Friday, April 10, 2015

belonging to place

I've been thinking a lot about home lately. From having a sense of belonging and connection to a place to having connections to people.

Part of my day to day work has me working with students who have rather complex relationships with home as they are both Canadian and of another culture, which leaves them with a dualistic concept of home. Home is both here and elsewhere.

At the same time, I also work with Indigenous students and am saturated with ideas of a deep seated sense of land and belonging.

The irony behind the fact that I work with the First Peoples and the Settlers doesn't escape me.

If anything, the fact that I am constantly navigating narratives of belonging, culture and identity makes me hyper aware of how complex and nuanced these ideas of home are from individual to individual, group to group.

But it also means that I am thinking a lot about what home means to me personally. Is Montreal my home after 15 years or is the West Coast of BC my home? My last trip back left me feeling very disconnected with the place I have always thought of as home. I have finally become that "immigrant" or displaced person who no longer fits with her home. I carry a glorified, static image of what home was rather than the living place that it currently is. My narrative of BC is stuck in the past and to the identity I had when I lived there. My BC is the place of my 23 year old self.

And yet, with all of it's language politics and tensions, QC isn't really my home either even though it is becoming more and more my home with every passing year. I see how I am beginning to internalize the narratives of this space even as I long for the ocean back home. Which is such a weird space to be in.

I guess, on some level, because I keep dealing with these narratives of deep, long seated belonging to place (for example, the discovery of Haida artifacts below the water that date back 13,000 years and lend historical weight to the oral traditions that have been handed down through stories), I keep thinking about what it means to know deep down that you are a part of the land around you.

I am the child of an immigrants. I am first generation on my maternal side (though my Dutch ancestors can be traced back to the 1300s in a particular region in the Netherlands) and 5th generation on my paternal side. I have never had a deep sense of attachment to place as I have always had a very nomadic heart. I have never wanted nor longed for (until now maybe?) a sense of belonging to place, not really. The fact that I have "settled" in the place is surprising to all who know me and really a by-product of my life partner more than anything else. I practice a spiritual path that comes from immigrants and is made up of mostly Western magical traditions though it does have many Eastern influences in it.

I can't help but wondering lately though, what would it look like if I actually dug in and claimed this land as my own? What would it look like if I embraced some of the traditions of the people of this land? (Albeit of course, in a respectful, non appropriating kind of way). What are the traditions of the land here and what can they teach me in my practice?


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