As a Canadian, I know about the weather. It’s a gateway to a conversation, and everyone has something to say. Opinion is divided. Sometimes it sucks; sometimes it’s absolutely glorious.
While I think about the snowstorms I’ve survived, I wonder how a Mexican, a Panamanian, an African who has never experienced the winter of my discontent feels about the blizzards I’ve shoveled my way out of. It must be not unlike how I feel when I watch the footage of a hurricane or monsoon race toward a population that can’t possibly survive the onslaught yet most miraculously do.
I’m waiting. I hear the sound of pitter-patter. Rain has been falling off and on. It’s not as loud here as it is in Panama during the rainy season. Humidity is no longer a feeling of moisture. It’s become an extension of who I am. Hurricane Olaf is jockeying on the southern tip of the Mexican Baja and getting ready to blow.
Shortlist Winner published in Adelaide Literary Award 2020 Anthology
In light of the travesty unfolding in Canada, where authorities are unearthing hundreds of Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves, I thought I’d share this scandalous story with you. Several months ago, I came across the story of Catherine Corless, an Irish woman who exposed the sickening truth behind the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Ireland. The similarities between what the church inflicted upon the children and their unwed mothers and the Indigenous are a breathtaking reality. This revelation is not to diminish the travesty inflicted on the Indigenous community; it is to highlight and support their cause for justice and reiterate that what happened to them is criminal.
I can honestly say I’ve never recovered from discovering these facts of what the Irish government and church officials sanctioned as appropriate. What is alarming to me is that we allow the real culprits an escape when we hide them behind the terms: government and church. Government and church are the names applied to people in charge of organizations. It isn’t a building or conglomerate–it’s people.
In Ireland, as many as 35,000 unwed women entered into the care of these horrific institutions. As many as 6000 babies are assumed buried without records across the beautiful Irish countryside. And at best guess, as many as 15,000 children were sold in an adoption ring without consent (or forged consent) from their mothers by the nuns in charge of these institutions.
Just as devastating is that these women and children were abused to such an extent until 1996. Even now, the government of Ireland can’t face the horror and no matter how you say it, Sorry, is simply not enough.
And there is yet another layer that needs to be brought to the surface. Just where were the fathers of these children? The families of these girls who were subjected to such inhumanity?
If you want to make anyone uncomfortable, simply tell them that you own nothing. In a second, their eyes roll slightly inward as they compute the idea of what nothing could mean and that you must be joking: they’re waiting for the punchline that what you’re saying can’t imply the same nothing that means nothing.
Others may nonchalantly glance over their shoulder to see their belongings and that your nothing has nothing to with their everything. After all, what is life for if not for gathering stuff?
When we are born, people already bring us stuff. Baby clothing, toys, food. As we grow up, more stuff comes our way. We receive a collection of items to make us happy, to make us fit in, to help us live comfortable lives, and to shape us into unique individuals. Those articles are often given out of love.
There is also a constant trade and evolution, perhaps. Pink bikes are exchanged for ice skates, blue bikes are exchanged for balls, dolls are replaced with sweaters and lipgloss, real cars and trucks replace the Tonka trucks and Matchbox cars taking up space attic or basement. Of course, some of us collect those items forever because they are too precious to part with.
It’s a moment I will always remember and treasure. Dusk was settling like a distant memory among the trees in the Boreal Forest* of Northern Alberta, and Modest Creek gurgled like an evening lullaby. This was a new home for us, and we enjoyed our idyllic life in the country. I was about to turn into our driveway; I’d been out walking with our Doberman Pinschers, Raven, and Bounder when something caught in my periphery.
Raven was a fiercely protective bitch who would yap at anyone even remotely suspicious. If she loved you, look out, it was either a tongue lashing with her wet kisses or a snuggle on the couch. She had already chased our neighbor, who was on horseback, down the road to prove her mettle. Bounder, I’ll spare you his comic personality traits, did whatever Raven dictated.
When the sun sinks below the treeline, darkness moves quickly. Our house was set back from the road and had a longish driveway. Something made me look toward the field T-boning our driveway, where a carpet of stubble grass, empty of summer hay, drifted away at dusk. And there he stood, barely fifteen yards away. There was no mistaking his dark, brooding face, his regal deportment, the long stare he shot in our direction. At best guess, I’d say 1500lbs of lean moose meat and he came out of nowhere.