THe glory of a story
Thoughts and threads of passion and experience that have woven the fabric I call my life. Sharing experiences, memories and ideas so that they are out in the world for you to find when the time is right.
THe glory of a story
On September 24th I volunteered to help out Reconciliation Canada with the Walk for Reconciliation that was taking place in Vancouver. The work and goals of the Truth and Reconciliation commission has become very important to me, and although none of us can do everything, all of us can do something. Volunteering that day seemed like something that I could do.
I headed out from home early, as I had to catch the 7am ferry to be able to get there on time. I felt courageous and brave as I headed into downtown Vancouver by myself for the first time. I also felt tired. I'd had a couple of heavy weeks with hosting company, preparing for another trip back to Manitoba for Orange Shirt Day, and helping my presenting partner and adopted son Trem with some of the grief that continues to have a hold on him in the years since my son's passing. I was tired, but I was also very excited.
I arrived at the grounds of the event about an hour before the walkers were to arrive at the site. I'd been assigned to support the survivors and elders in the tent set up for them. Our role was to ensure they were offered something to eat and drink, be a listening ear if it was needed, and to support them in whatever way would be most meaningful to them.
Having a bit of time before hand, I had the chance to see the beautiful collection of rocks that had been painted by school children from across the country as gifts to be given to survivors. They were decorated with words, pictures and colours of hope. They were beautiful.
I also got to explore some of the tents that were set up providing information, food, artwork, among other things. However, it wasn't long before the people started making their way to the tent I was stationed at, and the work of the day began.
Watching the hundreds, in fact thousands of people that streamed in to the grounds as the walk concluded left me with a lump in my heart. All these people who had experienced what we are only now learning about, and have carried the pain of that experience for decades. It was so hard to come to terms with the reality of our country’s historical treatment of our First People. There is so much work still to be done, but at least the work is beginning
Throughout the day I had the great honor of serving and listening to the stories of many of those people while the festivities, honoring and presentations of voice and music resounded all about us. There was wisdom in the speakers and performers, and passion in the audience. Passion to recognize, celebrate and find understanding. It was a powerful event for everyone that attended.
Throughout the day, in one corner of the tent, a couple offered cedar brushing to anyone who asked for it. I watched, not really understanding the ceremony, but interested in learning, and at the end of the day, when most of the elders had left, I had my chance. I knew I was experiencing something incredible when he told me that the grief I was carrying was what was causing my throat to be so sore. I hadn't said anything about it, nor was it affecting my communication. It was just a deep ache that I'd experienced for a couple of days by that time. I realized this stranger who was offering his healing medicine had read through my words into my tired spirit. He offered comfort and support as he swept away some of the burden I'd not truly realized I was carrying. He kindly explained the process and the beliefs it represented. In giving of myself that day I received such a gift in return.
He also reminded me that the teachers that I've been gifted to have in my life throughout the years were with me still, whether they were in the spirit world or this one. It was such a powerful experience for me, and the most wonderful ending to the day.
Driving home that night I was incredibly happy that I'd made the effort and been offered the opportunity to participate in something so amazing. I am not naive. I know reconciliation is going to take years of work and a lifetime of effort on the part of all people involved. None of us can to everything to fix what is so broken in Canada today, but I was reminded that each of us can do something, if we so choose. I thought of the many stories that had been shared with me. People giving away small pieces of who they are and what they'd experienced so that the rest of us could learn and grow from that. I thought of the resilience of the people I'd been with, and appreciated how incredibly strong their spirits must be. I know that in their having shared those small pieces of who they are, they made me a better person. I know in the offering, I was the one who was gifted. I hope each of you get the opportunity to experience that as this work continues in the many forms we will see it take in the years ahead.
For the whole of my life I have been a learner. A learner and a reader, and I'm glad that as time has gone on, that has not changed. What bothers me is that as a 'learner', there is so much that I am only now beginning to understand and begin to try and make sense of. So many things that I, like the rest of society, should have been learning much earlier in our lives. If we had maybe today our world would be less of a mess. I often worry that our learning is coming too late and too little, with so many people locked into their skewed ideas and belief systems. Even so, I write this with the hope that maybe one person's heart may be challenged to take a different view of things, and nudge our world one more step forward and closer to the place where we can all have more open minds and open hearts to the journey of another.
To be clear, I have no knowledge of any First Nations genealogy in my family lines and my perspective and views do not come with the life experience that many of my friends have lived. My ancestry is as Irish and as Scottish as you can get. But that does not keep me for having a love for other people and a thirst for information that will help me to better understand my world, so that I can pass that understanding along to others. I do believe that our society is past the point where it is okay to turn a blind eye to what has been created. We can believe there might have been good intentions, but we can't ignore that whatever the intention was, the outcome is bad. One way or another we need to lean into that and start growing forward. For me that means to listen, talk, read and learn and work towards having a better understanding so that I might become a better advocate and a better person as a result.
Last night, I finished my reading of the book 'Black Elk Speaks'. It took my a long time to get to the book in it's entirety, but for a long time I have been fascinated and drawn to his words and his wisdom. Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950) has been working to get my attention for a long time it seems, through so many coincidences and experiences in life. But when we're ready, the teacher does arrive. This teacher died in 1950, but fortunately for our world, he opened his heart and shared his wisdom.
The book was originally published in the early 1930s, after Black Elk met with John G. Neihardt, the author, on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. His intent was to share his powerful and inspirational experiences and message to all that would be open to them. During their time together, he relayed the stories from his earliest memories as a boy in th 1860s through to the Massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890, and the final efforts of his people to maintain their freedom and their way of life. He was a warrior, a hunter, a medicine man and a healer who lived his life in an effort to move ever closer to the vision he had experienced as a young boy of 9. He shared his visions in the book, trusting that John would pass them along to a world that needed to know and understand what he had seen. He did this at a time when it was not common for a man of his stature to talk about those things with a stranger, but Black Elk felt the deep need for that message to be shared and so he did.
Through his story, we are given an opportunity to see that horrific time period through the eyes of those who lived on the receiving end of the decisions being made to secure the United States as a nation. A story that is very much the same as our own story in Canada, with it's brutality, battles and manipulation. Black Elk shares his memories of what the First People were experiencing throughout those years of Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Custard and the army's continued movement west. It is a much different perspective from what we are taught by history books.
He tells the reader about many of the horrible battles that took place between the Indigenous people and the soldiers. One of the paragraphs that haunted me really made me think about the things we see happening today, in 2016, at Standing Rock. "Wherever we went, the soldiers came to kill us, and it was all our own country. It was ours already when the Wasichus (white man) made the treaty with Red Cloud that said it would be ours as long as the grass should grow and the water flow. That was only eight winters before, and they were chasing us now because we remembered and they forgot." (pg 83)
The book is full of the broken promises and broken dreams of a people who were forced to bend to the ways of the invading world, and reading it, I couldn't help but see the role that is still playing in what is happening around our continent today, but most noticibly with with what is happening at Standing Rock. As he talks about the treaty agreements that were made by a few on behalf of the many, treaties and agreements that pushed them further and further from the land and the life they had known he relays "only crazy or very foolish men would sell their Mother Earth. Sometimes I think it might have been better if we had stayed together and made them kill us all." The people lived through heartbreak after heartbreak as he shares stories of the battles, the hunger, the massacres, the Ghost Dances and the broken promises.
After the Massacre at Wounded Knee, when the people gave up their fight he was quoted as saying "I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And i can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was burried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream. " pg 169
Black Elk died believing that he had not accomplished what the Grandfathers had set out for him to do. He never saw his people regain the footing lost or their old way of life, traditions and spiritual belief systems reestablished. What he had visioned for his people was not possible in the world that had been created and with the restrictions that were placed on our Indigenous people, throughout North America.
But I wondered, as I read through it, if Black Elk wasn't also fortelling of some of what is happening today? His vision fortold of the days ahead, the disappearance of the buffalo herds, of the 'black road' that his people would be forced to walk. But it also fortold of a day when "I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one Mother and one Father. And I saw that it was holy." (pg 26)
As I look at the gatherings that are happening in Standing Rock to support the people who are fighting for their water, I begin to wonder if that gathering may be part of what Black Elk envisioned? People from all tribes, faiths and races coming to stand for the common goal of preserving and fighting for what is here, before everything is gone. People starting to take notice and realize the wisdom that was embedded in the beliefs that lived here long before my ancestors arrived.
My heart aches for the old man who returned to the place of his vision one last time. "Hear me, not for myself, but for my people; I am old. Hear me that they may once more go back into the sacred hoop and find the good red road, the shielding tree." (pg 172)
It has been a slow resurgence, but I believe it is beginning to happen. Idle no More, people saying no to the big corporations, our commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation work. Change is in the works, and the winds have shifted direction. And from the Voice of Black Elk's vision, "Behold this day, for it is yours to make." So I ask, what are you going to do?
So, as you know, this blog is all about living MY passions. My work with life coaching and being a Passion Test facilitator allows me to help my clients figure out and work towards their goals and dreams. I love doing that, there is nothing more rewarding, however, if I am going to be doing this work authentically, I need to walk the talk, and so here is where I share how I do that.
Don't get me wrong, I don't spend all of my time travelling, taking pictures and playing music. However, I do make those things a priority that I work towards on a daily basis, because those are my passions. It's been a lot of work to learn to say no to the things that matter least, so I can shout a resounding YES to those things that matter most to me.
In living this passionate life, I've always fancied myself to be a pretty good photographer. I've had a camera in my hand since the age of 6 or 7 when my Dad gave me his old square box one from the 40s. When at 19 my parents offered to by me a car, because they'd neglected to earlier, and had done so for both of my siblings, I chose instead that they buy me the Canon AE1 35mm Program camera instead, as it was the newest, hottest thing on the market at that time. And my passion continued to grow.
As time has gone on, I've come into the digital world and have gone through a number of good cameras, continuing to move up the ladder and love the snapping! Especially now that I'm not throwing money into the fire by having to pay for the hundreds of pictures that weren't really all that great once they were developed.
Over the years, I've continue to enjoy the hobby with no real training. Now that I'm living my passions more intentionally, I decided that it might be good to see if some of this passion could be translated into an income that would allow me to enjoy more time with it, and so it was that I recently signed up with Dreamstime. A new adventure has begun!
What I can tell you is that I have much, much to learn! That has been a really good lesson for me at this stage in my life. One things you've figured most of it out, but I've learned that in the world of stock photography I really don't know a darn thing. But that's okay! I am a life long learner, and this is one more lesson that has come my way. I'm loving it!
These photos , sadly didn't make the cut. But, the good news is that from what I'm beginning to learn from my mistakes is paying off in that now my photos are beginning to. This, like everything worth doing, is going to be a much slower, harder journey than I first thought it would be. But I know it's going to be well worth it in the end.
Now, do I mean well worth it in terms of money earned as a stock photographer? Not likely, but who knows about that. Time will only tell. But well worth it in that I'm giving myself permission and a push to pursue something I love, love, love doing. I'm looking at my photography through a different lens now you might say. Realizing that there is much more I can be doing to turn my passion into a craft. Taking time to read all the tips and suggestions and yes...getting better at it. Sometimes success lies in just knowing you're improving at whatever it is that you're passionate about. For now, I'm good with that....so off I go to snap away!
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