Saturday 22 March 2008

Tribes and Tributes. Part Two.

April 4th, 1969, a rainy Good Friday morning. We had gathered at the steps of Vancouver City Hall, all united in the same cause; To help the native people; To increase awareness of their plight.
This was the start of the most memorable Easter weekend of my life. We prepared ourselves for day one of our three day, one hundred mile walk. 'Moccasin Miles' had begun and this fifteen your old lad was thrilled with the anticipation of the great adventure that lay before us.
Through the incessant pouring rain, we finally reached out first destination. Completely drenched, it was so comforting to be inside the warm shelter of Langley Secondary High School. Our first day's travel had brought us almost thirty miles east of Vancouver. Time to relax, time to dry out and prepare ourselves for a night that will be firmly engrained in the minds of so many.
That evening, in the high school gymnasium, we were treated to a 'Pow Wow'. Pow Wow, a sensory delight of dancing, music and a traditional native people's feast. The chants, the festive and spiritual songs, were of joy and celebration. The pounding of the native drums had a powerful effect on this young, wide-eyed, teenage boy. Humanity, from all walks of life, bonded that night in respect and admiration for the tribes of British Columbia.
It was getting late, the Pow Wow drew to a conclusion. It was time to get some sleep, we slept in classrooms. I headed into a room and found a spot to place my sleeping bag. I looked around and realised I was the only white person in the room. All around me were native people from the great tribes of British Columbia.
I felt no discomfort being the only white guy in that classroom. Why should I? Then the good-natured banter began. They noticed me and proceeded to mention a sign that had been placed on the window of the classroom door. "Think you had better read the sign on the door" they chuckled. Clambering over a collection of sleeping bags, I stumbled to the door and read the sign. 'No white men allowed', it stated. Upon my reading it, everyone in the room started to laugh. I laughed too, it was just a bit of fun.
That night in the classroom, we broke down the barriers, we knew that to stigmatise someone because of the colour of their skin, or the sterotypes society had imposed, was to devalue them as human beings. I like to think that I base my perceptions on how people are towards me. To pass judgement, based on misconceptions, is a crime on humanity. Reflecting upon that wonderful day, I drifted off to sleep, the sound of the native drums, a gentle lull in my mind.
I call upon the First Nation's people. May your spirituality continue to inspire me.

Friday 14 March 2008

The Freedom to Find Each Other

It was early July in 1980. Our 1973, silver grey, Dodge Polara, my 'Smokey and the Bandit' mobile, was packed and ready to go.
We had quit our jobs, given up our apartment and put our few possessions into storage. We knew we were taking a risk, it virtually assured an uncertain future. Yet an uncertain future seemed favourable in comparison to the tragic past my future wife had endured.
We sat in our car and prepared for a two month adventure on the open road. We left Vancouver to drive on the Trans Canada Highway to the wonderful city of Montreal, a distance of almost 3400 miles. Before us lay countryside, more diverse, more awe-inspiring that I had imagined. Once leaving the urban sprawl of Greater Vancouver, we reached the Fraser Valley. Onwards we drove through the splendour of British Columbia, through the Okanagan Valley, heading further east to the majesty of the Rockies.
Surrounded by the magnificent backdrop of the Rockies, Veronica and I found an ideal location to stay for the night. The sun was setting behind enormous mountains, the swirling river beside us produced sounds that reached into my inner tranquility. It was a night to remember, we both drifted of into a deep, peaceful sleep. Alone in the wilds, alone with the lady I loved so much.
Our adventure continued. Through the Rockies, through the foothills of Alberta and into Calgary. Calgary, affectionately known as 'Cowtown', and home of the world famous Calgary Stampede. Our stop in this city was a brief but an interesting experience. We had to keep going, Canada is a very large country.
The landscape began to change dramatically. No longer was the terrain a mountainous or even a hilly splendour. For now we had reached Medicine Hat, Alberta and beyond that was a vast, flat expanse. We had reached the Prairies. As far as the eye could could see, was a panorama of overwheming flatness. The contrast in scenery was truly staggering.
Hundreds upon hundreds of miles of prairie lay before us. As our adventure moved on we arrived in the Province of Saskatchewan. Veronica and I visited the towns of Swift Current and Moose Jaw (how Canadian does the town of 'Moose Jaw' sound eh?). I have fond memories of Moose Jaw. We went and watched 'Close Encounters of Third Kind'..(yeah and we also went to the cinema there!).
Soon our travels would take us to Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan. A grand old city, right in the heart of the Prairies. Yet we did not stay long. Our curiosity led us to a destination about thirty miles north east of Regina. We had got some information of a town that had landscape very different to what we had seen during the last week or so. Upon reaching Fort Qu'Appelle, the information we had been given was no exaggeration. From the incredibly flat land that we had grown accustomed too was this town with hills that could be best described as very large bumps. A bizarre extreme to the terrain that we had been experiencing. There are even facilities for downhill skiing. Hard to believe what we observed , such a short distance away from the flattest darn land I had ever seen.
Yet, it gets even better. Not only were these hills standing proudly in the heart of the Prairies, we found a beach! Yes that's right, a beach smack dab in the middle of Canada. The beach was by a lake named Echo. You guessed it..before our eyes was Echo Beach. ("Echo Beach..far away in time"..hmmm..).
Quite the memory but it was time to move on. Onwards to Manitoba, onwards to Winnipeg (also known fondly, well during the cold season, as 'Winterpeg'). Winnipeg, capital of Manitoba and home to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. I like Winnipeg, however, there is one street corner you best avoid. The intersection of Portage and Main is evidently the windiest corner in all of North America. Beat that Chicago!
We moved onwards, ever further east, to the Province of Ontario. The land was no longer flat, we were now amongst the forested wilderness of north western Ontario. We came upon lake, a beautiful, pristine lake. Yet something was wrong. The water was clear, the fish floated on the surface, the fish were dead. We were sad, the tears streamed downed our faces. Had we witnessed the devastating consequences of industrial pollution?
We started heading south. Our southward route took us through Thunder Bay and past Lake Superior. Our next major destination would be Canada's largest city. Toronto, a huge cosmopolitan city. A 'melting pot' of humanity from all corners of the world. We went up to the top of the C.N. tower where the views were spectacular. One day, I hope to spend more time in this great Canadian city.
We had to move on, a month had nearly gone by and we were halfway through our money. Time to reach our final destination. Ah Montreal! Canada's second largest city and one of the biggest French speaking cities in the world. I loved Montreal. There is a quaint, 'old world' feel to this wonderful city. I recall, how we strolled through the grounds of the world's fair. I remember as a lad, seeing Expo 67 on the television. Expo 67 was a celebration of mankind. It also marked the centenary of the great nation of Canada. Montreal, a proud French-Canadian city in a proud, blessed country.
It was time return, to head west, to retrace the 3400 miles back to our home, back to Vancouver. I think back on those eventful two months in the summer of 1980. I smile as I remember those occasions that stay so fixed in my thoughts. The beer parlour in Pincher Creek, Alberta where all night long this one guy kept saying: "well I'll be a hound dog!" The night we slept in our car by a farm near Niagara Falls, only to be startled by a police officer, who shone a light on us. The time we slept in our tent by the shores of Lake Ontario, only to be woken up and virtually blown away, by an almighty hurricane.
It was an awesome experience. Our 1973, silver grey, Dodge Polara got us back to Vancouver. The journey had given us the chance to find each other, away from the evil that had left her so deeply traumatised. At last, without negative distractions, we began to discover the true love we had for each other. We had the freedom to find each other. If only that freedom had been lasting. For the 'ghosts' of her horrendous past continued to haunt her.
In a future blog, I will tell you about the disgraceful events that lead us to make a fresh start. I thank you for your time.

Tuesday 4 March 2008

A Naked Blog.

This will be a naked blog. Before you visualise me typing away, minus clothing, this blog has nothing to do with physical nudity. I am beginning to question, once again, my place in the world beyond my front door.
I bare to you the inner turmoil, the sense of confusion, that lurks beneath my perceived bravado. I became a recluse when life immersed me with disillusionment. When I finally released myself from a self-imposed mental prison, the experience of freedom was exhilarating.
Yet lately, reminders of what life used to be like have begun to repeat in an ominous fashion. Perhaps it is not realistic, but I want to live in a world devoid of people 'politics' and inappropriate 'mind games'. Sadly, I have witnessed situations in my new life that have left me stressed, confused and disappointed. This has become a profound challenge to my vulnerable confidence. I am scared but I will not give up. Clinging onto inspirational moments has been vital in my ongoing journey to a more positive life.
Even though recently I have felt undermined and disrespected; I challenge that feeling. I feel the stress, I sense the tension and I know I will do my utmost to not let it destroy my morale. For through my resilience, I wish to give hope to my new friends who have also been undermined and devalued. I will not be strangled by quilt for having the courage to do what I know is right. I draw strength from the support of those who are sincere to me. Anxiety nearly killed me, this man chooses to live on.
Tomorrow, when I go out the front door, I walk out stronger and even more determined. Ideally, any frustration that happens in my private, personal life must not follow me out that front door. I will learn to be assertive, hopefully without arrogance, to the people I meet in my daily life. If only I could be assertive to those I love.
In the naked inner-depths of my mind, lies the bare essence of who I am. Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem will not defeat my naked reality. Undaunted, this recent 'pothole' along my road to recovery, has been driven past...Gary moves on. May your journey be positive.