…soft autumn hum …

It isn’t truly Fall yet and I want to hang on to summer.
IMAG3316-ANIMATION
I already miss the breakfasts of a quarter cantaloupe filled to the brim with blueberries—both local and sweeter than I remember.

I have a lot of years to remember.

Reflective writing and mindfulness help me to do the tasks of today. But what needs doing, most urgently, is to “make meaning” of everything. And yes, I realize that that task is not likely to be completed in this lifetime. We all need to attend to this though. This last stanza of Gary Snyder’s “Front Lines” feeds me today. I share it hoping it will do the same for you…

 
As the crickets’ soft autumn hum
is to us
so are we to the trees
as are they
to the rocks and the hills.
playing-copy
image credit: Jeff Suchak—  Mythic Landscape

As the days grow shorter…

Yes, Solstice has passed and we now look forward to the arrival of the Raspberry Moon on Sunday, July 9th. The heat of summer. The “lazy, hazy, crazy days”. But it would seem that the weather hasn’t gotten the message. Well, except for perhaps the hazy part.New_1_DSCF0524

Today is an overcast, grey, cool, cool day. It is a lovely day, a soft and gentle day, that encourages me to “move at the pace of guidance” that is, not to rush about, hurrying and scurrying. But it doesn’t feel like summer.

My garden is wondering where the heat has gone and patiently sits, trying to bloom and blossom to no avail. But I notice that the garden too moves at the pace of “guidance” which is to say, flowers, herbs, and veggies grow as “guidance” instructs. And Guidance is saying just wait patiently.

Patience is becoming more and more what I need to practice, which seems odd because I am realizing quite dramatically that I have more days behind than in front of me. So, it would seem that I better get busy accomplishing that long list of what I feel called to do.

As for me, this weather is good. It forces me to work on preparing for two exciting weekends of gifting UNIFOR folks with ways to become allies as we try to join hands and make a Canada that is fair for all who live here – indigenous and settlers and newcomers alike. But not to rush about. To sit with the material and find a way to speak and show what I need to share.

What are you doing to move at the pace of guidance on this soft summer day?

Hygge (really)

20140129-DSC00353My New Year’s post started out talking about hygge – a Danish term for the cozy feeling of snuggling up with a warm drink, a loved one, wearing your warmest wool socks and peering into the fire or watching the snowstorm rage outside. You can learn more about hygge in this BBC article.

pinksocks

Only one brave reader dared to point out that I lost track and went off on a tangent. And I am ever so grateful that he did.

I have lived a whole lifetime with undiagnosed ADD, but that’s only because no one in my generation was diagnosed as a child – or if there were such a thing, I certainly never benefited from it. Indeed, my parents would think it preposterous. I was just an “over-imaginative”, “forgetful”, “jittery”, “ornery”, “daydreamer” who just wasn’t living up to my “potential”.

At first I was puzzled, when he claimed that he “was turned off when I started talking about ‘fear’ and couldn’t finish reading the post. I asked him why? And he let me know in no uncertain terms. This man is straight from the shoulder and right to the point.

The title was hygge but then I switched to talking about fear and fears switched the gears. The two near opposite topics just didn’t make sense. So, he quit reading, which is always the reader’s option.

Wow! He was right and even though I had read and reread the blog post before I put it up there for the world to read, I hadn’t caught that. Sometimes we are just too close to the forest.

I am indebted to his candid comments. Few bother to share why they quit following your blog. I guess I should hire him as an editor!

Today, seems like the kind of day to write about hygge … and to stay on topic all one needs to do is look out the window. Right now, there is a medium size dog walking his human wearing boots. The dog that is. The dog is wearing boots. So is the human, but that would be expected.

Our 80-year-old, next-door neighbour appears on the sidewalk with her tiny dog; she and Lola (the dog) are dressed in very warm coats with snug, high collars. The human doesn’t make it past our laneway. The cold and wind has glazed the pavement with black ice. The dog would carry on, but the woman has fallen in past and broken a hip. Twice cautious.

The wind is whipping around what little fine snow fell earlier and the sky is a very flat light grey. She turns back and trudges, head down, across our lawns which aren’t ever slippery. I nod in agreement at her. Where she is headed is far more inviting.goinginwardinvite_tree_sky

Best to stay inside. Warm beverage in hand. Art materials, books (e- and otherwise) waiting to take me to warmer climes or at least another place where I can imagine being bundled up and warm. Warm. We crave warmth all through January. For me, the coldest month of all.

Hygge is only comfort, though, taken in short doses. I think I’ll take the snow and snuggle up with a book under a warm afghan – and dream of spring’s arrival. I can consider the daydreaming as part of what is wonderful about winter. The other part is that it doesn’t last all the time. Winter does have its own beauty and charm.

I am married to a photographer who braves the elements so that I can see snow draped over boughs, or bathed in the soft glow of pink-gold light. I get out and hike in that snow when the sun shines and the wind calms. I come home to a warm house. I am blessed.

Winter_Leafology

A Benediction for 2017

by susanna suchak

adapted from “A Blessing for the New Year” by Kayleen Asbo

(dedicated with gratitude to Mike Prepsky who always inspires)

goinginwardinvite_birchgrove

As the presence of light

begins to grow with each passing day

may the fearful places in your heart

unclench their grasp on your life;

may your courage blossom and bloom.

 
Let this be the year that you

silence the monkey’s chatter,

pick up the drawing tool,

the pen, the paintbrush, the rasp,

and compose together with

the chorus of creativity.

 

Let this be the year that you

break the invisible yardstick

of impossible expectations

and learn that, just as you are,

you are enough –

and so much more.

Let this be the year that you

embrace the messy wonder

that is your life

as it is;

hold it close 

and do the tango.

Let this be the year you

cherish your own humanity

be tickled by its

quirky charm.

Elope with the wonder

of your own true calling,

and invite the hungry world

to the wedding feast.

goinginwardinvite_birchbark

Have a hygge 2017!

testing2017Many are making New Year’s Resolutions today, January 1, 2017. Because, rules (and resolutions) are meant for breaking. Right?

Some others are choosing ONE WORD that will define their year. As if one single word can sum up the whole glorious train wreck that is our life.

Some are planning their next expenditure on their wardrobes … or the newest technological toy that they must have. Spending money they don’t have in their bank accounts … yet. Because they deserve it right?

Some are eating like there is no tomorrow. And like their wardrobe magically expands to fit … one size fits all? Because I’ll start to run or work out or diet tomorrow. Right?

And who can own too many books? Right?

Why do we do this to ourselves? I’ve done it so I think I have some insight.

We do it because deep down we are wired to be afraid.

Yes, we are.

We have no choice. Our ancestors were wired to be hyperalert and afraid too. If they weren’t they wouldn’t have been our ancestors because that long ago you were either afraid or you were dinner.

What we do have choice over is whether to believe that we MUST BE afraid. We must feel the fear, admit that it is there.

Then we must examine what we are afraid of. Realistically speaking, there are no sabre tooth tigers just around the next corner.

We live in a safe world. Safer than the media and many politicians would like us to believe. Not to say there are no dangers, but we can face that too.

Certainly, anyone in retail wants us to be afraid. Why else Black Fridays? Why else a whole week of Black Fridays? Or Boxing Week sales? We need to get a little cynical and less afraid and gullible.

Fear is the underlying emotion for what we do. Yet, I think we need to look at the broader picture. What is the fear about?

Perhaps, I can propose one reason, or maybe two.

Fear that we won’t fit in.

That we will be called out … like Joseph Boyden. (http://www.canadalandshow.com/question-joseph-boydens-indigenous-ancestry/) That we will be viewed as an “outsider”. Or in some cases, that once the “outsider” position becomes favourable we will need to switch our identities to that so as to fit in.

I can’t count the people who express surprise, near shock, that we don’t own a television.

And next year, when we do, we won’t be watching cable, or any sitcoms or “normal” television programming. We do like Netflix; we pay a small fee for the privilege, but I don’t have to listen to commercials that try to chip away at my identity and self-esteem, so it’s a bargain.

Facebook also presents us with that fear. Like if you agree. Blah blah blah. Did you see what these women are doing to protest? No, and I won’t be out demonstrating against The Donald, not because I agree with who/what he is (as if I could really know that), but because I have better, more positive, things to do with my time.

So, either age or financial status has saved me from the first “fear”.

Not enoughness.

And the second fear is rooted in the socially addictive “scarcity principle” … fear that we don’t have enough is just another way of saying we are not DOING, BEING, LIVING enough. We believe or buy the hype that if we don’t HAVE enough, we ARE NOT enough. It was blatantly obvious in high school. Can you remember that far back?

If you didn’t have the exact right brand … not enough. Whatever label your generation pasted on it, that is what it boiled down to.

I had to wear Adler’s wool crew socks and Keds canvas runners. Had to shop in Detroit to find them too. Really. The socks always got thrown in the washer and I ended up with yellow socks, but they were cool.

But that didn’t make me cool. I was still on the fringes of the cool crowd. I didn’t have enough cool stuff – socks and runners are just tiny tokens in the coolness game.

Things have changed over time. Not for teens. Not for many. Many adults hop on bandwagons and then question their actions after they find out more, or the truth. I’m a little slower off the mark and I think that may just be a good thing.

I now believe I am enough. Just as I am. And I am very uncool.

And that’s why I choose to work on continually improving myself.

Not to fit in. Not to be cool. That is so ludicrous an idea that I shouldn’t even mention it. No, that will never happen. I don’t even know who or what crowd I would aspire to fit in to.

But because I am enough, I can always get better. I can draw every day so my drawing skills will improve. I can write every day so my writing skills will sharpen. I can spend some time every day preparing and eating nutritious foods so that I will stay healthy. I can spend time every day doing yoga, walking outside, doing my “farmer’s walks” up and down the stairs to build up my skeletal structure. And I can smile more. Complain less. I do these things because it removes the cognitive dissonance from my life. It feels more like me to do these things rather than some fake me that is popular or perceived as cool.

Are you enough? Yup.

Can you stand to improve a little?

Only you can answer that. But I have a sneaking suspicion that you could.

How is now the question. What will you focus on in 2017 that will make you feel more like you?splashnewme-2017

sôhkâtisiw

In MAIS 752 as I near the end of my Master’s degree, I am allocated a “Creative Assignment” by my professor Dr. Di Brandt.

For some reason, after I posted what I proposed to do for this assignment a monstrous block descended upon me. I struggled. I struggled mightily…kihchi struggled.

And on Monday morning, near tears, I went on a rant and my husband listened patiently – because he knew, he knew all too well, that I had made repeated attempts and that each and every one was a fail. And I was beginning to feel like a fail(ure).

I missed my old studio for the first time since we moved here. I couldn’t find what I needed and I began to doubt who I was.

It was compassion fatigue all over again.

And still, I couldn’t stop reading. Reading far more than what was required. Far more than was demanded of me. But all the history, all the poetry, all the words (or was it word animals?) were starting to overwhelm me.

And the rant, the venting, opened me up and a little light began to shine. So, I wrote or rather I journaled my frustrations and fears and … well, here you will see that I came up with something.

It was quite an organic process and I journaled on “the book of Faces” (as my friend David refers to it) through the steps. I knew, because as the poem Crow Woman Puzzle states, Crow woman spoke to me in a dream.

Crow Woman Puzzle (rough first draft)

by susanna suchak

November 1, 2016

This not a good poem, but it is a poem, I guess

My mind hurts from thinking, thinking, thinking and

still

everything is a puzzle, it’s a mess.

Yes.

So…

Crow Woman spoke to me in a dream

And in the morning a crow flew over me

cawed me awake

I knew it was a sign, it’s a gift, eh?

and then I bought Pemmican Eaters by Marilyn Dumont

Didn’t have to read it, not being on the required reading list and all.

That’s a puzzle too.

I’ve got enough to do.

But I bought it and then I read it and now

my head’s about to explode.

 

So…

It is all a puzzle

this poetry

this history

this poetic history

it is all a muddle

a fuddle duddle

kind of a muddle.

 

When did it start? Who is to say?

Let’s start talking though … today.

John A.

Hudson’s Bay

Westward Ho!

Those oniyaws gots to go!

More more more

“Give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above.”∞

Move over love.

Gonna build a Medicine Line.

That’ll be just fine.

Then straight lines of steel to carry supplies.

And we’ll build barns and stores and houses. Let’s buy, buy, guys.

What about the Indians?

They’re no fans.

***

Treaty 6

pick up sticks

Big Bear

was it fair?

Iron Horse

No remorse

 

Gabriel and

Louis Riel

Ties undone

No one won

Crow Woman                                     “blood red sun”**

 

Duncan Campbell

and F. R. Scott

both of them poets with a

Strange school of thought

Res School

No Golden Rule

Big Fail

but who went to jail?

 

Hemas Kla-Lee-Lee-Kla moves his jaw

Until Ottawa gets pretty raw

 

and here are we

Finally

the TRC

 

What will come of it?

Amounts to shit.

Yet, Crow Woman                             says

we just can’t quit.

 

 

 

∞ “Don’t Fence Me In” words and music by Cole Porter

**Cameron, W. B. (1926). The war trail of Big Bear. London: Duckworth. This work was published in three editions 1926–1930, and a revised edition was published in 1950 as Blood Red the Sun. Calgary: Kenway Publishing Co. 1950.

 

I began drawing crow women. Looking at all kinds of indigenous painting that depicted women and/or crows. Now I began to panic a little because I knew I wouldn’t be submitting on time, but I could stay off the panic and anxiety by just keeping my hand moving. And then some miraculous things happened.

I had written a poem about a week before, “medicine line” and I read it and reread it. I read and reread, “Letter To Sir John A. MacDonald” (hotlink  http://muskratmagazine.com/letter-to-sir-john-a-macdonald/ ) by Marilyn Dumont too. And things started to gel.

I remembered an article I read about an interview between Jennifer Andrews of the University of New Brunswick and Marilyn Dumont, called “Among the Word Animals”: A Conversation with Marilyn Dumont. (hotlink: https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/SCL/article/view/12766/13727 )

and the result is 2 poems, I personally wrote, and I must add a big credit to the poem, “the land where she came from” in Marilyn Dumont’s Pemmican Eaters ( hotlink: http://ecwpress.com/products/pemmican-eaters )

I wrote this second poem first, but reworked it quite a bit so it’s actually the second I produced for publication here:

“medicine line”

by susanna suchak / Wednesday, October 26, 2016

back when

I was a girl

in school

 

they called it

“the longest

undefended

border”

 

they called it

the “49th parallel”

 

I don’t

know

what

it was

parallel

to

 

but

that’s what

they

called it

 

out of school

we called it

the

medicine

line

 

because

of

the

kihchi ᑭᐦᒋ  §

it held

 

 

mistahi ispihteyehtakosowin

powerful … medicine

 

 

safety

sort of

 

not real

safety

but respite

just the same

 

the

medicine

line

 

not really home

but

home too

 

because

really …

there

was

no

line

 

the

medicine

was

kihchi              ᑭᐦᒋ                     powerful / big

 

 

because

there

really

was

no

line

 

there

was

only

medicine.

 

you

had

to

use

your own

kihchi ᑭᐦᒋ             /               power

 

had to be      mamahtawiyiniw       ᒪᒪᐦᑕᐃᐧᔨᓂᐤ  Ħ

had

to

pihcitahcâhkoweskawew      ᐱᐦᒋᑕᐦᒑᐦᑯᐁᐧᐢᑲᐁᐧᐤ   /   shapeshift ¥

 

to take

advantage

 

of that

medicine

line

 

that

imaginary

immigrant

medicine

line

 

the line where

Manifest Destiny

butts into

Doctrine of Discovery.

 

 

§          Great, Big,Powerful

¥          spirit helper becomes part of her/his identity (EC)

Ħ         a person who performs spiritually powerful acts or magic

 

As an honouring or homage to the Cree people I have used both Cree syllabics and Roman orthography to use some words from the Cree language. To this end I referred to Nehiyaw Masinahikan, Online Cree Dictionary (http://www.creedictionary.com/ ) I do not speak the language, but as a Canadian I recognize it as one of the original languages of my homeland.

Nia:wen and Chii Miigwetch, Kontiwennenhá:wi

 

But the real result is a 28″ x 28″ mock-up for a painting/collage/assemblage which I call, sôhkâtisiw. The Cree word sôhkâtisiw ( ᓲᐦᑳᑎᓯᐤ ) means, s/he is strong, s/he is powerful, s/he is sturdy, s/he is mighty and I think it describes the woman in the poem, the land where she came from “cree crow woman”. Surrounding her in the shadow of her crow wings outspread as if in alarm or alertness are several word animals depicting some of the key characters of the time “when it all went wrong”[i]

crowwomanentire

I hope you have some fun identifying them!

 

Tomorrow I will post about my process and what I used to create this image.

 

[i] Dumont, Marilyn. Pemmican Eaters. the land where she came from. 2015. ECW Press. ISBN: 9781770412415

What he said…

It’s early in the morning and I have a busy day ahead of me and little to say. But I just read Gary Kenny‘s new blog and have to share it. Do give it a read. He speaks eloquently and articulately about Mother Earth…

and here is a picture…thanks to Daniel Ondrovcik for this image. Luckily his son, Jams saved us from the dreaded Venanat

IMG_2016-07-23-20111174

 

Patti and the monkey

Danny responds eloquently to Tim…like he took the words right out of my mouth and heart and honed them into perfection. Sharing our stories will always encourage our “monkeys” to speak up … as if they needed encouragement! But our stories need to be told and drawn because through sharing they speak someone else’s longing. Thanks for sharing your stories, Danny. They have given me courage, lightened my day, allowed me to shed a few tears, and always, always, always, they strengthened my connection to humanity. We are all Relations, so my ancestors taught. We all belong to One Family.

Danny Gregory

Tim sent me the following email last week:

Hi Danny,

Thanks for Shut Your Monkey. I’ve been working on quieting my inner voice for 40 years mostly through meditation. I’ve added Shut Your Monkey to the list of books that have helped me over the years including Be Here Now, Ram Dass; The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle; Experience of Insight, Joseph Goldstein; The Art of Living, William Hart; and Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche.

Where your book has been extremely helpful is in discovering those nooks and crannies where my Monkey has been hiding and impersonating my voice with subtle little comments that I didn’t recognize as coming from him. So thank you.

I do have a question for you. I’ve been following you for a number of years and was especially touched by your willingness to be so open…

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