Sunday, 27 May 2012

CACLALS conference: day 1

The end of day one at the conference for the Canadian Assoc for Commonwealth Language & Literary Studies.

I'm tried, and had a lovely fulfilling invigorating day with great conversations and some very good thngs to listen to and get me thinking!

Tonite I'm just going to share a few direct quotes I jotted down while listening...

"at some point you just have to make it up... some of the labour you've done gives you the disposition... [but] the archive is just not there" (about the problem of missing colonial archives)

"the medicine of stories"

"he said language was his home"

One speaker couldn't work out why she had studied law. She thought it might be to she could support herself and her son. She then thought it might be the fulfilment of her father's own dream to be a lawyer. Then she realised it was so she could write poetry.

"breaking and entering the text"

"I knew the stories were in there"

"the sea is the archive; the sea is very fluid" "the words began to float on that archive of memory - the water"

"not taking it back, but getting underneath it" [about Caribbean writers' relationship with English language]

Saturday, 26 May 2012

roll call

People are where they should be.

Mum, Dad and Megan are on Matiu/Somes island.
Dan and Briar are awaiting the arrival of the newest Te Punga baby.
Vula is with the matavuvale (family) in Melbourne.
LeRoy is getting ready for his school ball.

And me?

I'm at a conference; I came back from dinner with other speakers and organisers this evening, and the actual sessions start in the morning.

Is this where I should be? Yes. This is the opportunity available to me right now, and right up the very end of the sabbatical I am being given ways to connect and make the most of my time here. However, I know things are wrapping up here. Like the road trip last week by which I acknowledged the place I've been for the last year, this conference is a chance to enjoy and acknowledge the intellectual place I've been.

I'm where I should be. And, in less than a month, I'll be in the next place I should be. And, exactly a month after that, the next place. Hawai'i.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Too: on also standing up.

At the Wellington Public Library memorial event for the amazing Taranaki poet JC Sturm, one of her friends stood up and started her recollection: "Kermit the frog said it isn't easy being green, and Jacqui found it wasn't easy being brown either." 

Some days this feels so true that it hurts. Immoral legal decisions and an inefficient but brutal police state, an especially harsh National government budget, and as I have been excitedly planning a future with a certain lovely man, two men from home have received their sentences: two and a half years of their future will be in prison.

When I posted this poem on facebook earlier today, I called it 'extreme' because this what what I sat down to write about. How is it possible to feel such extremes of emotion at the same time? How does one keep the right emotions in the right compartments so bitterness doesn't bleed through into spaces which are cherished, so hard-edged cynicism doesn't bleed through to spaces where one feels (nicely) vulnerable? So gooey lovely sweetness doesn't prevent sharp attentive critical thought when it's needed?

The poem that came out was about extremes, but I have called it 'Too' in the end. This is a poem about addition, layers, also, extremes. It's a poem which says 'me too' as well as 'this too' as well as 'too much.' (And, yes, 'Too' is a pun. Tu mai Taranaki, E Tu, Kia tu. Tumatauenga.) Too.



Too.

It’s too hot on my porch today:
a concentrated dose of Toronto sun which was gently diluted in winter months
is burning a hole in the pocket of the day,
pressing into my black clothes;
it’s too bright to read Indigenous theory off white paper here.

It’s too colonial in my country today:
Four sentences, three Maori, two jailterms, one judge, zero justice,
and meanwhile a budget which catches the crumbs as they fall off the table,
places them back on laden plates
rather than letting them fall like gentle rain from heaven
to the disenfranchised who have come to depend upon them.

It’s too distracting in my body today:
a heartful, a mindful, a dreamful of love
obsessed and smiling, I try to keep focus:
such depth of connection, such delicate urgent intimacy
such lightness of being
feels inappropriate in these too-hot colonial times.

Pick up coffee cup and printed pages, open the screen door, walk back inside

My eyes take longer to arrive than the rest of my body;
they’re still adjusted for the brightness outside
I bump into things, blind, while I wait for my whole self to arrive,
and realise this is the only worthwhile way to proceed anyway

All of me, all at once:
anger, frustration, cynicism, hope
and, in the centre as well as the outer reaches, love.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

mountains, animals, home.

"Hey slack bum. Your blog still has you in the rockies!" A text from my sister today reminded me to get back to the blog, and update things for the rest of the big trip. Dodgy internet in the hotel in Vancouver, and a late arrival home last nite after flying back to Toronto, meant I hadn't finished the story on the blog. I knew what happened, and Daniel knew what happened, but online we were still in Banff. So.

Here's what happened.

The rockies are absolutely stunning - again  find myself at a loss for words, gratefully grabbing at cliches to express what I mean - and the drive to Vancouver was long but beautiful. For me, the mountains reminded me of home because of the parts of the land in Aotearoa where huge mountains push their way out of valleys with rivers, flat land and now road snaking in between. For Daniel, the mountains reminded him of home because of the part of the land in Colorado which are similarly grand and snow-capped and impressive in their vastness. And yet, both of us agreed that while mountainous regions share something they also each have their own special beauty. And so it did.

But this blog post isn't going to be about the rockies as much as it's going to be about animals.

Animals.

As we drove, we kept looking for moose, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, bears and other things that go bump in the night. We'd finally seen a moose back in Ontario (well, we aw the back half of it as it lumbered back into bush at the side of the road) but it would have been nice to see a whole one. We'd seen elk the evening before but were keen to see more.  The other things would have been exciting, although I knew the chance of seeing a bear was particularly slim. I mean, we were driving the Transcanadian Highway at 90km/hr. Having a clear view of a bear was an unlikely prospect.

I was starting to tire of the whole looking game after a while - especially when it became apparent that Daniel's upbringing meant he saw elk hanging out behind a tree on my side of the road even though he was driving and watching the road and I was theoretically 100% engaged in looking for animals. Hmm. After seeing yet another sign warning of particular wildlife over the next short stretch, a sign with a picture of a sheep with thick curly horns, we drove for a short stretch past a wall which had been erected and I cynically said "well Daniel, I guess we won't be seeing one of those sheep out my window after all" - at which point the wall abruptly ended and a longhorn sheep stood there, at the side of the road, as if it had been photoshopped in from a National Geographic magazine at that moment just to disprove me!

We laughed, and I was thrilled to have seen a new genre of wildlife (moose and elk? so passe) and hurriedly txted home to get my sister to google these animals with my nephew. And then, in the manner of the elk incident the nite before, we turned the corner and saw a whole lot of bighorn sheep, just hanging out, sitting around with large bone-coloured horns twisted round their heads like a group of young people wearing oversized headphones.

These are not the only animals, though. There are more!

Over the course of our trip we saw: moose, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, and praire dogs. (If, like me, you don't know what a praire dog is, google it - they're amazing! Like whistling meer cats!)

But we also saw other animals: BamBam and Raven. My inability to call anything or anyone by the same name for longer than five minutes without turning it into a nickname meant that poor old BamBam must still be scratching his head wondering which name to answer to: BamBam, FatDog (Fatty for short, which some strangers clearly thought was cruel rather than loving), Bamster the Hamster, and The Baminator. Raven got away with being called Raves, Raven, Ravey and 'That's So Raven' (quoting a line from a teen TV show). These dogs were kind of amazing: they sat in teh back of the car for the 6 days, not knowing where we were going or what we were doing.

Over the days, we developed some routines. Clicking them into their little doggie seatbelts (a short lead strung around the actual seatbelt), giving them walks, offering them water, scratching and patting them as they looked through from the backseat. I admit that I'm not a doggie person: I like dogs fine, but I didn't grow up with them, so I feel about dogs the same way some people feel about children. Give me any baby or kid and I know what to do with them; give me a dog and I'm at a bit of a loss. This trip was a good one for me, as I got to know these two dogs and also got to experience how 'doggie' people respond so warmly and enthusiastically to other dogs. People came and struck up all kinds of conversations with us as we walked the dogs - the conversations could start halfway through and were personal without being strangely intimate or nosey: "is that an English boxer?" "Can I pet the dog?" "What's the dog's name?" "How old is he?" "Are your dogs okay with kids? My daughter has been saying 'black dog' ever since we got out of the car and we saw you." It reminded me a bit of the way that smokers have a special social bond which involves chatting about things over a cigarette. "Dogs: the new smoking." Think it'll catch on?

Home

We pulled into Vancouver and Daniel said "this is where I live now" and it was true. A last nite in a hotel on Monday night, and we had Chinese takeaways and unpacked and packed the car for the last time. The next morning, yesterday, we drove over to UBC and found the faculty housing, and a lovely man called Kevin came to let Daniel in and show him around. The dogs were a bit confused (we hadn't driven ten hours yet, and were already stopping and unpacking the car?) but happy to cruise around the new house; after we walked down to the nearest shops for a coffee Daniel went out to do a bit of shopping for basic supplies and I stayed home with the dogs.

The tiredness hit all four of us yesterday. The dogs and I had a little sleep on the carpet: BamBam has no shame at all and spreads himself out like a very lumpy blob of honey, and Raven neatly curls into a little curl. I didn't mean to fall asleep - I was lying down on my tummy and switched on this very laptop (no internet access, but I had some stuff to write) and the next thing I knew, I was waking up with a delicate woolly pattern impressed on my face.

Daniel, FatDog and Raven were finally home (my friend from the mountains, back in the mountains) but I was not. A car ride to the airport, a flight to Toronto, and taxi to Spadina and I was into bed and fast asleep.

For me, I'm home and yet not home. As we drove West over the course of six days, I found that my wairua was travelling towards the Pacific, towards my ocean, and as I flew here last nite - less than one hour of flight for each day on the road - I realised that I am ready to go. This is my last week in this apartment, and things have started to accumulate around boxes and bags and things yet to be sorted. I've got two conferences and will stay with friends after the 31st. Life has become a series of 'to do' lists. I'm back in Toronto for three weeks but I have left myself back on the other side of this amazing continent. My side. Pacific side. Home.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Prairies to mountains


I'm in the rockies tonite - the amazing gigantic stretch of mountatins which runs from down in the US to north of here in Alberta and BC.

We're tired tonite, Daniel and me. Fat Dog, Raven and Daniel are all fast asleep while I sit up to write. We've visited friends, talked, eaten Dairy Queen Blizzards (thanks Kathryn S for the tip!), and seen elk and antelopes and a coyote - really! - outside the car window.

Tonite we're in Banff, and my mind keeps going to my grandparents, who came here on a once-in-a-lifetime trip in the 1980s. They brought back a Banff sweatshirt for Dad, and showed us photos of this tree-soaked rocky terrain. Lovely :)

So, so tired... after spending a bit of time staying in touch with someone lovely in Mildura, I need a sleep. So, today's blog is a few pictures, working on the theory is that each is worth 1000 words ;)



Another day, another province...


My first 'Dairy Queen Blizzard, cookie dough flavour' - thanks Kathryn S for the recommendation :)

A long train crossing the prairies...


Random antelope... inspired us to sing 'home, home on the range' several times :)




At the Saamis teepee; in Medicine Hat AB. Such an amazing place!



The view from our room in Banff... which doesn't suck ;)


















Eating dinner with an amazing view

Monday, 21 May 2012

What's in a name?

One of the highlights of this trip for me is the name of the town we're staying in tonite: Moose Jaw. I feel like a giggly teenager, laughing at a pun or slightly off-colour joke, unable to keep a straight face even though I know my juvenile mirth is a bit embarassing in someone of my age. Moose Jaw. Only in Canada, right!? Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

We've driven across the prairies to get here from Winnipeg today: long stretches of road alongside fields, with small clusters of shops and agricultural buildings every few kms. In the afternoon we crossed into province #3: Saskatchewan.



At both the visitor bureaus on the borders between the provinces so far, Daniel has come rushing out with a big grin: 'I've found out another 'world's biggest' for us to find on the main road!'  This morning not far out of Winnipeg we took photos at a gigantic painted concrete column which is apparently the world's biggest coke can; Daniel has a bit of a soft spot for coats of arms, so he was marginally more impressed by the town's coat of arms painted below the red and white 'can' colours than by the official attraction.



The 'world's biggest' in Saskatchewan was an 'Indian Head' - something we found very funny as we drove closer. I joked about taking a photo of it with Daniel, and we could call the photo '1.2 Indians' (assuming a head is about .2 of a person), and we scoured the side of the road for the 'world's biggest Indian Head' which we were assured we would not miss. Actually, we did miss the head at first - because we turned off towards the town of Indian Head (yes, I'm not joking about the name) and the 'biggest' head is right back by the highway. Despite our hilarity between ourselves as we approached the town, both of us were too embarassed to stop and ask someone 'hi, could you please tell us where there is a really big Indian head?' But, as we turned back into the highway after driving through the sleepy little town and resolving that we'd missed it, we found ourselves looking at the back of a gigantic conrete head with a feather bonnet and stoic expression.



We were still joking a bit between ourselves as we posed in front of the concrete monstrosity, and talked about how handy it is to have such strange things to show students when teaching about representations of Indigenous people. After Daniel did his stoic Indian pose in the photo above, I decided  to mix it up and have a moment of Trans-Indigenous encounter, grabbing the poi which have been in the front of the car during our trip and giving them a twirl.



We picked up a brochure at the information shed next door to the statue, and drove off. Daniel read the booklet out loud as we got underway, and as he did the funny side of Indian Head became less funny. Way less funny. The brochure explained that the people of Indian Head are proud to have been in the area for five generation (uh oh - I guess actual Indians aren't included then) and that they decided to commission, fundraise for, and finally install the Indian Head because when the Transcanada highway (which we've been travelling on since Ontario) bypassed the town they wanted to create a reason for travellers to keep stopping there. There was no mention in the booklet of any Indigenous communities despite the town being named after, um, Indians. So. So what's the source of the name?

It turns out that smallpox and other epidemics were so ferocious in the area that the local communities experienced deaths and created a need for massive burials. So many people died that the area just outside of current Indian Head became known as a 'place of skulls.' (Golgotha, as Daniel noted.) This name, which recalls massacre and - before that - presence, was shifted to 'Indian Head' by the settlers who wanted to set up a town there. An overstuffed burial ground became a kitschy name and this in turn became a concrete monstrosity. The 'Indian head' at Indian Head has a rather different tone. Haunting, ghostly, mocking, cruel.

(Of course, none of the Indians of Indian Head were 'Indian' - noone ever is, outside the framework of the state. We found out (after a bit of a google search) the communities were Assiniboine, Cree and Saulteaux. Nga mihi aroha ki nga uri o nga iwi ra.)

Indian Head isn't alone: it isn't the only place with a bizarre Indigenous-referencing name. We passed the Mohawk Motel (with a fake horse out the front) in the middle of Ojibway territory in Ontario. Alongside the great lakes we passed a hotel called Lanikai and Aloha Bay; quiet nods to Hawai'i with no accounting of how such tipping of hats had taken place. Driving out of Winnipeg in Manitoba we saw the 'Polynesian Cocktail Lounge.' Not only names are out of place: people have turned stones all through Sourthern and Western Ontario into Inukshuks, a statue style from the far north, and as we drove through Ontario two days ago a totem pole was standing outside a 'traders' place despite totem poles being from the West coast.

This is Indian land, but it's also not Indian land. It is Assiniboine, Cree and Saulteaux land. It is Garden River First Nation Land. It is the land of all of these specific communities, and of many, many, many more besides.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Lines

About an hour before we drove into Winnipeg, I asked Daniel where he thought the absolute centre of Canada would be, between the eastern and western boundaries. We thought it must be around here somewhere, and not long after we passed a sign which announced the point at the longitudinal center of Canada! Following the logic of the old joke, we might say that we have finished driving into Canada; now we're driving out of it.

The difference was the line in the sand.

Centrepoints and borders are such strange things, because they account for so many histories and encounters over the past several centuries. This is true in North American and also in Indigenous cultures.Today we passed a number of borders. The first was a little way out of Thunder Bay, where a sign with pictures of a moose and bear announced the transition between waterways that drain into the Atlantic and the Arctic:



We kept on travelling up the 'King's Highway' towards Winnipeg, passing more borders along the way... lunch at a town called Dryden (where there was a street called 'Colonization St' which ran off the main road which was called 'Government St' - seriously? I wonder who meets at the corner of Colonization and Government?)... and the line between one time zone and another.



And finally, after three days of driving through Ontario (three days!), we passed another sign which announced the crossing of another line:



Finally, we're in province #2. We'll be in Manitoba until some time tomorrow when we cross into Saskatchewan. I've heard a lot about the history around here, and as we followed the GPS directions which directed us to drive across a particular bridge, we noticed the name of the river: 'Red River.' Wow. The Red River. Suddenly that history - the history which I remember in snapshots and phrases like 'the Red River rebellion' - started to come to life and I was reminded once again that lines are drawn in the sand all the time.

Because, of course, a line in the sand is never just a line in the sand. The line is always a claim about the relationship between people, and the sand is always someone's land. In this case, Indian land.

It turns out that each of the lines we crossed today had another story. A few feet away from the Arctic/ Atlantic line, for example, is a small sign which records an additional history of the site:



"...This watershed was declared the inland boundary of the tract surrendered to the Crown by Ojiwba Indians in the Robinson Superior Treaties of 1850. It was also widely considered to be the southern limit of Rupert's Land, the vast, ill-defined Hudson's Bay Company territory transferred to Canada in 1870, and it figured prominently in the Ontario-Manitoba boundary dispute of 1883-4."

Hmmm. So, maybe the line between the Arctic and Atlantic-bound waters is not merely a fact of geography but also of human constructions: legal, social, cultural, imperial. The significance of this specific landscape is not found only in its ecosystem, but also the in the history of negotiation and control which produces the contemporary moment in which even the historical marker itself is sidelined by the big happy picture of a moose and a bear.

The difference was the line in the sand.

There is a question here about naming and who gets to name: whose story or definition is held as the 'truth'? On Tuesday nite as we sat in Wendys and enjoyed our dinner, one of the girls delivered some fried to our table and said 'I hope you don't mind me asking, but where are you both from?' I answered for both of us: "I'm from Toronto and he's from  Vancouver." Daniel was surprised and amused that I'd called him a Vancouverite, and maybe it was a little crazy seeing as we hadn't even left his and Kent's house in Penetang yet, but on some level it was already true... it was no less true than any other story, and far less complicated that the 'actual' truth.

The interesting question, I suppose, is that the girl at Wendy's didn't know enough of the context to question what we told her, and the narrative fit the expectation she had of us on the basis of how we (or presumably I) speak so she had no cue to remain vigilant about remaining productively critical taking our story at face value... just like the readers of signs about lines in the sand. Who cares about a Treaty from the 19th century? (This isn't a rhetorical question.) What does it mean to draw lines of longitude and timezones on vast stretches of space on a map? What other lines are there which are not marked by such maps (trade routes, language families, traplines, genealogies, animal migrations, etc)? Why did I call it a 'rebellion' in my head? 

This evening after we settled into our hotel room, we had two visitors: Niigaan and Mary Jane, two fabulous Indigenous scholars who teach in different institutions here. Our conversations worked their way around different borders: intellectual, institutional, disciplinary, aspirational, familial, spatial, temporal... more lines being drawn in the sand: more lines, more stories, more land.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The edges of things

We woke up on the edge of America, drove along the edge of a lake, and are sleeping one last nite in Ontario before driving to the edge of this province in the morning. My nephew Matiu, who is following our trip on a map, pointed out to my sister that if we were in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang we wouldn't need to go around so many things because we could simply fly across the watery bits. It's a good point, but seeing as we are driving a flightless car we found ourselves clinging to the edges of things all the way to Thunder Bay.

Much of the day was spent driving through long stretches of breathtaking scenery: it's hard to avoid cliches when talking about this Ontario landscape, and it's better to stand back and let words like 'breathtaking' mean what they say rather than fashioning clumsy over-eager new phrases. We mostly drive along the edge of Lake Superior, and worked our way through bodies of water and clumps of rocks and trees.

Trees, water, sky: driving between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay


I find the trees here to be a kind of miracle: when the road runs through channels and ruts, a slice of the local environment is revealed, like a slice of cake, in its bisected glory. Amazingly, the red and grey rock is thick and iced with just the merest touch of earth before being decorated with gigantic trees and shrubs, testimony to the ability of some life to put down roots and find depth even where this seems practically impossible.

We stopped at key sites today: a giant goose and a bear. The goose (a giant one, in the style of the giant nickel from  yesterday) was in Wawa, and was erected in order to commemorate the section of the Transcanadian Railway which finally included the small young town in the economic, social and cultural networks enjoyed by much of the rest of the country. According to the signs next to the goose, people in Wawa fought hard for this inclusion in the literal transport of the nation, because they were sick of living, it might be paraphrased, on the edges of things.


Daniel and the giant goose, Wawa

(One can't help but wonder about edges in such a case: isolation is relative, and distance is only a meaningful unit of measurement if you don't consider yourself to be a kind of centre.)

The bear was Winnie the Pooh, who - it turned out - was originally from White River, Ontario. Yes, if you thought Winnie was English you're not alone: so did Megan, Kent and I. But (Daniel tells me) Winnie was actually an orphaned bear from  White River who was taken to Winnipeg, where he got his name, and then finally to London where the writer AA Milne was inspired to write a story. I'm not sure if it's more on the edge if people don't know the place you're from or of people assume they know where you're from and don't imagine they might be wrong. Anyway, I digress.

The main activity we engaged in today (besides talking, singing, laughing, snacking and taking the dogs for little walks) was a search: as we drove we looked for the ulimate Canadian roadtrip fetish: moose. Apparently moose are most likely to appear in spatial and temporal edges... standing in small pools, marshes and creeks at the side of the road; in early morning as the sun rises and late in the day during dusk. I hadn't realised that moose (and bears!) were even a likely part of our trip, but Daniel told me (and Kent confirmed last nite, as did the people who sold us a latte in Midland yesterday morning) that this is apparently almost guaranteed. Wow! Moose!

The funny thing about expectations is that you are only disappointed if you know to have expectations in the first place. Certainly I would have been more than happy to have arrived in Thunder Bay this evening without seeing moose, but because I knew they were a possibility I feel a bit different. After a day of scouring the edges of the road, we have started to feel a bit like an entitlement (to see Moose) hasn't been fairly delivered. Clearly the moose are happy enough without us, but we find ourselves wondering if they are not playing the game by the rules (they don't even know it's a game, which doesn't help with this)... we find ourselves looking for one thing instead of appreciating a thousand impressive kinds of beauty which we did see along the lovely road to Thunder Bay. It's exhausting to keep focussed on looking out for moose, and perhaps - I'll admit - not entirely necessary. We're been looking out for an icon whose bulk occupies a specific edge of 'Canadiana' and I realise as I type that I haven't spent as much time enjoying the road (the black water, the bright green leaves) because I've been focussed on its edges.

Other edges. As I finish this blog, FatDog snoring like a gentle lawnmower and a tap dripping quietly in the bathroom, a single lamp on right next to my bed, I find myself at another kind of edge: that between awake and asleep. And so, I'll close this trusty laptop, switch off the lamp and say good night.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

On driving across someone else's country

As we approached Sault Ste. Marie late this afternoon, Daniel and I drove through the Garden River First Nation reserve, and passed a bridge which bore a clear statement about where we are:



Yes it is: it's Indian land. Aboriginal land. We've been driving across it since 5pm yesterday when Daniel and I pulled out of Spadina Ave, my street in Toronto, and since this morning when we piled into the little white Prius with Raven and FatDog (some of you may know FatDog as BamBam) and pulled out of Daniel's and Kent's driveway on Silver Birch Rd.

At Midland, a town not far from 'Penetang,' we popped in for lattes and bought reusable coffee mugs - green for Daniel and red for me - and visited the vet so she could say goodbye to the dogs. From Midland the road took us north, snaking up alongside bodies of water: rivers, streams, inlets, bays, lakes, and - because this is how they roll in this part of the world - great lakes. At Sudbury we stopped for burgers which we ate in a freezing wind at the top of a small hill, trying to appreciate the joy of an overexposed picnic alongside a giant nickel. Um, yes, you heard that right. The young girl who served us at the A&W drive thru window enthusiastically instructed us to take photos looking like we are holding the nickel in our hands. Not being the kind of people who refuse to do what the Romans do when in Rome, Daniel and I obliged...



After Sudbury came more driving, more chatting, little sleeps (on the part of the dogs and Daniel - I'd napped this morning after Midland), a few love songs from the ipod, and a stop at Tim Hortons to refill the green and red mugs because, well, you can't drive across Canada without stopping at Timmy's for sustenance. Upon arriving in Sault Ste Marie, we connected with the wonderful Kent, who introduced me to a meal which I have to admit is the best Indian takeaways from a petrol station that I've ever eaten. Actually, it was the first such tikka masala I'd eaten but if I hadnt' seen where we bought it with my own eyes I wouldn't have believed it! Family dinner back in the hotel room: Kent, Daniel, Raven, FatDog and me. Bliss.

This is day one of the road trip. Or, perhaps, The Road Trip. We're travelling along the Transcanadian highway, a road which feels far more like State Highway 1 in NZ than any of the interstates in the US. A lovely, quietly confident but not strident road... a road which stretches lazily along the contour of the US border much of the way, teasing, coming south almost to touch the country over the hill, and then darting up north to skirt around lakes and press its nose up against prairie cities and rockies before it will deposit us in Vancouver.

Or maybe that's a bit flowery. Maybe it's just a long drive on a long road.

But, long roads are, of necessity, always made on someone's land and there's a process by which Indigenous land becomes sealed and marked and signposted. This is a country which knows about the power of roads (look at occupations in recent times) and a country which still hangs at least some of its national hat on the mythology of a coast-to-coast railroad 'opening up' great stretches of land. As if it was unoccupied, unknown, untraversed, unnegotiated, empty before then. As if 'open' is always better than not.

While "a Maori, a Cherokee, a white dog and a black dog get into a hatchback" sounds like the beginning of an off-colour joke (yes, excuse the pun), it's both humbling and true that every inch we've driven today - and every inch between here and Vancouver and more besides - is over Indian land. Miigwec, wado, he mihi.

milestones, miles, stones

Milestones

This past weekend my dear friends Chad and Joel came up from Columbus (Ohio) to have a few days in Toronto and to celebrate Joel's birthday. These guys are heaps of fun and always up for a good talk about a million topics, so we had an awesome weekend of talking pretty much continuously while doing different things around the city... I showed them around some of my favourtie parts of the amazing city of Toronto, and while we looked around I also had the opportunity to start to say goodbye to this town. In exactly a month I'll be in the air, flying home across the Pacific. Mum talks about a process by which homes becomes houses: up until now Toronto has been a home; I am now transitioning to just staying here. I don't love it any less, but I have a different connection while I find my mind and heart turning to the next steps.

While they were here, we celebrated Joel's birthday. I love birthdays - mine and everyone else's - and in this case we celebrated it across two days... his 'actual' birthday on Saturday and a birthday dinner on Sunday. I refuse to not have a birthday cake of some sort, no matter what the circumstances, so on Saturday evening after we sat out on my porch enjoying yummy food we'd picked up at markets over the course of the day, interspersing each course with a gin n tonic course, we had a candle in a 'cake' for Joel. The cake?  A small pile of marshmallows, handmade by a little candy store we found, which were (allegedly) gin n tonic flavoured!

Happy Birthday Joel - the GnT marshmallow bday cake


Nadine came and joined us for dinner on Sunday, and we went to a place called 'Canoe' which is an extremely fancy-pants restaurant in Toronto with amazing views and very flash food! It was a lovely time, and the originality and freshness of the food was such a feature of the time there... I admit that I discovered something apparently everyone else knew... if you order 'Beef Tartare' it means the meat is raw. And, in this case, has a raw quail's egg on top of it! Hm, not exactly the style of steak and eggs I grew up with (which was cooked hehe) but hey, diversity is a beautiful thing! :) For me, it was a once in a lifetime experience... something to ponder and memories to relish.

A rose between two thorns...? Hehe
The Canadian contingent


Speaking of canoes, I realised this weekend that I am ready to come home to the Pacific... I love it here, and have such good friends here, but as I turn my mind towards my ocean I can feel a salty tidal tug also on my heart.

Miles

This morning, Daniel and his two dogs Raven and BamBam (BamBam is forever known as FatDog to me tho - such a sweet thing!) are hopping into a prius and driving across to Vancouver. Driving for 6 days in one direction can only be done in a country of Canada's size and magnitude, and I have to say I can't wait... Daniel is finishing off packing the car, and I'm staying out of his hair while he does the last few things, and any minute now we'll be heading off! A huge adventure... which I'm looking forward to immensely. We'll go through towns, cities, prairies, rockies... and it will take a full 2 days of driving just to get out of Ontario! A mammoth trip in a gigantic country. Will be blogging every nite.

Stones

Journeys remind me of roads and rivers. There are stones out the back of Daniel and Kent's place, near where we had a bonfire last nite and burned some of their paper rubbish in the warm evening. There are stones in my rivers at home. There are stones in Manoa valley. There are stones in a small town called Mildura in Australia. Kohatu. Stones. My heart is in all of these places...

Saturday, 12 May 2012

gaps

The blog hasn't been so regular of late... it's not intentional, so I find myself casting my mind back and wondering what's changed... or what's changing...

Since Tuesday (last blog) I've done quite a bit...
Weds = Daniel came to stay the nite and we went for a good walk in the evening yp the fun part of Bloor St with the good 2nd hand bookshops
Thurs = home during the day then v interesting movie at Jewish Film Festival with Sarah and her family
Fri = good friends Chad and Joel arrived from Columbus for a weekend in Toronto

These are all things that could be written about... but they weren't... I've been busy getting things ready to move, wrapping things up, and tidying up the house... and I've been spending some time staying in touch with someone cool v far away... and the situation at home in NZ with asset sales and child poverty and blatant discrimination on so many counts is begging for a blog post but I just can't muster the energy... but even all of that doesn't explain it all... and I miss writing!

So, thank you to the person who emailed and asked where the blogs are (you know who you are) - it's been nice to remember how muchI love to, well, write.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

routine

Some days are big days, with events and thoughts and ideas and things crossed off lists.

Other days, like today, are smaller days: things continued, things avoided, a walk to the shops for milk, things posted.

Even these small days have their pleasures, though: communication with someone amazing, bright spring flowers and leaves outside the back porch, chocolate milk before bed.

Monday, 7 May 2012

in reverse

Tonite, Nadine and I sat on my porch in the Canadian flag deckchairs and had a gin while the sun went down. At one point, we talked about how strange it is to think that I'll soon be leaving again.

It feels a bit like life is happening in reverse now: I'm doing things for the last time which a few months ago I did for the first. I remember blogging when we first got the deckchairs and sat out the bag for a drink... it was warmer because it was summer, but that's not the only thing that was different.

I had just arrived from NZ, and had high expectations of how much I would get done on sabbatical. I was, I realise, exhausted from my first few years on the job, and was relishing the opportunity to be back closeby to grad school buddies and other friends. Being able to sit on the back porch of my house, while looking at a gigantic library and watching squirrels run around the top branches of the trees in my yard, talking with a good friend about literary theory and our current writing projects felt like an unimaginable luxury. It was, and it still is.

I was going to be heading back to NZ, and now I'm not. I'm not taking everything here in my suitcases on my return trip because some of it will be posted to my new life in Hawai'i. Since the first deckchair drinkies, I have learned about Canadian things like a SIN (Social Insurance Number), OHIP (Ontario health insurance) and poutine (fries with gravy and cheese curds). I've also, more recently, started to learn about US visa categories, American health insurance and academic jobs in the US. If someone had wandered over to my porch last August and said to me 'hi, I can see into the future and this time next year you'll be living in Hawai'i teaching Pacific Literatures at UHM' I would have assumed they had a gin stash of their own! I would have thought it was unimaginable, and to be honest sometimes I still do!

Other things have changed too... haircuts, outfits, research projects, facebook profile shots, affairs of the heart. Yes, team, I'm getting reflective. I'm looking back over the year, seeing it in reverse, looking across the wide scope of things my time here has given me. As I look back, I find that I can't help but smile.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Journeys and seasons

Today's post is for yesterday. Tomorrow I'll write for today. Things are started to back up on the 'to do' list, and there's a concertina of tasks in my diary. Life is still fine, and wonderful, but the season is changing.

The trees outside my house in Toronto are covered in bright green leaves: baby, fresh, enthusiastic clumps of leaves. Spring in these kinds of places is so clearly marked, and the season it marks for me this year is that it's time to pack up and move again.

In a month I leave my apartment, in six weeks I'm flying to Aotearoa, in three months time I will be living and working in Hawai'i. So many journeys ahead, and such a huge amount of organisation and planning to do... but also, in the middle of it all, what a privilege!

Yesterday (Friday), Aboriginal Studies had a farewell for four of us who are leaving for new adventures: two women who have taught in the dept for a few years, Daniel who has taught there for a decade, and me. We gathered in the Turtle Lounge, spent time together, and those of us leaving had an opportunity to talk. Afterwards, an elder stood up and offered some thoughts about the day.

Quite a few things caught in my mind, and one of them was about the relationship between journeys and knowledge. He looked at us all and reminded us that those who journey carry knowledges with them. We spend quite a bit of time thinking about knowledge being tied to specific places, and it has been good for me to reflect on the responsibility and privilege of carrying knowledges. Carrying knowledges. Not owning them, not controlling them, not managing them. Taking them from place to place, being engaged in a vibrant and complex ecosystem, leaving them where they should be. Carrying things requires organisation, planning, people at each end, thought about containers and vessels and timing.

As I work out the details of the next few weeks and months, I will take the time to reflect on what else I have the privilege to carry with me from place to place. Who will need what? How will I ensure things get there? How shall I carry things? How will I prepare myself so I know I can complete the task ahead?  

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

shiny

I'm in the airport departure lounge at Minneapolis - about to board a plane bound for Toronto. Home. Not home. Home.

The taxi driver who brought me here from the Uni of Minn was lovely - we chatted the whole way - and when we were talking about the weather here, he said 'yes today was supposed to be shiny.'

Lots of things about the last few days feel shiny... I've had a lovely trip to Minneapolis, hosted beautifully by the crew at American Indian Studies here, and also getting to meet the people at U of M press, the wonderful press who published my book.

After saying goodbye to Mum and Dad at the Toronto airport, and shedding a few tears as they jetted off, I went to wait for my own flight here. This trip was a blessing - an opportunity to come here, and enjoy the people and place here, but also an opportunity to avoid going home straight after the airport to an empty house. Things felt a bit dull after Mum and Dad left, and I feel a bit like I've been gently buffed while I've been here... I miss them, of course, but I've also been given the chance to get my head into the next phase of things: finishing things in Toronto, fulfilling commitments I've made to vairous projects, packing up, moving on.

Minneapolis was lovely: dinner on Sunday nite with Jeani, Brenda and David, three colleagues who are really mentors... more senior than me, with a lot to teach me. Yesterday was lunch, hanging with Jeani, going to the Press, giving my talk on campus, an 'aftermatch' at Jeani's place with colleagues and new friends, and finally - finally - when I got home, a wonderful long session facebook chatting with someone amazing. This morning I slept in (slept in! unthinkable!) and then met friends Evan and Cathy for lunch before coming here. And hearing about how today was supposed to be shiny.

Maybe there are a few clouds in the skies above Minnesota this afternoon, but as for me I have to say my time here has been a tonic. And now I feel, um, shiny :)