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Lee Maracle: walking everyone home

Sitting on the deck, sheltered from the late afternoon sun by the umbrella, thinking, This is why we have gardens, for days like today, when the growth, the vivid green, the sudden appearance of buds and flowers and shoots, is astounding. From grey-brown to bursting with verdant life overnight – miraculous.

Not perfection in the garden – renovation season has begun, and the people next door are doing something noisy to their walls (when they were drilling on our linked wall inside, one of my wine glasses fell off its holder and smashed – thus the reality of semi-detached houses). But still, the loudest noise, when the work next door stops, is birdsong. And the sound of nature waking up and stretching and beginning her work in earnest.

What’s missing here? A non-smashed wine glass. Must go rectify that; it’s 5 p.m.

The U of T class began today, the Ryerson one tomorrow; I’m back at work, have scraped my mind back from the conference to daily life, though it is still very much with me, in my bones, what was said and what happened. That conference was one of the richest experiences of my life, and you know I am not given to hyperbole. (LOL.) It was so much better than any of us expected.

Here are a few of the sentences I liked best, and next post, I’ll tell you the vital truth that I learned about my own work.
“Writing the truth does more good than keeping secrets. Tell the hard truth. The reader always senses when you’re holding back.”
“In your first pages, what kind of world are you presenting to the reader, so they want to become your narrative voice and live in your shoes?”
“When the brain encounters action words, our vision system in the brain recreates the movement, and our motor system too. Our muscles respond to words. Using vivid description triggers something on the radar. Give them the experience, not just the language. Touch, smell, taste, hearing, sight – make their brains light up.”
“Write as if you’re talking to someone.”
“Don’t be kind.”
“For your second draft, walk away and then come back and read as if you didn’t write it.”
Liz Renzetti: “Don’t be ashamed of having a commercial impulse. Be practical. It’s a job. Writers have to eat.”

And so much more, that’s just a taste.

But finally, I think the panel that affected us all the most was the conversation between Lee Maracle and Tanya Talaga, two wonderful indigenous writers, one an elder and one a younger reporter. Lee spoke about the horror of residential schools – “taking children from their families and from the land is an act of genocide.” She said that because First Nations children were severed from their language, they were cut off from their bodies – that we native English-speakers have the use of our full bodies, but people who are separated from their native tongues, their first language, have their bodies cut in two. A powerful image. “The forever memory is in the body. You need to communicate with that body.”

“When you write,” she said, “you’re talking to a tree. It took one small pine to make that page.” And “When you write, you are looking backward and forward at the same time.”

My favourite sentence of hers: “A grandmother’s job is to walk everyone home. The more grandmothers you have, the more history you have. Then you can be whole.”

“There are 167 nations living in this city,” she said to us at the end. “You need to get over your British selves.”

Will do my best with that, Lee. But in the meantime, this grandmother sure does want to help walk everyone home.

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4 Responses to “Lee Maracle: walking everyone home”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this, Beth. I'll try to put that advice to good use in my memoir (which will be self-published later this year.) Truth and sincerity is key. Be totally sincere, is what I would add. Be yourself, your own unique voice.

    Juliet in Paris

  2. beth says:

    Congratulations, Juliet, on getting to the finish line with your memoir – please let me know where and how I can get a copy. Glad the advice of the weekend's experts helped.

  3. theresa says:

    Good post, Beth. I agree with so much of what Lee Maracle says but I don't think it's entirely true that native-English speakers have the full use of their bodies. Not necessarily. The same forces — Church, the obstructive influences of our own families, our own culture — often alienated us from deep body knowledge. Finding ways to recover that is possible but often difficult.

  4. beth says:

    That's a very good point, Theresa. And I have to say that Lee Maracle does not think about English-speaking "settlers" with much sympathy, so I am not sure she'd be open to your message.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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