Thursday, 20 February 2014

Life in the north (via the south)

One thing that I should make clear: I'm not a northerner by birth.  I was born in southern Ontario and went north, like so many others, for work, for a change of scenery and to see what "the north" was all about. This means I have a different relationship to place - to this place.  I suppose that my outsider status is keenly felt because I'm also a non-aboriginal living on a Cree reserve: my family and I live in Norway House Cree Nation, an 8-10 hour drive north of Winnipeg. However, looking at a place through a stranger's eyes is not so terrible, not so lonely -- it opens up the possibility of seeing things as fresh, new, unfamiliar.  The presence of novelty - of seeing new sights/ sites - sharpens the senses, quickens the mind.


That said, there's also something profoundly wonderful about seeing the same thing day after day.  Seeing the same tree in the same yard, day in and day out, in all kinds of weather, with new leaves in spring and snow-covered in winter. Through familiarity you begin to see the nuances of small change - the way a shift of light will make the leaves glow, will make the shade under the tree deepen.  And that's what I love about walking, walking the same streets, the same trails through different seasons, in different kinds of weather.  This kind of walking becomes a kind of training, which the Buddhists might call practice: to mindfully see something as both familiar and new (as changed/ changing) all at once.

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