Category Archives: Indigenous-settler friendships

Tree Hugger (1)



Trees I have loved: White Pine, Christie Lake

The year was 1974. I was 17, and lucky enough to be a Junior Ranger in the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resource’s inspired summer program that ran for 68  years and has over 70,000 alumni. The place: McConnell Lake, northeast of North Bay, Ontario.

I couldn’t have been happier. First off, I was away from home. I loved the trappings of the Junior Ranger program – the yellow construction hat, the steel toed boots, the myth that after 6 nicks from an axe in the steel toe of your boot and you would be sent home. The plaid lumberjack shirts. Young women, all 17, from all parts of Ontario. I felt tough and strong and invincible! I loved the wilderness, a northern lake with 24 resident loons, more blueberries than we knew what to do with. The beautiful forests.

For the most part, our work was outdoor physical labour. We used our handy sandvicks (pictured right) to chop down brush, small trees and  to widen roads and trails. We had a particularly beautiful canoe trip where we  worked on portage trails along the fast flowing Mattawa River.

Towards the end of our summer, we made a baseball field. I remember wondering about that. It felt like a “make work” project to me – there didn’t seem to be anybody close enough to play baseball. It kept us busy. We learned about hard physical work, we sweated, we learned about repetitive tasks. I have happy memories of each of us taking turns hiding in the huge piles of brush for a break, with our work buddies keeping  their eyes open for supervisors.  To break up the monotony as we tossed logs down the line, we would identify each log as a type of food. “Ice cream sundae”, “Mars Bar” , “Buttered Popcorn” rang out over the drone of chain saws as we tossed  logs down the line to the ever growing wood pile.

Trees I have loved. White cedar, Christie Lake.

During this project, I noticed a frantic mother robin who had a nest in a tree. I remember asking one of the foremen if we could just leave that tree and come back for it later. A hard-bitten, retired lumberjack, he dismissed my suggestion with a terse no. I felt so foolish. Yet, that robin plagued me. I remember losing sleep and trying to decide if I should take a stand. I believed that if I did I would be sent home. How could I leave what was the best summer of my life? Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the old lumberjacks knew best. Weren’t old people wise?  Maybe I was being romantic. Maybe I needed to be tougher. After all, I looked tough.  I didn’t speak up. The tree went down. The mother robin mourned the loss of her children. It was probably too late in the season for her to begin a new family.

I didn’t speak up but I have never forgotten. Each time an opportunity to speak up against an injustice has arisen , I remember this story.

Trees I have loved. Birch Tree, Lake Superior

Now I know better. While the bigger justice story might have been the wastefulness of creating a baseball field where none was needed, it is my inability to have taken a stand for the robins that I remember.  I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance with a whole baseball field. The lumberjacks may have been wise in some areas of life but they were not the sage old characters I liked to imagine back then. I invested them with a wisdom and an authority that they did not deserve.

It would have been so easy to leave one tree up and come back for it later. Imagine the message that leaving one tree up would have sent? We can leave this tree standing, so we will. In a few days, the robin family will have left its nest.

But instead, it was knocked down, and another message, the prevalent message of a culture that often “takes” without thought was reinforced. Chop chop.

Trees I have loved: Willow Tree, Kerry Farm. Photo by Brenda MacLachlan


I am grateful for that summer. I am grateful for that story. I feel compassion for the young woman who noticed a frantic mother robin. I am grateful especially for the trees and the robin family and what they taught me then and what they teach me now. I feel a lingering fondness for our supervisors but I would no longer give them that much authority or assume they had wisdom. I am less obedient. I am learning to speak up. I am proud to call myself a tree hugger now.



This is a companion post to Letter to the Editor: Elegy for the Trees and Tree Hugger (2)

Trees I have loved. Beech tree, Christie Lake.

While writing this post, my daughter shared this book with me. From Kalevala: Heroic Tales from Finland by Ursula Synge, Bodley Head, 1977

Paraphrased from pages 11, 12 .       Vainamoinen the Wise Singer found seven precious seeds by the ocean but knew that they would germinate best in the forest. So he took his axe and he toiled, felling trees. At every stroke of the axe, the birds flew up and away. “If I clear all the forest, these birds will have no resting place. ” So he left a beech tree standing.  An eagle flew down to ask him why he had spared the beech tree.”So that the birds may perch upon it. One must have a care for every need.” replied Vainamoinen.. The eagle  said that because he had cared for the relatives, he would help him. The eagle produced flames and the cleared land (except the beech) was burned. Vainemionen took the seven precious seeds and planted them in seven furrows, calling on the Earth Mother to bless the sowing and to support and cherish each blade as it grew. He then asked Ukka to assemble the rainclouds and drive them above the field.


Dolores and Alma

Dolores, left and Alma, right with "Four Directions"

Dolores, left and Alma, right with “Four Directions”

I want to share this simple, sweet story.

One of things I like about hosting my own art show is that I witness when a person falls in love with a piece of art. On the second day of my show, my friend Alma told me that she loved  a watercolour painting called “Four Directions” and that maybe she could afford  to buy it in September. This was a painting I had begun for a specific project. Partway through painting this piece I learned that my art was not what the client had in mind. Funny thing, this piece had moved right into me, stirred me up  and I needed to finish it for myself – project or no project. I couldn’t not finish it! I was so delighted that it touched Alma.

I woke up the next morning with one thought. It seemed to me that the painting should be Alma’s. When I arrived at the show, I put a “sold” marker on it.

Enter my friend Dolores. When Dolores first saw “Four Directions”, her hand went to her heart and she said, ” I want to buy this painting. I just love it.” I told her about Alma.fullsizeoutput_1a4a

I pondered this the next few days and phoned Dolores with a proposition to loan her the painting for four months until Alma’s birthday, at which time I would offer it to Alma.

I intended to pick it up from Dolores and deliver to Alma, as a surprise. Then I had a better idea. These two women had at least two things in common, so I asked Alma to come and meet my friend Dolores, which she did. She didn’t even ask why!

It was the sweetest get together. These two elders have each meant so much to me, as friends and as teachers. Alma is also my relative now, by the sweet virtue of my daughter and her grandson falling in love. Alma was the presiding elder at the first women’s sweats I ever attended. We have known each other for many years. Alma offers her wisdom and knowledge, her love for her native Cree language and the teaching embedded in it to many people of all ages and all nations. Alma’s voice soothes and gentles  me.  My friend Dolores epitomizes hospitality, the generous heart. I can talk to her about almost anything. Her hospitality comes as naturally as breath. She is a listener. I always leave her home feeling nurtured and treasured, not to mention well-fed. To sit in Dolores’s welcoming home, enjoying cookies and tea while these two wonderful women got to know each other was more dear than I can say.


Dolores, Alma, Sue with Cherie Westmoreland photo in the background

Dolores gave Alma homemade socks. We shared stories. We took a selfie! Alma carefully carried away her painting wrapped in the garbage bag Dolores had given her. The gratitude and warmth I felt for these moments and the gifts of these two women in my life expanded into the next day, and the next, and today as well.

This post is dedicated to my own mum, Alice Sylvia Frith Bland, who died 20 years ago on Hallowe’en. I feel her presence and love often. I am grateful to all the mother figures who have blessed my life, and who continue to bless it. Thank you. Hiy Hiy.

Truly Home

How do you know when you are well and truly home? Three vignettes from my life in Treaty Four Territory, under the prairie sky.


I am well  and truly home!

Our two farm dogs, Lady (mum) and Herc (son) fell into their own routines when I abandoned them and went to Ontario. That routine involves hunting muskrat in the dugouts, clearly an absorbing task for a pair of canines. I would head off on my morning walk, call the dogs and to my great dismay, nobody came. When I was a few kilometres down the road and on my way back, I would see two distant black dots racing down the road towards me, wearing signs of dugout activity when they arrived. Wet, with flecks of lime green duckweed on their coats!

Now, some weeks and many morning walks later, the dogs have caught on and have let the dugout go in favour of a morning walk.(Muskrat relief, to be sure!) They can barely contain their joy when I come out the door. All the way down the lane, they do doggie backflips, fall over each other, contort their bodies and tails in movements of joy and excitement and anticipation. Lady even smiles, a kind of ugly but sweet grimace. They trip over each other. Sometimes I can barely move down the lane. I occasionally remember kicking one of these dogs predecessors once because I was so frustrated that I could not move. (Shame!) The walk down the lane is a good a barometer of how crusty (or not) I might be feeling in the morning.

Two things: I am grateful that we have a short lane. The dog’s antics fill my heart with joy and are the best beginning to a morning walk.IMG_1681 IMG_1686 IMG_1698

I am now able to walk across the south field because it has been combined. Field walking is even more pleasurable than walking down the road. I like the unexpected dips and swells, the curves and surprises of walking across the fields. I like the wild untouched areas – a grove of willows here, a wetland there, an unexpected rise over here. The dogs follow their noses, read each other’s body language, their tails erect and a certain tension in their body when they pick up a scent. They bound ahead, disappearing at times, surprising me later by coming up from behind. Their movement is like a dance, is like the swoop of the grass birds as they fly hither, is like the curve of the land itself, under this vast bowl of sky.


watercolour - Pheasant Creek Coulee

watercolour – Pheasant Creek Coulee

Last week, I was able to visit Pheasant Creek Coulee almost every day, sometimes with my paints, sometimes not. Colours are just beginning to change. The pinks of the bluestem grass on the hills is astonishing. This morning when I arrived, there were four Swainson’s hawks flying just over the hill where I often sit. I stopped and sat and watched them, listened to their sharp cries, wondered if they were a family or just a group of hawks who liked to hang out. The cry of a hawk is like the pungent scent of sage – no matter how many times you have heard it or smelled it, it catches you unawares, urges you to wake up, pay attention!

IMG_1739 IMG_1732

I come to Grandfather Rock, a place where  I have painted often. In a certain way, trying to paint in this place is a way to come to know it better, to see all the shades alive in the pink of the bluestem, to wrestle with all of the troublesome yet beautiful greens. After some attempts to catch the feel and colour of the day, I return to what it is that I love most about this place – how to paint  the shape and curve of the land – the skeleton, the bones  beneath these hills.



Treaty Four Powwow, under the arbour. Flashing colours of dancers everywhere. Sound of drums beating here and there. A beautiful fall day nestled by Mission Lake in the folds of the hills of the Qu’Appelle Valley. Garbage floating off in the wind, or trampled underground. The smell of sweetgrass, of home fries, of deep frying. Powwow announcers trying to get people to come for the Grand Entry.

jingle skirts, Treaty Four Powwow. Photo courtesy of Kate Herberger,

jingle skirts, Treaty Four Powwow. Photo courtesy of Kate Hersberger,

I have just been to see our daughters, Jessie and Marina, and their horses Missy and Gatty. They have camped out here all weekend with other riders who made the trip here on horseback to honour the late Chief Irvin StarBlanket. Marina tells me that they have been asked to take part in the Horse Ceremony which will occur before the Special (Dance Competition) in honour of Chief Irvin. She is nervous. Gatty will do fine, she tells me. She is worried about riding in front of such a big crowd.

I am sitting directly across from where the riders will enter the powwow arena. Elder Mike Pinay, the announcer, shares something about the Horse Ceremony, and then says that two girls from outside the community have been asked to take part in this ceremony, to ride for the mothers and for the grandmothers. He goes on to say that it is unusual to ask outsiders to take part but that these girls are great friends of the community, and know some of  the ways of the community. It is a great honour for them to take part in this ceremony.

Mike then asks the StarBlanket Juniors drum group to begin their song and all of us stand. I stand tall, full of prayer, or pride, of love for these two daughters and the great honour they have of taking part in this. Marina nods in my direction as she rides by.The five horses circle the arbour four times, going slowly the first time around, then trotting, then loping. Drums beat, hooves beat, hearts beat…. I think of their grandmothers and great grandmothers….They look beautiful. Our daughters sit tall in the saddle.

When they are finished, I see them heading off towards the hills to let the horses have a good run, to let the horses loose. I have been proud of these girls many times before, but never like this.

These are not photos of the horse ceremony, but of the last part of the Memorial Ride.

These are not photos of the horse ceremony, but of the last part of the Memorial Ride.

some of the many riders and horses at Treaty Four

some of the many riders and horses at Treaty Four


Remembering Gerry Starr


This morning (Thursday, July 25th) I learned that Gerry Starr passed away. I was preparing for a visit from my aunt and my cousins but the news about Gerry caused me stop and have a good cry. As soon as I was done preparing food, I went down to the lake to think about Gerry and to wait for my visitors. In Gerry’s memory, I made a small circle of stones on the beach, noticing after I did so that half the stones were in the water and half were not. Along with the stones, I picked a shiny piece of shell, because for me Gerry had a quiet kind of shine. While I waited, a family of loons fished just a ways off shore. A large osprey (also known as fish eagle) soared way out on the lake, also fishing. This made me think straight away of Edith, Gerry’s wife and my friend, who always looked for the eagle to accompany us on each day of a canoe trip we took.


I was grateful for this quiet moment and this peaceful lake where I could remember Gerry. As I sat, the water lapping the sand slowly shifted my circle of stones.

Gerry always called me Sue Bland, never just Sue like most people!! Together, he and his wife Edith were unfailingly kind and hospitable and generous to my family and I.  Gerry was the dad of my great friend Gail, and her sisters Danette, Geraldine, a sister I have not yet met, and the late Jean.  He was the moshum of my goddaughter Janaye and her sister Taye, and a whole bunch of boys. He had three beloved great granddaughters who lit up his face and warmed his heart. He was a respected Elder in his home community of StarBlanket, and beyond.

I did not know Gerry when he was a young capable athlete, or the hardworking manager of the large StarBlanket Farm. Gerry’s health was never great when I knew him and he usually used a walker. It always amazed me how many things he attended despite his great difficulty moving around. I remember him as a quiet, very intelligent, very observant man – nobody’s fool. I don’t think Gerry missed much.

Although he was quiet, when he did have something to say, nothing could stop him from saying it. I remember a couple of those occasions. Once when StarBlanket Cree Nation held a day to commemorate residential school survivors at Lebret, Edith was supposed to speak. When the time came she could not. But with the help of his daughters and Edith, Gerry purposefully made his way to the front and he spoke powerfully about his residential school experience at Lebret. I wrote down what he said, but what sticks with me now is how indignant he was (incredulous really) when he remembered that the priests expected them to pray before breakfast, after breakfast – just about every minute of the day. How there was absolutely no recognition at all that the spiritual ways of his grandfather meant something. He would return home in the summer to go into the bush to learn his grandfather’s ways, then back to boarding school for 10 months learning that those ways were wrong.

On a happier occasion, at Gail and Sonny’s wedding, he called me over to explain that Edith was crying (with joy) because Sonny had gifted him with his best mare and foal, and because this was a return to the way it had been a long time ago. During the traditional ceremony, he spoke at length about this, and very eloquently. He was very moved by Sonny’s gift, and what it represented – regaining  the old ways that had been forbidden and made illegal by my people.

My fondest memory of Gerry – one that always brings a smile to my face – took place at the Wahpimoostoosis Healing ceremonies that were held each year in August. I had taken part in a Sweatlodge Ceremony that morning, and was participating in the Feast where Gerry was one of the Elders that afternoon. During the feast, I could hardly keep my head up, and kept yawning – I was so sleepy from my time in the Sweat. After the feast was over, I was shaking the hands of the Elders and when I got to Gerry, he convulsed with laughter and told me how hilarious it was to watch this white girl almost fall asleep during the feast because the Sweat had been too much for me. He teased me without mercy! Honestly, I would have been insulted except that his glee and laughter was so darn contagious, I just cracked up too. I laugh every time I think of it.

Last year, Gail and I spoke a number of times together. I spoke trying to encourage other Canadians to attend the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. Gail had the hard part – she spoke as an intergenerational survivor – both her parents had attended residential schools and Gail shared how deeply this affected her. I learned a great deal about Gerry and about the powerful bond between Gerry and Gail  – but these are Gail’s tales to tell, not mine. I am thinking about these stories as I remember Gerry today. I learned what a complex man Gerry Starr was, and something of his influence on many, many people.

Gerry was waiting for his residential school hearing. Like many Elders before him, he passed away before that could happen. I feel so sad about that. I am not sure that those hearings always offer much healing, but perhaps for some they offer a kind of closure. It seems ironic that today, all across Canada,  has been designated by Indigenous people in Canada as NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER: HONOUR THE APOLOGY. The intention is to honour the children lost to and the adult survivors of residential schools, and to push the federal government to turn over all documentation related to the residential schools to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (as ordered by the courts). I deeply wish that our Canadian government would honour the words of the Apology made in 2008.

Sometimes I have watched a dying person do great healing during their last days. I don’t know if that was the case with Gerry. I hope it was.

I have been feeling Gerry’s absence all day today. The world is a different place without him. I cannot imagine the Starr family without Gerry in their midst. I am feeling the difficulty of having two homes – this being my birth home and Saskatchewan being my chosen home. I want to be able to hug Gail and Edith and family, to take my brown buns (the buns that Gerry loved) and a good farm chicken, to be present as they honour this very special man in time honoured ways. I want to hear what is said, and I want to learn more who this complicated  and special man was to others in his family, and in his community. I am 2800 kilometers away, which feels pretty far. But if I can’t be in Saskatchewan, this place where I feel the presence of my own ancestors, where I feel close to earth and lake and sky, is the next best  place to give thanks for Gerry’s life, and to offer prayers of healing and peace for him and his big circle of love and family. I feel gratitude for knowing Gerry.


Morning Walk/University of Toronto

this photo is for Jessie... her kind of sneaker even!

this photo is for Jessie… her kind of sneaker even!


from the Bata Show Museum (which I have never visited)...someday I will

from the Bata Show Museum (which I have never visited)…someday I will

IMG_0137 IMG_0138 IMG_0140This past week I have been in Toronto, learning about anti-racism theory and white privilege at the University of Toronto. The photos above make me think of my friend, Sheena Koops, and her blog TreatyWalks where she considers her place as a treaty person on her daily walk. In doing so, she educates and inspires us all. Sheena’s journey has provoked me to think about the shoes or sandals or sneakers or moccasins we all wear and how it is that our feet touch the earth – lightly? with a stomp? with a rhythm? with joy? with respect?

Dancing. Walking. Plodding. Hopping. Limping. Shuffling. Tiptoeing. Leaping.

Each morning this past week, I walked to my class through the verdant University campus…. meditatively, stopping to observe, watching as people practiced tai chi… stopping daily at the Pearson Pond of peace and friendship (I think it has another name). It amazed me that just 5 minutes away, people were walking in a totally different way on Yonge Street…it also delights me that such peace and beauty can be found in the heart of downtown Toronto. One of the great joys of being here is people watching……just watching feet, and footwear and the way people walk is like watching a chaotic and electric, sometimes sad, sometimes joyous human dance. Here are some photos of my daily walk…. the peaceful one!IMG_0142IMG_0188 IMG_0156 IMG_0152 IMG_0153 IMG_0154 IMG_0148 IMG_0144 IMG_0159 IMG_0151

IMG_0160 IMG_0163


Frog Moon Magic

For the past 3 years, I have had the privilege of supporting the work of the Saskatchewan Justice and Right Relations Network – a part of which is assisting some incredible volunteers as they put together 2 provincial gatherings annually. As our purpose is to build bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Saskatchewan, to learn our true history, and to share our stories, the paths we travel are often very difficult and sometimes heartbreaking. The volunteers I support know that we must find time to laugh and celebrate and have fun together as well as to do the difficult work of reconciliation and healing. In fact, the fun part is most definitely healing. For this reason, our gatherings include square dances, Hallowe’en parties, and most recently, a coffeehouse, called the Frog Moon Café.

I loved being a part of the Frog Moon Café and want to share a little bit about how it came to be. First our planning team had the idea for a coffeehouse, and realized that the date was on the full moon. We originally thought, “Hey, we can call it the “Full Moon Coffeehouse””. My daughter Jessie created a beautiful calendar in her Cree class and from this calendar we learned that the fourth moon of the year is the Frog Moon (Ayiki-pisim). In this quiet way, the spirit of frog moved into our plans for the gathering and for the newly named FROG Moon Café. Little did we suspect much magic and fun the frog would bring to our endeavours!

One of my favourite teachings is that everything you need is already right there. You just need the wits and the space and quiet within to notice. I have never in my life put together a coffeehouse, and one of the things I needed was somebody with experience. Enter Laura Stewart, a beautiful singer and songwriter who recently put her “Song for Idle No More” on You Tube, and whose passionate efforts to save what remain of our fragile grassland ecosystems inspire me. When Laura said she would not only perform, but she would offer advice and sound equipment, something lovely fell into place inside of me.

I knew we needed a great MC to create the kind of atmosphere we wanted, and I remembered what an awesome job Howie Thomson of Carry the Kettle did at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in Fort Qu’Appelle last year. I went out on a limb and phoned Howie, told him “sorry no pay, we will take a silver collection and I can give you a farm chicken and some eggs” and bless his heart, Howie said, “Sure,  I will come.” Howie’s response gave me enough courage to send a message to Errol Kinistino, and Errol almost immediately said, “Sounds like a good thing you guys are doing. Yes, I will go anywhere live music is”. That little thing inside me begin to grow and get warm. A coffeehouse was slowly taking shape. Soon our line-up included the wonderful Sheena Koops. Sheena is a multi-talented teacher, author, singer/songwriter, table tennis player and passionate advocate for all Canadians to learn about our treaties, a subject she explores with flair, grace and humour in her popular blog Treatywalks.

Image 1The next beautiful thing that happened was that my daughter, Jessie Stueck, created the striking poster you see above. We are so used to digital posters. Jessie’s poster is hand drawn, and it caught the spirit of the Frog Moon Café perfectly. The dream of the Frog Moon was taking shape and form! I started hearing from people who wanted to know if they could perform in the Frog Moon Café ! (so many that we could have hosted a two night Café.)

Then a message from artist, poet and blog master Kate Hersberger who planned to attend our “Walking Together” gathering. She wondered if she could share her art… at the Café. She did – in fact she got the evening started with a slide how and poetry reading. Kate also created the Frog Moon Art Gallery , a sacred and beautiful space. The paintings and poems offered by Kate in the Frog Moon Gallery were chosen from her inspiring blog. Kate’s offer seemed like the most incredible gift – I had never imagined a Café and an art gallery!

Frog Moon by Kate Hersberger

Frog Moon by Kate Hersberger

Last year at this time, I was moved to tears by the powerful voice and stirring lyrics of Jorgina Sunn of Saskatoon. Jorgina e-mailed to say she could come. I did a little froggie dance. Scott Fulton offered his wonderful talent and he and Sheena teamed up. David Kim-Cragg offered to share a story. I did a froggie leap! Laura Stewart’s friend Mark, a wonderful musician decided to join Laura. I still wanted a young performer, and was so thrilled when Katara Ironquill learned that her family was not going to Alburquerque and could come to the Frog Moon instead! Froggie cartwheels! Meanwhile my good buddy LeeAnn Bird was distraught that we didn’t have a rapper. Sorry LeeAnn, so many stars, not enough time! Angela Edmunds of Mae Starr Productions, volunteered to capture it all on film. It seems like we were receiving one gift after another, all offered freely and with such heart.

Behind the scenes, the hospitable staff at Calling Lakes Centre were putting up signs, moving furniture, bringing in extra chairs, converting a lounge into a coffeehouse and baking up a storm for the occasion.

Meanwhile, we in Southern Saskatchewan were gripped in the longest winter any of us can remember.The week before the Frog Moon Café, there was a blizzard! (Heck, as I write this, there is another blizzard!) My walk the morning before had me pulling out my long underwear. Hard to imagine frogs singing with snow everywhere.

The day of the Frog Moon Café held some wonderful surprises.

Surprise # 1- Kate Hersberger unveiled her latest painting!(yep, the froggie above)

Surprise #2- Amongst the forty people who attended Walking Together, we had a rap artist – “Detox” or Darwin Geddes shared a song in our circle and agreed to perform that night. LeeAnn and I did Froggie somersaults together.

Surprise # 3- The weather began to change. The pelicans flew over. Deep within us stirred the knowledge that the Frog Moon was bringing a long awaited spring!!!

Surprise #4 – Erroll Kinistino arrived with his partner Josie Linka(drums), his dad, Hubert Desjarlais, and shared some of his time with  Laura Moffatt and Tim Keepness who each shared a few songs. (my daughters are big fans, Tim!)

For myself, the night was pure magic. It was how I want the world to be. It was my sweetest dream. That we could all be together, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, that we could be all ages from babies to kokums, that we could be laughing and singing and celebrating together, so proud of all of the artists who set our hearts on fire and made our spirits sing. The chairs at the back were hard on the backside, but Howie kept us laughing and Laura had all of us singing along to her beautiful “Song for Idle No More”:

The time is now
and you and I are here
No more doubt
no matter what we fear
We will rise up
We know what we’re here for
We will rise up strong and sure
Idle No More

We call everyone
Join the round dance
Feel the heartbeat drum
Reach out and take a hand

At which point, the beautiful kokum beside me grabbed my hand and together we raised our hands high in the air as we sang.

Maggie King put Jessie's Frog Moon cafe together with Kate's painting and voila!

Maggie King put Jessie’s Frog Moon Cafe sign together with Kate’s painting and voila!

Later that night, our guest speaker, Alex Wilson woke to find the full moon streaming in her window. When she looked up, she saw a frog in the moon. Deep in the earth, new life was stirring. Deep within each sleeping body, a dream was infused with hope and possibility.

The next day, we basked in the fun, healing and warm glow the Frog Moon Café gave us all. The Calling Lakes Centre staff cleaned with amazing good cheer (or else faked it really well. Whichever it was, THANK YOU). Outside the spring sun was warming Mother Earth. We headed home, hearts singing. I received a message from Laura Stewart, on her way down south. “Frogs! Frogs! I hear frogs! Oh Sue, we sang and croaked and hopped the frogs out.”

Everything we needed was right here. In fact, way more than what we needed. My original hope was for an MC and a few singers. We had all kinds of singers (even some surprise ones who arrived at the last minute), a storyteller, artists, film makers and the best audience anyone could hope for! We could not have guessed at the array of gifts the spirit of the frog brought to our Café. The powerful  presence of the Frog Moon enlivened our our work and our sharing during the day. It made all the difference. It brought an element of magic, of playfulness, of surprise, of laughter, of shape shifting. It brought us closer to the earth, to the water and to the sky home of that amazing frog moon. Kate Hersberger says it best, in the poem she wrote to go with her painting:

We touched the frog moon
the night the pelicans came

We connected the earth to the sky

We held the frog moon
together in song

Hearts connected across the divide