Maybe too long. Maybe not long enough.
Last time I blogged and wrote anything creative it was back on April 17th. I was sitting in front of my computer writing a grant for a residency in Banff Arts Centre. I was feeling good, feeling like this residency was mine because this is something I really wanted. And around noon I was overcome with this intense feeling of sadness that I burst into tears. This is not normal for me. Crying for me is something that doesn’t come easily. So this disturbed me but I let it pass through me and I allowed the tears to fall. I had to shake it off as I didn’t want these feelings to consume me and spiral out of control. See I have these kinds of tendencies and I’ve learned over the years to stay above even if it’s a struggle to do so.
I went about my day which I had off. I did some research and reading. I went for a walk. I made dinner for my girls.
It was in this comfort and routine that everything changed. Not just for me but for so many of relatives and friends.
Back home people celebrate Easter through the catholic tradition. It was days before Good Friday. Many of my relatives and friends from Mississauga First Nation go fishing for the community. Lots of people still eat only fish on that holy day. And anishnaabeg love fish and fishing, and the gathering it takes to go out on the land and water, connecting with something much bigger than them.
My two cousins went out on Wednesday to put out some nets to get as much fish as possible to give away to many families in the community. This is who they are. Always thinking about others and how to support them.
Early Thursday morning they went out on borrowed canoes to the river near the pow wow grounds. The ice was still breaking up just upstream at the lake. The water was cold and rushing from the melting of the ice. And the fish were waiting for them.
Time was passing. It was getting later and pushing towards noon. Wives were getting worried and began calling cell phones which were not answered. Relatives went to the river and were looking. Empty trucks were still parked. A capsized canoe was found. My cousins were nowhere to be found. A search party was organized. Emergency crews and community members came to the river with one thought on their mind that these two anishnaabeg men would be found safe and sound.
It was that Thursday evening that I got a call hearing all what happened that day. One of my cousins was found. The grieving began. Our small community was beginning to reel from the news. There was still hope to find my other cousin.
Four days passed. People from surrounding communities came by to help with the search, pray, and brought food and words of comfort. On that Sunday early in the morning my other cousin was found.
During that time, during that intense time of waiting, praying, and so many tears, I was in disbelief as so many of my family members and friends from Mississauga and Blind River. And grief was pulling us together as a family and a community. It was hard being so far away and drifting away from everyone back home after all these years. It was a blessing nonetheless for these connections to be made.
I live near Gchi Ziibii, the Ottawa River and so often I go there and sing water songs and offer tobacco and leave spirit plates for our ancestors. I keep family and friends that I have met over my short lifetime close to me and in my thoughts and prayers as I do my offerings. This time though was different.
When I went to the water to pray, sing, and offer tobacco – it took much effort to sing those water songs. My throat burned and my heart felt so heavy as I stood on the shores watching the ice floats in the distance. The water was so high from the long winter that brought tons of snow and ice. I could only wonder how it was back home.
I thought of all the water teachings. How water is healing and brings life and helps the life givers carry life and bring forward our future generations. It also reminded me that, as with all the elements and in life, we need to have a deep respect for the elements because they give life but they can also take it away. Or teach us some very hard lessons. It also teaches me how fragile life is and that no matter how much care you take in life or no matter how much training and experience you have with the elements, you just never know. We all have no clue what to expect moment to moment. We need to be brave and have the courage to carry on and live that good life. Our ancestors took the time and energy to listen and learn then pass them on to all of us those good teachings to live a good life.
It’s been over two months and I was having such a hard time to write about this and to share. I’ve got lots of healing to do as I continue to learn more about myself. I miss writing and have been thinking so much about this blog and reading all your posts as well. I hope you all have been well, safe, and in good spirits. I was really getting into napowrimo. I just couldn’t manage writing until now. The ice needs to break up like the spring, like this break in creativity.
I give thanks to my cousins for giving so much of themselves to all of us who knew them. They were amazing grandfathers, fathers, husbands, sons, and friends who carried many anishnaabeg teachings and cultural practices, and shared with as many as they could. They will be missed greatly. The memories and teachings we carry will always be with us.
Miigwech Perry Joe Boyer-ba minwaa Randy Cada -ba. Ga waabmaa minwaa baamaa pii. Ahaw miigwech.
Nbi gii zha ge goo
gii miigwech wayne me goo
gii zha wayne me go
water we love you
we thank you
we respect you
Song by Doreen Day, Anishnaabekwe
Miigwech to all of my fellow bloggers. Take care and be well.