25 pieces of my year as a 25-year-old: a collection of words, bits of conversation, images, and sounds that I remember to be defining, memorable, and true.
“Food serves two parallel purposes: it nourishes and it helps you remember. Eating and storytelling are inseparable – the saltwater is also tears; the honey not only tastes sweet, but makes us think of sweetness; the matzo is the bread of our affliction.” Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
In southwestern Uganda, women are responsible for growing food on land owned by men. In Kabale, it was women I saw plunging their hand-hoes into the hard earth, sowing seeds to nourish their families and their communities. 85% of food producers in southwestern Uganda are subsistence agriculturalists, producing food to meet the needs of their families rather than earn cash on the market.
In Rukiga, the local language, the women tending plots of land scattered along the hillside are known as “abahingi” or “people who dig.” It was the women digging who inspired me to question the ways growing food is a gendered experience.
Tarot outcomes, June 2015
“This card suggests control of passions and emotions, the suppression of undesirable thoughts and actions. It is self-discipline. The combined power of outrage and strength in overcoming difficulties. This card indicates reaching maturity, the end of the rashness of youth. Perhaps initiation, a trial by fire.
Gentleness quietens the severity of the beast. Coming to terms with one’s instinctive urges. The subjugation of the lion stands for control of the passions, pride, ignorance, and base instincts in general. It is discipline.
Reconciliation with an enemy, either internally – perhaps regarding one’s basic instincts, the gain of moral control – or externally with human enemies. This reconciliation may take the form of reaching an agreement, overcoming strife, or it may simply be an acceptance of the state of things as they are. This card brings forth concepts of diplomacy, or patience and endurance.
There is also suggestion that the enemy within should be pacified before attempting to tackle the enemy without.”
“This card indicates a casting off of the past. A change of thought or approach. Now is the time for looking to the future. A transformation of some kind. This is a turning point in one’s life. There may be a change of personality, possibly a complete change in one’s way of life or circumstances. There is a new and brighter view of the future. In general, the changes indicated by this card will be for the better.”
Vision board, June 2015
“You know, when a shark stops swimming, it dies.”
“Art, literature, and music have a long history of thriving (although not always condoned) from political dissatisfaction and unrest. The frustration of one’s surroundings has the tendency to push one’s creative limits, while enabling the courage to say, “Fuck you” to the power that be.”
“My project: protecting and restoring the natural world.”
“The free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it – basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them.” Charles Bukowski, Tales of Ordinary Madness
“Write me a haiku. I want to know what you’re thinking for once.”
He is cold iron.
Smell in his blood, elixir,
what makes stars explode.
The Red Tent
The hours between 10:00pm and 2:00am came to be known as “The Red Tent” in the basement, a space where coffee stewed and indie playlists kept beat while a classic guitar named Aurelia bellowed against the pale yellow walls. The Red Tent was a space where two twenty-something-year-olds celebrated uteruses, menstrual cups, and vegan chocolate in a home filled with plants named after classic rock musicians.
Late July I faced a love dilemma. “Let’s see what the cards have to say,” she said, digging through a chest filled with not one, but four decks of tarot cards.
At 1:00am I draw cards to complete a Celtic Cross Spread. “Now, pull two cards that represent your outcomes,” she says. “Because everyone deserves to have a choice.”
Typical of most of my personal tarot readings, the outcomes I draw represent stark opposites: The Hermit (internalization) and The Fool (impulsivity). “I know how we can decide,” she says. “Stand on each card, face-down, and meditate on how you feel.”
This past week we have been practicing “body literacy.” She says it’s the idea that your muscles hold memories and know you better than you think. We have two pieces of paper – one with “Yes” written across its glossy surface, the other with “No.” Every morning we stand on each, paying attention to how our bodies respond to positive and negative thoughts. On “Yes” I feel grounded, on “No” I feel wavered. She feels a tingling sensation from her toes to her head on “Yes” and a tingling sensation from her head to her toes on “No.”
I feel grounded as I stand on one of the face-down tarot cards strewn across my kitchen floor. She dives for my feet, eager to reveal my supposed fate: The Fool.
“Everything we need is in our backyard,” she says, as we delve deeper into the depths of the Kootenay mountains, searching for medicinal plants.
Permaculture design, August 2016
I made my first tincture (but, surely, not my last) using the roots of Elecampane, a vibrant plant with yellow petals, long leaves, and a potent smelling root resembling the scent of banana.
In Ancient China, Elecampane was planted outside windows as the large leaves produced musical sounds during periods of rain. Full of Inulin, Elecampane root eases respiratory discomfort, aids digestive health, and has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
“Jiggs would follow us along the length of our trapline, even during the heart of winter. We would spend days on end in the middle of the bush, where the spruce groves are told to be sacred,” he murmurs, gently applying pressure along the red and purple waves of Shingles that plague his aging hands.
“A moose that’s afraid of thunder. What a sight!” he reminisces, reenacting a lively scene as his feeble childhood body struggled to turn Jiggs’ antlers and successfully squeeze a full-grown moose into the one-room home he shares with his six siblings and loving parents.
“As a fur trapper, you learn quickly to read the land or risk death. Ed Velkjar was lost hunting squirrels one winter. We found his bones and gun against a fallen tree four years later.”
Massaging the length of his hand with the flesh of his index finger, he steadily breathes life into eighty-five years of fading memories.
“In the hungry thirties, you could earn seven to ten cents a squirrel. Back then, that was real money. October was a good month for trapping squirrels.”
My grandfather’s hands hold a wealth of knowledge, occluded by remnant stains of the land and the invasive hues of Shingles. The deep, rhythmic tones of his aged voice tell his story, animated by the whispered melodies of fallen leaves as they tangle with barren branches and the worn native prairie grasses at my feet.
As he speaks, I fixate on the constellation of creases embedded in his hands. A map that, if followed closely, tells tales of a spirited boy, with a pet moose, who grew old trapping squirrels in the depths of the bush.
My grandfather rocks steadily in a wooden, hand-carved armchair on the front hearth of the home that holds my family’s history. His flannel shirt whimpers in the wind, held against his chest by brown suspenders that support his worn Wranglers on the rugged frame of an aging man who lived off the land.
I sink my feet into the warmth of the earth, listening to the songs of birds and inhaling the breath of trees. The rhythmic motion of my lungs sync with the pulse of the forest encapsulating us. And, I wonder, is the tendency to breathe deeper in the midst of trees a trait that can be inherited?
Federal election, October 2016
“Canadians are looking for a different approach. One that embraces diversity and understands what we can achieve together. One that recognizes social inequality to be a real problem that requires our collective efforts to solve. One that does not project fear of the unknown but explores possibilities with a sense of optimism and ingenuity.” The Harper Decade
I have never been a fan of tampons. I remember the first time I used one. At thirteen-years-old, I didn’t really understand the concept of insertion. I “inserted” the tampon between my labia, perpendicular to my vaginal opening. Needless-to-say, this approach to tampon use was inaccurate, uncomfortable, and highly ineffective. I found out within a couple hours that I had made a huge mistake.
Carrying a latent resentment towards tampons over the past twelve years, I was relieved to discover menstrual cups. I appreciate knowing I can leave it in all day without fear of bleeding through my jeans. With this reliable piece of information in mind, I also learned it is neither necessary nor wise to empty my menstrual cup while in a public washroom.
I did once. I also dropped my partially full menstrual cup on the floor, splattering my menstrual blood across the floor of my bathroom stall and the adjacent bathroom stall of the woman next to me. A quarter-once of menstrual blood appears to be a much larger volume when splattered across a stained tile floor, creating an artistic mosaic remnant of a scene in a low-budget crime film.
I said, “Fuck.” She said, “Oh my God” and kicked my emptied menstrual cup in my direction.
Menstruation still delivers moments of shame at 25. But, it also delivers feelings of connectedness, creativity, and appreciation.
I dread the time
when your mouth
begins to call me hunter.
Leonard Cohen, Beneath my Hands
Vue Weekly, February 2016
“Using glue sticks, lotions, and lubricants, a community of women in Edmonton is proving there’s more to the menstrual cycle than what was discussed in junior high health classes.”
If you were to describe me with three adjectives, what would they be?
“Fiery. Passionate. And, someone who puts others’ before their self, almost to a fault… I think there’s a word for that,” he says.
“Martyr,” I finish.
Third-best worst opening line: “You look healthy for a vegan.”
Second-best worst opening line: “You seem like you would have nice breasts.”
Best worst opening line: “I want you to squirt on me.”
“Shake me all out if I’m wrong for you.”
I haven’t been able to shake this impending feeling of doom. If no one is talking about the degrading influence of animal agriculture on our environment, we’re going to burn. All I can think to do is crawl into a hole and wait for it to be over, wait to roast vegan marshmallows on the ashes of society.
“How long have you been vegan?” she asks.
“That happened to me around the three year mark, too. Feeling terrified about the unacknowledged destruction of our environment.”
The word menstruation comes from the Greek word “menus,” meaning both “moon” and “power.” Before tampons and the birth control pill, ancient cultures used menstrual blood during rituals. For instance, the pharaohs of ancient Egypt ingested menstrual blood to strengthen connections to the spirits. Women practicing African-American Hoodoo even cast a spell on their desired lover by secretly adding menstrual blood to their food. This new moon challenges you to say goodbye to modern taboos concerning menstruation. Reconnect to the power of menstruation and be mindful to not let your sacred blood go to waste. Sit with your sisters, nourish the Earth, and concoct love potions. Cherish the knowledge that you are a life-giving force.
“I could sense your frustration. Forgive me for saying (and I don’t at all mean this in a condescending way) but, I really sense that deeper, more aligned relationships are waiting for you. Mostly because people, old souls like you, go an extra step when searching for truth. And, when you are searching, you tend to bump into other truth-seekers. Everything about you sparkles and, therefore, if anyone passes it up, it speaks only to their fear of light and goodness. You are an incredible woman and you inspire me all the time. I am really grateful for our friendship.”
- Gentleness and kindness; feelings of deep affection; devotion
- Sensitivity to pain
“When did you last spend time with the people and places that remind you of beauty and tenderness?”
“The day capitalism is forced to tolerate non-capitalist societies in its midst and to acknowledge limits in its quest for domination, the day it is forced to recognize that its supply of raw material will not be endless, is the day when change will come. If there is any hope for the world at all, it does not live in climate-change conference rooms or in cities with tall buildings. It lives low down on the ground, with its arms around the people who go to battle every day to protect their forests, their mountains and their rivers because they know that the forests, the mountains and the rivers protect them.” Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
#BreakFree, May 2016
“It was a whirlwind of a night. I had just caught sight of a black head of hair being whisked by me and I could hear the cry of my firstborn over the commotion in the delivery room. In an instant, I was connected with this tiny individual and every protective instinct a human being can feel was awake. No book, no class, no passing of wisdom prepares you for the emotions that surge through you. Unconditional love. As this bundle was placed in my arms, a smile crossed my face and a lump caught in my throat. Then fear. My heart and mind raced. I asked myself, “Am I capable?” What defined me several minutes ago now is extinct. I was a mom. My whole purpose in life centered around assuring the wellbeing of this beautiful baby girl. My life was never the same nor did I ever want it to be.
Her personality was evident instantly. Her eyes were wide and searching, interested in the world around her, an explorer. Gentle and kind. I still can hear her coos and smell the sweet scent of her hair when I close my eyes. To breathe deeply in the scent of baby is like the slow drawn inhale of a bouquet of roses: a divine, rare pleasure. It was the most momentous moment of my life, becoming a mom at 25.”
“It is a grandmother’s job to spoil her grandchildren. Motherly rules dissipate and common sense dissolves. It is a land of fairy tales, where all things are forgiven and no rules abide. Your grandmothers doted on you. Anything you wanted to try, they would indulge. You baked buns at the tender age of 2. You were a hairdresser by 3. They would rock, walk, and swing you for hours, all in the name of putting you to sleep. Their influences could be seen in your choice of music from “Bye Baby Bunting” to “Amazing Grace.” Your musical interests come from your Grandma James. She would sing and play to you all the time. I believe your love of the human race has been instilled by your Grandma Bohning. You spent many hours with both. They would dine with you and your dollies on high noon tea, chase you in countless games of shrilling laughter. Today, I feel as if they are here. The person you are exemplifies their spirit.”
“According to author Vladimir Nabokov, the Russian word toska means “a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness.” Linguist Anna Wierzbicka says it conveys an emotion that blends melancholy, boredom and yearning. Journalist Nick Ashdown suggests that for someone experiencing toska, the thing that’s yearned for may be “intangible and impossible to actually obtain.” How are you doing with your own toska, Gemini? Is it conceivable that you could escape it—maybe even heal it? I think you can. I think you will. Before you do, though, I hope you’ll take time to explore it further. Toska has more to teach you about the previously hidden meaning of your life.” Gemini horoscope, May 2016
In the midst of an experiment in container gardening, I find myself engulfed in seeds, bursting Fiddlehead ferns, and the songs of Chickadees. Elbows deep in soil, a weathered voices echoes over the fence. “You know what, young lady?” she says. “The woman who used to own this house would love you.”
My inquisitive neighbour lives with two annoying dogs, in a yard overgrown with broken rakes, poorly-situated composted bins, and a forest of perennials. Her voice carries the weight of seventy-something years of living.
Pulling on the frayed wire that opens a discrete gate connecting our properties, she continues to tell me about her friend who spent hundreds of hours in this garden.
“She was an incredible gardener. Her sweet peas grew as tall as the garage,” she says, pointing toward the crevice between the garage and the fence, now overgrown with Maple saplings. “No one has gardened here since she passed away, nearly five years ago.”
“She was also an incredible philanthropist. She gave baskets of food from her garden to a single mother living around the corner,” she says. “Her name was Thelma and this is a place filled with love.”
When I think of growing old, I dream of becoming someone like Thelma. I dream of feeling settled at 75, as I sit on my porch, staring into my abundant, thriving garden, listening to the songs of birds, knowing I fought as hard as I could for 75 years. There’s a life partner beside me. Not necessarily a lover, but someone who has been on a similar journey, someone like the woman with the weathered voice on the other side of the fence.
“Have you ever used crystals before?” he whispers.
Yes, sort of. I don’t have one, but I’ve played around with them in magical places before.
“I have a crystal. I carry it with me all the time, in my pocket.”
Do you want to calibrate it?
“What do you mean?”
Crystals can be used for lots of things: healing, cleansing, storing negative experiences. But, also for making decisions. You just need to be able to recognize what the crystal feels like when the answer is “yes” and what the crystal feels like when the answer is “no.”
“This is going to make a great story.”