we would sit in the loft so we could comment on who was going bald, who was not sitting quite close enough to their partner, and who was not keeping up.  It was a spiteful sort of game.  I learned to be very good at it even while feeling bad about the juxtaposition of church and judging others.  But there are moments when analysis can bring personal gifts, both the self analysis that can lead to good life changes, and also those precious insights into where we came from.

My father was a good man in retrospect or at least average.  He always took me for my visitation times.  It was not his fault that I was so poisoned against him, convinced that he was evil.  It wasn't his fault that I spend the hours after a visit in the bath repeatedly washing my skin to get the evil off.  It must have been hard for him to have this child so full of fear, but he always took me with him.  Because of the fear I don't remember very much about him, but one night as I was thinking about him it struck me that he must have really loved water.  He lived on a houseboat or by a lake or pond his whole life and our summer activities were always on or near the water.  Recently when Sophie brought up her affinity with water I could share this insight with her and linked her to the past, to a man I never really knew, but who I could find in the margins of other memories.

I really appreciate that the indigenous worldview has a space for the ancestors.  I missed this relationship in a colonized worldview.  I missed knowing these parts of me and recognizing the people who contributed to them.  I just finished the second book in Dean Koonz's Frankenstein series and it strikes me how we are Frankenstein, brought together from the pieces of our ancestors and animated by blood memory, maybe combining to be something new and other, but never free from those elements we have inherited. What treasures are waiting for you to find to the margins?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Happiness Part Two

I finally finished Looking at Mindfulness" by Christophe Andre .  I am very aware of the irony of really wanting to finish a book on mindfulness so I can get on with reading other things.  However reading this book and some related conversations with Sophie have made me realize that I don't have a healthy philosophy of happiness to teach the children.  It wasn't even something I thought I would need to teach them, but as one is a girl who has a lot of worries who easily finds sads easily she might need a framework to access her happies.
My received framework for happiness was that it was something perfect people had.  They had good money and good lives and they were therefore happy (I wrote about this here).  We were poor and cursed (by gods or previous bad decisions) to be unhappy.  How you felt was not something you controlled, except in perhaps getting more money and maybe becoming one the perfect people.
Artwork by Ellen Uytewaal:
Artwork by Ellen Uytewaal
But in being more open with people and learning as I age, I know this version of the world is untrue.  Outside looks tell us nothing about the inside state of a person.  That it is in sharing our own cracks and hearing about those of others that we can become stronger.  I am not alone on this journey.  We are each carrying burdens and I have no particular right to be happy at any point in time.  I can work to capture those moments of happy that are in my life, in the ordinary spaces, but I will only make myself fail if I waiting for the perfect moment with "enough" before I count myself happy.
My children love youtube and sometimes I overhear them watching a "draw my life" video.  These are usually crude drawings done while a person tells their life story.  I couldn't understand the attraction to these videos, but more and more I think these are that same as the sharing we doing in circle.  These videos are raw, but they are real.  Many of these people come from hard backgrounds and many are learning disabled.  I wonder if that is the real attraction for my children to see people like them being able to find their space in the world and be happy with what they do even when they did not do well or like school.
So I have found myself the last few nights and in circle this weekend, talking about what I learnt from this book by Andre, to pay attention to the small things, not to expect everything to be perfect and to acknowledge your sadness while remembering paint in all the other colors of your day as well.  I realize that this is a lesson I will need to repeat many times for my children and act out in my life as well.  I never thought of happiness as being something you could work at, it was always binary for me, but even 5% is better than nothing and there is always something in my life that is good. It is not about becoming a Pollyanna and pretending that things are perfect when they aren't, but about walking a balanced red road.

Making things - leather and beads

Took a couple of days of work last week and worked on the house and my own projects.  One of these was the completion of this blue/grey top and the other a leather necklace.  I really liked how the pearl matched with the feeling of the leather.  I just added the pendant part to another necklace and I like how they played off of each other.  It is so good to make something real.  I am continuing to work on the wolf for Runa's moccasins.  She has also asked to have the four seasons represented so I am considerning of different ways to do this.  I am thinking about two directions on each vamp.  Has anyone tried something like that?  It is interesting how clear an idea she has of what she wants, it is just trying to translate that vision that is sometimes imperfect.  But that is life right?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bits and pieces

A follow up on a show I mentioned last month  "The Guilt Free Zone" which is in a fight with the government to get the tax credits it expected.

We used to read Cracked a lot and we really enjoy the work of David Wong.  On page two of this article he does a great discussion about the lingering responsibilities of having benefited from racism.

Joel shared this article about a young indigenous man competing for a Rhodes Scholarship that was quite interesting.

How about indigenous Dungeons and Dragons?  Read the article here.

Or maybe some indigenous teaching resources

Or if you are thinking about Winter Solstice presents how about visiting Tammy Beauvais or Strong Nations?  I am off for a couple of days getting everything in place for Solstice and the winter pilgrimage to Ikea. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


I continue to work through  Looking at Mindfulness" by Christophe Andre  which I have written about a number of times here.  I am reading a chapter about happiness and the fear we feel when we are happy as we begin to worry about losing that happiness.  I think that this paragraph by Andre contains a lot of wisdom and is a reminder to turn our eyes towards more mature ideas of happiness.
Autobiographical lace made by Adelaide Hall, a patient in a mental asylum in Washington around 1916:
Autobiographical lace made by Adelaide Hall,
a patient in a mental asylum in Washington around 1916
"Why should happiness always be a matter of being carefree or unaware?  Why should it not also be found where it's needed, on the tragic side of life?  In mindfulness we train ourselves to notice everything, pains and pleasures alike, and to bear and make space for complicated, subtle, disconcerting experiences.  This is what real life is like - not the life we might dream of, but the one we inhabit, the one we cannot escape and which teaches us that our dreams are only dreams."

I grew up with a very dramatic person and life was to be great passions and deep despair.  The two could not intertwine nor find a middle ground.  I have worked hard to change my ideas of sadness away from this extreme, but I realize now that I have not done the same work on my ideas of happiness.  I don't have to wait for everything to be perfect before I am happy.  I can have it now.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


It is a funny week with a break for Remembrance Day in the middle.  Lots of folks to remember in the family.  Norman Dale my grandfather was in the forestry corps in WW2 where he met my grandmother who came to Canada as a war bride

Thumbnail Image
James Brady and Anthony Brady via Glenbow
James Brady, my great uncle was initially not allowed into the army as a communist.  Eventually after fighting this ruling he was allowed to serve in 1943.  His younger brother, my grandfather also joined.  Joel's grandfather was a veterinarian in WW2 with responsibilities for food safety for soldiers.

Then if we go back, and depending on the war there are lots who served in India, in the Jacobean rebellion, with Louie Riel, and in the Indian wars on both sides of the border.  My step-father was also a veteran who was very damaged by his time serving.  Both men and women who put themselves in danger to do what they thought was right.  Many thanks to our ancestors.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Unreasonable men and making stuff

This weekend we focused on making stuff.  Runa designed this creeper and I helped to sew it.  Sorry about the dark picture.  It is great to see her designing things and working to have them come to fruition.  She also made a refrigerator for her barbies and food out of sparkle paper.  It seemed like a likely diet for Barbie.  On Sunday she worked on crocheting bracelets for everyone.

In addition to the creeper I created a solstice count down calendar.  Each week is a different relation.  Week 1 is rocks and water, Week 2 is plants and Week 3 is animals.  For each day I am collecting a little item that can be placed in to show the progress towards the solstice day.  I have been meaning to make this for some time so I am very happy to have it finished.  I was very pleased about how the yarn made such nice looking grass.

We also had a nice walk to the park with a picnic after Sophie had a panic.  I was great to be out and crunch through the leaves.  I collected sticks as I want to find a better way to display the ancestors for celebrations.  I quite liked this idea using the sticks to create a boarder.
branch pic holder, what a great way to add nature into the classroom, can change out kid's creative art work, or pictures:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

Friday, November 6, 2015

Leather, addiction and Bernard Shaw

Spend some time playing with leather again last night.  I just went with the shape of the piece and came up with this necklace.  I added some elk teeth, a few beads and some blue leather for color.  I also had a clock face which I added with a bit of the blue leather for the hand.  I like how it turned out.  It is nice to have those instant gratification projects.
I have written about Gabor Maté previously here and here.  I had not seen him speak before, but we watched his Ted Talk on addiction last night and I was struck by how much like an elder his way of telling stories was.  He shared his own short comings and did not try to package it all in a tidy little package that we could put in place or buy today.  He laid out some thoughts and left them with us.  I thought it worked very well and it certainly left a lot to think on.

Found a couple of quotes I had saved from when I read "The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism" written by Bernard Shaw.  My edition is from 1928.

"Our society must not be judged by its few rebels, but by its millions of obedient subjects."  Shaw on why the existence of rebels does not mean that society has the kernels of change in their midst.  The ordinary should be judged for themselves and not by the glimmers of other they allow to shine through.  Rebels, may just be rebels and not portent of anything better to come.

"Those who like playing the god Samaritan should remember that you cannot have good Samaritans without thieves.  Saviors and rescuers may be splendid figures in hagiography and romances, but as they could not exist without sinners and victims they are bad symptoms.  The virtues that feed on suffering are very questionable virtues...there will always be plenty of need in the world for kindness, but it should not be wasted on preventable starvation and disease.  Keeping such horrors in existence for the sake of exercising our sympathies is like setting our houses on fire to exercise the vigor and daring of our fire brigades.  It is the people who hate poverty, not those who sympathize with it who will put an end to it."

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Rap, a slap and a raven

Listening to "A Mile in A Mixtape" by Je2RiT obviously very inspired by Eminem, but that is not to say that this album is derivative and more that it is comfortable in that the style is familiar.

I am working through a novel by Richard Wagamese "Medicine Walk".  He is an excellent writer, but I think that I prefer his autobiographical works.  That said I am only half way through so maybe I will be surprised.

Thinking about this quote "Truth is a land without paths" by Tiziano Terzani in "Le Grand Voayage de la Vie" which I found in Looking at Mindfulness" by Christophe Andre along with the most peculiar picture by Fra Angelico (c 1400-1455) where all these disembodied hands are slapping Jesus and Mary and Saint Dominic are just hanging out doing their own thing.  This feels like it could be a good metaphor for life sometimes.

Planning out winter holiday celebrations.  We do a number of different celebrations, which spaces things out and makes them calmer.  I also like the years we can get organized and make sure to read and sing together every night in December.  I am working to find us some Cree songs to sing and in other years we have really enjoyed the book "The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice" so I plan to start with that book.  Sometimes I think I like planning for the holidays more than the actual holidays and try to give myself lots of time to enjoy the process.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Quotes on power, piss poor jobs and the sublime

In an ongoing effort, to clean up my space, I am going through all my books and pulling out the things that still speak to me.

George Bernard Shaw
"Lightning Walker", Chholing Taha, Cree:
"Lightning Walker", Chholing Taha, Cree
"All great truths begin as blasphemies"

The Elders today were talking about female power and the need to move outside of the "boat people" (European) conceptions of power and towards a traditional indigenous view.

Rosanne Barr
"The thing woman have got to learn is that nobody gives you power.  You just take it."

Marilyn Manson "Making our Lives our Own" 1991
"The perception of power is changing.  Traditionally powerful women were viewed as dangerous, devouring and castrating.  Now we are rediscovery that ancient creator definition, where power meant responsibility, care and nurturing."

Anthony Brady (nimushum my grandfather) picture
"Some people's best is piss poor."

"He had twenty years experiences.  He had one years experience twenty times."

"Black & Blue Heart" by Shawn Hunt:
"Black & Blue Heart" by Shawn Hunt
Ben Okri "Astonishing the Gods" I highly recommend this book.
"...You are seeking something you've already found, but you don't know it.  Such are the causes of unhappiness."

"Things are what they are.  That is their power...they are themselves.  If they meant something they would be less."
a little pro already!:
"What you see (in the world around you) is what you are, or what you will become."

"On this island of our learning, what you know is something you have to do everyday and every moment."

Listening to Darc Feather "Numbs".  Not sure if I like it or not, but the lyrics are interesting.

Hope and the strawberry fast

Some pretty excited people today with the naming of the new Cabinet that includes lots of women, some indigenous Ministers and a name change for Aboriginal Affairs to Indigenous Affairs.  Lots of hopeful words around the Kumik circle.

Strawberry Heart Painting by Irina Sztukowski - Strawberry Heart Fine Art Prints and Posters for Sale:

I have been speaking with Sophie over the past month as I would like her to do the strawberry fast where "pubescent girls are expected to abstain from berries or berry products for one year, during which time they meet periodically with older women ("aunties" and "grannies") who instruct them about basic life skills they will need as adults..." description from "A Recognition of Being" by Kim Anderson.  I received a similar teaching from another Elder I met which who suggested that I consider doing this with Sophie.

Sophie has been thinking about it, and she is worried about giving up strawberries, but she has agreed to give up blueberries.  I am planning to give her the related teachings with her next moon time.  The Anderson book is a great reference and I appreciate that she lays out the linkages between these times of ceremony and the understanding of the sacredness and power of womanhood.  Anderson speaks to the fast as a symbol for the need to take care of what goes into our bodies because it they are sacred places and they need to be thoughtful of what goes in regardless if it is food, the people you spend your energy on or who you choose to have sex with.  It is also a teaching of self-discipline and in some versions there is an initial ceremony where "the girls are repeatedly offered berries which they much refuse" where part of the ceremony is about learning to say "no" and to make choices.  This is, she says, part of reclaiming sex as understood in the western mind and bringing it back to part of the sacred and the sacredness of the female body.  Have any of you done the berry fast?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Elders and a hug

Yesterday I was very happy to get time to go for Kumik.  The Elders started with a circle and people took turns with the feather and shared.  It is really powerful being in the circle with people and hearing their stories.  The Elder asked us to talk about the teachings we would like.  A number of people were in painful places and some others asked about the teachings of fall.  The Elders took these themes together to build the teaching.  As an aside, I don't know the protocol for talking about an Elder on-line or sharing the teaching in this forum.  This question has been bothering me for a while, but I will take precedent from a couple of thesis I have read by indigenous folks and follow in the manner of oral passage of information to identify the Elder.  Interested to hear from you if you have other thoughts.

It was an odd friendship, but the oddnesses of friendships are a frequent guarantee of their lasting texture. (Lennart Helje.):
Lennart Helje

The Elders were Bob "Seven Crows" Bourdon (Mi'kmaq) and his wife Joanne Parent.  Many thanks to them for their thoughtful words.  They spoke about the need to make manifest our beliefs, that if we say "all my relations" then we must put this into practice.  That in our moments of emotion we can go to the plants, the earth, rocks and animals to share and find comfort.  He reminded us to also give comfort back and look after our relations too.  They reminded us that our relations go through the same cycles as we do, those of bursting forth with growth and those of tiredness and endings.  The Elder reminded us that we can put our pains to the earth, like the leaves shed their leaves.  Not to forget them and treat them as garbage, but as nourishment to fuel the growth to come after the winter.  To let the snow cover them in calm and rest.  They spoke about the "good red road" and reminded us that this may not be a straight or even road and that at times it may be difficult to travel.

I also had a one on one session with the Elders.  It is amazing to have people hear you and really listen.  I raised my ongoing worry, that I could do so much more at work and that I feel guilty in those times when I don't keep asking for more work.  The Elder reminded me that I don't need to give everything, that I need to give what is needed to get a good job done and to use the extra energy in other places where I need it.  I never thought about it that way that I am not a lesser person for not giving it all.  I really needed to hear that.

We talked about Sophie and how far she has come and they shared some ideas on how to support her in her spiritual journey which is in a direction I am not sure I understand.  They told me that it is ok if her spiritual interests are something in her life I cannot directly help her with.  The mentioned helping her set up a morning ritual for herself and Sophie wants to set up a water alter for herself.  I am just going to give her space to do what she needs and try to find her the resources she requires.

We talked about my mother and her unwillingness to move on from her historic hurts and love what she has in her life today.  The Elders told me again that I need to be a mama bear and keep my cubs safe.  They said that maybe I was stuck in the christianized "honor thy mother and father" place instead of in a paradigm of a healthy mutual relationship as the ideal.  I found myself saying that I continue in the relationship because sometimes you get the nice mother and I keep in contact for that hope and they reminded me that an alcoholic can be nice too, but the alcohol will always win.  That was a pretty powerful thought for me.  The past always wins for her.

Overall, the day was dominated by a hug.  I am not a toucher and don't like to hug perople, but there was someone in the circle that was very sad and we were speaking later and she asked for a hug.  What courage that is to ask for what you need.  I gave the hug because I could not let that need go unanswered.  Her story touched me, cause we have all been there.  It brought perspective to me.  I am not where I want to be, but I am no longer in that really dark place and that is progress, even if it is not "perfection".

So overall I was pretty blessed to receive so many teachings, a good dose of perspective and enough energy to play with my children and get some chores done afterwards.  Miigwiich.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Not working for the mind

I am currently reading "Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight" by Peter Walsh.  I usually skim these self help books quickly, mine whatever useful there is and move on but I am actually finding quite a bit to this book.  The premise is that how we feel is reflected through everyday decisions and if we are depressed or anxious these can manifest in decisions that contribute to our weight and clutter.  I also like that he is explicitly taking on the Cartesian duality "work with your mind not for it."  I have always very much worked for my mind.  If it is a decision about a healthy choice for my body and keeping doing something I am doing, I will keep doing it, even when I know I will be harming myself.  I found the idea of working with your mind and not the body working with the mind as a kind of junior partner pretty powerful. 

I was also taken with this quote "you are seldom going to be completely at ease.  Frequently, you'll get tired, frustrated, worried, sad, bored or unfocused to some degree."  I often tell myself that I will wait until things are better to make a change.  And while there is "better" and "better" even in better there will be times of worse, so waiting always for better isn't really a plan for success.  Quite a lot to think of in here and his messages of mindfulness practice fit well with the other book I am reading on the subject.  Perhaps there is a lesson in there for me?

In the mindfulness book he uses a very useful analogy about sorrow.  Beyond acknowledgement, the author speaks of diluting the sorrow, to make sure and bring other emotions into your mental space.  To have the sorrow there and part of the moment, but recognize that there also a lot of other things in the moment that you can experience.  I tried to use this last night, to put the sadness out there, not burying it or eating it, seeing it and then bringing in the other emotions of the day.  It just made a lot of sense for me. 

Still here

Walking downtown sometimes I see someone who looks a certain way or is wearing a certain thing and it makes me think that the person is indigenous or metis and I think "we are still here."  Walking around, making policy, getting lunch and moving forward.  Some of the forward is good and some less so.  Either way - still here.
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