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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!


  1. I'm proud of everything you do Stephanie, and how you grow from all our experiences...easy AND difficult. You're an amazing person.

  2. I'm so glad you found my blog, and now I've found yours! I think this is going to be one of those "go back and read every post" situations for me. Thanks for writing, and keep it up. :)

  3. Hey Portia! Glad you found us here! Glad I found your blog too... this is what it's all about, right?? :)