Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day Fourteen: Lost in Translation

There are puddles in my driveway. Heading down the lane, it sounds like I'm walking on wet carpet, the gravel and sand soaked from last night's rain. I breathe in to my chest, my diaphragm, breathe out, breathe in. Wet leaves smell sweet like apples boiling on the stove. My breath leaves a wisp of frost, gone before I'm sure I even saw it. The yellows and reds are only bright up close. I leave a Bart Simpson mug in the tree beside the mug I forgot to pick up yesterday on my way home.

Before I left the house, I read this line, "Language is vital to the treaty signing process." I filled up my coffee mug, put my back pack on, turned the doorknob, began to step outside. What was that line again? I go back and read from page sixteen.

"There were two different and valid cultural concepts in the treaty negotiations. First Nations peoples maintain the languages used in the treaty-signing process contained the beneficiary concepts expressed from a First Nations interpretation and worldview. A part of the First Nations' intent and purpose is currently being lost with the loss of First Nations peoples' languages. First Nations languages express certain beliefs that are significant to these agreements, and English words and terms do not clearly articulate the same meanings." (Treaty Essential Learnings, p 16)

I'm snapping pictures of puddles, side views into the trees, leaves against the sky. Language, I think and walk. I teach English Language Arts. I remember reading an article while working on my Masters, "Teaching English in the Least Harmful Way." The title is shocking. How can the admirable profession of English teacher be suspect? I imagine all the times English has been the death of an indigenous language, the loss of an entire way of knowing. Stories of children being punished for speaking their first language should break an English teacher's heart. My mind drifts into the clouds; the air is fresh like tree ripened fruit. I take a picture of the giant teepee reflecting in the long puddle.

I'm late leaving the school after work, really late, like sun-setting-already late. The slanting light cuts the land into brilliant green and midnight green as I step out the back door onto newly clipped grass. I'm taking pictures like a child, random, out of focus, weird angles. I take one of my shadow, almost the length of the race track. I take one into the sun as I stand in the ditch before running up and over the highway. I put the camera on the train track and snap. The rail looks like a highway, almost red in the light.

I hope the colour holds as I get closer and closer to the treaty grounds. I want a picture of the Governance Centre teepee against the sun. I snap a couple at the hospital and then my camera clicks off. I must have hit the power by accident. I push the power button. It turns on, then shuts off. No. No. No. Not a dead battery. I turn and see the clouds orange and pink against that ball of a sun. I take my back pack off on the other side of the hospital, looking for the spare battery. It's dead, too.

I walk toward the bridge, pause and look at the sunset reflecting in the river, the opposite direction I usually take the picture. The billowy clouds are under lit orangy-pink and I realize there is no way I can describe the beauty and do it justice. I've lost my camera language, and that's that. I walk and then stop, turn, and stare at the sky. My words just won't translate. I turn, sad to let the beauty linger at my back.

1 comment:

  1. I remember writing a poem in both English and French and then I lost it. I wrote another poem about the heart ache of losing it. I still don't remember what the poem was about, only that I had thought is so beautiful and the pain of not knowing where it is. I wonder how many generations those pains will linger and how is redemption brought? Is there a Cree or Saulteaux club at the school? Maybe your treaty discussions with the students could be about how to reclaim and bring healing to what was lost/broken and how to bring light from out of the darkness of the past.