Recently someone new to Alberta asked me, “When does the snow stop?” really meaning to ask, “When does spring come?”
“It comes and it goes,” I replied. “And then suddenly it’s here for good.”
My mom left a message on my phone a couple of weeks ago: “It’s running out there! You can hear the water. It’s running down the drains. It won’t be long now. Just a few more warm days.”
The seesaw of melt and ice.
Spring, like all seasons, is a transition state. Spring reminds us that there is growth in every season of our lives. Like all transition states, beginnings require careful navigation. It’s slippery. We’re not always sure of our footing.
Early in February I celebrated Brighid’s Day, what’s sometimes called the Celtic spring, with about 20 other women. We took turns passing through Brighid’s crios. Brighid’s girdle was once a hoop made from the old year’s harvest straw; our girdle was made of strips of cloth found at Fabricland. Three times we passed through the crios. Circling left and then right and then left again and through. First to leave behind all that was ill, then to give thanks for all gifts of the year past and then to pray for new growth.
We entered the womb of Brighid to be reborn.
This spring I am conscious of new relationships emerging, not only in my personal life but in my community. I’m not always sure of my voice in these relationships and often feel as if I am taking two steps forward and one step back.
In a close personal relationship I am exploring, there is a testing in the dialogue as we come to know each other’s edges and strengths, as we talk about what is really important to each of us, as we come to see our own vulnerabilities in the mirror of the relationship.
In the same way, I’ve been witness this past year to an emerging dialogue in Canada between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, at work, in public gatherings, in the media and amongst friends. For me, the talking and the listening is cause for hope.
So it was serendipitous this past February that I got to visit New Zealand with this person I am exploring a partnership with, a Pakeha, a person of European or non-Maori ancestry, who grew up there. That I had the opportunity to witness a different sort of relationship between settlers and Indigenous peoples than one I am used to, a partnership grounded in mutual respect.
Maoris were granted the same rights and duties as a British citizen with the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) as well as control of traditional lands. Like Canada, the treaty wasn’t always observed. Rights were trampled. Lands taken. Residential schools were imposed. The social effects of this are still evident to some extent. But the Maori have always been represented in parliament; the Maori have always had the vote. Their land claims process has largely been a fruitful one. They communally administer their lands; they also individually own sheep stations and tourist resorts, live on “lifestyle blocks” (acreages), and in villages and cities where they work alongside everyone else. Most of the towns have Maori names and many of the streets. This is a country whose educational curriculum is written in two official languages and incorporates not only Western content, but Maori principles. The consciousness is different.
Like an Alberta spring, justice may come and go, but I do believe one of these days it will be here for good. If we keep at the dialogue.