Kinship Collage (in-process)
This is a personal and collaborative research-creation project that explores the intricacies, pleasures and responsibilities of being relative. Through portraiture, story-telling and conversation, and reflections I am exploring 'being' as an amalgamation of various forms of 'others', with a focus on particular women, land, and substances. Themes underlying this work include: perceptions and experiences of relatedness and relationality, death and dying, roses, fire, and dreaming.
This is an ongoing, forever incomplete project that began many years ago out of a fear of and fascination with death and dying. Growing up in a family that does not follow predominant perceptions of medicalized or physical death as something final, I approach this project as a means of working through the sense of loss that accompanies physical death, while also exploring connection beyond the body. Through this practice, I intend to (re)turn my sense and attention to the dispersal of Spirit and interconnection of our related forms.
Take a quiet moment here to take stock.
Notice how you feel. The invitation today is
to really just move with the breath and to
consider, perhaps, this idea that the
breath is your Spirit. What if the
breath was your Spirit?
Could we, perhaps, reconnect
to that notion. What if your breath
were your spirit, after all when you stop
breathing what happens? So, when, we say
'move with your breath' today, it's not just, ah,
the vinyasa, but it really is moving from a
place of connect, moving with your Spirit.
And the idea is if we become more,
practiced, and more conscious of
breath as Spirit on the mat, we'll be
able to tap into that a little bit off the mat.
Using the breath, as we move through, Life?
But also being conscious in the way that we speak
to one another, and share.
What if your breath were to be regarded as your Spirit,
because, again, after all what happens when you
stop breathing? Would you cut it short, would you ignore it?
Or would you keep comin' on back to try to figure out
what is is, who it is, how it feels?
Let your Spirit guide the way.
(Yoga with Adriene 2017, Healthy Energy Flow)
To talk about Life we need to recognize our relationship to the concept of Death. Death defines Life and vice versa; we measure our Life according to our movement towards an eventual, immanent "Death." I have come to think of Death as Life and Life as Death. For me, Life is marked by the journey of discovery and important lessons to be learned before we move on. Dreaming is a significant process through which we learn, it is how we cut across our cultural systems of organization such as time and space and connect with Spirit, our kin, and ourselves. Its a sacred circle. I have also begun to think of Death as an opening and a multiplying and I wonder why we are taught (or enculturated) to fear this. I believe fear distracts from the important lessons we need to learn. Fear masks the movement and activity of Death. So I perceive the Life we are doing, or living, as part of the journey through to another world, phase, or experience. Death is just a door.
After witnessing the Death of two grandparents (ten years apart) I noticed similarities with the process of birth. It seems like Life is akin to the way many people understand fetal development in the womb (the birth being the so-called beginning). So, I wonder, is physical Life a developmental stage of existence? Many believe that Life is dependent on our ability to breathe. Scholars go as far as suggesting that our breath, breathing, is a point of connection between various beings—such as recent moves in anthropology that have shifted focus from the epidermis to the lung, theoretically. While I appreciate this, I also wonder: why the need to locate a point of connection or difference? I believe that things are much more complicated. We do not need a battle for the perfect metaphor, we need to open our language and perceptions. The questions that led to such metaphors are unanswerable, particularly with our current level of understanding and compulsion to identify and classify things. We need to learn to allow the fleeting and indescribable to have meaning without the need of an explanation or the search for a definitive origin. I am suggesting that we permit the vast difference of experiences and the incomprehensible to be, or as Richard Wagamese puts it,
"Let the mystery remain a mystery" (2019).
"God was a frightful figure to me, as a small girl. Although my mother eagerly sought to Catholicize us kids, as had been done to her in residential school, I never wanted to meet or know God. At least, not the God that was described to me. I used to dream about God taking me away in the night. It was terrifying. In the dream I would be asleep, peacefully, on the bluffs in a tent--I loved it there, above the water on the three bays. But in this dream, while asleep in a tent on the ridge, a looming dark figure would fly over the sky, swoop down, scoop me up and carry me away tent and all. It was so scary. No, I don't really want to meet that God. Even now I much prefer the Mother Creator that I am accustomed to know and revere."
Our dreams are so much more than "dreams". Our dreams are what bind us, in spirit and intention, to each other and to worlds we do not perceive. Dreaming is a sacred practice, it is a way to stay in touch with each other, with ourselves, and with Spirit.
Mickey, Nana, Bunny
Me: "Did I ever know aunty Roxy?"
Nana: "She never met you. But she did meet Andrea. She loved Andrea very much. She loves you too. you know"
Me: "It's so weird because even though I never knew her, I feel like I do. Or that I did. I guess I've heard so much about her that it's like I knew her."
Bunny arrives from Ernie's
Bunny: "I've been thinking about Roxy a lot day today."
Nana: "Me too. I'm really missing her lately."
Mickey arrives home from work
Mickey: "I had a dream about Roxy last night. It's been a while since she last visited, it was so nice to see her!"
Me: "Ha. I guess aunty Roxy is nearby. She's on everyone's mind"
Bunny: "Yeah, I'll say."
Nana: "No fair! She hasn't visited me in weeks! But I guess I'll be seeing her soon..."
Mickey grins (gloatingly that Roxy visited her and not others)
Bunny: "Mom stop! Mickey, get outta here!"
"My elders say that the dream world is a reality, just as vivid, just as vibrant, just as alive as the physical world. Dreams are not illusory things. They are meant to teach us, guide us. They ask us to use our intuition to interpret them. That's their biggest gift--returning us to our intuition, our highest level of thought."
- Richard Wagamese 2016
Auntie Bunny is a gentle, kind soul. Maybe that's why I started calling her auntie bunny instead of Robin when I was a child. Even though we don't spend much time talking, I have always felt deeply connected with this strong woman and grateful for knowing her. She is sensitive and artistic, and has a calming presence. I think I have inherited these qualities from her. She has three powerful and successful children who are more siblings than cousins to me.
I remember her flowing white dress with green apples on it, and the Pölsa she would make when we were all together. And I remember playing Bingo, often, with my mom, auntie Bunny, Nana, and Peter. Auntie Bunny always seemed to win. She has "horse-shoes up her ass," my mom would say. She is also known to find four leaf clovers, just by spotting them while walking by or sitting in the yard. One time, while at the beach, she got swept away in a wave. It was unfortunate and hilarious. She was fine, but the paper documents that she had with her were not.
My favorite memory is a continuous one, just hanging out and laughing together, playing cards, and talking about our dreams, cosmic messages and our witchy senses, at the family home in Shíshálh (Sechelt).
"There is neither source nor end, for all things are in the Center of Time. As all the stars may be reflected in a round raindrop falling in the night: so too do all the stars reflect the raindrop. There is neither darkness nor death, for all things are, in the light of the Moment, and their end and beginning are one."
- Ursula K. Le Guin 2000