Wednesday, 4 April 2012


"We sweat and cry salt water so we know that the ocean is really in our blood."
- Teresia Teaiwa, Banaban/ African American poet & scholar

A long streetcar ride today: Mum, Dad and I went out to Toronto's 'beaches' area to enjoy burgers for lunch on a park bench looking across sand, water and a flat horizon. This could be a scene from home. Well, visually it could be, anyway. Olfactorily - 'smell-ly' - it couldn't be: Lake Ontario is massive and amazing and lovely but doesn't smell like the sea.

I love it here, but it's not home. Like people from large flat spaces who move to islands and get island fever, I get continent fever when I'm landlocked for too long. Tonite I took Anne and Michelle's girl Shonagh to watch 'The Hunger Games' in which a post-American America is obsessed with a televised show in which 24 children and young people are forced to kill each other until there's only one survivor. The kids are put in an 'arena' within which cameras are everywhere and they are manipulated by the rulers of the game (and the country) throughout. Every once in a while, the constructed nature of the arena is emphasised: a grid is visible where sky used to be; an interlocking pattern which reminds everyone they are ultimately constrained by their environment. It's how some people feel on islands - the borders between land and sea feel like confinement or even incarceration - but it's how I feel some days on a continent. I love it here - I do! - and I can appreciate this is where things make sense for some people, just as I can appreciate that beaches don't have to smell like salt in order to beaches even though saltless air quietly interrupts me when I smell it beside a giant stretch of water.

I love it here, but it's not home. This afternoon, before going to the movies and after going to the beach, I sat in my office in Aboriginal Studies and worked on some papers. Outside my room, students were practicing Anishinaabemowin, one of the Indigenous languages of this area, as one by one they went in for their oral tests throughout the afternoon. Meanwhile I was playing some waiata from home - not just from Aotearoa but from Taranaki - on my computer while I worked. This isn't home, but I'm here at the moment and this place has been good to me. The two languages (Anishimaabemowin and Maori) gently flowed along, edging into one another and diverging at various moments, quietly drawing lines in the sand about language, replenishment, survival.

Salt: preserve, flavour, heal, fix. Salt: ocean, sweat, tears. Salt: of earth.

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