February 6th, 2013.
Moving back to the Nicola Valley has been a process unto itself. Landscape, waterscape, each morning I wake to a beautiful view of the Nicola Lake surrounded by pine tree mountains. Some mornings it is foggy, some mornings clear skies. Swans gather, graceful, ducking, diving, white tail feathers and black feet in the air. They are unaffected by the winter chill. They are in their glory. I am somewhat envious.
Winter swims make us stronger and that is one thing for certain I miss about Sto:lo So:lh Temexw: water, clean, clear, blissfully, stinging and toe-freezing cold. Here at this end of the Nicola Lake the waterways run a fragrant shade of yellow-brown as a result of cattle ranch pollution. I find myself reflecting to when the weather used to be so much colder and the entire Nicola Lake would freeze solid and the ice fisher-people had a constant presence on the ice.
Here, I am. I am here, now. I find myself. I relearn who I am, where my blood comes from. Learning to accept who I am. Accepting where I am. I am learning that I am forever moving forward and doing the very best I can to give my son a good life and to inspire lives to live better lives.
Where we now live is not far from my godmother's last home, where she lived until she passed. It is still painful driving past that house. Seeing that other people live there now somehow feels like the shrine that house has become deep within my mind has been disrespected even though it has not. I still want to park outside her house. I still want to hear her dogs. I still want to knock on her door and find her there. I want to sleep on her couch and touch her hand. I still want to cook rice, crack open that jar of sockeye and sit with her, eat dinner with her.
However years have passed now since she passed and the life I live has changed. Now that I am finally home I reflect on the stories she told me and the stories our elders have shared about growing up in this back country. Stories of porcupines and grizzly bears that sing, coyotes and riding horse back across rolling hills.
The stories I grew up with always involve horses. or berry picking. or jarring fruit. or digging roots. The stories I grew up with always involve landscape. and elders. and family. and tea.
The stories I come home with involve canoes and water and new brothers and new sisters. The stories I come home with involve learning a new kind of self-discipline, moving through pain. working through pain. back straight knees together sitting through pain. running through pain. paddling through pain. paddling in pouring rain and loving a good run in pouring rain.
The stories I come home with involve freezing toes and sitting when my mind is running. involve races and trails lined with moss covered stones, ferns, cedars, hemlock trees and green covered mountains. some of the stories inside me will never be told but always they will live.
The stories I come home with involve university and loneliness and failing yet persevering and doing it all over again and being okay with doing okay. being okay with failing because I know I will not stop at a fail. I will always keep moving forward.
The stories I come home with involve learning to love experiencing heartbreak yet finding fulfillment and true peace in solitude learning to pray with every fibre of my body, heart, soul and mind and experiencing the power and medicine of songs and stories from my own and all cultures, beautiful and powerful in their dances and colors and vibrance.
The stories I come home with involve people, young people, old people carrying their culture, their dreams, their courage carrying the sorrow and carrying the prayers of ancestors upon their shoulders prayers to heal the lives of their loved ones and all our loved ones. The stories I come home with involve learning to stand alone with sorrow and know I will not shatter. Learning to keep moving forward. Learning to have dreams and strive for dreams and to be selfless in helping others.
Courage. Strength in sorrow. comedy in sorrow, pain in laughter in tears in joy in perseverance in resilience in spite of everything.
The stories I carry taught me to keep moving forward. It doesn't matter how rough the water is always keep paddling. Never stop moving forward even if you're sinking. keep going, hold onto your canoe. hold tight to your paddle even if the water comes over your head. Always remember cedar never sinks.
You can do this. you have the strength. you have the power. you have the beauty of our ancestors the strength of our ancestors flowing through you. It is your life blood let it be your life blood. Let. the. stories. of. strength. become. you. me. us.
the stories I come home with tell me I am here now and I will travel again. I will return to my home whether home is here or home is there I will always return. I will always travel. everywhere I go I have loved ones. everywhere I go I gather stories I gather strength I bring it home. I share it.
All that matters is always doing the very best we/I/you can.
All that matters is never giving up.