Category Archives: More than human world

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.

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.”

Raspberry Placebo

I gently pick each raspberry with gratitude and with the Intention that the berry will be Medicine. A delicious, natural, side-effect free Medicine for me and anyone else who consumes the raspberries.

I’m taking Dr. Lissa Rankin’s “Take Back Your Health” teleclass, which allows students to go deeper into the Six Steps to Heal Yourself described in Lissa’s bestselling Mind Over Medicine. In the first call of the teleclass, Lissa talked about the placebo-effect. Most of us have heard of placebos, but few of us realize just how exciting the placebo effect is! Its not just something Big Pharma needs to control in their Gold Standard double-blind placebo controlled trials. Its something YOU can harness to potentially avoid Big Pharma’s drugs!

A placebo does not have to be prescribed by a doctor. The healing relationship you have with your doctor, acupuncturist, shaman, or Elder is very important to help any kind of healing strategy to work. And if a doctor lovingly gives you a sugar pill or saline injection, you’re probably off to the healing races! But you can also prescribe your very own placebo to yourself. For Lissa, this is Green Juice. And the more often you take the placebo, the better. The Green Juice is a good example, since Lissa drinks that 4-5 times a day.

In the first call, I was delighted to hear Dr. Anne Davin (Lissa’s co-pilot for the teleclass) speak on Indigenous ways of understanding health & dis-ease. I was so excited, I just had to call in and say so! I had the privilege to interview Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont about Lissa’s book (guest blog post here), and I deeply value Indigenous ways of understanding and healing illness. Albert was ideal to speak with about Lissa’s book because he is living proof we can heal ourselves! Whenever I get discouraged about my symptoms, I just remember that Albert recovered from a broken back, including healing his paralyzed arm that “experts” said he would never move again. With that example in mind, I know anything is possible!

Given the first teleclass talked about placebos, I thought it would be helpful to write a bit about a beautiful suggestion from Albert that I just tried out. Albert told me that according to his tradition, wild berries are very healing. They are Medicine. And a way to make them an even more potent Medicine is to pick the berries as a Ceremony, with the Intention that each berry will be Medicine.

add salt lamp goodness to those berries!If you like the idea of berries as your placebo, here’s what Albert suggested. Go find a patch of wild berries. If laying tobacco down or calling in the four directions is meaningful to you, go for it! And of course you can Pray and set your Intention before you start picking. Then as you pick each berry, stay with that Intention that the berry will be Medicine. Acknowledge everything around you, such as the birds, bugs, plants, and rocks you encounter while picking. Gratitude is the attitude. When you get home with your berry treasure, make jam or freeze them. You can freeze them individually on a cookie sheet, then put them in ziplock bags. Then you can savour a few berries whenever you need your placebo-hit. They are a frozen flavourful healthy alternative to a sugar pill you can take many times a day! And who needs an apple a day when you can have berries many times a day?

To make even more Marvellous Medicine for myself, I combined the raspberry picking with a Ceremony my brother and I do every year to honour the memory of Edna, our beautiful Guyanese nanny whose unconditional love is with us always. We make jam each year, adding a bit of the last year’s batch to the new year’s batch. And so we stay physically and spiritually connected to the last batch of jam she made for us in 2009.

As I sit and write this, I am savouring a few frozen berries. They remind me of that day picking, both under clouds and then under strong sun. They remind me of All My Relations with me then, that Albert told me to acknowledge. The trees, chokecherries, butterflies, flies, thorns, sun, clouds, breeze, and stones. The raspberries remind me of Edna’s unconditional love. Of Albert’s Ceremonies. Of Lissa’s advice. And each raspberry reminds me I will heal.

Keep Shining,
Julie.

Hungry For Our Landscapes

We humans are adapted for the sensory world Nature provides. The sun-dappled non-linear entanglements of a forest, the feel of the sun on our hands stroking tawny blades of savannah, the scents and sounds of a rainforest teeming with Life. Contrast this to the lines and rectangles and grey asphalt and mechanical noise and pollution-stench of many Cities. According to Lee Maracle and others, there is a connection between violence against the Land and violence against women. She argues we are hungry for the landscapes our Ancestors lived in, and when we cannot satiate this hunger in cityscapes, we act out. We inflict our maladapted rage on others.

102_0023I got the news on the Spring Equinox that Kokom Louise Wawatie had passed to the spirit world. This Wonder Woman Warrior had dedicated much of her life and irresistible energy to protecting Mother Earth, to fighting for these Landscapes that keep us humans sane. (This blog post is about one of Kokom’s recent campaigns.) As I sat on a OC Transpo bus barreling along the Parkway, watching the still wintry snow and tree-lined Ottawa River, the song “Hungry for Our Landscapes” came. The chorus and title are inspired by Lee Maracle’s talk at the fabulous “First Voices! First Women Speak! 2012 Gathering“. The bridge, that every People formed circles and had drums, is from Elder Albert Dumont. And the song is dedicated to Kokom Louise. May we carry her bright light in our hearts always. Migwech.

Hungry For Our Landscapes
by Vela, composed on Equinox 2013 (not recorded. yet.)

stick cracks under my bare foot
i feel the land under me
dreaming my way forward
how could i never hug a tree?

we walk on the Turtle’s back
connect to the Light above
sit grounded on Mother Earth
centered in seven directions of Love

chorus:
we are hungry for our Landscapes
for Earth, Water, Wind, and Sun
we are hungry for our Landscapes
beneath the Great Sky we are one

if you find someone in rage
if your friend is in despair
take them to the Forest
they’ll find their balance there

when i see a tree it calls me
every blade of grass knows my name
every berry an explosion of flavour
and the river sweeps away my pain

chorus:
we are hungry for our Landscapes
for Earth, Water, Wind, and Sun
we are hungry for our Landscapes
beneath the Great Sky we are one

bridge:
every People formed a circle
every People had a drum
every People honoured their Land
can you remember where you’re from?

honour the Land you walk on
ask guidance from those who know
whoever has tended this Land
they can teach you how to flow

chorus:
we are hungry for our Landscapes
for Earth, Water, Wind, and Sun
we are hungry for our Landscapes
beneath the Great Sky we are one

(other songs at http://juliecomber.bandcamp.com)

PowerShifting from the Heart

Nothing crystallizes your resolve to make the world a better place quite like cradling a newborn.

Holding my niece for the first time made me think of how different the world is now compared to when I was born. So much beautiful land has been lost. Including land right here in Ottawa, that I fought to protect, which has been destroyed for short-term profit. My niece will not be able to play in the forests her Dad and I loved so much. At the global level, hundreds of species have been lost since I was the size of my niece. There is so much inequity, injustice and suffering for humans and other sentient beings. And underlying so much of this loss of biodiversity and beauty is Climate Change.

Then I sang the lullaby I wrote for her, “All Your Relations Love You”. The song is about interconnectedness and being a beloved part of a the biotic community, of the more-than-human world. It also shows how we can move forward: with Creativity. With Beauty. With Courage. With Humility. With Love.

My niece is one example of someone who helps remind me of my purpose. For you, perhaps it helps to hold in mind the image of someone you love, a place you love, a community you love. And when you feel yourself straying in this world of information-overload and distraction, go back to that image. Better yet, ground yourself in the presence of that which you love. Then expand that sphere of love ever outwards to encompass this whole precious blue and green Earth.

Including other species within our sphere of moral concern is part of what I’ll speak about on the not to be missed PowerShift Panel “Starving Injustice, Hungry for Change: How Climate Change Impacts Food Systems, and Pathways Towards Solutions“. I’m so excited to learn from my fellow Panelists! Devlin Kuyek of GRAIN will explore the global scale impacts of food systems on climate change, and how in turn, our food system is impacted by climate change. Chris Bisson will dig into how we can build resiliency through permaculture at a local level. And I’ll speak about what Industrial Animal Production reveals about the human relationship with other species and our effort to combat climate change. We’re on at 11:30am on October 27th, in Desmarais 1110.

It is love that fuels our fight against climate change. It is love for my niece, for All My Relations, that moves me to care beyond my own brief existence on this planet, to care about more than my own immediate wants and needs. Love fuels the Action. It is opportunities like PowerShift 2012 that help us learn how to make our Actions effective.

That’s why I’m going to PowerShift. How about you?

Keep Shining,
Julie.

Falling Feathers: Pick Them Up and Fly Again

As the feather falls, my heart falls. The pain and sorrow of Algonquin Grandmother Louise Wawatie and her brother Joseph, in a video of them just released from prison, radiates off the screen. They were imprisoned for 8 days, and the Land they stood up for has been logged in the meantime.

While I suppose it is fitting they were released on International Day for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the fact they were arrested at all and held for so long is proof Canada has a long way to go when it comes to respecting Indigenous Rights.

Louise and Joseph were arrested on charges of mischief and breaking an injunction forbidding them from protesting the clear-cut logging by Resolute Forestry Products near Lac Poigan. They both refused conditions of bail, asserting their sovereign rights over their unceded territory where Resolute continues to clear-cut. The sister and brother were held in Maniwaki, Quebec, until this morning when they appeared in court and were released. The video of Joseph explaining the conditions of his release means he can’t even go home, and of Louise dropping the feathers, were shot outside the courthouse.

Louise’s brother, Jacob (Mowegan) Wawatie explains that “the meaning of the feathers falling is: Who is going to stand up for the collective nation that walks upon Mother Earth? This Grandmother is calling to all Nations to stand for the future generations. It is for the world of the future and may the youth of this world voice their own destiny.”

While our hearts sink to see Elders treated with disrespect, and to see beautiful Land destroyed, this is a call to action, not to wallow in despair. The feathers must be picked up, and we must fly together to a future where we live in harmony with the rest of Creation, a future where we can each flourish.

Will you answer this call and stand up for future generations? One small but important step: share the video and Louise’s message, far and wide.

Keep Shining,

Julie

Note: see this post for more background, and a video illustrating why they sought to protect this Land.

Mamwi: will we come together for Nature?

In the bright Sunday sun in Strathcona park, Jacob (Mowegan) Wawatie draws maps of Algonquin territory, of his family’s territory, as rivers that branch off a main artery, just like the veins of a leaf branch from its stem. This is the land he is fighting to protect, for his family and for future generations.

Huddled in a circle on parched grass under the shade of huge Oak, we have just watched the video from the July 26 confrontation on the logging site near Poigan Lake, on unceded Algonquin land, on Jacob’s land. Mr. Dion (representing PF Resolute, a logging company from Montreal, Québec) and Sergeant St-Louis from the Sureté du Quebec, confronted the people protecting the wildlife and culture being destroyed and displaced by the company’s logging. Although the police officer claims to not take sides, it is clear in the video he is standing with the people from the PF Resolute company and mediating on their behalf, though paid by peoples’ taxes.

Eight minutes into the video, Jacob brings forward the baby hawk he found in one of the clear-cut areas: “This is the reason. How many nests have you knocked down this summer? Did you even consider that? How many other creatures have you dislodged from this territory? So what are we going to have to eat? What are we going to have to show to our children? This is why we were trying to do something about it. Its not because we are against the system. Its not because we are against your logging. We are trying to make you aware of this thing. To bring it into the consciousness of the Forestry Industry. And the government. And you that represent Justice [speaking to the Sergeant], supposedly. Now you understand our position. You see our goal. Our dream.”

Jacob told the loggers’ representative (who refused to go get his workers to see and hear Jacob in person) that they were not seeing these things, the terrible impact they are having on the Land. Insulated within their giant machines, or deafened by their chainsaws, they work on the land but are hardly more grounded in the land than the average corporate employee under fluorescent lights in a cubicle.

Jacob spoke to them, but his message in the video is for all of us who have lost our connection to the Land.

He and many others who still understand and thrive from the vitality only Nature can give are calling us to our true selves. To be human beings who are grounded in and grateful to the Land, grateful to all the other beings we share her with. Each animal and plant species is a unique expression of the energy that animates us all. Each species has a unique way of being in the world.

When we let ourselves see them, truly connect with them, feel what it might be like to be them, we open up the doors of our own perception. Can you imagine what it would be like to fly? To senses things through electricity? See through sound or with heat? Breathe water?

Will we truly SEE beyond our collective materialism and indifference? See the people and wildlife who are still connected to the Land? We may forget in our Cities, but we still depend on Nature for our life.

The baby hawk could not survive without her parents. She was named Mamwi for “Together”. Here is your chance to come together to defend this one part of the Land, part of the larger goal of shifting our relationship with Nature so that we can all flourish on this one precious Earth. Please share the video: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xsimtg_mamwi-unedited-uncut-version_news

Keep Shining,

Julie

UPDATE, 9 August: Louise and Joseph were released after 8 days of imprisonment.

2 August: Please SIGN & SHARE this petition to free Louise and Joseph Wawatie: http://www.avaaz.org/fr/petition/Free_Louise_and_Joseph_Wawatie_without_conditions/?cKQhPab

1 August 2012: Sureté de Québec arrested Elders who were standing for the Land. Grandmother Louise Wawatie and Joseph Wawatie were arrested this morning.

I will keep updating this blog post when we know ways you can support Jacob and everyone protecting the Land. Meanwhile, PLEASE SHARE the petition and the video, and you can see more shorter videos over several days at the Standoff here: http://www.youtube.com/user/CDurare. For Jacob’s speech alone, see http://youtu.be/r5TuHM9AE2w