I discovered a bees’ nest in the woodpile today. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one before, not up close anyway. Being very familiar with wasp nests I heard the buzz and was expecting to have to get out the chemical arsenal and get rid of them. There was no cloud of angry insects though, and while I stood there puzzling these two bees came out to check out what was going on. I’ve since seen a bunch go in and out and they don’t seem to be upset that I’m there. I’ve left them in peace and left the wood there; I can find more. I have no quarrel with the bees nor they with me. It is a good lesson in going gently and thinking before acting.
Some years ago an acquaintance called me a “colonist”. I was mighty offended because I felt I had nothing to do with the genocide (a word I also argued with) against North American indigenous people. Fortunately, I’ve got enough of a curious nature that I did a bit of self examination. After having read the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s Executive Summary and a handful of books recommended by some friends I tackled University of Alberta’s Indigenous Canada course through Coursera. I finished it last night and realized that I’m no longer threatened by being a colonist. It is fundamentally true. And, more surprising, early pangs of guilt and fear have been replaced by a positive sense of responsibility. Looking forward in optimism always feels better than looking backwards in shame. For this, I’m feeling pretty grateful.
I had revelation about the tradition of story telling this week; one worth writing a few words about. A few weeks ago, I attended a Truth & Reconciliation seminar. Something that struck me about this session, and others I’ve attended in the past, is that Indigenous people will tell stories about their challenges. I’ve often wondered why there weren’t words of action and direction about what we can all do to make reconciliation work. (Don’t get me wrong, these stories are really important and it is important, as a settler, to listen.) Recently, and as a result of attending this session, I’ve been working on U of Alberta’s Indigenous Canada course and, this week, did the section on Indigenous Law. This is where the light went on; apparently there is no written law and much of the legal framework of how Indigenous communities work is to communicate their “legal” system through stories about the land, creatures, creation, and community. As with any good parable, these stories have a great deal to tell us about how to interact with each other and the world. It is an important part of the story telling that individuals, rather than being told what to do, be free to derive the important meanings from the stories and interpret them on a situational basis. And now I’ve learned how to be a better listener because these aren’t just people telling stories, they are mentors and guides.
My day developed into one of remarkable contrasts. It started with a Facebook conversation with a pair of Libertarians. I have to admit it wasn’t a comfortable thing. I like to find common ground with almost anybody and work hard to be respectful but they weren’t having it. At one point they accused me of being “an enemy of the people” and of having “sinister plans” and felt that it was okay to describe a fellow Green Party member’s opinions as “Hitler-like”. Mostly because we stand up for some regulations to try to deal with social justice issues. This evening I attended one of CBC’s Beyond 94 sessions – a public forum on the ongoing process of Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous people. These sessions are remarkable; the stories of pain, hardship, broken families, and anger are palpable. One fellow told the audience, the majority of whom were white, that it wasn’t our fault. This person, and his family, have endured real suffering at the hands of my ancestors and the society that has given me so much and yet he stood there and reached out with compassion. What a stark contrast to the privileged old white men who hurled insults at me because I care about others. It seems like my day was designed to present me with two possible choices on where to invest my heart and soul. Easy choice.