Gratitude for my Body

Nap Trapped Thoughts: There were times when I felt so broken. I even questioned whether I deserved to live, because it seemed to take so many more resources for me to function. If another person took my place, they would likely thrive on just a fraction of the blessings I needed.

Intellectually I knew this was not a helpful way to look at my situation, but emotionally I felt undeserving.

I’m sure it must have been a hurtful and discouraging message to be sending to my body. There she was, breathing, heart beating powerfully, powering my brain to think these ungrateful thoughts, digesting (even if not to my satisfaction), moving, etc. And yet I was sending the message she wasn’t good enough. Yikes!

I tried to practice gratitude for my body, and self-love, and I do think it helped. But it’s like I was doing this short helpful practice and yet the background thoughts and beliefs were overwhelmingly negative about my body.

I think she noticed.

I continued to spend a lot of energy managing symptoms, rather than on my soul’s purpose, or even on more mundane and practical things, like doing my taxes and tidying my office.

Then I got pregnant. And my baby thrived in my womb.

Then I had an unmedicated birth. And when I held my daughter for the first time, I was in awe of what I had co-created.

She was strong, healthy, beautiful. My body had carried her in an embrace for 9 months. Had been her exclusive source of nourishment. Had then birthed her into the world. And now, as I experienced this awe, gratitude, and love, she started nursing. And so my body again was nourishing her.

If my body was capable of co-creating this wonderful young creature, then that was proof I was in fact whole, healthy, and strong. And if my body could create this healthy creature, then surely she could recreate herself as a healthy creature.

And so I’m excited about the Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS) I’m doing right now.

Awe. Gratitude. Love. Perhaps all my body needs is to feel that to heal. To be treated with kindness and gratitude, and to tone down the stress response. To be allowed to be relaxed, and spend more time in the “Rest & Digest” state instead of in “Fight or Flight.”

Thank you, body.

For everything.

Shine,
Julie

Choosing to Soften

Nap Trapped Thoughts: For my baby shower, friends and family wrote me advice and well wishes on cards. My sis-in-law wrote that our children challenge us, and we can choose to harden or soften towards them. She urged me to soften. That advice sang to my heart. Of course!

But at almost 7 months now, my baby IS really starting to challenge me at times. She is wonderful. I love her more than words can express. She delights me more than I could ever have imagined.

And she pinches, scratches, and smacks me a LOT while breastfeeding. I have hypersensitive skin and my eczema has been flaring lately. It’s hard enough to not scratch myself, and when her razor sharp little nails rake my skin, it’s kind of like chalk on a blackboard. Not exactly painful, but very VERY irritating.

Ain’t gonna lie. I’ve been tempted to harden. Bat the little claws away. Speak harshly. Swear under my breath. Even though I know it is ME who has not been keeping her nails short enough. But I consider it a good practice to soften instead. Instead of batting the little hands away after wards, I practice prevention: bring her hand up for kisses BEFORE she scratches or grabs. And zerberts. The zerberts get me a sly smile while she’s preoccupied with the task of nursing.

This current potential conflict reminded me of what I heard Shelly Lefkoe* say, that a good question parents can ask themselves in the heat of the moment is, “What are the long-term consequences to my child of me getting what I want right now?” Anytime there is a conflict with my child, I am the adult in the situation, and I am the one with the responsibility to take action that serves both our interests.

I don’t succeed every time in my practice of patience, tolerance, and love. But I will do my best to choose to soften.

Keep Shining,
Julie

* I can’t find a source for this quote at the moment, but Lefkoe and her late husband discuss their ideas on parenting in this article.

PS – Just trimmed and filed her nails as she slept. Phew!

Non-Violent Communication: Lesson for Business

I’m on maternity leave and massively in debt thanks to my PhD. I also love Mother Earth. And I have a baby, so of course care about her health and about the planet she will inherit.

And I needed a mop.

Something that wouldn’t just push dirty water around. The cleanliness of my floor had suddenly become more important since my baby spends so much time on it!

In fact, having a baby brought housework into the foreground. I now have more to clean, and less time to clean. Being sanitary is more important, but without using toxic cleaning products.

A friend invited me to her Norwex party, and there, along with other Cool Things, was a mop that sounded too good to be true! It cleans without any floor cleaner. Just water. Thanks to the microfiber it is made of.

I consider myself to be a very conscientious shopper. I know that every dollar I spend on something tells its manufacturer, “Yes! I like that! Do it again.” For obvious reasons, this means I don’t buy plastic toxic crap made in sweatshops.

So I fired a bunch of tough questions at the Norwex Independent Consultant running the party, and was impressed by her good work in getting answers. One thing lead to another, and suddenly… I became a Norwex Independent Consultant, too!

After the initial mop and Enviro Cloth euphoria (“I can clean anything with Norwex microfiber and plain water! I am UNSTOPPABLE!!”), it dawned on me I had my own small eco-business. And that I had to Do Stuff to make sales. The products are excellent. But no one will buy any of they don’t know about them.

To encourage performance, Norwex clearly subscribes to dangling tantalizing carrots instead of using a stick. It works. I did not have to hit my first sales target, but I really really wanted to. Because then I would get free products which I either use myself or can offer to customers, which helps build my business.

But with a baby and a late start, I did not set myself up for success. There was not enough lead time before my launch party. Both the in-person and online versions flopped. Following up was slowly working, but it was now noon of the day my orders were due, and I was not even close.

A delightful and gregarious friend had been away during my launch party, and had just gotten home. She cares about me, loves Mother Earth, so I figured she would love the Norwex gear and be keen to buy some and host a party. Voila! Problem solved.

I kept working my other leads, but really I just wanted to meet up with her.

But she was busy, and I felt the clock ticking. My partner was out, and my baby not terribly cooperative about Mommy’s business.

Finally we met at 7:30pm. And she was not interested. At. All.

It was rather awkward and icky for a few moments as we navigated the fact I’d had an expectation of her that she was not willing to meet.

We were both honest about it. And I took a deep breath and reminded myself about my (albeit brief) training in non-violent communication (NVC).

Besides healthier and more compassionate communication, the gift of NVC is the shift in perspective. One of the premises of NVC is that the purpose of communication is to meet our needs. A source of conflict is when it seems our needs are not being met. A “no,” seems far worse about something I really need, versus something not that important to me.

But the truth is there are usually multiple ways to have our needs met. Suffering comes from thinking only this specific person, or that specific action, will meet our need. When I have an expectation of a specific person, for example, then I’m disappointed if they refuse to meet my need. And they may feel bad, too. But meanwhile, someone else may have been thrilled to meet my need.

And that is exactly what happened that night. In the afternoon, I had flung out a last minute Hail Mary post on FB. Basically, just being honest about what I was trying to achieve with my business that day, and that I would really appreciate it if my friends would check out my website and consider placing an order with me.

And as I talked with my uninterested friend about non-Norwex subjects, other friends were placing orders online.

In the end, I surpassed my goal. And had a lovely visit with my friend, who delighted my baby and regaled me with her adventures while away.

I’m sharing this because I think it’s valuable to remember when we get stressed out and are not thinking clearly that there really are multiple ways our needs can be met.

This is freedom. To ask for what we need, and be delighted by a “yes,” and to know that a “no,” just means a different way or person will say “yes.”

And then we can enjoy the gift of each other’s presence without expectation or disappointment.

AND be UNSTOPPABLE!!

Keep Shining,
Julie

Trump Elected: USA Returns to the Dark Ages?

I woke up this morning to the bad news. I still can’t quite believe Trump was elected President of the United States. I’m processing the shock. It seems like a terrible joke.

It seemed unbelievable that Trump would become the presidential candidate for the Republicans. But then it happened. At first I thought this was simply an idiotic move by the Republicans, and would ensure Hillary Clinton would win. It seemed unbelievable that Trump would have any support at all, but despite the scandals and horrific things he said, the pre-election polls showed he was only slightly behind Clinton in popularity.

Having Trump in the race certainly made things more entertaining. And sickening. And provided plenty of fodder for amusement, such as Juice Media’s video Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump.

But as Trump’s popularity continued, it stopped being funny.

As the date of the US election drew closer and closer, I was getting more and more alarmed.

When I went to bed last night, Trump was leading. I had a feeling of foreboding.

I frankly dreaded checking the news this morning. And there it was. Trump elected President. Have United States citizens collectively lost their minds?

My baby find s out Trump won
My baby finds out Trump won

How could a man who has been proven to be a liar, racist, sexist, and a bigot be elected to represent the United States’ people? I remember in a past election a commentator saying that Americans would elect the person they deserved. But it seems to me that there are a lot of wonderful people in the United States who do not deserve to have Trump as their president. I feel sorry for all those who will suffer under Trump’s reign. No wonder the Canadian immigration website appears to have crashed due to Americans seeking to escape to Canada!

And from my perspective as a Canadian, I know that just as Americans who did not vote for Trump will suffer, we who absolutely did not vote for Trump could also suffer. This is the danger of being the neighbour to a superpower. And I’m sure the rest of the world is concerned too.

I wonder if this is how citizens of France or Poland or Belgium or any other neighbours felt when Germans elected Hitler. “How could such nice people elect such a racist bigot? How could such a great country let itself fall into the hands of a narcissistic tyrant?”

When I told my partner the news this morning, his first reaction was that Trump must have rigged it somehow. If anyone could do it, I guess someone as rich as Trump could rig the election. But even scarier is if it was NOT rigged. That the majority of Americans really did vote for Trump.

In the Juice Media video, the announcer jokes that Americans can vote for Trump if they want to return to the Dark Ages. Let’s hope the rest of the world is not dragged down with them.

Keep Shining (especially in Dark Times!),

Julie

Comments? What do you think?

Mixed Feelings on Halloween

I LOVED Halloween when I was a kid. Getting dressed up? Getting free candy?! What’s not to love?

But now I know how dangerous and addictive sugar is. Given the epidemic of obesity in children, it seems completely irresponsible and harmful to be dolling out candy to children. Not only for the huge sugar-hit itself, but because it further entrenches the idea that candy, sugar, is a reward.

And chocolate bars from big corporations are popular to give out. But the bitter irony about some of these sweet treats is that child labour, which can include deplorable exploitation and abuse, is what helps keep those mini chocolate bars cheap to be handed out to relatively lucky Canadian children. I need not belabour the point that exploiting one child to give candy to another is wrong. And actually bad for both kids!

And some costumes are very offensive to certain cultures and ethnic groups. This is a fun video about avoiding racist costumes.

And, isn’t odd we give kids junk food, and the healthy food, the pumpkin, often gets thrown out? Nowadays in Ottawa, at least it is more likely the pumpkin will be composted in the Green Bin. A few years ago I used to write blog posts to encourage people to use the pumpkin, with recipes for the flesh and seeds. I also used to take part in Trick or Eat, which collects non-perishable food for local food banks on Halloween.

All in all, the way we now celebrate Halloween in Canada seems pretty misguided to me. It just makes me want to opt out. Given I have a new baby, I will this year.

But when I am ready to meet the young goblins, ghosts, and super heroes at my door again, I’m thinking of giving out a non-candy treat. I’d like to acknowledge each child and their creativity, and then offer them something they will like, but won’t rot their teeth or guts. Or make them fat. I’m not sure what this would be, but perhaps marbles or stickers? That weren’t made in a sweatshop? Any ideas?

Mind-expansion about Halloween?
Mind-expansion about Halloween?

So Happy Halloween, and when I’ve figured out the trick to a good treat, I’ll participate, too.

Shine,
Julie

Comments: How do you feel about Halloween? What do you give kids who come to your door?

Note: A friend directed me to a lovely project to make Halloween more inclusive for kids with food allergies: The Teal Pumpkin Project. Click here for their non-food treat ideas. A positive step to Halloween evolving?

Just A Bird

11 October 2016
In the spring, I heard strange noises that seemed to be in the ventilation system of my apartment. Perhaps some sort of rodent? I was pregnant and overwhelmed at the time, and also wondered if I told my landlords whether they would use a humane pest removal service. So I didn’t mention it to my landlords, hoping that the little animal would leave on its own (and not take up residence!). I heard the noises, like scuffling or fluttering, a few times over a two-day period. Then nothing. I hoped this meant that the little creature had left the ventilation system, but something did not feel right. I wondered if I should have done more to investigate the sounds.

feathers on filterThen in September I was replacing a furnace filter because the deadbeat landlords don’t do this. There were feathers all over the filter. Startled, I managed to use a flashlight to peer into the narrow slit where the filter goes. I could see the wing of the dead body of a bird, a starling.

My heart sank. Now the noises back in the spring made sense. Somehow the starling got into the ventilation system, and must have been fluttering at an intake grate, the only light it could see.

I felt terrible. A sentient being had been in need, and I had done nothing.

This morning at 5am, nursing my baby back to sleep, I thought of the bird and performed a kind of inner ceremony. I called upon the bird’s spirit, and visualized a conversation with the bird. I apologized to the bird’s spirit and asked for forgiveness. I promised that the next time someone needed help, I would do my best. I also said that I truly would have helped if I had understood that it was a bird who could not escape without help, versus a mouse or squirrel I thought would be able to get back out of the ventilation system.

The starling’s spirit forgave me. I asked if there was any message the starling had for me. The bird said that the promise to help next time was good. That it was in my nature to help others, and to not let external circumstances cause me to stray from what my heart knows is the right thing to do. (The bird also told me that the message of its death within the darkness of the ventilation system was not to warn me away from darkness. In fact, it is my responsibility to illuminate any darkness I encounter. But that is for another writing project.)

Fast forward to today. I took my nine-week-old daughter to the Mommy & Me yoga class at Bayshore Shopping Centre. I could have driven, but I decided to try taking the bus. It was my first time taking my daughter on the bus. The trip there went well because she was asleep! When I got off and walked in the overpass to the Bayshore Shopping Centre at 9:50am, I noticed a small dark bird with white speckles all over within the overpass, huddled on a beam at the entrance into the Bayshore OC Transpo station. (Thank you Safe Wings for identifying the bird: a European starling in non-breeding plumage.)  The bird flew several times into the windows, trying to escape. Then would return to perch on the beam by the entrance.justabird_11oct2016

I quickly determined that there was no way for the bird to get out except the exit at the other end of the overpass. The windows were open but there were grates and screens on them. Especially given I was carrying my baby in a carrier, I couldn’t undo any of the fastens holding the screens on. I figured it would be a two-person job to free the bird. Two people could shoe the bird gently down the overpass corridor towards the exit. Then one person could hold the door open while the other person shoed the bird through.

The yoga class was at 10am, so I went into the mall seeking help and was directed to the Security Desk. But the young security guard on duty said there was nothing that they could do because the bird was in the overpass, which is OC Transpo’s jurisdiction. He said he would call the appropriate OC Transpo number. I asked to make sure that he would actually do this. He said he would so I went to the yoga class, but was concerned.

The yoga class went pretty well (lots of cute babies!!), my daughter let me do maybe 2/3 of the class. The rest of the time I walked and bounced her. And by the end, she was quite fussy, and I suspected she was having gas pains. So I made a hasty departure, hoping that I could get her back to sleep by the time we got on the bus.

To my dismay, the bird was still in the overpass. It had been over an hour since I notified security in the Bayshore mall, and since they had told me they would notify OC Transpo. My daughter was crying and I was trying to sooth her while simultaneously find phone numbers on my ancient slightly broken cell phone and ask for help from those walking by.

I managed to find the number and call OC Transpo Customer Relations. The representative said he would call the appropriate Department. Once again, I just had a feeling the situation might not be addressed quickly. So I texted my partner to find the number to the Wild Bird Care Centre. When I called the Wild Bird Center a volunteer on the line told me they were a very small charity and couldn’t send anyone to help. She gave me advice on how I could try to shoe the bird towards the exit. I explained I had a fussing 9-week-old baby in a carrier and the ceiling of the corridor was very high, so the bird could fly back over me back to the beam near the entrance that lead deeper into the Bayshore station (versus towards the other exit to freedom). She said maybe I could use a blanket to wave above my head. She told me it was OK to tire the bird out so that I could then capture it in the blanket.

This seemed a dubious approach, but I did have a receiving blanket. So I waved it over my head, trying to convince the bird to fly down the long corridor to freedom. But it kept flying back over me to the beam near the wrong exit.

I knew there was another organization that might be able to help, but I couldn’t remember the name. I kept asking passersby for help, and though initially friendly due to my baby, they were all evasive once I asked for help with the bird, though a few seemed sympathetic to the bird’s plight.

Then I saw a Caucasian man with sandy-coloured short hair and steel blue eyes walking with a young child, maybe 4 years old. A fellow parent! Surely he’d be keen to teach his young one about kindness. I greeted him and quickly explained the situation and possible solution. He looked at me with hostility and said, “It’s not important. It’s just a bird. It flew in here, it will find its way out, too.” And walked away before I could say anything.

This interaction really troubled me. It was obvious to me the bird had gotten itself into a situation that it could NOT easily find its way out of. (Who reading this has not done the same?) And why not say he didn’t want to help or couldn’t? Why make up some story about it, and make a blanket statement? It was not important to him. That did not mean it was not important, period.

It was important to me. Especially since that very morning I had received forgiveness from the starling that had died in my ventilation system. And the reminder to be true to my nature. I do believe I am a kind and responsible person. Some of my favourite adventures were rescues, like a mouse, a vole, a green heron, a puppy, among others. I didn’t mind if I looked a bit silly, there in the overpass waving a receiving blanket over my head with my daughter starting to fuss.

But she started to get more and more distraught, likely gas pains. I had to get her home, and reluctantly headed towards the bus. One came shortly, and unfortunately for most of the ride she screamed. I’ll write more about that some other time, because I would like to use public transportation as much as possible, but I feel bad if my baby is crying.

But back to our story, once I got home I was able to post about the situation on Facebook with a photo of the starling in the overpass in case a nearby bird-lover could help. I called the OC Transpo Customer Relations again, and the man said that he had contacted the appropriate department and that a contractor would take care of the situation within the hour. This time I felt more hopeful the situation would be handled well.

And then I was reminded of the name of the organization I had wanted to call when I was still there: Safe Wings Ottawa. Many people on Facebook had the same thought and suggested I contact them. By 12:30pm I reached a volunteer via Facebook, and they said they would look into the situation and follow up with OC Transpo if needed. I was relieved. My baby needed my attention.

At 2pm the Safe Wings volunteer swung by Bayshore’s OC Transpo station to check the overpass. No bird. So one way or another, the bird was out. I hope the rescue was as humane and stress-free as possible. But I don’t know. All I can do is send the bird blessings.

I wish I had been able to just free the bird myself. Or that a passerby had been willing to help me. But I did my best. I don’t think it was a coincidence that a bird needed to be rescued the very morning I asked forgiveness from the bird I had failed. I believe everything is interconnected. And so every being is important. And I personally believe the world would be a better place if the people rushing by in that overpass had actually stopped to try to help a terrified little bird. I think we all pray for kindness should we ever need to be rescued.

It was not “just a bird.” It was an opportunity to make the world just a little better.

For All My Relations,
Julie

Comments
I’m always been interested in what readers have to say. Have you been in situations like this where you’re not quite able to do what you thought was right? How do you decide when you’ve done enough to help?

Dedication
I did not know at the time that Elder Jacob Wawatie was passing to the Spirit World when I was attending to this starling. I now think of the video, below, in which he tries to get the logging industry to see the consequences of their logging: a dying baby bird whose nest was destroyed by the logging machines (see especially 8 to 16 minutes into the video). This post is dedicated to Jacob.

The Little Grief: Losing the Exclusive Relationship of Pregancy

Éléa & me (little grief)I was breastfeeding my 6-day-old daughter, Éléa, side-line (both on our sides) when I was overcome with sadness and love. She is a beautiful, healthy, robust little creature with a hearty appetite, and I could feel the gentle tugs from her nursing. Then she drifted off to sleep, and I thought about how our relationship had already changed since her birth.

For the previous nine months, I held her in a full body embrace. Physically and metaphorically, I held her closer to my heart than I could ever hold anyone.

I will never hold her that close again.

Being her mother will be a profound ongoing lesson that everything changes, and of letting go while still loving fiercely and fully.

But right now I cry and grieve a little for what I had with her. Even though I so wanted to meet her and hold her in my arms. Even though wanting to meet her outside my womb was part of what gave me the strength and determination to push past pain and fatigue and push her into the world.

Before, we were connected by the umbilical cord, and her every need had been met through my body. Now, my breast is the closest thing she has to the warm liquid womb-home she once knew, and this is one way I meet her needs. Another way is by holding her as close as I can.

I realize that motherhood teaches us to be less selfish. My daughter is no longer only “mine.” She can be loved and soothed and cared for by her father and so many other people who love her. By birthing her, I lost the exclusivity of pregnancy. And she gained a whole new world of people and other beings to love and be loved by.

My Little Grief is worth this expanded horizon of love.

Shine,
Julie.

Job-Hunt Adventure Series: Overqualified

I began my job hunt in January 2016 with high hopes. I had just handed in my PhD Dissertation. With only my oral defence left to do, this freed me up to finally return to full-time work. This was my chance to pull myself out of poverty and debt. I was stoked!

I made use of every (free) career service and career counsellor I could. I revisited notes I had taken during last year’s Beyond the Professoriate Conference (this year’s conference is on May 7 and 14). I revised my résumé over and over and over. Each job application would take me an hour or two so that I could implement all the best practices: tailor my résumé, tailor my cover letter, somehow keep my cover letter under one-page, research the organization, etc.

With all the career counselling appointments, reading up on job-hunting, actually trying to implement what I learned (upgrading my LinkedIn profile, making a snazzy new format to my résumé and cover letters, networking), and applying to one to four postings a day, I was working more than full-time. It was exhausting. But it was paying off, as I got more and more interviews.

But I just couldn’t seem to land a job.

I’m good at building rapport, and I felt good after all the interviews. Although my PhD is in Education, the majority of my contract and volunteer work over the last eight years has been in communications. So I felt qualified, that I had the right experience, and that I was a good fit for most of the jobs I was interviewed for.

After nine interviews, I had six rejections, and I withdrew from the selection process for two jobs. Only one interview resulted in a job: as a Crew Leader for the 2016 Canadian Census. And I’m grateful for that, and happy to be working full-time. But it is a temporary contract, and not in the field I wanted.

In the hopes of helping other job-seekers, especially those who, like me, did a PhD, I want to discuss the feedback I got from one unsuccessful interview: that I was overqualified.

The person who emailed me the bad news that I had not been selected for the position gave some feedback in the email:

Unfortunately, you were not the successful candidate but that’s only because we felt you are overqualified – you could and should be contributing to an organization at a much higher level than required by this role. You were very impressive and gave a great interview.

This person very kindly agreed to a brief phone call with me so I could clarify the feedback. And later sent me a job posting for a position they felt was a better fit!

Let’s pause for a TIP, job-seekers! See if you can get feedback if you don’t get the job. It can’t hurt, since you already didn’t get it. Keep in mind most people are awesome and genuinely want to help others. And who knows, they might then think of you for other opportunities.

Back to our story: My perspective was that I had been out of the full-time work world for years, and I was willing to accept more junior positions as long as they were in interesting organizations and there were opportunities to grow. This was why I applied for the above position.

I sought feedback from colleagues and career counsellors, and one retired manager told me that if a candidate was thought to be too experienced or too educated for a position, managers felt they wouldn’t stay long in the position.

Navigating "overqualified"
Navigating “overqualified”

And a career counsellor thought that perhaps I had been aiming too low. She said the qualifications listed on a job posting were the employer’s wish list, but some qualifications were more important to them than others. And that was not something I could guess from a job description. She suggested I try applying for more senior positions, and let the potential employer decide if I was qualified or not. In other words, don’t take myself out of the running prematurely.

After this interview, I made sure to prepare more thoroughly for the “so why do you want to work here/have this position?” question we sometimes get asked during an interview that can be such a gift. If asked, I emphasize how much I want to work for the organization, and if it’s a more junior position, that I am happy to accept it because the organization is so awesome and the work sounds meaningful and interesting. Something like that to try to address their concern I would not stay long.

Since I am now working full-time and preparing for my PhD defence (in less than two weeks!) I have not had time to research further how to address the “overqualified objection” a potential employer may have.

So I’m planning to ask about this at the 2016 Beyond the Professoriate Conference, an online conference for PhDs and PhDs-to-be who are looking for a non-academic career. Day 1 is on May 7th, and Day 2 is on May 14th. Check it out!

Then maybe I’ll have a follow-up blog to share!

Have you been told you were overqualified? What strategies have you found effective? I’d love to hear in the comments section!

Shine Bright,
Julie

River Dialogue

Dawn on Victoria Island, June 2015. ©juliecomber.comI have a confession.

 

I talk with rivers.

 

 

 

 

Mostly with the Kichi Sipi (Ottawa River) because I live near Britannia Beach and watch the sunsets there, and travel from the west end of Ottawa by bus or bike to downtown. A lot of songs and poems have come to me while I watch the river along the Ottawa Parkway. More recently, I started doing a kind of meditation, especially if I’m on the bus. I ask the River if she has anything to say to me. Is there anything she needs from me? What is my responsibility to her? A river in New Zealand, Whanganui, was just granted legal personhood. So let’s get talking!

It has been an interesting process. One of the recurring messages to me is “drop your ego.” Pretty good advice to a member of a species notorious for hubris. I don’t know if I’m connecting with the spirit of Kichi Sipi or with my own intuition or if this is fantasy, but there is something compelling and I feel I need to share what I’ve been hearing from the River.

Here’s the most recent river poem, that came during the bus ride to a meeting about Akikodjiwan (Chaudière Falls, on the Kichi Sipi in unceded Algonquin territory ) on the morning of 13 September 2015. I asked the River for guidance about this meeting, and how to interact with the people at the meeting in a good way.

Kichi Sipi, what do you say?

look beyond egos
including your own
 
the forces of the false gods of capitalism
are constantly seducing you away
from me
from all other beings on this planet
and into an anthropocentric thrall of technology
 
You ARE a child of the Universe
no less than the trees and the stars
but no MORE than the trees and the stars
no more than any other species on this planet
your species has gained powers undreamed of before you evolved
you need to grow up and wield these powers responsibly
you ARE subject to the same laws of the Universe as everyone else
the same limits of energy and resources this one mother earth can provide
 
you need to connect with your heart
people don’t see me
even when they do see me, stand in me, swim in me
still, some don’t connect to me
don’t truly love me
they are somewhere else
 

but the heart connects even if your brain is deceived
your heart knows me and the light in everyone

connect. drink the water. you are the water.
and so you are Love.

*******************

Let me know what you think. Do you talk with rivers? If folks are interested, I’m happy to post more of these river dialogues.
Shine,
Julie.

Opportunity to Honour Sacred Chaudière Falls and Nearby Lands

Do you love waterfalls? I know I do! I love being near falls and rapids. Recently, I feel I understand better why I love waterfalls. Of course they are beautiful and powerful and sound amazing. But Elders in Ottawa and in Guyana have taught me that waterfalls and rapids, the places where waters roar, are the places where Spirits gather. Here in Ottawa, we have a very special waterfall that has been mostly hidden from view by industrial development: Chaudière Falls. Now there is a proposal to redevelop the area, which offers an opportunity to make wise decisions about the future of this sacred area.

Background

For thousands of years, the ancestors of the Algonquin people prayed and offered tobacco at “The Kettle of Boiling Waters”, the mighty Chaudière Falls. But over the past 200 years, the islands and shores nearby were developed for industry. The Ottawa River’s flow was dammed up to operate paper mills and power stations. This place of Spiritual Power was harnessed to yield Hydroelectric Power.

Though in a weakened state, you can still feel the Spiritual Power of the Falls. And late Algonquin Elder William Commanda had an inspiring Vision, a Plan for the area, that would restore it as a spiritual place. A place for peoples to converge and learn about Indigenous Peoples. A place where people can heal.

Turning this Vision into Reality has so far been a slow process. But now there is an opportunity – if we all get engaged and work together!

Current Situation

Windmill Development Group recently signed an “Agreement of Purchase and Sale” for Domtar’s property, which includes Chaudière Island and part of downtown Gatineau. Chaudière Island is right next to Chaudière Falls, and was part of Commanda’s overall Vision for the area. Windmill Development Group also has a Vision for the area, expressed by co-founder Jonathan Westeinde: “Our vision is to create Canada’s most sustainable mixed-use community right here in the nation’s capital.”

Are these two Visions for this area competing or compatible? Let us take a look by going through the four main aspects of Grandfather Commanda’s Vision:

Elder William Commanda's Vision for the Chaudière area1. Free the Chaudière Falls. I think that is a separate process, and could happen regardless of Windmill’s proposed development. What do you think?

2. Create a City Park and Historic Interpretive Centre. For me, this is the point of potential conflict, because the Park and Historic Interpretive Centre were envisioned to be on Chaudière Island. I feel this is a very different use of the land than Windmill’s proposal to build a sustainable mixed-used community (with residential and commercial areas) on Chaudière Island. The only remaining condition of the “Agreement of Purchase and Sale” is that the area be rezoned for “a mixed-use community-scale development”. Personally, I think the area should be rezoned as “Sacred”!

3) Build a Peace Building Meeting Site; and 4) Build an Indigenous Centre. Both the Peace Building Meeting Site and Indigenous Centre were envisioned to be on Asinabka (Victoria Island). Asinabka is not part of Windmill’s proposal for the area, and could still go ahead regardless of what happens with Chaudière Island.

Quick recap: Windmill’s redevelopment sounds great and green, but would be on sacred land next to the sacred Chaudière Falls. What impact would the redevelopment have on achieving the Grandfather Commanda’s Vision for the area? What are Algonquin leaders, elders an community members saying? In my humble opinion, this project requires genuine, fair, and thorough consultation with Algonquin communities. It means really listening to what Algonquins want for their Land and Water. And then supporting their decision. Below are a few Algonquin views that I know of, please add more in your comments on this blog!

Some Algonquin Views

Windmill Development held a Public Consultation on 11 December 2013. Claudette Commanda, Elder William Commanda’s granddaughter, opened the Consultation event and spoke powerfully about her Grandfather’s Vision for the area. I have not been able to find any quotes in the media about what she said. Here’s what I recall. She told Windmill Development: “Now you know who we are. You know how to reach us.” And invited Windmill to meaningfully consult with the Algonquin Community about the proposed redevelopment.

Kitigan Zibi Algonquin Chief Gilbert Whiteduck stated in the Citizen that “I don’t believe this project should go forward without the indigenous centre. It should be the jewel in the crown” of any redevelopment of the area. Chief Whiteduck also said he and his community members are concerned about the future of Chaudière Falls, and “we will ensure to the best of our ability that our voice is heard.”

Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont just released a blog post about the sacredness of Chaudière Falls. One of his key concerns is that no matter what happens with the Windmill proposal, people need to have better access to the Falls to perform Ceremony, to pray, and to offer tobacco.

What You Can Do

This is the time to seize the opportunity to reclaim the Chaudière lands and waters that have languished under the toxic weight of Industry. It is a time to honour the spiritual power and importance of the Chaudière Falls and adjacent lands. It is time for everyone to express our views, hopes, and Dreams for this sacred place, right in Canada’s Capital. Will Canada’s Capital also be Canada’s Heart? It is a time to listen deeply and then act in solidarity with what the Algonquin community wants for the area.

Windmill developments is inviting feedback about their proposed redevelopment, called (for now) “The Isles/Les Îles”, until 31 December. Rodney Wilts from Windmill Developments (rodney@windmilldevelopments.com) responded to my question about whether there would be future opportunities for input after 31 December: “Regarding additional opportunities for input, we see community consultation as an ongoing process. Much of our ongoing consultation is happening now with direct meetings with groups such as Ecology Ottawa, the Ottawa Riverkeeper, Heritage Canada, Just Food, the Algonquins etc. Our next full public meeting will be sometime in the spring.” Do send in your views now (see below). And please stay tuned!

Keep Shining,
Julie.

Please send your feedback to Windmill Development Group about the proposed “The Isles” redevelopment of areas near Chaudière Falls to Rodney Wilts at: rodney@windmilldevelopments.com
Or snail mail comments (postmarked Dec 31):
Attn: Sheena Whitten
PACE Public Affairs & Community Engagement
Suite 201, 145 Spruce Street
Ottawa ON K1R 6P1 

PS – I would like to share a lovely note Judith Matheson posted on FB about sending in feedback to Windmill:

“Please emphasize the importance of honouring the history, the sacred and the spiritual significance of Chaudière Falls not just to the Algonquin people but to the deep spiritual needs of these times to remember the wisdom of our own ancient ancestors. Who lived in harmony and connection with nature and the Earth. If you wish contact Rodney Wilts of the Windmill Development Group as they welcome constructive feed back. Suggest he check out http://albertdumont.com/the-kettle-of-boiling-waters-chaudiere-falls-algonquin-territory/ and express how what you read made you personally feel around the significance of how this project is done and its affect on our world.

View of Parliament Hill from AsinabkaPlease share this info on Facebook and via e-mail as the old year ends and the new era begins. This project is not just about us. It is about our future generations and how we can play a role in helping Windmill and our own society relate to and in some way also experience by reading and being reminded of the true history, spirituality and sacredness of this area, as shared by Elder Albert Dumont. To relate to and ourselves connect with a deeper understanding of what he is talking about is what we have all lost. In nature the great healer we must strive to create deep spiritual understanding that all original peoples keep hoping we will remember.

That what we do to the Earth is reflective of what we are doing to ourselves. It is time we work together towards bringing back the harmony and flow of nature and this project has extraordinary potential and possibilities for Canadians to do just that.”