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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Of Mice and Men and all that comes with them

It's been too long since my last post. A week turned into two, which turned into a month, then another... I kept meaning to share everything that had happened in Vermont as it was occurring, but you know what they say about "best laid plans of mice and men..."- they seem to go awry. Life became massively overwhelming in Vermont- a survival game, really. By the end of the day I was so exhausted from my crazy stressful job that I hardly found time to make myself dinner, snuggle with my family and collapse. I've had this black cloud of worry sitting over my life- for many reasons- money, health, the health of our beasts, green cards (and the not-having of them), fraud, our physical and psychological safety- so many worries.

It seems like a whole lifetime has happened in the short time between moving to Vermont, trying to make it work there, moving back from Vermont and finding a life here in Ontario again. Part of me feels like we failed at our mission, and then part feels like we were thrust into that experience to bring back something to share with this area, which is in such need of a more sustainable way of life. One thing is for sure- we are not through with Vermont! We definitely feel like our time there was well spent.  A "Recon" mission in a way. We're back in Ontario because that's where the Universe dropped us, and we're grateful for where we landed, but we still feel the ache to breathe the fresh air of the Green Mountains and that is a very hard elixir to find freedom from.

So, that leads to the question- where did we end up? Where did the constant tornado of our life drop us this time? Well, in some ways, we moved to another country entirely- again: we moved to the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in Ohsweken, Ontario. Technically, we live in Caledonia, which borders the reservation, because Noel is not Native and that's only allowed with major exceptions for those who have contributed significantly to the community and who commit to allying themselves with the Onkwehonwe (Original People.) Maybe one day- the intention is good- but for now, we're living close enough to literally throw a baseball across the street to the Rez.

My life has taken on some massive shifts. Before I left for Vermont, I worked for a local university as their "Aboriginal Communications & Liaison Officer"- a job that I loved well and knew I would miss. When entertaining the move the major impetus was a massively negative political situation at work that smacked of workplace bullying, really. I loved that job, and the people I worked with, and for. My biggest regret about leaving that job was that I was leaving behind a community that I had just started to really get to know. It was (is) a community that is embedded in my blood- my grandparents and their parents grew up there. I had very little contact with the "Rez" during my formative years. I was raised in a suburb of Buffalo, NY with few visits to Canada aside from our weekly Chinese food outing on Sundays just over the border in Ft. Erie and very occasional visits to Six Nations to celebrate weddings and funerals.

Now we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a whole different life. I work for a physician who has partnered with a Traditional Healer to bring a collaborative medical practice to the community. My other part time job is consulting as a Communications Officer for an Indigenous Knowledge Centre- I'm supporting a grant project whose focus is on translating Haudenosaunee ceremonies from the archives of the Smithsonian into "The Language" as it's called here. Mohawk, Cayuga, Oneida and Tuscarora mainly.

So, I'm surrounded by my own culture- It's literally everywhere I go. I see it, hear it and feel it in a real way for the first time in my life. I feel like I'm just seeing the tip of a very large iceberg of another way to live. My dreams have been so intense since I started living here- full of animals (especially the bear) and mythical beings. My mom has been in a few of them, and most recently my (white) father, who I never dream of. I feel intimidated- by the intensity of the mistrust here, of me, of my husband, of our intentions- we're so new here in this tight knit and simultaneously intensely fractured community. I'm intimidated because I don't know the language, the social roles, the jokes, the judgements. I'm intimidated because, in some ways, I don't feel "Indian" enough. But what the hell does that even mean? I bleed the same blood as many here who have a white father. I think what I'm feeling is residual guilt- for not getting here sooner, not contributing sooner, not knowing that every one of us here who can manifest a "Good Mind" is absolutely needed to heal this culture, these people- MY people.

I'll continue to post my experiences here- at least what I can of them. I've been welcomed hesitantly by the Traditional Healer that we share the practice with, by the Physician that I not only work for, but live with, and by some of my old colleagues. I've been learning of distant family connections who still live here (we don't all call each other "Cuz" for no reason!) and attended my first Longhouse ceremony (Midwinters!). I'm finding my way here- in a real way, my own way. I don't know where this will lead, but I'm willing to wait and listen, and for probably the first time in my life, I'm willing to be OK with not knowing, not having a plan, and trusting that IT will happen, whatever IT is.

There's so much to post, but I feel like I needed to get this out of the way before I could move on to the events that have happened since I started this post last month. Not the least of which is the loss of our dear Penelope, who deserves a whole post all her own.

Thanks for listening and empathizing with me. Feel free to comment and share anything you want! We want to hear from you!

Penny Penny Penny!!

Penelope Morningstar!!
Very Great Dane.

Many readers no doubt know that our darling Great Dane Penelope, unfortunately developed bone cancer in September of 2012. As a result of seeing a clear lung x-ray, Stephanie and I elected to have the affected leg removed completely.

The transformation was remarkable. She went from a limping and listless dog, who was obviously in a great deal of discomfort, to a three-legged dog who rediscovered the urge to play and run around with other canines once more.

It's not easy to put into words, just how attached one can be to a sweet creature like a dog. For those of you in the know, it needs no explanation. Every time she would pass between either of our legs, like the willing little horse she was, we couldn't help but scratch those sweet, floppy ears. Even as a three legged dog, she could not resist the urge to try to sit on either of our laps.

Here was a dog that was not unlike other dogs in her desire to be with her people (which included cats and guinea pigs). Penny wanted to be part of the action; to come along and be part of any adventure we undertook. She spent time in the mountains of Vermont and loved it just as much as romping at the Rockton Fairgrounds.

Penny was the gentlest and sweetest dog I've ever known. She was famously able to cuddle said guinea pigs quite appropriately. She played with little dogs as well as big dogs equally.

Just last week, our sweet dog began to show signs of being less lively than usual. We brought her to the veterinarian and much to our dismay (though unfortunately not to our surprise), we discovered that her cancer had returned and her time left with us became incredibly shortened. Just last Sunday, the 17th of February, we had the miserable task of taking our dear doggie, on her last car ride. We made sure stop for Timbits along the way.

After five vibrantly renewed months of life, it became time to take off her collar and so we sat on the floor at the emergency vet clinic and stroked our silky dog's ears and face, as she drifted off so peacefully to sleep the sleep she so greatly needed. Stephanie and I stayed with her for a while longer and we cried our eyes out.

It's now a few days later and the house seems palpably emptier and it's going to take time to adjust to the fact that Penny isn't just sleeping on the furniture in the other room. She doesn't need her dog dish any more and she won't need me to bring her outside.  That really hurts! I can't change that though.

I know we did the right thing; she was so uncomfortable right at the end. I don't think she was in pain, but she seemed so ready to rest.

Penny, if you're reading this somewhere, off in the great beyond, I want to thank you for being our dog-and oh what a great dog you were. I want to you to know that Emma and all the other animals really miss you; especially Emma though. I want to encourage your doggy spirit to come and visit us whenever you feel like you want your ears scratched.

We love you sweet dog...may you rest in peace...after you've had a good run in the fields of the great beyond!!