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)


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.


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


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


everything is a puzzle, it’s a mess.



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.



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


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




they called it

the “49th parallel”


I don’t



it was





that’s what


called it


out of school

we called it








kihchi ᑭᐦᒋ  §

it held



mistahi ispihteyehtakosowin

powerful … medicine




sort of


not real


but respite

just the same






not really home


home too



really …









kihchi              ᑭᐦᒋ                     powerful / big



















your own

kihchi ᑭᐦᒋ             /               power


had to be      mamahtawiyiniw       ᒪᒪᐦᑕᐃᐧᔨᓂᐤ  Ħ



pihcitahcâhkoweskawew      ᐱᐦᒋᑕᐦᒑᐦᑯᐁᐧᐢᑲᐁᐧᐤ   /   shapeshift ¥


to take



of that










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]


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



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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Betwixt and Between

Well, happily the house sold, thanks to Rhonda Brown.

And now I am consulting as Gardens Coordinator for CMHA Elgin … a new leaf has turned … again ever so happily.

I feel purposeful and enlivened. This is so good.

So much to do to get the gardens going.

So much back and forth.

So much joy.

And this is good.

And life is good.

Even if there are too many moments when I feel a little frenzied and frantic.

So when that happens, Shutting the Monkey is wonderfully good. You can hear me on Danny Gregory’s Shut Your Monkey podcast, to see how much I believe in what I do and am doing…

And so it goes…MrBlue#1

Pitching, Painting, Packing and Praying

Listing the house.

The unknowing is hard.

The need to move on pressing.

The weather antagonizing.

Between all the necessary “Ps” there is the meditative act of stitching.

Even with aching hands, from the stretch and strain of manual labour, it is soothing.

Each stitch a prayer.

So much to pray about…

Interesting to see how the old informs the new. Maybe…

In the midst…

Packing up. Tossing. Giving away. Feels good.

Like a spring tonic or a thorough spring cleaning.

Still both studios are upside down and the need to make still strong.

In the midst there is need for a comforting diversion.

Tea and stitching seems to work magic.








A small Boro pillow.

First in a series.

Early stages…

A comfort while stitching and after.


Beauty and usefulness. A good thing.

My Relaxation Habit.

I’ve been feeling maxed out lately. I think this is something I need to do. Stephanie links to Sarah McCrum’s site where you will find more information. I invite you to try this with me. When I work with clients, my number one healing recommendation is learning how to relax and cultivating a daily practice of energy relaxation. Not blobbing in front of the TV, not drinking a glass …

Source: My Relaxation Habit.