Primarily a writing exercise, this dream journal-inspired blog is a quiet introspective sojourn into the process that we traverse in going from private dream to public art. I see our dreaming as an internalized mythmaking. As I philosophize and expressively exhibit dreams, both private and public, I encourage and delight in creative language as a way to practice experiential metaphors through a “public dreaming." Writing Theory: Creative Dream Fiction

Monday, 29 July 2013

Student Action to Global Citizenry: The Voluntary Heart of Community

Optionless from Nora Younis on Vimeo.

"I recall the brutal massacre of Sudanese refugees in Mostafa Mahmoud square in 2005 when security forces violently interfered to dismantle their protests in front of UN Refugees Agency Office resulting in killing dozens of protesters including women, children, and elderly people." Ahmed Awadalla, Cairo-based Global Voices blogger (also published on Daily News Egypt)

Introduction

The focus of my volunteerism is with those who currently experience oppressive marginalization in the inhospitable host country of Egypt, who in 1951 made reservations to refugee rights chartered by the UNHCR Refugee Convention, also known as the Geneva Convention.

El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Centre was founded in 2006 in Ain Shams, a neighborhood in the outskirts of Cairo known for its African migrant population, by a group of committed Darfurian community leaders in order to address challenges within the refugee population in Cairo, with a focus on refugees from Darfur. The mission statement of the El-Wafaa Centre is to alleviate suffering of vulnerable refugee communities in urban areas.

Background

Egypt’s reservations to the UN’s Refugee Convention withhold national responsibility with regard to refugees within their country accessing public relief and humanitarian assistance. There are no refugee camps in Egypt. African peoples seeking asylum in Egypt continue to be unjustly marginalized based on race, ethnicity, religion, etc.

Initiated in July 2006 by local community within the African forced migrant population of Cairo, El-Wafaa Centre was physically founded in September 2006, with the assistance of Student Action for Refugees (STAR), a student-run organization at the American University of Cairo. Then president of STAR, Jennifer Renquist, now a foreign officer with USAID, organized the orientation of new students at El-Wafaa Centre, as well as the donation of books and stationeries to the center’s library, remaining a principal need.

I was introduced to this world in 2007 as a young student of literature and language at the American University of Cairo, after volunteering for STAR as an outreach English teacher. I soon met the director of the Refugee Culture Centre, named “El-Wafaa” (The Fulfillment in English) after teaching an intermediate level English course to an incredibly diverse class of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees from all over Africa.

The director of El-Wafaa, Abdel Rahman Siddiq Hashim, is from Darfur, Sudan, educated at a Sudanese university in English. He is a respected and humble community leader, known by many Cairo-based African refugees as “Teacher”. Abdel Rahman’s activism was far-reaching and all-inclusive, welcoming students into the education center, also serving as a cultural and community resource center, without discriminating ethnicity, religion or politics.

During my initial ten-month stay in Cairo, I became deeply involved in the refugee community beyond the interests of Student Action for Refugees (who soon abandoned and undermined local leadership), including organizing independent classes through the El-Wafaa community, running a food bank and managing library resources. Since then, I have poured over the role of the international community as a last vestige of light for the urban refugees of Cairo. In 2010, I returned to Cairo through a fully funded research endeavor with support from a Peace Studies consortium at the University of Calgary, where from I graduated the same year with a B.A. in the Social Sciences.

Highlights from the 2010 research period in Egypt include directly funding the El-Wafaa Executive Director’s return trip to Sudan to register El-Wafaa in Sudan, as well as with a Darfuri NGO network, to assess the situation of refugees returning home to respective countries of origin after living in Egypt as a refugee. Other successes included a film screening and discussion evening on related issues at the inner city Sudanese-led NGO Tadamon, offering charitable funding to vulnerable women-in-need, engaging Sudanese youth students in a music and culture recording project, and personally meeting and attending a course with Barbara Harrell-Bond, founder of the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University, the world’s first institution for the study of refugees.

Through my studies, research, and experiences in activism and fundraising since 2007 to the present, I have concluded that it is truly up to international civil society activists to help community leaders foster educational and cultural activities in their communities. UNHCR and local NGOs in the region have proven insufficient, whether as seen in the outcry of the Mustafa Mahmoud demonstration in 2005, or the current state of life for refugees during the unstable political turmoil in Cairo, today.

Their is a great need to support those who appreciate and enable the sustainable establishment of human rights organizations in Egypt providing proper services to any and all people, with a focus on African refugees.

Demographic


The target demographic of El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Center is any and all residents and migrants of Egypt seeking a safe and inclusive community resource center that specializes in language education services. The target communities are refugees and asylum seekers from African countries who seek to transition from Egypt to resettle in a more hospitable country, or move back home after losing many years of their lives to impoverishment, lack of education and opportunity for employment. Such social challenges are due to many causes, including misinformation and a serious deficiency of awareness regarding the nature of life in potential resettlement countries, as well as in returning to often conflict-ridden countries of origin.

Conclusion

Currently, the El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Center and its concomitant community initiatives are in dire need to generate sustainable activism (both local as well as international) to support the immensely wide gaps unfulfilled by the UNHCR, NGO, and academic, as well as faith-based service providers in Cairo.

On behalf of an international network to support the community vision El-Wafaa, led by the volunteerism of PhD student and Fulbright scholar based in New York City, Thomas Leddy-Cecere and myself, a freelance journalist and human rights advocate currently based in the city of Calgary in western Canada, we petition support.

Currently, the 2013-2014 budget for El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Centre to thrive in Cairo requires 1,280 USD (center rent, office supplies, external programs). Membership fees from refugee communities in Cairo seeking services are not adequate. International networks with preexisting solidarity groups in the U.S. and Canada are integral to the sustainability and overall maintenance of the El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Centre.

Related issues raised by the refugee community in Cairo include accessing micro-credit loans, contacting UNHCR, overcoming crises in housing and basic needs, among other areas of recurrent concern.

Anyone can learn more. If interested, please correspond with mind to the pressing need for immediate action. I would very much like to start a meaningful dialogue on this issue on behalf of an extended engagement with the urban refugee communities of Cairo.



References:

This blog was originally published at VolunteerCenter.com on July 29, 2013
  • Please contact me @ mhanson1717@yahoo.com for a free informational brochure if interested in learning more about my initiative with refugees in Cairo, Egypt
_____________
With the Executive Director of El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Center,  Mr. Abdel Rahman Siddiq of Darfur, Sudan 
Walking Away into the Bright Lights of Cairo
Partnership with the Bangladeshi Community
Global Youth in Cairo Apartment
With Student and Singer from Kordofan 
Twilight of Peace
With Student at St. Andrews Church in Cairo
A Creative Student at Arba Wa Nos Centre
Night Cafe with the Bere People of Sudan
American University in Cairo, Old Campus
Abdel Rahman Siddiq, the Teacher
In Honour of Community
El-Wafaa Refugee Culture Center Logo
With favourite tea-seller, Julia
With student from Central African Republic at Tadamon Centre
Sudanese Teacher Registers Students at the El-Wafaa Refugee Center
Cultural Heritage of Sudan
The Quintessential Meeting Ground, the Sudanese Restaurant
 ____________
From Behaved Freedom to Absolute Nonsense

I go from a behaved freedom to absolute nonsense
            Without friends yet steeped in family love,
I publicly play and proclaim the monetary divide
            In my rich eyes which disguise the poverty
            line’s frozen glare
In Canadian expatriate stench, painstaking
            To be fugitive without mind
            to the loosed volley
Cracking against the one shield fortress of Mattapoisett
            One place of rest made into settlement with guns
            and stolen disaster
Ripped from the bosom of Europe’s scheming
                      English name
            Now massacring the playful
            artistry of our own inborn life

On this impossible continent
            Freely taken from a gamble and faith
In blond-headed angels
            Whose divinity was parted
            by the bald imprisoned hallucinations
Driving out demons with Masonic symbology
            Over the infinite sands of civilization,
            breathed and created out of time
In the sun’s ravishing corner of a universe,
            un-tempted and forever at a loss
                     Between the child’s two eyes
                     closing
On death and the holocaust of our forsaken government
            Laughing at the trees’ roots

When stretched to the bottom of India’s or Africa’s wells
            Ousting up the belief in life as a drunken tragedy
                                    Yet, be not humorless
                                    nor without comic sophistry

In the dance and song
            Come alive by the sexual majesty
                                    In theatre’s delicate ways,

To present the creative being
as one with truth’s bold and upheld music
            Reflecting back in the caged mirror
                                    A creator anew

This poem was featured in my most recent self-published chapbook, Act or Confront


Introducing ContinuuMusic

Musical explorations within continuous evolutionary creativity. Discovering new world fusion - instrumental, improvised music.

"For global community awareness" Vi An said at the TedxYYC event this summer to a packed house of 1500+ audience members, plus a streaming webcast to the entire world, before beginning a ten-minute set with co-creators Bijan Maysamie on Persian Santur, and Matt Hanson on xaphoon and percussion.

The debut concert of the ContinuuMusic trio is intended as a gift to the community. Often performing for charities and private events, ContinuuMusic has raised thousands of dollars for Ten Thousand Villages, Children's Health and Education in Iran, among other meaningful initiatives.

Inspired by their invitation to perform for TedxYYC at the grandest concert hall in Western Canada, ContinuuMusic is looking to sustain their creative efforts well into the future. Vi An is a professional artist of over 18+ years, an award-winning (Betty Mitchell) theatre composer with the Green Fools Theatre and recording artist with over 15 albums and hundreds of collaborative tracks worldwide. Bijan Maysamie is steeped in the classical tradition of Persian music. Originally from Tehran, Bijan is now venturing into fusion music for the first time, and is enthused as ever, at the helm of organzing this debut concert. Matt Hanson is a multi-instrumentalist, whose artistry draws deeply from a musical family with roots in Mediterranean and American intercultural tradition.


Monday, 22 July 2013

Adaptable Rootedness: Visionary Revelations of Winona LaDuke



"The other thing I brought up here, which I happen to always carry around, is my corn. My father, he passed away about twenty years ago, he’s a pretty simple guy. He was from our reservations. He used to say to me, Winona, you’re a really smart young woman, but I don’t want to hear your philosophy if you can’t grow corn…

I grow corn…it’s like us, corn is all different…this is a corn that’s called a Manitoba White Flint…our Anishnaabe people…we’re the northernmost corn growers in the world. Corn is very smart, it can grow almost anywhere…"

Winona LaDuke, speaking at the 4th Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk

Truly, and now, experientially, the life of waking reality and the life of dream consciousness are one and equal. When confronted with the practical evidence of vision, with eternal meaning, a deep mystery of the soul unveiled in the shade of internal belonging, I know. So, when meeting with mystic voices whose souls are married with the beyond in a harmonious union of the opposites, dream and waking, the mind begins to know the path of the heart, of intuition, love and sound. As such, in SoJourn(al), I revision virtual experience through the lens of a unique self-knowledge, yet in so doing, I seek to inspire visions anew in visitors whose wanderings are never lost to the immediate necessity of connectivity, interdependence, and the shared internalization of the psyche, manifest. 

When I heard the humbling voice of Anishinaabe author, orator and activist Winona LaDuke, whose bountiful and beautiful mind I sought excitedly for a devout listening, she spoke of my dream. Her musing answered the image of my dream with a new vision of the Earth. When she spoke of Manitoba White Flint, the earth fell into the sky, and the sky grew below the earth, the waters condensed into air and the air evaporated into water, and dream became real, reality became a dream. In her hand she held my subtle imagination of nights in the solitude of my furthest inner reaches. Read ahead for the unshakeable truth, as she grounded my nightly revelation into the fine nourishments of sacred knowledge:  
“In the morning, eat of the red corn,” says he, Herbsman. An ear of red corn emerges as with the pleasure of an offering, gift or invocation from the mouth of a ground and tongue of a seed. One kernel, consumed, and my flesh lightens with the bread of fulfillment, and all my wishes humbled with regard to the constant water that flows to the life of all. Cleansed, opened, revived, moved and lifted, I listen, intent with respect. 
“At night, eat of the white corn.” As the morning eye of fire stares into my forehead barely above the horizon, I yet see a vision of the white corn in mind’s eye, unknown on Earth. The Herbsman continues to pour the clear-souled water of natural wisdom through the mystic wine of musical friendship over each and every pour with all movements and messages invoked, intoned, and conveyed with brevity, clarity and unity. 
Returning Home: Teachings of the Priests of Dream
Yet, as Winona LaDuke shared with all Healing Walkers, "some things are supposed to stay in the ground" and so, there are visions, dreams and insights that are meant to stay in the subtle realms beyond memory and imagination, beyond the creative manifestation of personal will and worldly attachment, beyond the attainments of knowledge, beyond the bearing of tradition. 

And in the Medicine Wheel tradition, so the dream of the red corn for the morning, and white corn at night affirms the basic principles of the Four Colours within the Aboriginal Medicine Wheel. The colour red, and the eating of the red corn, affirms the element of growth, time and developing the mind. Whereas the colour white, and the eating of the white corn, would affirm place, achievement, reflection, and spiritual understanding. Therefore, the advice by the Wise Herbsman of Dream, seems a revelation to practice a harmonious way of life, where the morning is equated to growth, and the night to reflection. 

More, corn also teaches that rootedness does not oppose adaptability. So, as people of this land, for and of ourselves, we learn to adapt anew, with a sense of rootedness that overcomes dominant cultural stereotypes of the stale, the old, the past, and the traditional, and instead seeks truth in the likes of our Western imagination, as in the mind of Tolkien who wrote, "The old that is strong does not wither, / Deep roots are not reached by the frost". Adaptable rootedness is the way of the wounded healer, the traveler, the wanderer who, as Tolkien wrote, is not lost, and who instead leads all on with a prayer at each step to the beating blood that flowers in the voice of a pure heart.  
_____________
summer tradition
mystery of love
bridge to ecstasy
eye for simplicity
endangered light
___________________
With Still Unborn Eyes

A presence belied in the soft air aglow with diligent drizzle
            From this, our American lighthouse heaven,
                        Alit with dream
                        in stories told by great-grandmother’s
                                    Life lived outside the pages of the “true”
                                                And into the truly earth-quaking
                                                of dream,

A silent praise now unforgiving in this one unkempt death
            Blowing past the burly crevasse of a listless youth
                        Climbing up past the gold icon in Biblical temptations
                                    To screw women into their darkest pain
                                                In a house filled
                                                with the semen of timeless wandering

Men whose throats burn with the soil of their unloved mother
            Croaking up agro-fossil drains
Reaching from modern skylines to prehistory,
issuing from our Christ-death

In the end of an age
            As inevitable as the reptilian fate in the everyday brain
Expanding with the feared herbs growing
like weeds in our Western mythology
Built in smoke
and the knowledge of Earth’s ever-forgiving
blessings
                                                Bringing America’s children reason
                                                to explore mind
                                                            In the socio-pathic
                                                            lie of success and money
As we corner the livid
daze of the booming war
                                                            Fertilized wombs
                                                            manifest
                                                               As
                                                               westward
                                                               suburbia

In the housed mystery of our yet undiscovered world
            Beneath each colonial home
                        Shot out of the ugly worldview
                                    Misplaced over the moral genealogy
                                             
In an ecological philosophy
            To dry the eyes of our spectral hosts
                        Who watch and wonder
                                    With still unborn eyes


This poem was featured in my most recent self-published chapbook, Act or Confront



Monday, 15 July 2013

Transformative Art, Spiritual Fusion: Wisdoms of Ireland and India


"'All Balzac's characters;' said Baudelaire, 'are gifted with the same ardour of life that animated himself. All his fictions are as deeply coloured as dreams…'  
Art takes life as part of her rough material, recreates it, and refashions it in fresh forms, is absolutely indifferent to fact, invents, imagines, dreams, and keeps between herself and reality the impenetrable barrier of beautiful style, of decorative or ideal treatment 
Life holds the mirror up to Art, and either reproduces some strange type imagined by painter or sculptor, or realises in fact what has been dreamed in fiction.”  
Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying: A Protest

Here the abbreviated wisdom of Oscar Wilde, writer of voice and ear, the triumph of the great artful listening bespeaks a wind chime of honest and natural truth. The delicate interweaving of Art and Life brews a certain mould, from which the divine spark of the punch-drunk imagination breathes with ever raging glory. That mould is Dream. As such, fiction follows with music, as the pure intent of the human imagination to express the most basic intuitive sustenance of life at its clearest and most meaningful. 

During the past week, I had experienced an especially overwhelming night in the overactive imagination, a flood of subtle sensation, burrowed deeply under the skin, an impalpable bitterness, of a foreign spiritual strength outgrowing and boiling over in the silent reaches of sleep. The raw experience did not give way overnight, and yet transcended recurrence. The seed of a spirit spoke in dream, of a catastrophic undercurrent, sweeping virulently through the mud of a quaking settlement on Earth: the city. 

River and sun transformed to tower and spear, and I woke more tired than I had lain the night before. Yet, with the vigour of independent living and creative meaning, I rose through the art of sound to wake well beyond the confining, artificial binary of sleep and waking; to a spiritual awakening! And through an outpouring of musical emotion, I stirred my brain with cathartic rhythmic trespasses over the faraway and distant geography of my inner reaches. At one among many; dancers, drummers, singers, storytellers and artist of sound and space, we together climbed the staircase of fiction to a higher reality, to a truth of our own making. 

For nights after, and indefinitely in the frame of the images spawned in the post-traumatic flash of outpoured nightly grief, there was peace. Nyx bloomed like a sunflower in the hazy morning of calm, human flesh. The rites of Psyche and Morpheus drew from the magical fount of youth and light a knowledge as seminal as birth; that our waking lives are inextricably tied to the dream fiction of our conscious and unconscious lives made whole. 

Or in the profoundly authentic voice of master artist Ali Akbar Khan, "If you practice for ten years, you may begin to please yourself, after 20 years you may become a performer and please the audience, after 30 years you may please even your guru, but you must practice for many more years before you finally become a true artist—then you may please even God."

Read my recent publication for Unsettling America on Decolonization and Transformative Art
_______________
All in the Wailing City raised their arms, for the plagues of a swollen Earth flushed the unmentionable presence of God away, way beyond the horizon of knowledge and meaning. A great riverine tide swayed the living to their backs, drowning in a liquid rage. The seaside howled an unforgiving pain, calling all to remember its earnest retch of longing. Under the deep duress, a pause from the hollow movement, atop a quaking hilltop soon besieged on all sides by the amassing shores, I gazed ahead. 

 In 1879 the great flood in Szeged by Ferenc Somorjai (Somorjai Ferenc anyaga)
Gargantuan machines, with power enough to puncture a mountain, rammed innumerable tons of metal into the rising waves. All human effort subsided in a last ditch effort, as the naked winds blew away every last measure of reason, exposing the humbling futility of Man as a self-conceived separation from Nature. And the skies then parted, revealing the unspoiled Earth anew. 

The Great Flood by Bonaventura Peeters
Cleansed of human pain, the memories yet unearthed buried as spirit-hosts in the nightly youth whose ruined minds attuned with sensitive grace to the crushing prowess of the Earth. Ahead, I stole beyond the limits of the city lain to a soggy rubble in a flash. The riveting sun splayed its arms and legs with eye-splitting rays as gorgeous as the purity of Light itself. A golden cliff summit rose as an open palm to greet and hold me into a warm embrace. Amiable pelicans touched over the soothing flow of salt and weed, as my feet sped off, flying as together with the ancient birds of Attar; the flight of survival in beauty, circulation and ascendance.

Rocky Cliff with Stormy Sea, Cornwall by William Trost Richards
Arisen again, to the opaque summer sweat of passion and greed, the ascendancy was of illusion, a taste of mad lust in harnessing, benefitting and exploiting the power of Earth. I am only human. And, so I climb stairs and escalate to office-window pride, in the shy, glum and austere rest of an angering soul. Midwestern city of black flies and pale steam, the ire of billions casts a spectral gloom over such towering hypocrisy; dense as the soil of the Bitumen God of Calgary.

The Galata Tower by Moonlight by Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky
Uprooted, the towers of Oil and Untruth move as a serpent staff in my hand, readied and pointed toward the heart of the Jungle, the most immaculately climaxed biological development of all life's known diversity here on Earth. The jungle heart beats with the breathing of a thousand trees giving air to a wounded atmosphere of acid night. Within shot, the Awajun stare back, defending their land as all Land; to defend the very source of human existence. I shrink back, retreating and lacking the muscle to flesh out my own hypocritical ground, resting on the fat of the land in the cruelest eye of the storm, shrouded by cheap intoxicants and ignorant bliss.  
_________________
"Holy Rope" is a metaphor for the piece of twine I've used to snare my 16' frame drum featured on this track. Inspired by the masterful and spiritual frame drumming of the First Peoples on the traditional territories now known as Canada. Aboriginal peoples from northern Manitoba to Athabasca territory in northern Alberta, where I had camped, exhibited their powerful and endangered musical traditions. The use of a piece of twine or rope over caribou and buffalo hides struck a particular tone of nostalgia within my own ancestral memory as a musical being. Most well-known to North Africa, the tar frame drum is one of many snared frame drums in the deep Mediterranean musical heritage. The buzzing vibratory emittance that issues from a snared frame drum as similar to the First Peoples of Turtle Island as in the Mediterranean moved me to ecstatic prayer through drumming at Indian Beach campground. As I joined Dene drummers, I was moved with singular intention towards a spiritual fusion of sound, harmony, and ecstasy.

So the musical interpretation to the piece, "Holy Rope" lyrically carries the meaning and message of the experience of intercultural spiritual fusion music. Begun, "the executioner's raffle" signifies the great life-or-death gravity of the drum, as for many, the lifeblood of tradition, voice and inner fulfillment. The use of a shaker stands for the regular heartbeat rhythm that is carried by traditional Aboriginal drummers, who then commonly sing with syncopated bravura over a simple, steady rhythm. So, in this case, the shaker represents the rhythmic attuning of the First Peoples of Turtle Island, while my snared frame drumming represents the lyrical rhythmic temperament of my own Mediterranean heritage as the descendent of a Greek Jewish lineage.





The following chapbook, "Act or Confront" derives its source of meaning and intent from the omnipotent realization of the fleeting and mortal nature of human existence. With deep regard for the passing flame, we are fulfilled at its passing in the conscious effort of continuing life on this sacred and beautiful planet Earth.

When the passing is not confronted, and is ignored for greed, or lack of honesty in any form, life itself is denied to future generations and to the vulnerable and marginalized peoples who have been placed at the end of the classist food chain hierarchies of the global market chains, as per their specific history in the multi-tiered colonization of Mother Earth across the great breadth of each and every corner of the Four Worlds (South-Emotional-Red; East-Spiritual-Yellow; North-Mental-White; West-Physical-Black). And on, ever deeper into the innate existential confrontation of co-existence and the inherent conundrums of reality, we "prepare our action". In continuity with confronting mortality, to prepare action is to recognize that we are action. As a basic principle of existence, we all act, and are all intimately involved in every last living and non-living process of becoming and disintegrating.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Walking the Tar Sands: Storytelling from the 4th Annual Healing Ceremony



"If the development of the Tar Sands has one good thing about it, it might be that it wakes us up.

Business as usual is over. We've run out of time. It is the tipping point. It's telling us that everything about fossil fuel economies have changed, in terms of cost, in terms of scale, in terms of environmental footprint. Everything has changed. Now, if as a society we can respond to that and say, you know what, we need to get off this within 30 years, then that would be great. If we don't respond to it, then as a society we will likely collapse, because you can not sustain a civilization on a resource as dirty as bitumen." Andrew Nikiforuk, multi-award winning Canadian journalist, and author of Tar Sands, in the documentary Tipping Point: The End of Oil

Highway 63 to the Athabasca Tar Sands, past cords of balsam poplar, I am reminded of the old adage from the Second World War. "Bodies stacked like cords of wood." The puncturing wind howls and slams with a dry heave over the windshield as sixteen wheels burn past, loaded with split trunks. To my right, a comrade of voice and indigenous rights advocate, Gregor MacLennan tells me the green corridor of lush grassy, treelines are a mere trick for the eye. Behind them lies the gargantuan tragedy that could only be wrought by the world's largest industrial project. Gregor had visited the Tar Sands with the Achuar people of Peru, who had recently fended of Calgary-based oil company Talisman from drilling on their territory in the Western Amazon rainforest. Not long ago, as a student in Iquitos, the largest city in the Western Amazon, multiple truckloads of logged jungle timber floating along the Amazon basin became a common sight for me. First impressions on bearing witness to the immense destruction and its repercussions for local communities along the Athabasca river, the Achuar, Gregor said, were overcome with sadness, and lack of hope from the locals. 

Yet, on July 6, as a contingency of solidarity groups, activists, environmentalists, scientists, and First Nations leadership, including Winona LaDuke, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, walked the 4th Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk, there was certainly no shortage of hope. Beyond hope, however, there was the sheer presence of strength on that full day of walking to bear witness, pray and heal in solidarity. The Healing Walk encircled Tar Sands development, pausing for a moment of silence at each of the Four Directions to heal Mother Earth. Together with elders, traditional drummers from the Dene Nation led all who followed in support. At the final direction along the path, having reached the homestretch, I asked one of the lead drummers for an extra drum, as I had forgotten mine, and wished to accompany the rhythm. "We don't have any others, it's personal. We each cut our own," he said. As they proudly held their snare-tightened skin-headed drums.

In that moment, I was struck by a revelation. Jokingly, the drummers made affable conversation, to lighten the moment through friendship and good spirits, and I was struck by each of their genuinely unique relationships to their respective drums. It was as if the making and playing of one's drum represented the circular holism of life, and the central role that creativity plays in that sustenance, that deep nourishment of living in the human experience. As they played on, not with the sophisticated manner of virtuosic world-class music, but with the honest grit and sincere genuflection of direct connection to the spirit of creativity: the heart. And the heartbeat rhythms moved me through the pain and humbling endurance of the Healing Walk. Each step a strike of the skin, a beat of the drum, the rhythm of forward movement, of positivity, of light and love. 

The number 4 had especial significance to my experience at the 4th Annual Healing Walk. Not only is the number 4 a deeply meaningful symbol to Aboriginal culture, but also to my own ancestral culture. The night before the Healing Walk, the two converged in a momentous expression of joy and harmony. On Turtle Island, 4 represents the directions, seasons, and in the Medicine Wheel of Four Colours (Red, White, Black, Yellow) and Four Lives (Mental, Spiritual, Emotional, Physical). 

In my musical life, deeply bound by Mediterranean musical culture, I have given to the Sufi spiritual practice of seeing the numerical symbol 4 as sacred. More closely allied to my blood, in Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism, the wisdom tradition of the Four Worlds, symbolizes the spiritual realms. And so, I dedicate 4 hours of every day to meditation through music, which is a special revelation of Sufism and other world spiritualities. 

At Indian Beach campground, around the sacred fire, I drummed on a 14' frame drum with Dene Nation drummers local to Fort McMurray, who inspired all present to grace the Earth with a ceremonial round dance. Our frame drums, created of the spiritual womb of Turtle Island and the Mediterranean, danced in unprecedented harmony under the inspiring rush of Dene song. Their welcoming me was a moment of incredible significance as I sunk my mind deep into the heartbeat of Mother Earth, to emerge, offering the light step of a dance, the voice of a song, and the resonance of a drum.  

So, as with SoJourn(al), the drum represents a spiritual and personal expression, where we all move and feel necessary to ourselves and the world, whether on a stage, in a publication, or through a drum, we live our lives with enduring harmony and perennial meaning. The traditional drumming is in no way redolent of economic ambition, but of an honouring for the ancestral and allied community that warms us and embodies our truth. The drum is the inner life, the spiritual life, the way to sacred holism, to health and healing. To beat the drum is to impress upon one's spirit the unshakable continuity of the richness that the inner life provides, as to forego the unwelcome trespasses of soulless possessiveness, greedy overconsumption and mindless ignorance. So, in beating the drum we are humbled as we are fulfilled. I could not imagine a more fitting leadership to the 4th Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk, than the unwavering spirit of the Dene drummers.   

See Previous Posts on the Alberta Tar Sands:


water is sacred
the whole world is with us
the fourth direction
gathering firewood for community
remember Indian Beach
awake at first light
living in unity
on the land
remnants of Fort McMurray


onward to the end of the tunnel
touch the cleansing water
women lead from the beginning
caribou-hide singers with Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus 
the sacred circle of the round dance

Mohawk and Algonquin Confederacy youth dance in pride
to the pipe ceremony to begin the healing

suspicion lurks amid catastrophe
allies in solidarity wear Healing Walk t-shirts
Dene Nation youth represents with Eriel Deranger and Chief Allan Adam
Chief Bill Erasmus smudges for all near Tantoo Cardinal
Cleo Reese speaks to media prior to Healing Walk 
Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus opens Walk
start the Healing
active media set off by way of Fort McMurray
and the smoking gun
exhale emotion
where the treeline ends
warnings echo the birds away from deathly toxic waters
wavering dispersal of fear and anxiety
straight and narrow solidarity as a movement of one
forward
Bill McKibben interviewed at Buffalo viewpoint
youth of the Mohawk and Algonquin Confederacy show pride 
seize the day and slow industrial traffic! 
as one we are the strength of many
exiles march through babylon 
never let your flag below our sight
going the wrong way
see Earth as one of one mind
stronger than anything on our path
hold up the flag of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
Winona LaDuke meets Brigette DePape
left behind for dead
self-portrait at Tar Sands

praying to the first of the Four Directions
clear-cut deforested desertification in the boreal forests
the Algonquin Confederacy is from the ground
protect your mind in the unholy land of destructive ignorance
human death sanctifies the wounded earth
 sign reads, "reclamation area" at the world's largest industrial project
carrier of the Medicine Wheel walks on Turtle Island

youth drummers inspire all to step to the sacred heartbeat of our Mother
Dene elder represents his Nation
dwarfed under acid skies
raise a new flag in the name of Aboriginal justice
Aboriginal youth bear witness
we shall overcome 
under darkening skies we march ahead
walk the land and see for your self
the largest industrial project on Earth spins out of control
life emerges still from the deepest atrocity
forward this image so all may see and bear witness
violence begets violence and madness fuels madness
look and look again and meditate on your newfound awareness
pipe dreams of the Old World 
we see so clearly yet they are blinded by greenhouse emissions
walk across the devastated earth with hallowed footsteps
the atrocious path of denial shows its ugly face
the black soil of unreason and hypocrisy
workers' barracks of the neo-fascist petro-state
we the people seek freedom and independence anew

shame on the greedy and lifeless work of ignorance 
shame on Canada from the neo-colonial Anglo-dominated west

the road to hell and the largest dam in the world
outside the Syncrude Tailings Dam
an unsavoury welcome from the largest single source producer in Canada 
return to creation, to the beginning, to the drum 
inadvertent signs remind us always to continue our work
back in Calgary the sacred is locked behind urbanity
and the fortune of a local neighbourhood walk
video
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inspired by the experience of living through a flood, while during a week of taking refuge in the residences of close friends, I committed my mind to an expression to creatively express the emotional flood known only by its victims. while the floods of southern alberta were nowhere near as devastating with such human costs as those concurrently in India, still there is a communal trauma, a proven post-traumatic stress that visits all victims of flooding. this is the result of immature development on a 100-year floodplain, where commercial zeal trumps human life, and we become aware of being entirely objectified as city-dwellers within an intensively privatized, economic existence. our lives are bought and sold, and Mother Earth reminds us that whether we like it or not, we always return to her.

The wise ones say that we can never know where we are going if we do not know where we are from. We are from our Mother Earth, and it is back to her where we will go. As ever her children, throughout our lives, we consume from her sources of life, the milk of water, and if we are unaware and ignore the offering of sacred space that recognizes her movement and presence, then we are inevitably reminded that we are ever at her mercy. where I live, the city of Calgary, one of the most significant commercial centres of the global big oil industry was particularly impacted by flooding this summer solstice. if we can hear them, Ma Earth sends us very direct, timely and pertinent messages, namely in this case a message to the tune of, "slow down!" as there was flooding soon before in Fort McMurray, home of the dreaded Tar Sands, and as i write this, flooding in the Petro-State capital of Canada, Toronto. Ma Earth is quite articulate this summer.

This five poem chapbook, Understanding our MEANING, is the second complementary work from the district.Colombia collection. Beginning with a foray into the philosophic Taoist way of compassion that enunciates our living with the giving strength and deep humbling of fluid harmony in improvised music, the poems then take a broad step into the humanities of reason and the struggle for justice in the age of outrageous cultural consumption and environmental ignorance.

We Understand our MEANING when we know our place in the struggle for human freedom against the institutions that would likely allow human life to be bought and sold as the despicable days of slavery, masked by the post-colonial economic privatizations and revealed by the resurgence of decolonization among the First Peoples of Turtle Island. Finally, Morning Dew, the last poem, is revisited through an experimental narrative sounding in the album, Evocations:district.Colombia, where an experience as a temporary climate change refugee embodies the contemporary significance of the common struggle to be human on planet Earth today.