In the studio and apartment I puzzle around notions of place, path, location. The material pieces I’m working with are all interconnected – dyes collected from trees, roots, leaves and bugs, turmeric and beets; pillowcases that have cradled the heads of my family for 100 years laced by a Great-Grandmother from Pennsylvania. Fine organic cotton and linen lovingly made in India, paper made in France and in Japan. Leaves and seeds collected from October travels, labyrinths and meanders from 5,000 years ago collected from research – Greece, The Mediterranean, Baltics, UK and Ireland, Peru, Nazcas, the Middle East. It’s a good puzzle; I’m learning an abundance of new things.
October travels. Family and food, wine and scotch; abundance. Then more family and singing, and some extra family with laughter; then extended family and old friends who are like family – stories upon stories, interwoven and connected, or fragmented and on loop with each repeat slightly different than the last. Stories like ladders into tree forts or dark basements, stories half-told, choked like gardens that need a good weeding. Foraging, seeking stories – October is full to the brim with them.
Toronto, Ottawa, Owen Sound, Port Elgin Kitchener, Waterloo, Hamilton – 2500k in one month through the many-coloured trees and wind, the slashing rain, the bruised clouds and brilliant sunlight, lifted like grace by the soundtracks to Mononoke and Life of Pi. Focused by the sharp, thoughtful complexity of Paul Simon, as the miles stretch by.
The first quiet days of November provide some space to unpack my carload of tangled stories and re-form them into useful things like a baby’s quilt, or carrot ginger soup. Unpack the puzzle pieces too and lay them out where I can see them, imagine them entwined, differently, in a new conversation. I’m blessed by this time of rich solitude.
An excellent discussion facilitated by Gabor Mate crosses my path, about the trauma of climate change as experienced by indigenous peoples. Uncle Angaanagaq from Baffin Island says many things but I find myself writing this down:”Water is alive. She finds cracks, she moves…”.
Uncle tells about decisions made by the Danish government and Greenpeace that permanently affect the balance of life on the entire planet, that are astonishingly wasteful of natural resources, because his people’s 150,000 years of observation and knowledge are not respected. Bayo, whose people are Yarouba (though he does not himself speak the language) says that climate change began when they started stealing black people from their homeland and putting them on ships: this had a permanent affect upon the land, the ecosystem in Africa.
Eriel speaks with fire in her heart about how our relations on and in the land are sick because of continued massive interferences of capitalism and patriarchy, how this makes the Dene people sick also, in their hearts and bodies. Gabor says he is white and so separate from the land that it’s hard for him to feel this as indigenous people do. Then he asks what we can do with this trauma, how can we respond.
Uncle says we can’t stop this change, it’s too late. There is silence. He also says there are tall trees growing on Greenland now where there never have been trees before and this gives him hope.
Bayo says his people have a saying, that if you want to find your way, you first need to get lost. Maybe we need to be lost together, and learn the way forward, all of us from our own place, our location, he offers. Maybe we can somehow use the trauma each of us carries as a tool, instead something that keeps us disconnected – use our shared trauma to make a way forward together.
Maybe we need to sit in the failures and in the eco-systemic cracks together and listen, with complete humility, for new pathways. I’m weeping at the end of the discussion – these are the deep stories at the root of the ones I am puzzling together. (Here’s the link to the talk: Wisdom of Trauma Talk, Series 2, Day 2, Part three)
My puzzle comes together into a new series of small works called IN PLACE, all centred around a large painting of a Mother Tree I met in 2019 near Woodford, Ontario. The show will be presented online here in mid December, and at Georgian Bay Centre for the Arts in Owen Sound.
I’ll be giving a short artist talk and Q&A at GB/Arts on Thursday December 16th at 7pm (wine, games, fun). Admission is by donation, proceeds to the Gitche Namewikwedong Memorial Garden at Kelso Park in Owen Sound.
Seating is limited, and reservations are already coming in. If you want to be part of the show at GB/Arts on the 16th, do sign up or PM me your email address – I’ll add you to the subscribers who get first dibs on everything.
IMPORTANT: I have good friends who have chosen, for their own private, non-political reasons, not to be vaccinated against Covid-19. I fully respect this choice, without question. If you are among them, or have made a similar choice I would like to find a way to include you in my project, talk and fun at another place and time. Please reach out to me privately, and I will make it so. We should NOT be divided by passports or any other measurement and though GB/Arts is not open to those without passports for this event, I’m happy to offer this talk and gather in your living room. In fact, I’d love that.