I must continue to choose the dirt, gravel road over the labored asphalt roadways that many know so well. Gravel roads, to me, the suburb-raised musician but outdoor enthusiast, are synonymous with adventure, unknown, new, undisturbed. On Saturday October 3, 2015, I was invited to visit a space that initially met these terms head-on: adventure, unknown, new and undisturbed. Now, throw in nervous, slightly apprehensive and self-conscious, and a match is made. Occasionally, I worry that land spaces as embodied beings have the capacity to judge, accept and deny. Perhaps, upon entering the land of Gadsby Lake near Tees, Alberta, I considered the possibility of land-space denial. Yet, after being in this space only a short while feeling the fresh, fragrant and fruitful earth below my (damp!) feet, a deep sense of relaxation and ease roused throughout my body and mind.
Inside the land’s homestead, I was greeted by many loving, warm, spirited individuals. Some I already knew very well and was reuniting with after time apart. Some I was meeting for the first time. Throughout the home, an energy of shared-space, shared-ideals, compassionate-community resonated from room to room. Before sitting down to an enormous and bountiful potluck brunch, we gathered in the main living space to reflect and share moments of truth or of thanksgiving and gratitude. I spoke of the land below my feet, the sensations of new earth, and my gratitude for being invited to a sacred and safe environment. From there, we gathered around the table, filling our bellies with a cornucopia of nourishment. I was grateful to sit next to two people whom I had yet to know. Don’t get me wrong — I love sitting by old friends and chatting up a storm! Yet there is something quite renewing in sitting beside an unfamiliar face, sparking new, fresh conversation. We soon told stories of our lives: where we have traveled, lived, studied, how we connect and understand the gracious land around us near Tees. Although, as I say, many of those also gathered were people I’d never met before, I felt, through our mutual ideals and opportunity to have conversations, as though we’d begun our friendship long long ago. Is that not a wonderful feeling?
Following brunch on that rainy and chilly Saturday morning, we took some time to digest and relax in the spaces around us. Then, plans to explore the land and outside-world naturally arose from the group as but simply the next, right thing to do. When these plans were unfolding though,”adventure, unknown, new, undisturbed” returned to mind. However, having been in the presence and company of such gorgeous people that morning… there was nothing more I craved than, in fact, exploring of the land around me in its unknownableness! We donned our warm clothing and headed to the homestead porch into the cool Fall breeze. Some linking arms and all breathing the refreshing, renewing, and energizing Fall prairie air, we made to a nearby field that once welcomed wild horses of grace and and beauty. Here, Carmelle Mohr unwrapped and explained the rich histories and peoples that have found peace, acceptance, love, and hope in hard lives at this particular field, and in each place we walked and gathered throughout that day. While learning and observing the natural world surrounding that first field, I felt as though, though no longer there (or not yet returned rather!) the horses continued to roam; their energy, spirit, and vigor continue to be as much a part of that land as we were that Saturday afternoon.
From the field that once welcomed the wild and free, we made our way to a more substantial crop field (my apologies for not knowing the technical name). The view. I cannot begin to describe the view. Looking east, a small lake appears and pleasured our sights. Ahead of us towards the lake, we learned that indigenous persons of many communities and foundations joined and performed sacred, traditional healing practices. Here, a soaring tipi once stood. While absorbing and cherishing this blessed past and dreams and hopes of return in the near future, we learned that Carmelle’s grandfather held indigenous communities in tremendous regard and relationship. I have spent considerable time reflecting on this. I understand my surroundings and urbanized center (where I currently reside) as corporate structures that have become but “normative;” the common-practice. It’s true – at times I practice corporate, commercialized and materialistic life. Yet, I am thankful for my awareness of these ways. What would it be like to be raised in indigenous communities, acknowledging the land, the soil, and the plains as fruitful and truly sacred beings? Perhaps we do not need to be raised by Indigenous persons to gain this awareness, gratitude, and sensation of oneness with the earth, the tress, the leafs, and and the soil. Perhaps our awareness of sacred lands and spaces can come about as a result of the communities we engage with. By surrounding ourselves with like-minded, caring, and deeply loving people and communities, no matter how big or small, we, together, become energized, spirited, and blessed by the earth beneath our feet and the rich foliage that meets our eyes.
Before leaving that space to return to an urbanized center, I was asked to dream and imagine what could come of those sacred spaces in future years. I will continue to ponder and imagine that land and space for many years to come, and I hope to return very soon. In this precise moment, while reflecting and writing this entry, I understand that land near Tees, Alberta as a unique, uplifting, and welcoming space for reconciliation, truth, story-sharing, and gathering. Perhaps many of the Indigenous communities that once shared that soil and space can come together again with non-Indigenous persons in coexistence. From there, perhaps we can learn from each other, explore the land again, and forge moments of peace, sacredness, life. Together, it is my hope that we breathe the same air in communion with the soil, the trees, the water, the wildlife, the natural world, and with each other.