Travelled by Greyhound to Toronto early on Wednesday morning. It was a beautiful day and the ride was leisurely. My reason for going to the “Big Smoke” was to speak about my poetry book Broad Winged Hawk at York University where a group of students will be promoting sales for it. Met some nice people at York U and got re-acquainted with some old friends, writers I have great respect for. All went well in T.O.
What I write about below are the thoughts and feelings I experienced after the coach I was riding on began the Highway 7 phase of the trip back home.
It’s 3:20 p.m. Thursday and I find myself again on a Greyhound. This one taking me back to dear ol’ Ottawa. As the coach climbs and descends hills, negotiates curves, and overtakes or follows slower traffic on the highway, I pass my time staring out of the tinted windows of the bus onto the majestic beauty of my ancestral homeland. Along the roadside I see shallow ponds, surrounded by large round, moss laden boulders. There are many wetlands, all of them pre-historic looking and full of wonder, and occasionally a lake of striking character appears, with beaver cabins and abandoned osprey nests on her shores. Special too, are the natural forest clearings lined by giant pines whose old limbs stretch further into the east than they do in all other directions, reminding all that the refreshment of a new dawn will give birth to tools and medicines empowered to completely conquer the traumas experienced today, however great they are. I see on the rolling hills white birch trees interspersed among the cedars and pines and poplars. Being a bird hunter from way back, I am aware the rooster partridge is there drumming or dancing to impress the partridge hens. My mouth waters just at the thought of the rich flavours of partridge soup making contact with my taste buds.
Riding the Greyhound with me are about forty other passengers. They are of varying races and cultures. But regardless of where they came from on this planet, and regardless of the amount of time they have lived here, none of them are having the thoughts about the scenery the bus is leaving in its wake that are like mine. When I look at the land, I see something greater than its beauty. I see a place of medicine and healing. I see a sanctuary filled with wisdom and teachings. I see a place of mystery, life and wonder. My heart drums in harmony with the song of the land. My spirit rattles and calls to the spirits of the forest, a cry of blessings for all things living there.
Where I sit on the coach, I see seven people in close proximity of my seat, busy tapping their thumbs into the face of a square shaped gismo. Some are plugged in. The bus moves forward, a large hawk in a field climbs the sky. But the eyes of the people are cast downward. Their thumbs don’t miss a beat. As the hawk is nimble with his wings, likewise are these young folks with their fingers. The “bold new world” promised to the young people is taking hold and is at the same time, robbing them of their natural connection to the land. What a terrible shame.
And so, on this Thanksgiving weekend, we offer a prayer of acknowledgement and honour for all those things alive on the land, which, if they did not exist, then neither would we. We ask You, Creator, to bless the land with health and vigour. We ask for pureness in the winds we breathe and in our waterways which provide sustenance for our bodies. We are thankful, too, for the health and wellness of our children, grandchildren and all of our relatives and all of our relations. We ask that our feasting will be enjoyed by all who take part of it. We ask these things of You, Creator, with great humility in our hearts. Migwech.
Do not pity me
Do not shed precious tears
But let your voice rise above a whisper
And tell the citizens
That the song of life which is theirs
Was a song I could never learn
I longed to hear my own song
Where was it
Where was the council fire
I wandered and searched
But never found my purpose
Where was the feast
Where was the honour
The drumbeat had disappeared
Even the wind did not exist
O city fathers and mothers
Gather from the sidewalks my experiences
Tell your sons and daughters
That these are memories
Of a street dweller
Who was taken away by eagles
To soar at last among the stars
(excerpt from “Do Not Pity Me”, Broad Winged Hawk)