Gifts and Apologies

ImageIt is the gift giving season, isn’t it? Yes, we give presents to show that we care for others. Right? Or do we just gift someone with whatever, just because, and roll our eyes at the crowds of inconsiderate, downright rude people in our way as we go about our “duty” shopping?

As for me, I’ve already got all the gifts I need. A healthy family, people who show up, a roof over my head, a good (and never ending) education, heat in the winter, food in my belly (lots of it too) and potable water. There are many of my brothers and sisters, and cousins, and aunties and uncles, and friends, and on down the line…who don’t.

Some of them, women in particular, started a movement called “Idle No More”. Oh we could argue about the men who hornswoggled the media spotlight, who took credit where no credit was due, but that would just distract people from the whole idea. Because actually “Idle No More” can’t be allowed to get lost in petty arguments about whose idea it was, or whether or not you are Status, Non-Status, Legal or not, Shadow Indians, Grey Indians, Apple, Urban or Rez.

This movement has grown so fast and so healthy because it is the right idea for this time. And time is running out.

Now I have friends who are, quite frankly newcomers to Turtle Island, some are even the first generation to live here. And maybe they don’t quite get the history, or maybe they just don’t want to be bothered with the history, or maybe they get confused by political gobbledegook or jabberwocky. Some have even pointed out to me that “Prime Minister Harper” has “apologized” in public and they feel we are being ungracious to expect that he follow up his “apology” with action. But you see an apology isn’t an apology if it isn’t followed up with action, repeatedly and sincerely. So, what we are expecting now is that this “apology” be made authentic and sincere. And the only a government can do that is with action.

Strictly speaking the apology only covered Residential Schools and as horrific a genocide that was (is) it’s just the tip of an iceberg. A very cold, sharp, scary iceberg. And even this apology hasn’t really got teeth or legs. That is aside from blaming the churches and them throwing a few dollars here and there for showy events rather than allowing people to speak until everyone has heard their stories. Because those stories make people uncomfortable, maybe even ashamed — and really what can anyone do now?

As for me (and I think I’ve got a lot of folks behind me on this



– Native, and Non-Native alike) I’d like people to be able to expect a roof over their heads, healthy food in their bellies, heat in the winter, a decent school and educational system for their children, clean air, water and protected land to be just that – protected! Sounds simple doesn’t it.

But there’s a fly in the ointment here. Because protected lands that were “gifted” to First Nations haven’t been protected at all. Promises have been broken over and over and over again. If you’d like a quick read and a little background, I’d recommend that you pick up a copy of “The Truth About Stories – A Native Narrative” by Thomas King. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll want to continue on to “The Inconvenient Indian” by the same author. That is if you like a good story and as Thomas explains, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.”

So promises to protect lands whether that be a reserve (reservation in the U.S.) or a National or Provincial Park or just to keep the land safe for the sake of the land, or those who live on, in, or around it need to be kept. So whether it’s a government or a corporation or a neighbour who doesn’t keep the promise to steward the land in a good way, we all need to pay attention, to stand up and say, “Hey wait a minute. I won’t let you get away with that.”

Oh and don’t ever let anyone tell you that the government “gifted” First Nations with their “land” … The land is not for sale and you don’t own it in the same way you don’t really own anything else. It just is.

We’re welcome to live on it, tend it, live off of it – but we lose that right when we don’t take care of it. And deep down in your heart of hearts, you know that; you knew that from day one. So it’s no gift… As Thomas King says on page 137 of  The Truth About Stories – A Native Narrative, “It’s a lovely sentiment, isn’t it. Gifts. The Great White Mother and Father and their Red Children sitting around a Christmas tree, enjoying the holidays, the Indians eager to see what presents their parents have bought for them. A Currier and Ives moment.”

Only it’s not and you can’t buy land. Even if you believe that you can; even if that’s what the government, the corporations, and the banks want you to believe.

The land is finite and there are constraints to what it can absorb and still sustain itself and us. Though I imagine it will heal once we’re gone – and we’re working on that just as fast as we and those big Corporations can.

But you can make a difference. You can stand up and be counted; can make your voice heard. There is a hitch though. You have to follow that up with sincere actions. I have faith in you; I believe that you can do it. That we can hold each other accountable as well as governments and corporations. I’m counting on you, we’re all counting on you – especially Mother Earth.Image



Amy Cuddy spoke at TED recently about how your body language changes your mind changes your brain changes your life.

Rick Hanson has taught me so much about how your mind can change your brain can change your relationships, your communication, your life.

And I want to share this I wish to be the change…

I want people who are marginalized by politics, by corporations, by powermongers to hear this.

Can you help me?

Can you share this message?

Maybe together we can change what really matters. Thanks.

Books, libraries, reading, and a what if…

Today marks the beginning of Banned Books Week and so I happened upon this little video that Bill Moyers made to honour this…

I agree with Bill. I wonder how many of us would be as whole as we are without books in our lives. Right now I am in a place where I can afford to buy some books. It’s wonderful!

But I still need the library. I grew up in libraries. I grew up feasting on books.

Now libraries open doors in other ways than books. We borrow DVDs, music CDs, audio books (wonderful for long trips!) and let me not forget TOYS! Whoot! When my children were small I borrowed toys regularly as well as books to read to them. All of us would be poorer without libraries and the bounty they lend to us.

But libraries do more than lend out magic. They host story telling times, events, workshops and clubs.

I’ve gone to those story tellings.

I’ve studied writing with Welwyn Wilton Katz.

I’ve volunteered in literacy programs.

Which leads me to my point (and I do have one)…the Library belongs to all of us. And we need to let our municipal politicians know that we — not some board or council — are the owners. They are just human beings; they will make mistakes.

Locally that would be the error of closing our only library (aside from a few specialty libraries devoted to small interest groups) on Mondays. What wrong headed thinking!

In our little corner of the world the library and the art gallery (the Tom Thompson) are attached which I feel is an excellent idea, a great match, a marriage made in heaven. They are both necessary as places where people learn to think, to imagine, to create, to expand their horizons, to grow. All necessary traits in a good citizen.

So, it would follow, if you follow my thread, that both of these edifices should fling their doors open EVERY day of the week…even if you must train more volunteers to do the “grunt” work (and here I believe Unions need to get on board). If citizens want this enough, they will step up and make it happen. Libraries are a human right … if you want creative thinkers, critical thinkers, thinkers period.

Are you with me?

Oh and while you’re at it…read a banned book! There’s a million of them. Here’s some I’ve read WITH my children…

Where Did I Come From? Cover

The Giver Cover

A Wrinkle in Time  Cover

And one of the all time best banned books… In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak

Wonderful Banned Books Week display at Porter Square Bookstore, 2012

Nickel and Dimes-10TH Anniversary Edition (11 Edition) Cover

They are some of the best reading in town … with the greatest ideas!


Harvest time…and celebrations.

There is a fuss nowadays in the US about celebrating Christopher Columbus and since it is close to Harvest Sunday (aka Canadian Thanksgiving) i thought of trying to tie these two together.


Because both of these celebrations revolve around a people who are completely forgotten and/or diminished by the celebration itself. In the US they are celebrating an opportunist who turned into a tool for Empire (as Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan use the word. also see Living the Questions). I grant that CC was a product of his culture which was vicious and punitive in trying to win souls for Christ. And even saying that my blood boils, curdles–i am repulsed that most of your ancestors and some of mine came out of that social milieu. But i find it nigh to impossible to celebrate that. Christopher Columbus did not DISCOVER anything but a chance to win favour with the people who pulled strings in Europe. And he was aggressive at self promotion … even if it meant killing thousands of innocent victims … and we know that apparently it did.

Now on to “Thanksgiving” which is celebrated in both the US and Canada though at different times in the Fall season. It can certainly be seen as a Harvest Festival especially in light that the Harvest is a celebration that is pretty much universal. And we can also see that those early arrivals who ended up settling (along with all the other colonialisation and appropriation that that entailed) wouldn’t have made it through the winter without some very gracious help in the form of food, shelter, knowledge, and heaps of kindness. Our history books gloss over this and we nod to this generosity by celebrating a day where most over-indulge. Oh goodness! More greed. This seems to be what this celebration has leaned into. More more more! Yes!

Well, it is time to sit down and think on this. Meditate on the roots of the day you are given off your “work” whatever form that may take.

And if/when you do perhaps you can see that there is a better way to celebrate.

I’d like to point you to a few websites that have helped me to see a better way…

1. Susan Werner’s song: “Plenty and then some” (You can even listen to it if you buy her Live at Club Passim CD … which i strongly suggest you do.)

2. Celebrate instead with “Why Honoring Indigenous Peoples Day Matters” because if you are “standing on the side of love” it really really does.

3. Go for a hike! A real hike, boots, backpack, picnic lunch…instead of stuffing the bird and then stuffing your belly. That’s how we’re going to celebrate this year. We’ve done it in the past and it is a refreshing way to connect and/or re-connect to what is truly important. It also feeds your spirit and if feeds your Buddha brain too! Bonus: it is practically free when you factor in the gas $$ (if necessary to get someplace where you can really really hike) and perhaps a park fee.

4. Go out and help somebody get plenty and then some too!

Hope you have a wonderful wonderful day … practicing Sabbath.

I’ll write on Sabbath practice very soon.

Week Two — Land

Early morning view near Irish Block Road / Grey County taken: September 10th, 2011 photo by Jeff Suchak

This Sunday in the Liturgical Cycle of the Seasons of Creation is Week Two. Today, we worship and mourn with the land, the soil, the clay, loam, sand, the body of our mother, The Earth.

I turn now to one of my favourite books read repeatedly during my full time seminary years, “The Body of God” by Sally McFague…”Ecological deterioration is subtle and gradual, it involves the daily, seemingly innocuous activities of every person on the planet.” I cannot change “every person on the planet”, nor can you. We can only change ourselves, our own behaviour, our own attitudes…but that is a spiritual mandate for every one of us who is “awake.”

But this is Sunday, one of the traditional days when people gather together to worship, to lament, to pray, to praise, to be comforted…and to be challenged. I invite you, each and every one, to do this. But, of course, being me, i invite you to do this with a slightly different slant, standing or sitting in the light, with your eyes wide open. Let us gather together. Let us worship, lament, praise, pray for the Land.

We worship outdoors perhaps in a garden, a meadow or on a nearby trail. Some of us are scaling a local mountain, some strolling a beach, others will be collecting rocks, some will be “documenting reverence, practicing the wild.”. Some of us will write and draw maybe even paint a little, sitting on a smooth rock, beside the trail, sheltered by the natural Cathredral’s canopy.

It is outside, outdoors, out of the boxes of bricks and mortar where we can touch (the) Godde (of our understanding) and where we can connect with Source’s Creation. The Creation of which we are a part, only a part, a small part.

We realize that we create chaos.

We commit mayhem.

We forget to think beyond the moment by not being fully present in the moment.

We repent that we disregard Creation, that we pollute, misuse, waste, and kill the soil with chemicals, harsh plowing methods, quarrying needlessly, dumping & littering (here is what one sustainable community is doing about that), and creating ever more landfills.

Pause now to give your gifts, lay down your “tobacco”,

pour clear fresh water on to the ground …

make your apologies — in whatever way is meaningful to you — to this soil that feeds us.

This Sunday we worship and mourn with the land, the soil, the earth realizing that we are poisoning, neglecting, abusing our mother that feeds us. We are sorry. We are very sorry. We want to stop this. Help us to change our ways.

What else can you do besides saying you’re sorry, praying, using your words?

Buy local food. Buy organic food processed locally when you can.

Join a CSA. Find out what that is.

Grow a garden. Grow a garden instead of a “lawn”.

Stop adding chemicals to the soil.

Buy heirloom fruits and veggies. Save the seeds. If you don’t have space, give them to someone who will be able to save them and grow them.

Join a community garden, a collective kitchen. If there isn’t one near you … start one. Since this is a “Season” of the “Church” … ask a local church to lend you their kitchen…maybe even sponsor your group.

Write a letter to Monsanto, your local, regional, or federal representative, your local newspaper to express your commitment to fix what you can, while you can.

Best of all campaign in your little corner of the world for elected officials to work together creating sustainable communities!

Be the change whoever actually said those words first, doesn’t really matter, may even be irrelevant, what matters is that it speaks to your heart and impels you to change, to act, to make good what you can.


Now go outside and touch the earth!

Always remembering to walk gently and lightly.

Politics as love…

Recently I took a plunge and applied to do a book review for The OOZE  I didn’t get my first choice of books. I was a little disappointed…and that is an understatement. Instead I received a copy of Tony Campolo’s “Stories that Feed Your Soul“. Now I love stories and fancy myself somewhat of a storyteller myself so I cajoled my self that it would be okay. Then I read the introduction and discovered what I had feared…Tony and I have a somewhat different take on theology. Which is not surprising considering that my theology has morphed through some pretty incredible dark places and discoveries on this journey we call life. But a promise is a promise and I plowed through.

What surprised me is that most of the stories spoke to my soul…even my quirky faith was bolstered and to prove my point I will share just one of those stories. Because here in Canada we are immersed in a contentious election and most of us feel we are fighting for our lives and the future of democracy in our country. I hope Tony won’t mind…he actually urges the reader to share the stories…and if it encourages someone else to stretch the wings of their own faith, it will all be worth it. (My “coming out” I mean.)

Politics as Love in Action

We are all aware of the parable of the good Samaritan in which Jesus tells about the man who fell among thieves on the road to Jericho, and how a Samaritan rescued him, took him to an inn, and then provided money for his care and sustenance. But suppose the story had continued. Suppose the good Samaritan had formed a committee called “The Committee for Making the Jericho Road Safe.” Suppose the committee had conducted marches, raised public awareness, and forced city hall to put decent lighting along the Jericho road, remove the bushes in which thieves could hide, and make sure that there would be police(men) officers (my 2cents worth) to patrol that highway? Would this not also be a way to express love? And if the city hall, policemen and politicans had been found to be accepting bribes in return for not interfering with the robbers, would it not also be an act of love to organize people to vote the corrupt politicians out of office at the next election? Doesn’t God call us to set things right?

I guess that story hit me so hard for two reasons. First, I spent most of my adult life working as a community developer, a health promoter, a resettlement worker and an ESL teacher. I defined it as ministry and I was turned down for ordination or even diaconal ministry because … well, we’ll really never know the real because and it really doesn’t matter. But from this story I am affirmed that indeed I was actively involved in ministry. We all can be ministers. Everything we do and say can be a ministry…or not. We have that choice.

The second reason this story spoke so loudly to my heart was that I am involved in this election in a big way. I work as the Office Manager for Kimberley Love, our riding’s Liberal Candidate and in my heartfelt opinion the only candidate who has the leadership, experience, and communication/people skills to effectively work for the greater good in Ottawa. I thought this through long and hard waaaay before the Writ dropped. It’s not my first campaign…I worked for another candidate in the previous federal election because I was convinced that he was the only candidate who had the leadership, experience and communication/people skills to get the job done in Ottawa. He was not and is not a Liberal Party member. I have been snubbed by former “friends” which has hurt since I am new (3 years here) to this community and don’t have a swarm of friends so that I can afford to lose even one. (as if any of us can afford to lose friends) But this story comforts me. It says that ministry is hard work, that ministry goes on long before an election is called and will go on long after the election day and all the campaigning hoopla and silliness is over. And we will all go back to working together for the common good. Some won’t call it ministry. I don’t care what people choose to call it as long as we can roll up our sleeves and make this community, this place, these people’s lives better.

These children are now grown, some of them have their own children. I want a bright future for them and their little ones. I also want a bright future for all the candidates who are running. I know them, they are my neighbours, colleagues; I don’t doubt that they are good people with good intentions and I look forward to continuing to work with them to see that our environment, our economy, our education system, and our neighbourhoods thrive and blossom.

I understand now why the Haudenosaunee people who are my ancestors adopted the Great Law of Peace and chose the governing process of consensus instead of elections for their democracy. It is far less divisive and rancorous. It works in small communities where there is homogenity and unanimous adherence to a single vision. Sadly, it seems not to work in this huge country called Canada which makes elections necessary. Let us pray on this Easter Sunday, during this season of Passover, and in this time of Spring when new life is resurrected that people will rise up and have their say, then rise together to work together to make life bloom and blossom as it will without us if/when we manage to make ourselves extinct through global catastrophy or war or grudges. Peace be to your house!

New Me!

Well, that’s a little misleading, I suppose. I am the same old me, but with a new attitude and a new lifestyle. Day one albeit, but still you have to start at the beginning. And this is my beginning. Oh, I know there have been many new beginnings, which is what life really is all about. Change is inevitable and I am making friends with change and embracing it with open arms and sticky kisses.

What I have begun is a new regime at the Y. I have a “trainer” who is helping me not to overdo and end up defeating myself. She is helping me to pace myself and I am indebted to her kind and gentle direction. I feel very comfortable with her approach to my attempts to take back my life and health.

Now, I realize that this isn’t about art and/or journaling, but in a way it is. I will have to be more focused because I will have to make time to do the artwork, but I think too that I will have more energy and a better attitude! Yes, it’s true I can get weighed down by life’s little inevitabilities. Yes, it’s true that I do tend to have a brain that is velcro for the negative…but whoo hoo according to Buddha’s Brain that is NORMAL. At last, something about me is normal. Whew! Just when I was beginning to believe the world’s rather decisive opinion about me, I find out that they are all wrong, all wet, and certainly, justifiably dismissed.

So wish me luck! And maybe even you might enjoy reading Buddha’s Brain and getting into taking care of yourself. I’ll keep you posted how this all plays out, but I have an inkling that it’s going to be a happy ending.

Add a little sparkle to your life in this season of waiting for the Light.

It’s a good thing to do.

You might just be saving the world by doing it.

True dat.