The Path We Mean To Build or Invisible Things Are No Less Real
Collaboration is a word with two meanings that tug in opposite directions. In the world of makers we refer mostly to its positive connotation, as a means of working together to achieve something more than we could do alone. True collaboration is a craft. It is the honing of a deep understanding and a shared purpose. What are the tools of this craft? Storytelling. Listening. Presence. Honesty. Time. As with any art form, collaboration demands intimacy. It requires comfort with the unknown. It trades in vulnerability, generosity. Laughter too.
Camouflage is inherent to a functioning collaboration. We must always know when to show ourselves and when to blend with the background. Holding space does not mean taking up every corner. Courage should be saved for consummate moments. Thoughts ought to bend to meet new ones. Sometimes we must forget our own form so that we can purposefully evolve toward a new, mysterious incarnation.
We began our work together as 2017 faded into a fresh start. Based in Winnipeg/Treaty 1 and Regina/Treaty 4 respectively, we navigate space and time to investigate a relationship defined by land. Land is of the essence. Movement too. We imagine that performative movement can embody the invisible forces that surround us and shape our path. Elemental energies, personal ethical spaces, cultural identities, geological time; somewhere in these realms, we seek to uncover the intricacies of Indigenous (Métis)/settler relation building.
Collaboration is a word with two meanings that tug in opposite directions. People do that too, with their histories and their truths, vying for the shadowy point where empathy and hate can touch, and one can become the other. A wise person reminded us to beware. That other, negative connotation grabs at our limbs, tries to nip at our intentions so that we become complicit with destructive forces. Conciliation is a tricky thing. But if we hold both meanings in our minds, like stones, we will emerge on the path we mean to build.
We experiment with moving on, through, with the landscape. We feel ourselves a part, apart, together. Mingling with the crunch of our feet in the snow, our conversation traverses the hallowed ground of Wanuskewin. Our communion ricochets off various ideas and meeting grounds, splits and doubles back. We skate the frozen Red River, wearing giant neon hued balloons trapped in lengths of tulle extending from our backs. The balloons remain bright pinpoints as our bodies float to meet the horizon, until everything vanishes in the hazy distance.
What if I wanted to disappear into the sky? What if I wanted to dissolve into the expanse, what would I wear? Should I dress in my Sunday best? Patent leather shoes, pleated tulle, white tights, so that Grandma would approve. Or should I dress in my lightest silks, taffetas and chiffons, lighter than air? Wind is what changes the sky from grey, fluffy cottons to the smooth gradient of hand died ombrés. But at night the darkest blacks and navy blues are punctured with a thousand tiny holes, and all of my suns tell their stories. And here is the clearest secret everyone knows: instead of our wonder keeping the stars apart, it brings them together to dance. You and I will move and sway to the sounds of cricket symphonies, the cold night air cuts the cloth to reveal the breath caught in our chests.
This is how you disappear into the sky.
This is how you become the sky.
This is how we become the sky.
We hold a thing that can’t be carried alone.
We forage for meaning in the distance between us.
Separate but together, we look for a path to walk side by side.
Then we see each other more clearly.
Every timeworn stone appears as new as the day it came into being. After all, who could say otherwise? I hold your weight in my palm and wonder: Were you dropped to earth in a blazing comet? Did a glacier scrub you into shape? You are a talisman for eternity. You are the continual motion of stillness.
On our first walk, the deer revealed their presence. Not all at once, not for no reason. A wise person reminded us that the deer wanted to show themselves. Without that, we would never have glimpsed them in the winter landscape. A brilliant blue line angled across the sky where the clouds split open to let the day in. Bare branches framed the russet grasses that folded over in dry exhaustion and January snow clung to the hollows. A cluster of dazzling white tails somehow vanished, then reappeared. Motion deactivated the animals’ inherent secrecy, causing our sudden intake of breath at the surprise of their presence. But how could we be surprised? That only made sense if something essential had been forgotten.
There is medicine in unseen forces.
Medicines of unseen forces take time to reveal themselves. When you plant a seed you can look down at your hands and see something of yourself bringing life. Instead, look into the earth, through the earth, and see layers of time conceived outside of the ego. Unseen is this entrenched labour, not by the hand but the seed. Plowed by oxen that are lent not owned, by the divine right of royal blood. Blood that bears witness to the disciples’ good good work. Stained and bleached until raw but clean, the virtuous earth works in spite of us. In spite of the gifts carried and passed down by the slow-working methodical seed. Gifts are not gifts if they are not actually given, but gifts are cyclical. The seed wants to see tomorrow. It wants to carry genealogy, determination, and the revered word of one woman. Sown are the gifts that quilt the promise of our futures.
A perennial is always working. A rock is always moving. Invisible things are no less real.
This article was published in the Fall/Winter 2018-19 issue of Studio Magazine