“Our relationships with the places where our feet are planted are everything. In the physical sensory world, and the imaginal world which envelopes and penetrates it. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in these places forever, or for just a little while….All that matters is that, wherever we find ourselves in this world, we connect deeply there. For as long as we’re in a place, with as much love and respect as we can muster. That’s where the virtue lies, for me.”
‘The land carries its own memory, and a rich, earthy, planetary wisdom. The memory and wisdom of the ages. And we’re made up of it. At some very deep level, each one of us participates in that wisdom borne by the land.
‘Because we’re made of the land. Every cell in our body. There’s not a bit of us that isn’t created and then forged from the various places we’ve lived in.’
‘And what treasures we can uncover, if we remember it. If we learn how to dig deep, how to stop paddling about in the shallows and penetrate beyond the superficial into those deeper, older, planetary – cosmological, even – layers of the psyche. If, to use a phrase I coined many years ago now, we choose to let ourselves fall into the land’s dreaming. And so learn how to truly participate in the land’s psyche. In the world psyche – the anima mundi, the world soul.’
“Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place.” – Rumi
I was born, raised, and have lived my entire life in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I am a 4th Generation Canadian, with a complex, mixed heritage, including at least eight nationalities that I’m currently aware of, running through my veins. Celtic, Central and Eastern European, and even Indigenous to name a only a few, although you’d never know it if you judged me solely based on my appearance. I am a cultural hodgepodge, and I’m sure a DNA test would likely reveal that it’s even more complicated than all of that. I am a child of the world, and that is reflected in my diverse cultural interests, where I have chosen to travel, and what I choose to learn and share with the world. The embracing of diversity and desire for global connectedness runs deep in my genetic lineage. I have continued to let my heart and soul be my guide, despite these interests often being misunderstood, over-simplified and criticized based solely on how I look.
The truth is, my complex cultural background means that I don’t identify with just one place, people or culture, but many, and as a proud Canadian, I regularly feel immense gratitude and comfort, living in a country that is so culturally diverse and welcoming, for the most part, of that diversity. I have, as of late, been re-connecting with my heritage and the knowledge of my ancestors. How better to understand ones-self than to understand who and where they come from. I have been reading and learning about Matrilineal DNA, which is now used to trace family trees, because unlike DNA from fathers, a mother’s DNA is passed un-changed from mothers to children of both sexes, along the maternal line until all female lineages converge. Ultimately, what that means in simplified terms is, we can trace our DNA in a clear line through our mothers, and our mothers’ mothers, back through many generations, but we cannot do this through our father’s and our father’s fathers. I was contrastingly, both utterly flabbergasted and notably underwhelmed by the obviousness, when I learned the matriarchal nature of the very building blocks of humanity. The irony of learning this truth while at the same time becoming more and more conscious of and infuriated by the oppressive nature of our Patriarchally constructed society, was not lost on me. More on this another time! Science, in its purist form, is our friend, because it opens us up to question things and be open minded to theoretical possibilities. That said, our instincts and intuition are equally important, sometimes more so, in the short term in particular. I’m sure I’m not the first woman to say that on a deep-seeded (pardon the pun) internal level, I already knew this fact, but it took scientific evidence to convince me. Note to self, once again, you’re intuition is usually ahead of the curve. Trust it.
I have also been learning about the quickly growing study and theories around Epigenetics, and the mind boggling evidence that so far suggests our genes can in fact change based on external stimulus, such as traumatic experiences, or repetitive thought patterns and emotions, and in turn, those altered genes can then be passed down through generations. The implications around curing genetic diseases, the nature versus nurture debates, or limiting beliefs based on the genetic lottery we are born with, the good and the not so good, are incredibly exciting to consider. It would appear that we are so much more than the physical characteristics and pre-dispositions of our ancestors. We are also their dreams and their fears. Their gifts and their traumas. We carry not only their blood and tissue, but their experiences within us, as well as the potential capacity to transmute the parts that do not serve our greatest good or personal evolution.
All of this information together, for me, peaks my curiosity and begs the question, are we not then, on more than an experiential level, but on a cellular level, also made up of the places that we live and the places that our ancestors have lived? And in particular, are we not deeply connected and informed by the land in which our mother, grandmothers and great-grandmothers have walked? Is it possible, that we carry knowledge of the lands of our ancestral grandmothers lived and visited inside of our genetic coding? Even though I am fourth generation Canadian, I find a deeply rooted connection and attraction to places in the world that I have never set foot on. Places, that the ancient stories and pictures of, sing a song within me that transcend my limited ideas of my culture or borders and draw me towards them for some reason or purpose. There is knowledge within me, my blood and bone, that seems disconnected from my blonde hair and blue-green eyes, and yet other parts of me that are deeply connected to my appearance. Why, when I visited Turkey, in the Middle East, did I feel a deep sense of being a hop-skip-and-a-jump from home, when in reality, home was on the other side of the world in Canada? Why do depictions of ancient Egypt and endless seas of golden desert make me weep with longing? Why did this white girl feel every fibre of her being come alive with familiarity when she began to study bellydance? Time for that DNA test maybe? Or, maybe there’s even more to it than that. Humanity is not stationary. Scientific evidence traces the birthplace of humanity to Africa. There is innumerable evidence of cultural interconnectedness through travel, trade and marriage throughout the world for millennia. Viking symbols and runes etched with ancient knives into stone structures in the Middle East; jewellery, fabric and weapons being found all over the world in the graves of people not native to those cultural artifacts; the ancient Celtic triskele being used in the U.S. Department of Transportation, a coat of arms in Germany and national flag of Sicily. Our democracy here in North America is based on that of ancient Greece, our letters are Latin and our numbers are Arabic. Unless you are Indigenous to North America, every single one of us are either immigrants ourselves, or fairly recent descendants of immigrants. The bottom line is, that most of what we have come to know as Canada was built upon foreign ideas with an entirely different land and culture, and that past information is stored within our DNA, according to current science. My familial experience being in Canada is less than 150 years old, which within the measure of genetic lineage, is a relatively short time.
So what does all this mean? Well, for me, it is an inspiring seed of an idea that warrants further investigation. It is a reminder that we are far more complex in our make-up than we may currently understand, and we do ourselves a disservice when we over-simplify one another into cultural boxes, borders and surface appearances. There is so much more to an individual than meets the eye. This thinking inevitably leads to an us versus them mentality, and history has shown us time and again what horrors the implications of that can turn into. These new scientific discoveries and theories suggest possibility for our future, and it nudges me towards better connection and understanding of my own personal heritage, but more than that, it encourages me to enquire about the places my ancestors came from, where they travelled, settled, and what may have been going on in those places at that time in history? All of it, would potentially have an impact on my make-up, and that of my children, according to current modern science, and quite frankly, according to the long-time teachings of Indigenous peoples all over the globe.
As a central Canadian, living in a province with a significant population of Indigenous First Nations, might I suggest that maybe it’s way, way overdue for us European descendants to listen up and learn something about the stolen Treaty 1 Territory land we are all standing on? I did not personally choose to come here from Europe, but I do live here now as a result of my ancestors, I am raising my family here, and with every choice I make, I am setting the tone for future generations. If I apply the ideas about matrilineal DNA and epigenetics not just to myself and how my ancestry has impacted me, but to how I in turn will impact my descendants, wouldn’t the connection, understanding and knowledge of this land that I walk on every day, it’s history, it’s geology, it’s plant medicines, it’s animals, be an important responsibility? I love the idea that we are the manifestation of our ancestors wildest dreams. If that is so, what can I do to make them proud? Well, that leads me to an obvious question, what are my wildest dreams? What do I hope for, for my own descendants? I want them to know that I worked for a better world, that I cared about people and that I loved this planet and all her mysteries deeply. I want them to know that I dreamed and worked for unity, diversity and global community. That creativity and connectivity of people and land was deeply important to me. I want them to know that I loved this place that I live, it’s intense and extreme seasonal changes, and the hearty, incredibly creative people that our long, cold, dark winters produce. Above all, I want them to know that I did my best to become the soul of this place where I was born, while reaching for my dreams. That I listened to my heart and my intuition and let it be my guide in all things. If it is so, that I can pass on my experience to my descendants, it is my wish that it brings comfort and hope that I did not just live in this place, on this land, but instead, I allowed myself to connect deeply to it and become a part of it, as I believe nature intended.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media
STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams
WARDROBE BY: Patron of Dreams Shop
- Vintage red wool coat (available at Patron of Dreams Shop)
- Blue, Asian-inspired blouse/dress (Tara’s personal vintage collection)
- Up-cycled vintage military mushroom hat (SOLD from Patron of Dreams Shop)
- Vintage high-waisted denim jeans (SOLD from Patron of Dreams Shop)