Anne M. Smith-Nochasak:
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Earlier this month, a person I met at the Lunenburg Craft and Food Festival suggested that I write from the point of view of the canoe. I loved the idea. This blog is an attempt in that direction, and if blogs can be dedicated to people, it is dedicated to the person who inspired me.
I AM THE CANOE
The heat presses my body,
powders the finish on my gunwales,
Crowds my thoughts as I yearn to recall
The rush of water dancing over me.
I am the canoe. I do not see. I feel.
That gust of cooler air,
That shudder beneath my side –
That is cabin door opening,
Her feet on floorboards.
I am the canoe. I do not hear. I feel.
I roll to touch the softness, the dryness,
My side numb from the long coma of winter –
That is carpet, then porch.
Now my belly glides over the slick and the cool –
That is ferns, meaning rocks are coming.
The sharpest gouges my skin, deep,
And I cringe for I am the canoe and I feel.
I feel the rock edge drag deep
Then the cool ease of mud
And now! Now I float!
Water caresses my flanks,
Eager, too, for our run.
Water splashes into my body,
And that softness is her foot that touches me,
And that scratchy softness is dog.
We will ride together,
That rush of water against my side is paddle.
Oh! Welcome, paddle. You complete me, my friend.
We surge into the lake and that dip of shadow,
That moment of cool,
That is Eagle, passing above.
Welcome, Eagle, Thank you for your blessing.
Sun sears my gunwales but
Water brushes my belly and my sides,
Waves part before me and now,
A touch of roughness taps my gunwale in passing
Now softness, fur-ness, at my side.
That is Dog joining me in the water,
And now we swim together once more.
And the long winter of waiting is past,
And the summer of rippling water is with us.
I am the canoe. I do not speak, but I sing. I feel.
I am the canoe and I love this season,
When I lie in the shade, cool mud beneath me,
Dog often pressing wetness of nose in the evening,
Coming to the lake because Dog is friend.
And she is friend,
Sharing lake moments,
Sheltering me from storm.
Do not go, please, let us explore always but
Oh! That dryness fluttering over me.
That is leaf falling.
Our season is passing.
I am on my side, pressed to carpet.
Thick air pressing my thoughts, no cool of wind or water.
I sink into autumn, into winter, comatose but images still darting in my mind.
I am the canoe. I do not see. I do not hear, or taste, or scent,
But I touch. I feel.
A press of hand, a moment of paw,
A paddle pushing water along my flank,
Waves parting for my bow,
These are flashes in memory now.
I dream of her. I dream of Dog.
I dream of Eagle, hovering over me.
I miss, oh, I miss them all.
Memories and yearnings crowd around me,
For I am the canoe,
And I feel.
How I feel.
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Developing the novel A Canoer of Shorelines has been a special part of my life. Like the Wasaya setting, it will always be part of me. This will be a visual blog, a journey into times past but ever present, to the haunting beauty of the land, blessed by the presence of good dogs. Dogs, as I have written before, are a gift from the Creator to teach us how to become better people. They are spiritual beings, who inspire love of creation and a deep and abiding joy. To experience joy as a dog does is a gift that dog persons will understand.
to the three dogs who inspired Rachel's dogs in Canoer,
to my last Wasaya dog (my Lady of Wasaya),
and to the Golden one
who guards their memory with me.
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Today I want to write about joy, but I also have gloomy thoughts. This seems a perfect time to write about worlds ending and worlds emerging.
Worlds end with harshness and violence, and that compels me to live in joy this moment.
I en-joy the beauty around me if I live it fully in my heart this day, and carry it with me as my future joy.
This morning I walked in the rain through a green world beaded with moisture and enveloped in mist. Dampness cooled my face; my hat and jacket softened and clung to me. Nearby, a thrush sang to the morning, and in the woodland, the mourning doves called to one another. It was a morning like many others here.
Elsewhere in the world, an infant frets to the sound of artillery. Children are being born in shelters underground, children who have never heard the thrush or felt the morning damp on their faces or breathed the pungent fragrance of a forest day. I am saddened by that thought, yet relieved that I am not there.
They do not have that choice.
It is easy to speak of kingdoms coming, of worlds ending and new orders being born, when our pocket of the world is still beautiful. It is easy to hope for a bright future when our own is comfortable.
I believe that the hardest day for me will be the day that I look out over my precious green world and see that it, too, is a smoking rubble, when I see the waters clogged with debris, the sky oily and low, the tender woodland scorched and scarred. On that day will I be intoning "Thy Kingdom come" , or will I join in the great existential howl of humanity "My god, my god, why have you abandoned me?"
It is easy to have faith, when birds are still singing.
It is easy to anticipate the joy of seeing a new child enter the world, but we must remember that labouring for that child is agony.
As a student of Christian eschatology, I would do well to remember that Jesus' last words in some records were that existential cry: "My god, my god, why have you abandoned me?" Nowhere does it say that Jesus recanted, and although we explain the question away as words uttered in the name of fulfilling scriptures, it echoes in my mind as a very honest despair. In that instant, Jesus is fully human, fully alone.
God, too, is alone in that moment. I believe in God, often, as the One Who Will Fix Things. I choose not to see the agony of a God who must watch his creation twisting and mutating in terrible ways, works of beauty cast down and trampled. God is alone in that moment, and so embraces and accepts my aloneness.
When my world crashes down as the worlds of so many already have, when all that is beautiful and fresh crumples, when I no longer remember my name or my story, when the darkness is absolute, I will matter.
I will matter, and one day, the voice of the thrush will ring in every heart.
I have hope, and I have these days to fuel that hope for me, and for everyone. I must take care to en-joy, to infuse each moment with joy.
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On April 27th, 2021, I came home to learn that I was now a self-published author. In an earlier blog, Self-publishing Unfiltered , I described the fun and frustration of the first two months of my publication journey. I was interviewed by Lighthouse NOW, and my book went smoothly to consignment. Life was gentle and simple.
The next ten months were, at times, like navigating a canoe through class five waters with a cracked paddle. It was less simple, less gentle.
The journey is measured in moments, not sales. I learned to enjoy the summer markets. Fellow vendors shared their strength. I had incredible suggestions and encouragement from authors. It was hard to hear that a few well-chosen questions would work better than my wordy displays, but I also knew they were right. I rushed home and reworked my display – and next afternoon heard such good things. Barb, wherever you are, THANK YOU. You freed my marketing spirit!
The Miramichi Reader stepped forward with a positive review and ongoing support. South Branch Scribbler later provided an interview. There were such joyful moments.
In between, there came illness, cancellations, and explanations. With recovery came quick bookings and the discovery that Canoer had caught the Christmas current, for consignment copies will surely sell if you really need them. I scrounged copies from friends to fill out the display, while FriesenPress negotiated the labyrinth of supply chains in pandemic times. I do not think they anticipated me when they developed a sound marketing plan.
Five days later, two boxes of books appeared by the front door, the dog again claiming the credit. I think that FriesenPress must have connections at the North Pole, or an equivalent mythic location. That got me through to Christmas, my friends got books back, and then I vanished for surgery and a winter of recovery, useful for finishing my work in progress.
Now I have a stable internet connection, and am learning that there is a strong writing support network out there. Others also struggle with lack of time for writing or marketing or outlining or self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. Reaching out was hard at first. As an adult, when I invited old friends to visit, my mother would worry that they would plunder the attic of its dusty relics if she stepped out. That mindset is hard to break. So far, no one in the Writing Community has attempted to abscond with the silverware, real or virtual! They share their ideas and cheer you on.
People leave my booth to borrow the book from the local library, or drop by to tell me they read their nephew’s or their neighbour’s copy. That excites me. I visit local bookstores, and am each time moved to see my dream on display. I correspond with people and share ideas. I read. I write. My life has grown richer.
Although my sales statistics are possibly the lowest on record, people are reading my book, using our old high school code: the one who buys the book must share it with the rest of the class. I am participating in conversations. I am writing. I am content. After all, Laila’s theme in A Canoer of Shorelines is: The measure of success is a satisfied mind.
My one regret is that my lady, the brindled Husky who saw A Canoer of Shorelines into reality and into marketing and saw my second draft to completion, passed away four days before Canoer’s anniversary. I write for her. I go forward for her. I breathe the gentle air of the lakeshore for her. Such a year, my friend.
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“I don’t know where she is, or what she’s doin’, or why,” Joe breaks in, “but she were at the lake last May. Up by th’ Narrows, in that ol’ canoe, workin’ along with that big white dog runnin’ the shore beside her. ‘This is a secret, Joe,’ she says. ‘I’m not supposed to be here.’”
“I know what I saw,” Joe insists. “Were a bright and perfect May mornin’, and there she is all bright and smilin’ and that big white dog runnin’ along the sho’ah.”
-A Canoer of Shorelines, Ch. 21
Ten years ago, I brought a heavy binder stuffed with notes from my special cabin to my new home. With me, there were three dogs: the great white Husky, the little brown dog, and the brindled Husky. They were an unusual family, as the great white Husky, although attached to the little brown dog, had a way of stalking from the room as the eager little brindled one entered. He did not dislike her; he just did not care for her company.
Everyone loved the little brown dog, for who could resist the puzzled face and forlorn expression? Initially, the brindled one challenged her. Picture a street dog, fangs bared and eyes rolling, flipping a helpless and woebegone teddy bear to its back and pinning her. Now see the baffled teddy bear eyes suddenly gleaming, the lips drawing back in a snarl, a miniature wolf released and the brindled Husky huddled in a corner of the deck, groveling. The little dog was Amarok, meaning ‘Wolf’, and that day we knew the rumors of her wolf ancestry were true. The brindled Husky became devoted to her, and grieved her passing as I did.
The great white dog died abruptly that first fall, with a sudden and fast-paced cancer. The little brown dog walked the length of his grave, and suddenly we knew she was old. The brindled Husky huddled against her, and in time, they bonded in her grief.
Two years later, the little brown dog died, and my brindled lady mourned for two years.
From that first fall, as I typed notes and arranged chapters, it was the brindled Husky who watched from her bed in the loft. When I stepped away from writing to take jobs, she became my companion, but whenever I wrote, she was my co-writer.
That continued as we brought A Canoer of Shorelines into being. I read to her. I edited and crossed out and discarded and rewrote, and she listened to each revision. Even when the affectionate Shay pup joined us, writing was something between me and the brindled lady. She was the last dog to live with me at the Wasaya setting. She is my lady of Wasaya, my editor, my joy.
She has canoed and kayaked every inch of shoreline with me, hauled the canoe to shore when I could not feel my fingers as my arm swelled from hornet stings, dragged the kayak behind her as we raced from a fire zone, and curled close when I was sick or injured.
She has heard every word, every version, of my first novel, and she has witnessed the emergence of my new draft. This year, I wanted to give my aging friend her great winter, as I sensed her starting to fade, but then I could only shuffle, and I despaired. She taught me then that a Great Winter is one in which you are both present, writing together, shuffling the trail together, open to the moment, awake to creation. She has seen me to my healing, but suddenly, she is weakening. This is our Great Spring, our gift to each other.
We returned to Wasaya yesterday, and we experienced the serenity of creation there. That was one moment, but it is in us now.
She dreams today, and I know she is running the shoreline. Soon, she will find her way there, and be home.
I know that one day, that is where we will meet again, perhaps along the Narrows on a bright and perfect May morning.
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Doug is a selfish and self-serving person, and people report to me that they do not like him. He is not lovable; he is not kind or good. He is, however, a person, and although his dreams are self-centred and mean, they come from a desire to simply be. The Dougs are not easy; they are disturbing. Yet, we must try.
Julie sees Doug, twisting in a slow circle, clutching at drifting balloons as he falls. The balloons burst into images: there is Doug teaching, Julie laughing in the canoe, the first day in North Bay, the mountains in the distance as Doug drives through Alberta, a wide-eyed young waitress smiling, a snow blower growling through the drifts. Each slips from his hands and Doug continues to fall. He will come to earth eventually, because it is, after all, such a small world.
Yes, Doug, it is a small world, and there is a place for each of us in it. There is a place for the Julies, the Rachels, the Lailas – and the Tinas.
There is a place for you, too.
Having a place in the world does not mean you fit in. Tina does not fit in, but she belongs, because in all her pain, she embraces and affirms life. Do you think it was easy for Laila? Do you think she was born living by the side of the road, being a friend to humanity? No. She worked for it, Doug, and to you, she might not fit in, but in truth she fully belongs.
Doug, the world is small, and everything we do affects the world, even as the world affects us. Be careful in your dealings in the world, Doug; not many of us like what you are doing.
We have, however, hope for you.
Why am I speaking to a fictional character? Well, all fictional characters are inspired by our life connections and experiences, so perhaps it is my life connections and experiences that I am addressing. These names I mention are fictional characters in a fictional narrative, but each is someone we know. We know them in flashes of memory and impressions; we have known them all our lives.
Julie and Rachel in the novel are introspective, introverted seekers, fumbling and not confident. Laila is Woman Arrived: she has not traveled but she sees the world; she has been hurt but she knows love. Tina is a broken and heart-breaking child; marginalized, misunderstood, and abused, there is power in her grasp of life.
Doug is a selfish and self-serving person, and people report to me that they do not like him. He is not lovable; he is not kind or good. He is, however, a person, and although his dreams are self-centred and mean, they come from a desire to simply be. The Dougs are not easy; they are disturbing.
Yet, we must try.
It is, after all, a very small world, and we cannot avoid them.
I am thinking about Doug today because our world hovers on the brink of madness. If I do not believe that people can change, that they can find their place of true belonging, then I will not believe that the world can draw back from that brink. I will not be able to look out over a calm lake with joy, because its calm is illusory. I must believe that its calm is a sign of hope for a future that will continue to nurture such joy.
I am thinking of Doug, too, because I have not been working much with Canoer since December; several events have led me to surgery, but I am now recovering and working on a new draft. I have faced that my life is changing. I cannot lift or load my kayak or canoe, but that is such a small part of who I really am. I can design ramps and pulley systems, I can break a task into its component steps, and I certainly can find joy in the calm of Wasaya.
So, Doug, open yourself to a new way, before you become one more element in an angry world. Learn a new way, or you will miss out on the beauty that is possible on the earth. Remember how Julie ditched you when she was going to the cabin? It is because you weren’t ready. It wasn’t really because you were sleeping, although that helped.
I will be fully alive, Doug, and I have no time to waste figuring out who has caused my problems. I will be on the water, enjoying the light and the shoreline.
There is a place in the world for each of us, as we come to earth in our small world, with eyes and mind open.
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I want to step past my fears and re-enter Julie’s world, the world of special education marvels and the stories behind the stories. Like Julie, we must come to accept Tina as a human being of vibrant potential; we do not define her by her disability. And we do not define her by our expectations.
In the eighth month of the sixth grade, Tina demonstrated vocabulary recognition equivalent to that of a child in the fourth month of the third grade…. Perhaps Tina was sick that day, her stomach cramping and her attention lagging. Or, possibly, someone had stolen her dog that day, and vocabulary recognition was not her main concern. Is Tina’s first language English, or perhaps a dialect of English that differs in content and patterns from the standardized test? The tests indicate a pattern of need, but is this pattern Tina?
The Christmas season draws to a close. Shall I write about the loneliness of the season, the bewilderment as we sink in flames in the most horrific wave of the pandemic to date, or the fears and struggles of family illness and surgeries?
No. I want to step past my fears and re-enter Julie’s world, the world of special education marvels and the stories behind the stories. Like Julie, we must come to accept Tina as a human being of vibrant potential; we do not define her by her disability. And we do not define her by our expectations.
A parent once exclaimed to me in tones of despair: “My kid is special ed.” I could only answer: “No, your child is Mary. And yes, she is special, because all children are special. True, she is having problems with the work we give her. Special ed is simply better work, meaningful work, something WE do to teach Mary the way she is meant to be taught.”
Over the years, children have taught me these key points:
Seemingly innocent remarks can break hearts.
I sat with a twelve-year-old student, coaching him with his ESL lesson on the five senses. “What do you do with your eyes? You see. What so you do with your ears? You hear!” He seemed to be getting it, when he suddenly burst into tears and could not be comforted. My apologies and bewilderment made no difference, and the boy departed for lunch, leaving me baffled and worried.
Halfway through my lunchbreak, the light burst over me. “What do you do with your nose? You smell!” Student face crumpled. “Yes, you smell,” I nodded. I believe that tears are justified when a person in authority tells you repeatedly that you smell. Why didn’t I say, “What do you use your nose for? You use your nose to smell. You use your nose to smell wood smoke, to smell partridge cooking….”
We need to plan. And we need to accept that it is our phrasing that smells sometimes.
A sound in one ear can be two sounds in another.
My grade six student wrote about his trip to the Big Rabbits in his journal. He sounded it out carefully. In his language, there is no /b/, no /p/ There is < and that is both. A b-p that is neither b or p exactly.
Hold your palm before your face. Make the /b/; feel the puff of air on your fingers. Make the /p/ and feel it press to your palm. Make < and it falls between. Try ‘/t/ and /d/. His sound lies between. His eyes widened when he learned that in English, there were two sounds to watch for. Once he knew, he could apply his knowledge. There was no spelling problem; from his language base, rabbits and rapids had sounded the same.
Beware Grade 8’s providing second language lessons.
When the eyes dance as students teach new vocabulary, it is best to refer to a second source. My first English class offered to teach me their language; if I told them to sit down, loudly and clearly, they assured me that they would immediately sit down. Well, they were in one sense right; the term they provided is usually produced in a sitting position. I hope that at least one of them is reading this! They might not remember, but they opened my mind in so many ways and I am forever grateful.
Thus, years later, when teaching phonics to a group of happy ten-year-olds, I could enjoy their laughter. “This sound is ‘meu’,” I explained. “For this one, you say ‘meu’, not MOO.” As the sound left my lips, I knew what I had done. They tilted back their heads and howled with laughter, molars shining in the recesses of their mouths. This translates, in their language, to the word that does not mean ‘sit down’ in another.
A corollary lesson comes also from my first year. “How was your first morning?” I asked the new teacher. “Great!” she replied. “But there seem to be so many students named Atsuk. I wonder what it means?” Literally, it means “I don’t know”, but it can mean much more: Forgive me, for I am shy and I am not ready to tell you my name yet. I am not sure what to say, what to do. Please be patient with me. When they are ready, when they are safe with you, they will teach you many things.
A is for dog, and B is for cat.
I am so proud of my Grade 1 phonics group. We are matching beginning sounds with words and they are doing it well! Now we are on a felt board app, sliding objects into position beside letters. “We are looking for /a/ things, like /a/ for…. Apple…. alligator…. no, no! That is /d/ dog. Let’s find /a/ apple!” The little face scowls, and the tiny fingers shove the dog onto the /a/ line. I sigh and turn to another student. Goodness! They seem to be phonetically challenged!! This one is pushing the cat into position beside the /b/. “That is /c/ cat. It goes here.”
“Nope,” he declares. “This is /b-p/ b-pisu!” Light surges across my mind. This is the word for cat in his language, and this…… this is not /d/ dog – this is /a/ animoosh!
My nickname was Animoosh, for obvious reasons. (I only had two dogs, but many other dogs followed me.) Why did I not make the connection? It took a six-year-old boy (his dad and my son went to school together years back, point of interest) to remind me that phonics is not restricted to English! Their language has a phonetic base, and they were going to use it!
So, enter the learning moment. Embrace the wonder that awaits when we honestly recognize the reality of children.
Oh! I miss the wonder. As soon as I get medical clearance, I am going to strap on my mask, sanitize my hands, gird up my loins, and go back to learning!
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I read this morning a series of recommendations for interacting with dogs. We were advised not to wrap our arms around dogs, enfold them in blankets and sweaters and hats, stare into their eyes, or pat them on top of the head. Sometimes, our well-intentioned behaviours can foster anxiety and even aggression.
As I, too, find those things annoying, I fully agree. Although I confess that I talk to my dogs and generate responses in voices I have designated for each, I am not comfortable with treating children or dogs as cute and adorable playthings. The Husky is a wise and noble confidante and companion; she is not a sweetie or a fur-baby. The Shay is a joyful and exuberant being, rich in affection; I would never dress her in a clown hat to celebrate that fact.
My girls are friendly, but please do not insist that your friendly dog push its face in theirs. They will demonstrate hostility toward your friendly dog, with expressions that might disturb the sensitive. Please listen and let me finish as I advise you, “Don’t put your face down to her –”. Please do not interrupt and say, “Awww, I’m used to dogs,” and then turn to me with accusing and streaming eyes as I finish, “because, as I was trying to say, the Husky loves to bump noses.” Please do not swing your palm down to pat the Shay on top of the head; she will click her teeth to advise you that she dislikes that. If she banged a paw on top of your head, perhaps you would not like it either.
They are my canine companions, the keepers of my secrets. The Husky lies behind me, watching as I write. The Shay studies the front window, and at precisely 4:30 pm local time, she will come up and tug my sleeve, because it is walk time. They are editorial staff and recreational staff.
They scan the sky and take note of all birds, drifting leaves, jets, and moving clouds, and at night, they study the moon. They are vigilant.
Like Musko, they understand human nature. They have made many of their conclusions based on experience. If they and Musko joined forces to write an advice column, I am sure that it would include these, among others:
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Once upon a time, I lived on a shallow, rocky lake, in a cabin accessed only by canoe. I saw beautiful sunrises, and decided to write a book about those. Sunrises do not typically fill a novel, but I did grow up in a rambling old farmhouse. I would write about a woman who lived in a haunted farmhouse! It turned out to be the story of two women, both haunted, both with a sentimental relationship with an old farm, both struggling to find their way in the world.
I did not have electricity or Internet, so I wrote by hand. It was like writing in water colour and I would sit absorbed for hours while the brush grew and dog hair wove into the carpet. The loons would call, and I would surface for an evening paddle. My life was rich.
I must not think that. Lately, my happy Shay dog has started growling low in her throat, staring at the woods across the road. The Husky utters soft moans and paces the deck. This is new behaviour. I wish I had not looked down the logging road as a dark shape skulked across. I hope it is a bear, but my dogs know bears. It moved like a cougar, but we are not supposed to have cougars. (That was explained to me when I saw one ten years ago.) Of course, William Butler Yeats’ The Second Coming keeps replaying in my mind: And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
I should not have taken English 101.
Put a few cameras up, people suggest. Get a motion sensor installed. String up an electric fence. And stay in the house!
Those are great ideas, but presuppose technological skills, cash flow, and a desire to confront my fears on video. I prefer to wallow in low tech comfort, clutching my father’s axe as I do my usual perimeter checks in the fresh air. Perhaps I could write this creature into The Ice Widow, but should not joke, just in case…..
Now that I live on the road, technology can help me in many ways. I also need a leaf blower; I could suction up acres of leaves, grind them to shreds, and deposit them on the garden. I would also need ear protection. The job would soon be done, and I could concentrate on the important things. Ah, but the morning I spent with my once-again-splinted rake, among the crinkling oak leaves, was meditative peace. That is an important thing.
I must have a generator. I studied these, and know that I would short circuit out the western hemisphere if I attempted to use one. Looks like I will be using candles for the pipes, and my battered fire pit for cooking again this winter…..
In an earlier blog, Self-Publishing Unfiltered, I described the challenges of self-publishing during a pandemic with limited internet access. Our region has now acquired Fibre Optic Internet. I am afraid to call it Fibe, because I believe that the Deity should always be invoked by the proper title. I can upload a blog with pictures easily now, from the comfort of home! I can research reviewers. I can email them, too. However, the excitement is gone, and after a quick check to all social media accounts – commenting and posting in minutes instead of watching a little spinner turn and turn and then declare “You have no Internet” or “Something is wrong here” – I sink into writing and try to recall the Wasaya mood that made writing a joy, and not a marketing struggle.
I want to have technology available, but I often do not use it. Sometimes I want a microwave or a television or an automatic washer, but I take a walk until the feeling passes. I love having fibre optic, and play with it daily. I can accomplish my tasks quickly. Then I walk away.
Perhaps there is a place for the mysterious beast in the next novel. After all, readers do grow weary of poignant introspection. I know whatever-it-is has raised my personal heart rate. I am sure it will make the protagonists' winter of confinement more exciting for them and the reader.
I must remember to write in her father’s axe.
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"We build a little box and there we place the marvelous limitless author of the universe....
But really, there is no god in that box...."
We sat in a meeting that day, and you said that the word “God” hurt you, raising memories of the residential schools and all they did in the name of God.
You may not have attended the residential school, but you carry the burden. I may not have perpetrated the residential school system, but I carry the shame.
Your words have echoed in my mind, and these words have been growing inside me until this day, when they spill out onto my computer screen. Will this bring you healing? No. Nevertheless, these words must come out, for my sake.
Your pain disturbs me, and so it should. But it must also move me to action, or I have failed.
The bodies of the lost children are surfacing. We are indignant on your behalf. We don orange, attend Gatherings, and write inspiring posts on social media to prove our commitment.
Later, we will return to our cocoons, still righteous, still indignant, but a little weary of it all. We will click “like” and “caring” on your posts, but we will move on. We will seek the next social trauma and focus our energy on that for a while.
The word “God” beats against your senses. That is our shame. We read the Gospels – the euangellion, the good news. We are thrilled by the teachings of this itinerant preacher/carpenter, and we claim them as our own. We build rituals and institutions to administer the teachings. We build a little box and there we place the marvelous limitless author of the universe. We summon this being to do our bidding, invoking him with formula and chant. We demand that he bless our actions, and we claim his voice.
Poor god locked in a box.
But really, there is no god in that box. He does not rise up to our whim, blessing our desires and changing the world to suit us. No, the True One sweeps open our hearts, causing us to fall to our knees before the wonders of creation. This is the One who moves us to rejoice. I like to think of this One as author, for he weaves our stories together, our stories spinning out like dreams. He never forces the ending. He respects his own laws.
So, where was this One while your children were in agony? He was there beside them, and he felt every nail, every thorn piercing his own heart as yours is pierced this day still, and he remains in agony beside you until the end.
Jesus gathered the little children close and blessed them. Yes, I am sure he felt their innocence and trust, but remember in Jesus’ time, children were a marginalized people, and he reached out and embraced all marginalized people. Jesus had a knack for celebrating and embracing others and somehow we have lost that. He did not strive to change people – he usually just asked them to follow him. I have seen the children following the dancers, mimicking and learning as they go. Thus we should follow him. I think Jesus would have been delighted if he could have attended a Gathering. He would have smiled there.
The hollow box saddens me. Why did we force you to accept it? Why would we want it in the first place?
The prophet Zephaniah seems to know your story.
At that time I will deal
with all who oppressed you.
I will rescue the lame;
I will gather the exiles.
I will give them praise and honor
in every land where they have suffered shame.
The lost children of the residential schools were exiled; they suffered shame. And now they are being borne home, given honour and praise. Is this the Kairos, the appointed time foretold? And those of us who knelt and grappled and twisted the life-affirming words of Jesus into a sterile box with splinters are not after all the ones who will be uplifted? For as we uplift, so shall we be uplifted.
Is this the Kairos and now you come forward from your exile, where you were driven to the margins of the land, of the streets, and of the heart? Is this your time?
Will the word “God” become glorious on your tongue? When the word is pronounced, will it call into the moment all the Great Titles, especially the ultimate title by which you call him, Creator?
When we hear the word “God”, will we recognize each other as children of the Earth? Will we embrace the welcome that you have offered again and again and it will be so?
Is this, the early days of Truth and Reconciliation, your Kairos, and shall we dance with joy for you?
We have been present at your crucifixion, but if the Author of the Universe weaves us into your story, perhaps we shall celebrate with you in your resurrection.