Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Friends Across the Pacific

Japan Earthquake Benefit
Friends Across the Pacific
An Evening of Readings & Performances

Thursday, March 31, 2011  8pm

Doors open at 7:30pm
VIVO Media Arts Centre
1965 Main Street, Vancouver www.videoinstudios.com

Join us in supporting relief efforts in Japan. The BC Japan Earthquake Fund and the Asian Canadian Studies Society invites you to an evening of poetry, fiction, performance, with some of Vancouver’s finest writers:

For more information contact: Julia Aoki, Communications Coordinator at julia@bc-jerf.ca

Four fellow artists from the Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast will be performing with me at the Friends Across the Pacific benefit: 

Wanda John Kehewin

It will be a dynamic evening of compassionate fundraising, please join us!

About BC Japan Earthquake Relief Fund The BC Japan Earthquake Relief Fund (BC- J ERF ) is a coalition of volunteers; we are individuals, community groups and businesses concerned for the well being of the people in Japan in the wake of the recent earthquake, tsunami, and unfolding nuclear threats. Our purpose is to vet and act as an organizational hub for BC communities’ fundraising efforts and to facilitate the delivery of this financial aid to the affected people in Japan. Funds raised through B C-J ERF- endorsed campaigns and events will be donated in full to reputable charities operating on the ground in Japan, such as the Japanese Red Cross.

For more information about the BC-Japan Earthquake Relief Society, & a calendar of events and initiatives, please visit

Asian Canadian
Studies Society

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

International Women's Day: In the Arms of the River

The cluster of islands collectively known as Richmond BC have been international gathering places for thousands of years, perhaps in particular Lulu Island, named for an American actress (Lulu Sweet). Musqueam people had named houses at many of the locations that are central to contemporary Richmond life-- including Garry Point, pictured below (bottom) in cannery days-- and people of many nations gathered at what is now Woodward's Landing, to share work, talk, and party.

The most famous poem making note of this place was written by Tekahionwake, E. Pauline Johnson, who was a popular performer at the Steveston Opera House, back in the day. Drawing on Salish oral stories, much as Lee Maracle does today, she wrote:

Tekahionwake, courtesy of Chiefswood Museum

THERE are fires on Lulu Island, and the sky is opalescent
With the pearl and purple tinting from the smouldering of peat.
And the Dream Hills lift their summits in a sweeping, hazy crescent,
With the Capilano cañon at their feet.

There are fires on Lulu Island, and the smoke, uplifting, lingers
In a faded scarf of fragrance as it creeps across the day,
And the Inlet and the Narrows blur beneath its silent fingers,
And the cañon is enfolded in its grey.

from The Ballad of Yaada ~ A Legend of the Pacific Coast
~E. Pauline Johnson~ Tekahionwake~

An excellent first person account of Salish women's lives in the last century is shared by Agnes Alfred, in the book Paddling to Where I Stand, Agnes Alfred, Qwiqwasutinuxw Noblewoman (UBC Press, 2004). Visiting the islands and the village of Steveston in dug outs and other boats, or settling here, fishers, harvesters, cannery workers, raising families, living with men of all nations (with varying degrees of freedom and enjoyment), the stories in this work from oral history are essential reading for any who wish to understand women's history and BC/Canadian history.

Paddling to Where I Stand is available for borrowing as an e-book, for those with ebrary access via BC libraries.

For a contemporary story about the life of a Salish woman of Richmond, see the wide-ranging and touching interview with Roberta Price, made as part of the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study.

This is the 100th year that international Women's Day has been celebrated.

In the Arms of the River

On Friday, March 11, 2011, Richmond Writers Group is celebrating life on the islands of Richmond, with historical and contemporary poetry, prose, and song by a variety of performing & contributing writers:

Opening & Coast Salish welcome, Roberta Price
MC, Devina Bahaadoorsingh

Alan Girling
Alan Hill
Laurel Beauprie
Gunargie O’Sullivan
Theo Campbell
Bill Marles
Joanne Arnott
Claudette Sakamoto
David Varnes

E. Pauline Johnson
Thomas Kidd
Maud McCubbin

11 March 2011
Richmond Cultural Centre, 7 pm
7700 Minoru Gate, Richmond, BC
Richmond Writers Group

With thanks to Larry Grant, Susan Point, and Terry Point for sharing oral history of Richmond from a Musqueam perspective, at various gatherings and meetings over the years, & to the City of Richmond for support of In the Arms of the River, presented as a part of our Winter Festival.

Native fishermen at Garry Point cannery 1890

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

i am thankful for my ability to make love

I've been participating in e-groups for a number of years now, and it is not only Tunisia, Egypt, Libya where revolutions happen. The empowerment of isolated individuals via social networking is a widespread phenomena, and it is one of those stories: we don't know how or where it will end. 

Here is a story I had to tell, fresh from my morning's walk in October 2008, and the response of a friend, on storytellers playspace, an e-group for indigenous woman writers.

Jules at play

i am thankful for my ability to make love

cherry root rises from the grass
curls protective

mushrooms nestle
Last week, Jules and I found a cluster of little yellowish mushrooms had sprouted at the base of the cherry tree, and Jules was moved to see them. 

We stopped, and he carefully counted the eighteen mushrooms huddled together against the trunk, and the two more side by side against a protruding root a couple of inches away.  He was swift and sure in his counting.  He asked permission to take one, and I gave it.

As we walked home, he said, "I'd like to put it in a glass of water." Hm, I thought, unusual application of the gathering flowers motif. I quickly agreed.  Later that day, he showed Flora his find, and gave her a mushroom of her own, and carried another away for himself. The three are sitting together, in a little chinese tea cup.

Thursday, at Brian's last market for the year, Flora found a broken flower and Brian gave her permission to take it away.  On the way home, she removed the stem at the base of the flower, and so, once home, a slightly bigger bowl was found to encompass it. She specified a bowl just big enough to do the job, she didn't want to see any water around the edges if possible.

These two things, a teacup of mushrooms and a small bowl bearing a single flower, i have been looking at for four or five days now, nearly a week. The flower is in great shape, and the mushrooms while intact have had a big impact on the water, which now looks like soup.

One day, too, two different neighbours stopped Jules and I on our walk home, to discuss (with me) how tiny he is, and young looking. The second neighbour, when Jules showed her his find of a small mushroom in the palm of his hand, responded with a small lecture on poisonous mushrooms. She said he must wash his hands and pick no more. Further, she linked his vulnerability to poisons to his smallness. 

We like to get out and enjoy the autumn, Jules and i. Fearmongers await even that far away from the tv.

This morning, Flora Jo invited me to come into her classroom, as she had some work she wanted to discuss with me.  With the teacher's help, a small round chapbook on the theme of thanksgiving was located, and I sat in the teacher's chair and read it through.

First and foremost, my daughter gives thanks for the wolves.  The fourth page was, I think, the problematic one. The text read, "I am thankful for my ability to give love."
"I wanted to write, 'I am thankful for my ability to make love,' but my teacher made me change it. But look," she said, "I already drew the picture. I'm making love, not giving it, see?"

The picture shows a girl with a lot of colourful energy around her, her hand to her chest, and she is clearly making/producing the love that she gives. In the picture, the situation is clearly laid out.  She is clearly a manufacturer of love, and not some sort of love merchant/love shark or any other kind of secondary player. 

"Yes, I see," I said. "The picture is clear. You are making love."

I glance at the teacher and see she is glistening with humour. She explains her position again vis-a-vis the use of the language.

I remind Flora Jo that sometimes, even though what you are saying is the most accurate way to represent what you believe to be true, adults hear some other meaning to your choice of words, and think you are saying something different. So, they might ask you to change it because of that.

"Oh yeah," she said.

Walking from the elementary school to the high school polling station, to cast my vote, i think about Flora Jo making love, and other ways to express her thought that are more accurate than what the teacher proposed: I am thankful for my ability to produce love, to create love, are both alternate statements that change the meaning and intent of her communication less than to give love.
What is invisible to the teacher, and very pertinent to the seven year old, is the issue of agency.  She is not passive in the realm of love, it doesn't arrive as a package to pass on or hoard or to idly wish for. She makes love, and she makes worry, and she makes all sorts of emotion, and she puts it out into the world through all the many expressional routes that are possible.

wishing you all a very good day! 

Dear Jo,
 I am so enthralled by this magical account of the teachings of children, I am also thankful for my ability to make love.  I love how that is expressed because I feel that is a huge part of my lifework right now is to make as much love as I can so as to surround everyone and everything with its healing qualities and light.

I am so busy today...got up task oriented ready to take off and just nose to the grindstone work work work...but I offered myself one indulgence to step into our playspace and enjoy something uplifting to anchor my day and the Creator guided me to this beautiful storytellers story.
Thank you

Offered in loving memory of a beautiful teacher, and full of thanks for the little gurus who grow up through the grasses... and for all of my e-companions, who send love notes and personal sketches & poetry through the e-space, and news, and critical thought: sharing humanity and nourishment in a web of gentle light.

Photo of Jules in the courtyard (c) His Auntie Casey
Story/vignette (c) Joanne Arnott
Letter by Vera, electronic delivery to storytellersplayspace on 14 October 2008.