I Have a Responsibility to the Stories Gifted to Me

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Last month, I went to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan with nine other women from SheLoves to participate in the Atamiskakewak National Gathering. The gathering brought together indigenous and non-indigenous peoples to learn and talk together about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its 94 Calls to Action.

My goal for the week was to listen. For five days, I sat in circles and Blanket Exercises, went to panel discussions and a treaty walk. I participated in my first pow wow. I met a powerful group of young people. I heard three generations of people sharing stories. It was deep and hard and good.

Now I am back home and in a bit of an in-between space. I am happy to be back and pick up the comforting routines of my life. Yet I haven’t quite left that precious bubble of my time away. I know I could not emotionally, physically or spiritually sustain living at the intensity of that week. Yet I also know it is temptingly easy to slip back into this life, keeping the people I met and the stories I heard at a distance, as anecdotes for some future conversation. So, in this middle space, as I occupy both sides of this threshold, I am working out how best to transition back to my “regular” life in a way that honors and incorporates what I experienced that week.

The morning before we left Moose Jaw, we gathered in our hotel and spent some time discussing how we were going to re-enter our lives and navigate the inevitable crash that comes after any intense experience. As we talked, I really started to appreciate the need to be intentional. As a participant in and witness to this gathering, I now have a responsibility to take the stories gifted to me into to my world. It won’t happen by accident, though, and so I am trying to be prayerfully intentional to the places I am meant to enter.

As I sift through all the experiences and stories I brought home with me, I am paying attention to where the Spirit is poking me. As I move throughout my day, what conversations come to mind? Who am I still thinking about? As I flip through the notes I made that week, what is sticking out?

I am asking, God, who do I need to remember? And I am asking myself, what do I want to remember? I am attaching physical objects to these specific stories and memories the Spirit is bringing to me over and over. I acknowledge my powerful reaction at the pow wow when I wear the earrings I bought there. I placed the spirit stones chosen for me by a dear friend on my fireplace beside my incense and candles. I have started to make myself a red skirt to remember Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and girls.

I am also very aware that my first reaction of, “This is awful. I have to jump in and fix everything.” is very colonial. So I am moving slowly and watching for the next right step along the path that opens up for me.

Right before I left for Moose Jaw I read My Conversations with Canadians by Lee Maracle, a powerful Coast Salish poet and author. She writes, “Most Canadians think it is enough to know something, but this is not enough–you must commit to the continued growth and transformation of whatever you claim to know.”

As I do this work in the pause between worlds, this admonishment rings over my mediations and actions. The gathering last month is only the beginning. It is the work I do now, to let this experience change me and my world, that will matter.

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Kathleen Bertrand

Kathleen Bertrand

I was born and raised on the West Coast of Canada, but half my heart lives in Brittany, France. I am happiest with a cuppa tea and a good book and I spend the rest of my time in between the mountains and the beach in Port Moody, BC with my husband and two wee ones.
Kathleen Bertrand

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Comments

  1. Thank you for capturing this so beautifully.

    I love that you have tangible objects to remind you of specific memories. Yes, that’s why I love to buy a simple piece of jewelry from an experience, event or journey. It reminds me of the experience and I fee like I walk in solidarity.

    Thank you for leading beautifully on this journey.

  2. I appreciate the Canadian voice to racial tensions we live in. I’ve been hearing g lots from American friends who are trying to be present in their space and I have been noticing the silence on the Canadian front. Thank you for being in this space.

    • Kathleen Bertrand says:

      Yes! I have noticed the same thing. For so many of us Canadians (myself included) we are just waking up to the systemic racism that exists here too. Thank you for acknowledging it too. <3

  3. What an important way to end this weekend – so often I have big experiences and there’s no plan in place for reentry. “Who do I need to remember?” This makes me think of the stories I’ve been offered and what I can do or sit with. Thank you for this process!

    • Kathleen Bertrand says:

      I am learning as I go too Annie! <3 I am glad this resonated with you today.

  4. I’m jolted by your conviction that it is your duty to take the stories gifted to you into your world. I am aware of my own role as the keeper of the stories (in my family, in my community of faith), but I need to be more intentional about putting those stories to good use, ensuring that they will not be lost and that their truth will continue to carry us forward.
    Blessings to you, Kathleen!

    • Kathleen Bertrand says:

      As I have been spending more and more time learning about the indigenous people who lived here first, I have come to understand the concept of story differently. I carry them in a new way. I wish you grace and love as you move into new intentional spaces with your stories Michele!

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