Monday, June 01, 2015

Down by the river

Winnipeg. That's where I spent this past weekend. Aside from hurriedly changing planes at the Winnipeg airport, I'd never been there before. What a place, a city that reached into my soul.

In between meetings and sessions for The Writers' Union of Canada and the League of Canadian Poets, I made it to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Legislature Buildings and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. All of these visits were well worthwhile, but even more important to me was the visit I paid to the banks of the Red River.

The reason for visiting the river was so I could place a 'memory rock' there.

The memory rock was a shiny stone I'd found, in of all places, on the floor of a downtown dollar store.

The store was crowded, mostly with First Nations people -- singles, women, families with beautiful kids. It was a messy shop, with more security guards than ordinary staff, and I suppose the security guys weren't into tidying the shelves.

It made me sad that the food choices there consisted of nothing but chemmy-flavoured junk. I could only hope that there was another grocery store in the neighbourhood, one with at least milk, bread and some kind of produce selection.

But then, at my feet, was the perfect shiny stone. I knew it didn't belong there and rescued it.

It was later that the idea came to mind: I knew I wanted to take it to the river and toss it into the water, my small way of remembering Tina Fontaine.

Yesterday, my last day in Winnipeg, was the day I made my way to the river. But the River Walk was closed, owing to the height of the water, almost in flood. I tried a couple of spots where I might access the river -- in a park, beside a playground -- and got close enough that I could have thrown it in. Even though I tossed in a few small stones (ones I picked from under trees on the bank), none of those spots felt like the right place to send out the special one.

Then, when I'd almost resigned myself to keeping the stone, I found the special place.

Here I'd spent the weekend with writers and what did I find but a park bench with a book on it -- a hardcover one at that.

The book's title confirmed that I'd found the right place and I said a kind of prayer/dedication and let the stone fly. For Tina.

Tomorrow the official Report on Truth and Reconciliation will be released -- the aftermath of the horror of the residential schools with their hideous agenda, to "..take the Indian out of the child."

I'm hoping that one of the steps our government will take towards true reconciliation will be initiating an official inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women. I hope the ripples of my special stone for Tina will radiate into something positive so we don't have any more women thrown into the river -- and not just in Winnipeg, but anywhere.


Janet Vickers said...

Beautiful and synchronous. Seems we are in two worlds - the corporate world and the enchanted world where we find meaning in nature.

hg said...

Day by day, I find myself taking more and more comfort from that world you refer to as enchanted. In the distance I can hear the train whistle down at White Rock, likely carrying coal that will end up being burnt in China -- and now a jet is flying overhead, probably on its descent to the airport in Vancouver. But through and above all those sounds is the ongoing symphony of little birds in our trees, punctuated by the occasional raucous call of a cheeky-sounding crow.