This past weekend, I travelled to Antigonish, from Halifax, for a writing workshop led by Sheree Fitch. Sheree is a Maritime children’s author, and one of the most mesmerizing storytellers I’ve ever met. The first time I met her, I was eight years old. I had gotten an opportunity to attend a writing workshop in the Annapolis Valley, and I can still remember her lessons. So on Thursday, when I noticed an announcement on Twitter that she would be leading a workshop for Arts Health Antigonish, I wasted no time in registering. It was not a mistake.
Not only was it a fun weekend, filled with stories, memories, creative sparks and new friendships, it was also educational on a personal level. One of Sheree’s phrases from this weekend (which may have come from a book, but I can’t remember the author or book now) kept resonating with me after I’d returned home.
“Listen with a willingness to change.” That is true listening. We’re not talking about just hearing, but listening. Leaning in, taking it in.
When I got home, I saw a book on my table that I had taken out from the library, and which had so far sat on my kitchen table untouched. It was “Indian Horse” by Richard Wagamese. I had heard about it from one of the Canada Reads videos I had watched last month. It had remained untouched because I had a surface knowledge of what I would read in there. I knew it would be an uncomfortable read, and that it would most likely change me, force me to see a dirty truth. I would know things after reading it, that I already kind of knew, but I didn’t really know. And I wasn’t sure I was ready. It’s really, really easy to keep your head in the sand.
But after this weekend, with those words in my mind, I saw that book and picked it up. I started reading it yesterday, and finished it this morning, with big fat tears streaming down my face. It is quite obvious while reading this book, why it made it onto Canada Reads a couple years ago. It is spellbinding, tragic, hopeful, enlightening and utterly heart-breaking. We may think, in certain parts of this country, that we are already enlightened, already beyond the prejudices of our nation’s past… but as a whole, we are not. We can’t keep our collective head in the sand, and pretend that Canada is beyond those problems, or pretend that there aren’t many people still feeling the effects of past injustices.
I finally read this book with the willingness to be changed, and though I’m not quite sure how I’ve changed yet, I already know this book will stay with me a long time. I truly believe everyone in Canada should read it, even if you are indeed beyond the prejudices (which I hope many of us are). It is important to acknowledge the not-so-pretty picture of Canada’s past. Acknowledge that things happened that should not have happened. Acknowledge that people were destroyed, families were destroyed, spirits were destroyed, cultures were destroyed, and that healing is an ongoing struggle.
If anything, I think this book could help us all to stop judging others, from every walk of life. Everyone has a story, and we have to listen if we want to make things better for everyone in this country. The more uncomfortable it might be, the more potential it has to change us, the closer we have to lean in.