His words ricochet. He casts them out, they strike and, on the rebound, start to make sense. They pick up grit and dirt from skittering on roads. Bits of wood from striking against walls and glancing off trees. Words and strings of words: constellations and courage, Newfoundland dogs, a great black plate of ice. Something called winterfighter in Thompson, Manitoba; breezes turning into rivulets; treasures buried on the Paris of the prairies.
If his words come to you, they may create an image in your mind’s eye, a feeling in your heart about living here, on this land and in the city, with your feet on the street, under trees and street lamps, beneath satellites that circle around the world and back to you.
He offered poems and songs like sparks from a campfire, leaving behind flames that smoulder and catch on, enter our imagination and make us see things from the outside—bigger, more mysterious.
His words ricochet. He throws them as hard as he can into the air and fears they will make no sense. But you are alert and quick and your heart is open, so you catch them, closing your hands before they hurtle onward. You feel them bouncing against your palms, see light sparkling through openings between your fingers. The energy of words seeps through your skin, helping you understand the country, the people, your own heart. And the hearts of others, who don’t feel this country, Canada, is home. The words slow down and become softer—like a goose feather that drifts into your hand, or milkweed that flutters around your feet as you wander a field behind your house.
It was urgent for him to get the words out, to use them all up, so he sent them hurtling. But really, he only needed to open his hands and blow softly to release a butterfly of wings and meanings. We were always there, holding out our hands, waiting for them to brush our palms.
Now his work is over, and he’s left a job for the reconcilers: to be gentle and quiet so we hear voices and stories that are always told but not understood. To reach out and take hold of each other across the deep divide of ignorance and anger disturbing this country, and not let go. Even if we are strangers to each other; even if we have to walk a long way together in the cold and dark. A job for the reconcilers: to never forget the promise-breakers; the treaty-breakers. To do everything we can to build good relations and trust. To walk the sometimes cold and treacherous path along the divide, looking for places that might become hospitable; where we can build new crossings together.