Today I’ve been thinking about my mom, my aunts, my sister-in-law and mom-in-law, my cousins, my grandmothers, my great-grandmothers, my great aunties, and the family of women who made me, taught me, support me, love me, and claim me.
And I’ve been thinking about my friends, those I’ve known for much of my life, those who are new to me, those who are fellow writers and artists, those who are far away, those who are my neighbours, those who are taking part in marches all over the continent and the world, those who are not marching but are thinking about this day, and those who are not marching and have no damn time to think about this day.
I did a sort of walk today, on my own, in my town, which is still new to me and me to it, and which held no organized march. I walked to City Hall and found a woman there with her two daughters, standing before the skaters on the rink, holding placards about being just and considering the daughters of the world. I was one in a sparse succession of women who stopped to chat with this woman, to offer this small, individual show of solidarity, this discussion with a stranger about the importance of this day.
And I was thinking as I carried on walking about a walk I took the morning after the US election, and how I could detect in some of the people driving cars past me that they were now a little more permitted to think I’m lesser, that their aggression would be a bit more implicitly supported, that I have a bit of a target on me just because I’m walking down the sidewalk. I walked over to have a look at my new garden plot, where I had planted garlic and milkweed to gestate through the winter, and I discovered that someone had stabbed a bunch of stakes and stray implements and garbage into the soil. And I was fearful.
All the times I’ve been fearful while walking down a street. And the ways in which I don’t have to worry when I walk down a street.
And today, on the day of the Women’s Marches that took place around the world, walking around my new city, I felt powerful and joyful and legitimate. The majority of the women I passed looked strong and on their game. They were taking their space on the sidewalks. Buoyed. Buoyant.
I was also thinking about Jeannette Armstrong, who gave a talk in Guelph last night. The immensity of her wisdom, the calm of her voice. She talked about many things, and it all stemmed from the knowledge of her people, who have lived in the Okanagan for millennia. One thing she said last night came to mind today on my walk: how it’s wrong-headed and basically impossible to situate yourself totally in relation to or to draw your identity entirely from large, distant institutions, like, say, a federal government. Instead, she said, learning and getting closer to the local—the family, the community, the land and water and life around you—will help you realize your fullest humanity.
And once again I thought of my family and friends, most of whom live in cities far from this one.
And I looked around me and saw all the barriers cities can put up and sometimes unwittingly put up, their concrete and glass, their leaked gas and road salt, their locked doors, their prohibitions, their laws against disadvantage. I was carrying with me an Adrienne Rich poem that I wanted to tape up somewhere so people could read it as they walked along the sidewalks of this city today, but there were no such places, no community announcements in the downtown, no places where posters have accrued, nothing to read in the public space besides advertisements. This is just one small thing cities need to provide if they want to welcome or make a place for all their people. If they want to cleave to their community, their land, their people. They need to consider their blank walls, their unrelenting grey, their modes of poverty.
So I went to the public park by my house and found the brand new community bulletin board and put up this poem, which is about a country’s silence about the horrors of its past, as well as its present. It’s my hope that a mom or two will see it while their children run around in the playground, or that a girl coming here to be alone will see it, or that someone strolling by to check up on their garden plot will see it. And I hope some part of them might feel buoyed.