Chisasibi (on the Grand River, below Longue Po...

Chisasibi (on the Grand River, below Longue Pointe) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chisasibi community centre

Chisasibi community centre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)










I’m writing this from the winter wonderland of Chisasibi, my spirit home.

There is one way that I naturally conjure Chisasibi in my mind, and that is draped in snowy whiteness. Blessed the Gods for granting the gift of letting me see it again this way this week. It is strange that people’s greatest fear when they move up north is the harshness of winter. Invariably, after the first passage of the seasons, all agree that they wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve re-connected with so many old friends and received so many hugs and smiles over the last couple of days, that it indeed felt like a homecoming.

Last night, I walked 30 minutes in a storm. I could hardly see in the dark, the ground was covered in a slippery film and powdered snow swept across the landscape in a continuous wave. Luckily, I had the wind at my back and I was muffled in all the necessary items: my North Face parka, my Sorel boots, my -40 degree mittens, peruvian wool hat and wool tights under my jeans. I felt alive! I felt invincible! Out there, with the elements, hundreds of kilometers from any settlements in the vastness of the taiga, I felt one hundred feet tall. Just me and the elements. It can’t feel more honest than that.
As I was walking, I asked myself: ‘What is it about this place?’

I can’t put my finger on it. Anyone listening to our meeting discussions this week would hear of a thousand problems the community is facing. There is a history of pain and trauma that manifests itself into a slew of clichés about aboriginal populations. I don’t even want to name them here. Naming them just reinforces their power and no matter how much we try, there is always a hint of judgement in it. More tragic than the issues we hear and deal with are those we don’t see and don’t hear, upheld by an insidious law of silence which keeps everything safe and pretty and prevents vulnerable people from being free.

So despite all this, why is it that I can breathe here? Why is it that I feel that inner calm in spite of all the trauma and fear that still hangs in the air?

I’m trying to put my finger on it and it just keeps slipping away.

Obviously, there is the air that is just cleaner of everything: pollution, noise, vibration. I feel my senses can relax here. I am not constantly listening to noise.

But there is something else about it. The closer I can come to naming it, I think, is Resilience. There is a resilience that stirs the wind and shapes the very landscape. It feels human, with all its struggles and its fundamental yearnings. There is no need to pretend. Just being honest about today. Tomorrow may bring something new, but today is what it is. Just being. Yes, I think that is it. Just being.

As I was walking, a little bit of nostalgia found its way in my heart, but it vanished in an instant. I know that this place exists. No matter where I am in the world, I know that it exists somewhere. I can always come back to it.
I wish you all to find your own Chisasibi.