Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Two months in Canada

Friday 9 June

I put crazy paving steps in the garden, which was tiring but very satisfying.

Saturday 11 June

We had a barbecue in the garden to celebrate our birthdays and the new house, and I did a land acknowledgement saying that the land was the territory of the Attawandaron, Anishinaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples.

Monday 11 June
Today was induction day at head office for the new job; it went well.
Tuesday 12 June
Today is the first day in my actual office with my actual colleagues. Lovely people. On the way home from work, the rear brakes seized on my car. The first we knew about it was when someone shouted "fire" at us. So thankful that Bob was in the car with me, that someone pointed out the problem to us, and that the car was still under warranty and we got a courtesy car to tide us over.

15 June
We are gradually getting things sorted out here. Got car, TV, shelving, cat tent (for letting the cats in the garden gradually), getting a new freezer today, possibly a second car.

New job is going well, they’ve got a very well organized development environment which is brilliant (harder to break stuff). Car all sorted now.

18 June
We went to WicCanFest (basically an open Pagan event, not specifically Wiccan) on Saturday. Introduced the topic of inclusive Wicca to people; it’ll be interesting to see how things develop. 

On Sunday we went to Elora Gorge and then to a pub for lunch with two of Bob’s Morris friends (lovely people who are interested in the environment and gardening).

Gradually acclimatising the cats to the garden using a cat tent.

Not homesick yet but I can see it from here.

22 June
Job is going well; I successfully built something yesterday.

Yesterday evening, Bob and I went for a walk. There were red-winged blackbirds, cranes, loads of flowers (a pink & white vetch that smells nice; a white mallow; a white campion; water lilies on the millpond; a big pink convolvulus). We saw ducklings with a mother duck. So cute! And away from the river, we saw a cardinal (bird). And a beautiful sunset.There’s also a funny little bird that flies low over the water. It’s passerine in shape, brownish-black body, bluish-black head, and ears things in the water. I’ve named it the Ontario Dipper Bird.

In the garden we’ve had robins, squirrels, a rabbit, chipmunks, and mice. The roses and hostas are coming out.
27 June
Just finished reading The Dust that Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernières. Lovely book. Shades of Galsworthy and Vera Brittain.
29 June
I was driving to work and listening to Classical FM (Canadian version of Classic FM), when Bach's Jesu joy of man's desiring came on. It's a very beautiful piece of music. What moved me was that we used to hum or whistle it in the car when I was a kid. My dad would start and we would join in. I was moved to tears - mixture of my family being far away and the poignancy of a childhood memory, I think.
2 July
Yesterday we went to Bob’s family cottage by Lake Erie and spent the afternoon and early evening swimming in the lake (freshwater swimming is wonderful), hanging out with the family, and having a barbecue. It was so great seeing the kids, and the rest of the family too. The kids showed me the amazing stuff they can do in the water: handstands and rolls and flips.
Exhausted as we’ve been painting a layer of primer in the living room. Looks a lot better!

Saw a blue jay and a female cardinal in the garden this morning. We’ve also planted the herb bed with rosemary, thyme, parsley, catnip, mint, coriander, and basil. Bob's friend brought some sweet woodruff, echinacea, and wild strawberries to plant.
4 July
On Monday (it was Canada Day, so day off) we put more primer on the walls and yesterday Bob put the yellow paint on. Horrid grey blue colour all gone (there’s still some in the kitchen but one doesn’t spend so long looking at that).
6 July
We went to Puslinch Lake, which was stunningly beautiful.
11 July
On Sunday, Bob and I drove to Lake Huron, which was spectacularly beautiful. I just wish I could look at the landscape here without thinking “this land was stolen from Indigenous peoples” every five minutes. Anyway we had a really nice time at the lake. Found a nice pub at Goderich, which used to be the station, too. 
13 July
Felt my first pang of homesickness today. Knew it would happen sooner or later, but it’s hard.

I’m pleased that the turnout in London to protest against Trump was good.

16 JulyHad an amazing weekend as we went to a cultural festival in Waterloo, where there was a Mapuche singer and storyteller from Patagonia, a Venezuelan band, a Mohawk storyteller, a Brazilian band, and nice food too. It was very hot in the sunshine but after a bit it clouded over and there was a breeze. We are going to Bob’s family cottage next week. Looking forward to that.

23 July
On holiday for the week, staying in the cottage by Lake Erie. We drove to Long Point and saw a snowy owl in broad daylight; also some turkey vultures. And we found a nice restaurant for lunch and had nachos.

24 July
Having a lovely relaxing time at the cottage. It rained buckets yesterday so we went to Niagara on the Lake (very pretty place) and it had cleared up by the time we got there. Also spoke with my friend Jane via Skype, which was nice. Then we went to the Brock monument to the war of 1812 and discovered that there’s a substantial additional monument to the Indigenous people who also fought against the Americans on the Canadian side. This was pleasing. (Photos on Instagram.)
25 July
We went kayaking on the O:se Kenhionhata:tie (Mohawk / Kanienke:ha, Willow River), Grand River (English). We saw cormorants, kingfishers, terns, and dragonflies. A dragonfly landed on my kayak. In the evening we went for a walk by Lake Erie (Erielhonan).
27 July
We visited the home of Mohawk / Kanienke:ha poet, Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwa:ke). Her father was a Mohawk chief, her mother was a Quaker whose family had come to help with the Underground Railroad. Her father built the house the same on both sides to offer a welcome to Indigenous people arriving by canoe from the river, and to European visitors arriving by road. The house is allegedly haunted, especially the room where Pauline wrote her poetry. In one photo you can see a replica of the Two Row Wampum, a peace treaty between the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and Europeans — repeatedly broken by European settlers. The drawing room furniture in the house was designed by Pauline’s father. We also visited the Mohawk chapel, where her father is buried.
We visited the infamous Mohawk Residential School. Pauline Johnson’s brother ran away from the school; professional runner Tom Longboat said he wouldn’t send his dog here. Known locally as “The Mush Hole” for the awful food — corn mush. Children at residential schools were forbidden to speak their Indigenous languages or express their cultures. Christianity was forced on them.

Lastly, we visited a reconstructed Haudenosaunee longhouse and village, within the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve. The Mohawk storyteller we met at the Waterloo culturual festival told us that they had to apply for planning permission for this and submit an architectural drawing! For a structure they’ve been building for millennia on their own lands. Anyway I’m glad they built it.
29 July
We went to the Six Nations Pow-wow. My first ever. It was amazing. The dancing, the regalia, the food, the craft stalls. 

After my happiness at seeing the depth of culture still available to the Haudenosaunee — knowledge of healing, wampum, traditional laws, language, etc, my heart breaks for everything that was destroyed by the period of cultural genocide. And I’m angry that it happened.

The government needs to implement UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples). Not more of the failed policies that are still oppressing Indigenous people/s.
But what I saw today gave me hope. The depth of knowledge and culture available is considerable — and people seem a lot more confident and proud of their heritage than was apparently the case in the fairly recent past.