When our mother calls, best we listen. We always show up when it's time to eat, but other times, not so much. This month, I've been keenly listening to our mother. Earth, that is.
A few weeks ago, Sharon Butala
, an award-winning author of seventeen books, handed me a brochure for a Writers' Weekend in Silverton, B.C. From Calgary, that's a one-day drive through the Rocky Mountains and Slocan Valley. The theme for the weekend was "The Spirit in the Landscape." Along with Butala, J. Edward Chamberlin
was on the bill. His book, If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories? took its title from a question asked by a Gitskan Elder during land claim negotiations. Who could resist? My husband, Bill, said, "Book two spaces."
The conference was different from other writers' conference I've attended in the N.W.T., Alberta or Ontario. At first, I couldn't put my finger on why. Heading back through the mountains, it came to me. These writers were not only interested in seeing their name in a byline, blog or book cover, necessarily. They attended the conference to learn from experts how to use writing to help readers connect with the land and give voice to the Earth.
Who better to listen to than Butala and Chamberlin? Three of Butala's books, Coyote's Morning Cry, The Perfection of the Morning
and Wild Stone Heart
were especially helpful — and beautiful — in describing a woman's experience as a "pilgrim of the wild." I remember the buzz when she spoke about them at St. Stephen's College in Edmonton.
In addition to their solo presentations, Butala and Chamberlin joined a panel with journalist and poet Sean Arthur Joyce
, spiritual director and writer Rev. Dr. Therese DesCamp
and Sinixt Cultural Consultant Virgil Seamore, on whose land we were met. I was happy to learn that The United Church of Canada was one of the event sponsors.
Two weeks later, we were in Saskatoon, about a one-day drive east from Calgary. We saw prairies and antelope this time, rather than forest and lakes. We were guests of my sister, Marty Brown, who took us to a funky theatre on Broadway (yes), where Candance Savage
had collaborated with Maria Campbell
to create an event for teaching through storytelling, ritual and song, honouring the South Saskatchewan River there. Candace's cross-genre Geography of Blood is a must read for Canadians. Maria Campbell's Half-breed is another. Campbell's life of activism and story on behalf of the First peoples and the land are a testament to her passion and courage. It was an honour to hear her, too.
Shortly after returning home, Bill addressed a Calgary City Council committee, which was discussing the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action (The very readable report, White Goose Flying
is worth studying. It could help other Canadian towns or cities model their own response to the Calls.).
In his remarks, Bill brought together the two major Canadian issues, the land and the peoples of this land, calling us together to heal Earth and each other. I believe that this openness to hearing our Mother's call — and cries — is exactly what The United Church means when we say, we want to “ . . . live with respect in Creation." It's what Mother has been saying all along.