It rained last week, which was an event in this dry Okanagan climate. It didn’t just rain, but it dumped, it poured and humidity ballooned out, entered my pores and made the air feel like silken water.
After the rain, all of the snails came out. Coin-sized and green.
I didn’t even know there were snails here until, on my 15 minute walk to the downtown healing arts studio I receive clients from, they were everywhere, in danger. Endangered. Sliming across sidewalks, dirt paths, any surface that didn’t have green growth on it.
Half of the snails were steadily making their way, somewhere, on these flat drier surfaces, and the other half of the snails were crushed underfoot, green quarter-sized shells crackled and smashed flat, soft bodies smeared.
I walked slowly and carefully in my flip flops, trying not to add to the crushing of snails – death event of that day – but it was difficult to find room for my feet between the living snails with their round spiraling proud shells.
This past week, the Okanagan has been experiencing an unseasonably hot heat wave. We’ve been about 12 degrees above normal and breaking heatwave records set in the 1930s. It’s been above 30 degrees Celsius for days, and sunburns abound. So do sunglasses, and I’ve discovered I need to shop for cooler clothes for this dry burning heat. Sacklike linen dresses have become very appealing.
At the same time that the air feels arid and dry, there is flooding in the area. It seems odd – hot and dry – yet the extreme heat has melted the snowpack up in the mountains, faster than the earth can reabsorb and contain it, and flooding has started out in Lumby, the edges of Okanagan Lake, the Fraser Valley and the forecast is calling for more.
Everyday when I walk downtown – along those snail crushing paths – I pass by a creek. Some call it a river but my Yukon perspective calls it a creek – it’s risen high enough that a small footbridge is only clearing the water by an inch or two; in the winter it clears it by several feet.
4 weeks ago I spent 5 days learning about the midline (spine) in a biodynamic craniosacral therapy training.
Much of the workshop had me curled up in a wool blanket, on pillows, on the floor, exhausted, with drooping eyelids, a soft heart and a mind that slowed it’s chattering. This was a good thing. My teacher told me my nerves were making it known how deeply tired they were. How much I needed to rest. And in the workshop, because it’s as much about self-healing as learning to help others heal, I got a chance to settle into and stop resisting an ongoing long-term-stress-related fatigue.
What I got from the training was more vocabulary for the numinous and hard to explain subtle body experiences of tuning in to other people’s body systems and body intelligence in order to honour our inherent treatment plans. I gained more skills in subtle body healing work and in creating and maintaining a state of balanced awareness as a practitioner.
Then 3 weekends ago I went as a guest innovation team member to the NorthxNorth Summit and Festival in Anchorage, Alaska and spent 5 days in a state of joy, grief, pleasure and delight.
The Summit was hosted by the Anchorage Museum, which is also an archives/art gallery/community space, and the festival was beautifully integrated into the purposes of the building itself. One of their offerings was a commissioned art exhibit called Unsettled and the curator (from Nevada) was there to offer a guided tour, giving us a little bit of backstory about the artists and the historic context of their work. I also got to see my artist friend’s art in the exhibit, such a nice surprise!
However, what most touched me, besides the chance to be around so many curious, passionate thinkers and creators from around the Circumpolar North and further afield, was the vibrancy and creative power of the indigenous participants, creators and guests – some were there in person – some were showcased through their art in documentaries.
There has been an awakening in North America lately to the harsh and devastating injustices of colonialism; brutal governmental policies and practices of betraying, erasing and assimilating indigenous cultures. The residential school systems and their resultingly disgusting and tragic abuses and traumas is often the most widely known (but not the only tragedy) of how Canada and the USA (and many other colonized countries) came to be.
Meeting indigenous artists and creators who are reclaiming their formerly suppressed and shamed cultural practices with pride, joy and acclaim moved me, so deeply. I met Inuit women revitalizing traditional face tattoos, I saw a pre-screening of We Up: Northern Indigenous Hip Hop – a documentary in progress, which included guests from the film – a Greenlandic Inuit DJ touring the world with Inuit language rappers and Amoc, a charismatic Sami man (indigenous to northern Finland) rapping in his own language, sparking interest in the young people of his communities to reclaim their language (and touring the world doing so) and I met indigenous academics, photographers and filmmakers and many many more.
I spent some time in the museum part of the Anchorage Museum, with their displays of the tools, clothing and lifeways of the various different indigenous peoples of Alaska. My heart started to break, more and more, with the beauty of each culture’s exquisitely attuned ways of living in climates that are so harsh and unforgiving, and the cruel injustice of land theft and colonialism.
The snail shells do their job so well, light, hard, protective of the soft inner creature. And yet, one small misstep, and the snail is gone. They are so easily crushed underfoot. It is such a swift act, this breakage, it is such a lengthy series of acts to put pieces back together and remake wholeness.
I’ve also been taking a revelatory course called Witchlines, about the neolithic, indigenous, matrifocal peoples of Europe 6000 years ago, before waves of Indo-Europeans and their patriarchal beliefs flooded in. Despite the drastic changes wrought by this colonization (as revealed archaeologically), the Witchlines teacher maintains that threads of these egalitarian woman-honouring cultures stayed present but hidden through all those thousands of years and can be followed into present day via fairytales and investigation into underlying cultural symbolism, belief systems and traditional ways of life. She also believes that the witchhunts of Europe and North America which spanned 300 years from 1450-1750 AD, reflected a persecution and erasure of women, and some men, who embodied and practice older indigenous ways of knowing. The ‘witches’ were the knowledge keepers, healers, and women with power. It’s estimated that more than 6 million women were persecuted during the witchhunts.
It’s also true that colonial practices used in North America were practiced worldwide and on some European cultures as well – specifically to my ancestral lineage – the Welsh and the Scottish – by the British.
Colonizers have also been colonized. Predator and prey exist within.
In that Museum, surrounded by beauty, art, and histories of resilience and devastation, I walked about gazing, reading, taking it all in, thinking I was in a calm composed thoughtful state – yet I surprised myself by breaking down and crying, crying, crying.
Waves of grief kept breaking over me.
I cried for all the indigenous people who have gone through such horrific personal, familial and cultural tragedies. I cried for everyone who has worked their way through the pain of loss and devastation yet started to reclaim their stories, their traditions and their cultures despite it all.
And, I cried for my own ancestors, and my own self. For the pain of being shut off from knowing the histories and heritages of my own lineages. Of my own ancestral languages. Of my own cultural knowings. I cried for my unknown First Nations ancestors who chose to marry white and pass as white until family hid this truth and truths were only whispered as secrets. I cried for my grandfathers, traumatized by serving in the war, abusive, unkind, alcoholic and brutal to their children.
I cried for the motherlines I come from and their acquiescence to patriarchal traditions, for raising their girls to be less than and blind to their own bodies, and for raising their boys to believe their rightful place was above and blindly in charge. I cried for the stories and languages and traditions and loss that came as a result of ancestors traveling from their homelands to the US and to Canada, and for the implicit participation in oppression and the theft of land that that decision, likely borne out of their own brutal poverty, accompanied. I cried for the blindness of entitlement and racism and greed. I cried for the pain and loss of the indigenous peoples whose lands I live on, for the peoples whose lifeways and resilience I was witness to in that Museum. I cried for the pain and loss I feel in others, in myself and in my ancestors.
I cried with joy too, because the brightness and beauty of cultural and individual creativity and self-expression, and the deep and glorious resilience we all embody, as humans, touched me so deeply.
These waves of grief lasted far longer than I would have liked. After I started sobbing, and couldn’t stop, I walked myself to a hidden corner in the museum where I could let waves of sadness and emotion wash through me without restraint. Everytime I went to get up and move back into the day and the Festival, I had to sit back down for a new wave of it.
All of which is to say this: I see it and feel it everyday in my clients, friends, family, communities. Trauma that is not resolved is carried and passed down. It’s hidden in the body, the nervous system, in the non verbals, waiting with a humming thrum, for resolution and release.
If you have ancestors that were colonizers, you carry layers of guilt, entitlement and ungrounded longing. If you have colonized ancestors, you carry layers of fear, betrayal, loss and the results of systemic racism. If you have ancestors from witchburning areas, you carry layers of fear and the haunting of that kind of persecution. If you have ancestors that were enslaved, you carry centuries of oppression, pain and grief. If you have ancestors that served in wars, or lived through the Holocaust, those traumas are in you too.
The importance of acknowledging these pains, many of them subtle, unnamed and unspoken, is this: when we do, when we turn and face our personal and collective grief, pain and rage, that’s when we start to open into greater capacity for joy, beauty and wholeness.
The lilacs here are just cresting full-bloom, and the fragrance in the air is something I can’t find the right words for. Beyond delicious will have to do. Each tree I walk by seduces me towards it, with scent and colour, till I find my face buried within those fluffy cone-shaped collections of tiny lilac blossoms.
Lilacs always remind me of my brother and the time he threw a wedding for his best childhood friend. They were, we all were, in our early 20s, and his friend was driving up the highway with his girlfriend to visit family, including the young daughter he had, who was being raised by her mother. He’d mentioned wanting to get married, and without a beat, my brother got the local community theatre rented, wrangled the friend’s dad into providing the booze, organized himself and other friends to cook, and more friends and family to decorate.
I was on the decorating committee. We gathered up heavy duty scissors, big white buckets, 2 or 3 vehicles and then descended on the alley side of the RCMP station where their lilac trees were planted, leaning gracefully over the fence, stretching blossoms out into the alleyway. Snipping, cutting, smelling, laughing, with the light heat of an early summer sun beaming down. Then, with vases and string and ribbon, we crafted bouquet after bouquet for every circular table, the bar and the stage. Anywhere we could place lilacs, we did.
The wedding was love in action. The fragrance was sublime.
We move through our challenges and pain in order to tap into the richness and the resilience, to connect and grow together. Our darkness enfolds the key to the light. The light only shines if the darkness is acknowledged.
And what beauty emerges, is, like the scent of lilacs, a description that is just out of grasp, containing the key to restoring our hearts and souls.
We begin, as Mary Oliver writes, “slowly, to read the whole story.”
May we all read (and write) the whole story.
The Art of Personal Mythmaking is a way to begin to read the whole story of our lives, with plenty of space to write it as well.
If you’ve been circling around and sensing into an undercurrent of longing and desire in yourself – a longing for wholeness, a desire deeper meaning and context in your life, and a longing for reconnection to your body, creativity and lineage, then The Art of Personal Mythmaking is for you.
If you’ve also been longing to start making sense of your lifestory, and writing your memoirs, then this is a good way to begin.
Personal Mythmaking is a 4 months long process, includes lifetime access to the material, and now has weekly discussion videocalls AND weekly writing labs via videocall. It’s really designed so that you have a lot of support in receiving and integrating the material and getting your memoirs written.
I have payment plans available, and I’d truly love to have you onboard in this wonderfully transformative process. If you have questions, feel free to book a complimentary conversation with me.