I am drawn to the importance of place. With several colleagues I have been in many juicy discussions, and rituals to help feel more present and in rhythm with the land on which we meet and live. From ancient stories carried through thousands of years, like the one below, to a simple attention to what my local surroundings smell and sound like, to a sensing of a place’s energetic history. To be present and available with each other, I am finding this attention to place deeply enriching. To invite place as participant — this opens me and others to much more than would otherwise be so.
With thanks to Lauri Prest, a friend and colleague in Ontario, as well as her colleague, Michael Jones. Together, they recently hosted a cafe for the Canadian Index for Well Being. The day was spent in conversation with 100 others sharing stories about what we care about in our communities and how it affects our health and hearts. It began with a native story teller.
As you mentioned – Sherry was our opening native speaker and story teller. I wanted to share a few words about how the sense of place is held among Sherry’s people – in their story all place is meeting – it is carried in the mythology of Minjikaming, the home of the Chippewa First Nations and the land where the conference was held and Sherry calls home.
Minjikaming means “ keepers of the fish fence” The fence is located in the Narrows a small channel that links two large lakes just a mile or two down the shore from our conference site. For 5000 years the tribes came from long distances every winter to live on the fish that were caught in the fish weirs there . It is where they met the first European settlers many of whom were suffering from physical emotional and spiritual impoverishment and helped restore them to health – over centuries the story of meeting was carried not only as a bridge to unite the diversity of tribes and cultures – this story was also carried in the gentleness of the soil, the wind, the water, the light and the sky.
Their land is also a meeting place – an ‘ecotone’ that marks the edge of the limestone plain and warm shallow lakes to the south with the hard granite cold trout lakes of the precambrian shield to the north. Sherry’s people learned to be masters of two worlds- to learn to hunt and fish and know intimately the complex ecology of each with its distinct fish, fauna, vegetation, and animal life.
– So when Sherry introduced her story with the words “Welcome ! you are now on indian land and need to do things in indian ways ” – it is this 5000 year story of meeting together that holds the ground of being of which she speaks. As you were invited to step outside for a time – to find a space that attracted you and let it speak to you – much as Sherry let her ancestors speak to her through the gravestone – it may have been this ancient story of meeting that spoke to you as well… carried in the fresh warm breezes and waters of Lake Couchiching that November afternoon. (Couchiching itself in Minjikaming is The Lake of Many Winds)
For the communities that make up North Simcoe Muskoka the regional launch of the National Index for Community for Well Being it is also an invitation to let the Minjikaming timeless story of the ‘meetings among the many’ serve as our new ground of being as well.