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i am the walrus

November 30, 2011

Some nights I don’t sleep. Ideas and images run wild through my head. It’s annoying, and a blessing I wouldn’t trade away.

Last night, in my mind I was reworking the Mamisarniq Sananguarnikuut artmaking gatherings which are happening in preparation for Iqaluit’s Dec 6 Day of Remembrance and Action for Violence Against Women. (Funny way of saying that – shouldn’t “for” be “against” or “about”?) Last weekend we had gazillions of volunteers and only a few participants. The studio at Nunatta campus’ Fine Art Building was beautifully set up with areas for sewing, printmaking, drawing, collage and children’s activities. We left things very open for participants to make whatever they wanted to, in memory of a woman they had lost to violence. In a community where artmaking is very much an economic activity, making personal images could be a stretch even for people who are comfortable with art media. Next weekend we’ll have more structure – cues around the room to help folks connect with their person and how to begin to make something through all the emotion they may be facing by entering that studio space.

The pictures in my mind were of a bear stretched across the sky of the page – not unlike images of Egyptian Nut, but wider like a pegged tent. On an edge of bear was a little patch-like rectangle of colour, which reminded me of an art school weaving done by my colleague, Mary Crowe, who stitched in every class. All monotone texture it was, with a little darned rectangle off one edge. Green with pink darning, I think. I can’t tell you how beautiful it was, and simple, and how does anyone think to darn one wee bit of edge, anyway, and what makes them stop there? (How, Mary? What?) So I wonder about that bear – what the heck is this bear doing reaching across the top of the page, and what’s that thing on its side? The best way I know to get to know a pre-dreaming image like that is to draw it, and then maybe move like it, and draw some more and oh, look, there’s a picture in a magazine which reminds me of that image, and here’s another picture of something else (used to be frogs for me) which wants to interact with that polar bear… Before long, I have a cluster of associations with that original image. It’s developing a stronger life because I gave it some attention. (See my last blog entry on the pleasures of isolation and those walks with dream images.)

Tonight I went to bed still tense from a meeting at work which frustrated and confused me, and also inspired with an idea for how to get help with my distress, which led to thoughts about incorporating Inuit consultants (not the right name for it) into Nunavut Employee Assistance Plans so that a) people have another option besides calling some counsellor in the South and b) Inuit wisdom is valued, compensated and used in collaboration with well-intentioned but perceptually challenged Southerners like me. I mean, wouldn’t it be great to be able to ask an Elder for help understanding this strange and potentially wonderful entity that is Nunavut (not to mention the strange entity that is the GN)? And if there was a 3rd person to translate, then what interesting ideas could come from the sharing of those questions and perspectives – Qallunaat and Inuit, Elder and younger Inuk, colonisers and landowners, each with our own knowledges, trying to figure out where effectiveness can happen! It’s good to dream, right? (And then wouldn’t it be great if we could move into a relationship that is not about ongoing colonisation?)

So what about this walrus, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. There’s a book I love – Meditation Made Easy, by Lorin Roche – which says that meditation should be a delicious thing that you just do naturally because it feels so good. One of the very easy ways in is to imagine yourself drifting as you lie down to sleep. Yum. I often imagine myself on a little boat or leaf on a slow river. But this time, I remembered video a guy showed me on the flight to Iqaluit, of a walrus family swimming together. He told me that walrus have loving families, and that the aunties will protect the young ones, even holding them close as they dive. I had never seen walrus moving so beautifully before. So tonight, to let go of that work tension and those exciting but too-busy-for-bedtime thoughts, I was a walrus. I hung out near the surface with eyes and nostrils and whiskers above the water and my big graceful body below. I let myself sink out of sight, and I danced. Aaaahhh! Walrus meditation – highly recommended.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Leslie Fletcher permalink
    November 30, 2011 3:59 am

    Thank you for this lovely story, and I like the image of the walrus gracefully floating in the water, and then sinking to the depths to dance! I will try on this image as well and see where I go. Also, your comments about incorporating Inuit elders’ wisdom and insight re: sorting through difficulties seems crucially important. This idea is backed up by literature on multicultural counselling. Our Western views on healing are limited and limiting, to say the least!

  2. November 30, 2011 6:59 am

    I am the walrus, goo goo ga choo!


    Nice post! 🙂

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