Ah 2017. Where to begin?
2017 was another difficult year for the world. We continued to see the impacts of climate change. We continued to see and experience overt and systemic colonization and racism in attitudes, media, policy and practice. We continued to see people in our communities and across the world suffer. Here on Turtle Island, we continued to hear governments talk about reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples without seeming to be sincere about it. (Or not talk about it at all and enact laws that endanger those standing up for land and water). In so many ways it was a real challenge to read the news this year. To hear of men and women losing their lives simply by walking down the street or for standing up against hatred. It was heart-wrenching and infuriating and it made you want to do something to help. To take action. To ease suffering. To make things better.
And strangely enough, amidst all of these dark and difficult things that we probably all carried the weight of in different ways, people actually did all of these things. Eased. Took action. Made things better.
More than once throughout the year there were these moments of utter joy and complete happiness. Of people coming together. And they weren’t just flashes of light in the dark. They were actual, amazing awesome happenings, creations and movements that shone through all of this icky, oily, wretchedness.
People wrote stunning, powerful pieces filled with beautiful, honest words that countered some of the vitriol that’s been appearing all over the internet. Poems and stories and articles. People stood up for one another and for the earth. In my community people continued to practice our ceremonies and learn our languages and teach others and just be amazing. A group of grade 7 students at a local elementary school learned how to say the long version of Ganohonyohk, our Thanksgiving Address, a powerful land acknowledgement and ceremony for bringing our minds together. People made art and movies and movements towards sustainability. People continued to learn more about the universe we are a part of by being curious and by practicing science. People continued to laugh and be happy and celebrate being Ogwehoweh. People continued to laugh and be happy, thoughtful and curious, period.
For me, all of this activity was incredible and inspiring and it quite honestly kept me going at times. It kept me committed to learning the language and sharing what I’ve learned with my children. It kept me committed to learning and thinking about our rights and responsibilities. It kept me committed to trying to find cool and fun ways to pass that knowledge onto our daughters. It kept me committed to trying to help however I can, which this year was a real struggle. There were so many times when I felt like I wasn’t doing enough or being helpful enough. So many times when I looked out at the world and saw all of these painful happenings and wanted to be able to do more. (Probably, what I actually wanted to do was magic. Like literally wave a wand and make all of it better. Probably, what I still want to do is magic. But alas).
And of course, because I’ve learned the hard way how important it is to take care of your self and take responsibility for your own healing, I want to do things that are true to myself and the kind of work that nourishes my spirit (learning and creating). Ultimately, I think this is why I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to reflect on the past year, and understand some ways that I can learn and create and still be helpful. To understand where/how can I help build a more tolerant and compassionate community, or how my family and I can practice a more sustainable way of living and really understand the changes we need to make. Because on a personal/family level, we are more than ready to make changes and live more sustainably. I am so ready to live in a way that reduces my footprint, that lessens the carbon emissions I’m responsible for, that supports clean energy industries, to spend my money with individuals or companies who share these values, to support local creators. A problem I think I have, is that I don’t know what all of those things are. I have more learning to do. More practicing. And so in 2018, I’ll be making a greater commitment to getting that learning done and making a few changes. But before I get into 2018, here’s a little bit of a recap of some of the very good, completely awesome, worthy of eternal gratitude things that happened this year.
Good Things That Happened This Year & Goals I Reached
I have to say, when it comes to the good things that happened for me and my family in 2017, there really were so many. I didn’t achieve everything I had set out to do in my 2017 goals, but nonetheless I have so much to be grateful for.
Here are some of the highlights:
- My husband and I celebrated our two-year anniversary this past September.
- Our daughters turned three and one
- We spend a week in the Adirondack Mountains and it was AMAZING
- I spent more time in the forest outside our home (Carolinian Forest and so lovely)
- I made a deeper commitment to my language learning and our company published our first Cayuga language book
- I illustrated my first book (the Cayuga language book)
- I read 34 books (Of a goal of 25 & I almost had 35 but just couldn't do it! FYI: My favourite was the Inheritance Trilogy)
- I completed four more courses for my doctorate
- I started writing my dissertation
- I made a lot of art and learned to work with new materials like gouache and masking fluid
- I practiced drawing and painting every week
- My husband and I co-presented about our language learning effort at two conferences
- I organized an Indigenous Research Symposium that had some amazing speakers
- I presented at a local PD Day which was really amazing and I’m so grateful for
- I published three books
- And I wrote. I wrote three short stories, one essay, and three poems. I shared one of the stories on my site but I think I will include all of these in a little collection at some point in the future
And there we have it! Wow. I have to say, writing this list honestly made me so happy—I can see why it’s a good practice to go back and look at the positive things that happened.
That said, even though it was a wonderful year in many ways it was also challenging for me in that I didn’t produce as much writing as I normally do. In a way this isn’t surprising because I was working on my dissertation, and I knew going into 2017 that my research was going to take up a lot of my time and energy. But creative writing is a big part of how I learn about the world and how I take care of myself, and so I need to make sure that I make it more of a priority in 2018.
It was also a different kind of year because halfway through it I made a commitment to become a better speaker of the Cayuga language—another effort that will continue into 2018. I started this more serious learning work in September and though it was disrupted by the symposium planning in November, I can still share that I learned a lot of language in the last four months and am able to use a lot more of it at home as a result. This effort will continue into 2018 and once my dissertation is out of the way, I’ll be able to focus on it much more. And we (my husband and I) have a lot of plans for things we can do to learn over the next year. So this is something I’m very excited about!
Looking ahead to 2018
Overall then, my goals for 2018 are to continue to do a lot of what made the last few years so special. To read a lot. To write a lot. To make art. To learn more language. To read more legends and do more research. To live more sustainably. To be a healthy creative person who eats well, sleeps well and exercises often. To spend more time with people I love and respect. And to share the positive energy these activities generate with the world. I also want to be more strategic in the kind of activism that I engage in and to involve myself more and support education initiatives that can lay the groundwork for relationships and networks that are sustainable, and respectful, and transformative.
I also have some more specific goals, which are:
- To write 500 creative words a day.
- To write 500 non-fiction/academic words a day
- To finish and defend my dissertation work.
- To publish 2 books.
- To read 25 books.
- To record an audio book of Spirit & Intent.
- To make a short album of piano music.
- To continue to learn more about art and animation.
- To increase my proficiency in the Cayuga language.
- To write 1 novel, 1 novella, a series of poems, and 2 essays.
- To submit a piece of work to First Nations Art 2018.
- To bead something.
- To establish some way of supporting local writers.
- To work on my inking, shading and detailing.
- To meditate at least four times a week.
All in all, I am very grateful for all of the learning that happened this year. At my work, through my schooling, and through my own creative pursuits. It was just a year ago that I realized I had a dream of being an illustrator and had a mild panic attack because my formal education is in a completely different field than art. I am sometimes super sad this is the case, because I’ve loved watching the work and sense of community that comes out of places like the Indigenous Visual Arts Program at OCADU. But I also realize, that it’s okay—I’m on my path, and I’m going to keep on this path and just do my best to learn and share. And as Leanne Simpson writes, “If we are doing our work to the best of our abilities, doorways and opportunities will open to us that previously did not exist.” (Simpson, 2011). So here’s to more learning and creating and spreading of love, respect and compassion in 2018.
Nya:weh universe. And nya:weh everyone who has been on this journey with me so far, both here on my blog or out in our community. Thank you for all that you do. I wish you a wonderful 2018!
Happy creating. Keep shining.