Monday Morning Musings

Posted on June 28, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with 2 comments

 

Really?

 

Oh Canada,

Our home and native land.”

Like many Canadians, I am filled with shame and rage.

The revelations of 251 children buried in a mass grave in Kamloops and the 751 unmarked graves in Saskatchewan shouldn’t come as a surprise. It has been known for a long time that there were thousands of indigenous children who went missing during residential school era. This is nothing short of genocide.

Reconciliation begins with education. I implore you to take 35 minutes out of your busy lives (maybe on Canada Day?) to watch this documentary recently released by the Canadian Medical Association. It is a powerful history lesson, not the romanticized version of Netsook that we learned about in Canadian history books back in the 1960s. Maybe this would be a good time to consider rewriting the history books used in schools so that non- indigenous students don’t grow up becoming unknowingly and unwittingly racist.

https://theunforgotten.cma.ca/film/

The irony is hard to escape. Canadian politicians (not just the current batch) continue to call into question the human rights abuses in oligarchies and banana republics. I think it is time for Canada to step down from its high horse and take a long, hard look in the mirror.

A good starting point might be for federal and provincial governments and especially the churches (notably the Catholic Church) to open all records pertaining to residential schools. Why is their reluctance to do this? One suspects that it comes down to liability and liability eventually comes down to money.

While all of this is horrific, what makes it even more unpalatable and unconscionable are the coverups. It is being reported that the reason for the 751 unmarked graves at Marieval in Saskatchewan is that the church removed grave markers back in the 1960s. If this indeed is proved to be factual, then the scandal only widens and deepens.

There is a lot of discussion about Canada Day. How will villages, towns and cities celebrate Canada’s 154th birthday? Many communities have already decided to cancel July 1st activities. This day may be the perfect opportunity to begin the re-education of Canadians by reflecting on what has happened recently. Maybe watch a documentary?

I believe that this is a watershed moment for our country. How we respond will determine to a large extent whether or not we will maintain our lofty status as one of the most desirable countries in which to live in the world.

“Oh Canada,

We stand on guard for thee.”

We must stand on guard for ALL Canadians.

We owe it to our indigenous people to right these wrongs.

The truth can’t be buried any longer.

 

“Imagine

Imagine

That the yellow bus

Pulled up

And your heart lifted to see her

Hurrying down the stairs

Eager to tell you of the day

 

Hair all messed now

That you combed straight and neat when she left

And where is her left sock?

T shirt spotted because today was pizza day

 

Her face alight

Talking as soon as she sees you

 

You watch for her

And she isn’t on the bus

 

She’s gone

You never know more than that

Or hear about that final day of school

 

Now imagine

That all over our country

Parents wait

And children

Never come home from school

 

Their bodies small

But the loss as big as the world.”

 

Lalia Kerr

 

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on June 24, 2021 under Thursday Tidbits with 4 comments

 

Beach finds

 

Potpourri.

It’s a fancy word but in my world, it means “a whole lot of nothing”.

When I don’t have a topic or theme for my twice weekly piece, I resort to writing about anything and nothing to fill up the page. So, here goes.

Life is a series of beginnings and endings. One chapter ends and another begins. When I decided to leave the north, I realized that this latest phase of my life was over. It hit home hard in the past few days when I received my final pay from my school board along with the arrival of my personal belongings. It didn’t really hit me until I started to unpack my boxes from the north.  I turned on YouTube and had a playlist going, while I unpacked kitchen items, clothing, and memories.

Bittersweet.

I’m not sure whether it was nostalgia, the music or the can of beer I was nursing that made me a bit misty eyed. It just seems that time passes so quickly at this stage in my life. The last two years are a blur. Yes, the experience was intense and there were many long days and sleepless nights at the outset but when you are unpacking boxes that had been previously packed just 24 months earlier, it seems like a mirage. Throw in Covid and it all feels surreal.

One of the songs on the playlist was “Shallow”. Music was a big part of my salvation in Kangiqsujuaq. In the early days when I was flailing, one of my new colleagues, invited me to sing some tunes with her. With a 45-year age gap, finding common ground wasn’t easy. She suggested a few songs from the latest iteration of “A Star is Born”. I had seen the movie and was vaguely familiar with the songs. As a duo, we did a credible version of “Shallow”. She was an excellent Lady Gaga and I was a pathetic excuse for Bradley Cooper… in looks and musical ability. As the song was playing in the background, I realized that we might never get to sing together again. That was a gut punch. The good news is that Annie is from British Columbia and at least there’s a chance that I might see her again. Such is not the case for my Inuit friends.

I can’t say that I received an overwhelming response to my invitation to join a writer’s circle. It could be lack of interest or Covid… or maybe hanging out with me for an hour and swapping stories has as much appeal as a trip to the landfill. I don’t expect any ‘in person’ sessions will happen before the fall, but I would certainly entertain the idea of meeting via Zoom. That way, anyone on the planet can join in. Let me know if you are interested and if not, we’ll jump in a car and drive to the dump!

Sometimes, the older generation wonders how the next generation will manage in a very complicated, messed up world. I have evidence that we will be in good hands. On my trip back home from the north, I had to spend a night at one of the airport hotels in Montreal. The next morning, I had a socially distanced visit with my daughter, granddaughter and my daughter’s boyfriend. Ivory Fleming is 13 and attends F.A.C.E. F.A.C.E (Fine Arts Core Education) is situated in the heart of Montreal near McGill University. Besides offering a standard curriculum, it also incorporates the arts into the program including music, theatre and visual arts. It is regrettable that every school in Canada doesn’t offer this type of programming. Without culture, our communities lack a soul.

When we met at the airport hotel, Ivory was telling me about an initiative that she and a number of her friends were working on to change the dress code at the school. Dress codes have always been contentious especially when it comes to enforcement. What one teacher or administrator might find offensive, often barely raises an eyebrow with others in similar positions. Ivory and her friends petitioned the school’s administration to look at the dress code. They did their homework and looked at other schools’ dress codes. To make a long story short, they were able to convince the school that changes needed to be made. Recently, Ivory was interviewed by radio station CJAD in Montreal. Here is the interview: https://www.iheartradio.ca/cjad/audio/montreal-student-fights-her-school-on-dress-code-rules-1.15467037 (Please note that some browsers have a default to block ads. The interview starts after an ad at the beginning. If you can’t listen to the interview, blame it on your browser!)

The future is in good hands. Congrats to Ivory and her colleagues for their activism.

I sure wish I could get my arse in gear. I have been trying to get the motivation to continue writing my 7th book. I realized that when I got home, there would be a lot of baggage to unpack, especially the emotional kind. I vowed not to write anything until after my quarantine. A few days ago, I thought Indigenous Peoples Day, would be the perfect time to start writing. Not so. “The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak”.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. Book update. Yesterday morning was so crappy that I decided to get back to book #7. I’m presently working on the chapter where Covid has just become a big story (February, 2020).

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on June 21, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with 3 comments

 

 

“All my life’s a circle, sunrise and sundown,

Moon rolls thru the nighttime, till the daybreak comes around,

All my life’s a circle, but I can’t tell you why,

Seasons spinning round again, the years keep rollin’ by.”

All My Life’s a Circle – Harry Chapin

Circle of friends.

Healing circles.

Talking circles.

Songwriter’s circles.

I’m not sure where the arc of this story is going. I’ll try not go off on a tangent.

Living in the north among the Inuit taught me many lessons, among them patience, persistence and resilience. They are a remarkable people who have endured much suffering but still manage to display warmth and kindness. I was the beneficiary of their generosity and wisdom.

It didn’t take me long to realize the importance of the circle in Inuit life and culture. “The significance of the circle is evident for Aboriginal people in many ways. The circle is a sacred symbol of the interdependence of all forms of life; the circle is a key symbol in Native spirituality, family structure, gatherings of people, meetings, songs, and dances.” (Pewewardy, 1995)

In many Indigenous cultures, healing circles and talking circles are often used as a way to provide group support for people who are dealing with issues such as addictions, violence, grief, and trauma.

Many of the meetings that I attended inside and outside the school began with a prayer and it was not uncommon to see people form a circle and often hold hands as a sign of unity. I was lucky enough to share country food with the Inuit. This required sitting on the floor in a circle eating raw meat and fish. For an old fella like me, getting up off the floor was the hardest part of these meals!

I was invited to be a part of a children’s singing group which convened regularly at the local museum, one of the most stunning and intimate that I have ever seen. The children always formed a circle to sing, dance, drum, or throat sing. One always felt a sense of unity.

I was fortunate enough to spend one Christmas in Kangiqsujuaq and got to participate in some of the Inuit games held outdoor on one of the lakes. Many of the games were held inside a wide circle.

Songwriter’s circles are very popular in my part of the world in Atlantic Canada. Before Covid came along and spoiled the party, you could find a songwriter’s circle in small communities on any given weekend.  These are events where local musicians come together to share their music with fellow musicians and the public.

So, why have I decided to pick the topic of circles on this first day of summer?

Last week, I was at our local university, St. Francis Xavier, chatting with a well- known adult educator. She is a super star in her field. It will not surprise anyone that she is from god’s country, otherwise known as Newfoundland. I went to inquire about the possibility of an ancient relic (me) doing a Masters in Adult Education with a focus on Indigenous issues. We had a wide-ranging discussion. There are still many opportunities for lifelong learning even in one’s golden years. Golden years can turn into ‘olden years’ in the blink of an eye so tarry not.

The discussion was stimulating and informative, and yes, even went off on a few tangents. One of these involved the notion of a writer’s circle. My friend suggested that there are many, many people who are itching to write something about their life, their family, their community or some personal matter but really don’t know where to start. We were sitting on a bench outside of Xavier Hall on a warm morning. When my friend suggested that I facilitate a writer’s circle, I thought that she must be suffering the effects of the heat.

I am not a professional writer. I simply write what I know and will even write about things I don’t know! Many writing circles include established and up and coming authors. This would not be the intended audience should such a venture take place once Covid allows people to gather more freely. I would be happy to meet with people to share stories and encourage them to write them down in some fashion. If you know anything about genealogy, you understand the importance of old letters, documents and written anecdotes from one’s ancestors.

“But my story isn’t interesting.” I disagree. Everyone’s story is unique and would be of great interest to their children and grandchildren.

I contacted People’s Place Library and they seem interested in hosting these get togethers.

What about you or your friends? Would you be interested in attending? I repeat. I am NOT an expert. I have never taken part in a writer’s circle and I’m not even sure about the format, but I would be happy to sit around (in a circle!) and facilitate stories and ideas for stories.

“In the circle of life, it’s the wheel of fortune,

It’s the leap of faith, it’s the band of hope,

‘Til we find our place, on the path unwinding,

In the circle, the circle of life.”

Circle of Life – Elton John

All of these circles are important, none more so to me than my circle of friends. Through old school relationships, my writing, working on boards and committees, teaching and travel, I have been blessed with many great friends.

“Will the circle be unbroken?’

I hope not.

Happy first day of summer.

Have a great week.

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