I've left invitations in my colleagues mail boxes. I've sent invitations to the Elementary School. I've left a note at Outreach and two piles of invitations. I'm handing them out in my classroom and the hallway; I'm mailing them away. I've put one on my desk, one on my computer and a wad in my pocket for the walk home, just in case.
The centre of the invitation has a tipi against an all-season blue-grey sky; along either side are smaller all-season-shots: flags against the sun rise; feather on the grass; birch in a stand; shadow against autumn, footprints in the snow; flowing and frozen water reflecting the sun. Inside, there are two-columns of all-nations friends and family: red and yellow, black and white.
Pale grey words say, "At the beginning of the school year I decided to walk to and from school, meditating on the treaties, blogging and posting pictures along the way. Join me for Day 100 to officially launch my Treaty Walks blog. Sunday, January 29th, 3:00pm @ Bert Fox Community High School fort Qu'Appelle, Including: Treaty Walks Slide Show, Panel Discussion, Coffee, Tea and Goodies. 'As long as the grass grows, the sun shines, the river flows.'"
Today is Day Ninety-Five. I'm walking home and my face is cold, even though the temperature is only minus five or ten. I'm not sure. The temperature is nowhere near last week's lows, but I feel colder today. Last week I was almost always sweating in the minus 40's windchill, my hot breath making a pocket of warmth inside my balaclava. Today, I feel chilled. I keep taking my mitts off, moving the knit around on my cheeks, trying to keep warm.
There's a light on at Trudine and Roy's. I should give them an invitation. I haven't visited since last fall, while Trudine was still volunteering two days a week at Outreach. I slip the balaclava off my face, don't want to freak them out; I reach into my pockets, no more invitations. I stop in the driveway to take my backpack off to the card. I knock at the door.
"It's Sheena," I say. Trudine is slowly opening the door.
"Oh, come in," she says, laughing. "I wondered, who's that guy."
"Ya, I took off my balaclava, or look what I would have looked like." I pull the ski mask back on and we both laugh. "I have something for you." I hand Trudine an invitation.
"What's this?" She looks it over. "I can't read that."
"Here, I'll read it." Roy walks into the room as I'm reading. I explain about my walks, say I've dedicated it to Outreach, hope they'll be able to come because I'd like to honour them.
We chat some more. Roy is building golf clubs. Trudine says he's going to build her some. Once she went golfing and she swung and she heard the ball go far, but where did it go? It was still on the tee. Someone behind her had hit their ball right when she swung. She laughs. We laugh. I tell them I golfed once, and my brother told me I had a great swing, if I could just hit the ball. Never golfed again.
Now I'm home. Trying to write something meaningful. I have to stop half-way through, go take a bath, still chilled. Wash my hair with peppermint. The radio announcer says the Chiefs are going to Ottawa tomorrow, looking for what they have been looking for from the start: peace. He quotes a chief who says his people do not have peace in Canada, but are fighting for their very existence. Now I lay down on the bed, change the station, and listen to Ideas talk about economic inequity and income gaps and the one percent making most of the money, and the ten percent living in poverty, right here in Canada. Now I'm in a fuzzy, blue housecoat, typing at the kitchen island, my feet up on a chair.
Poverty. Peace. Income gaps. These are not subjects for artistic play. These are not poetic prizes. And every finger from the outside can point at me -- striving, thriving, living the good life in my fuzzy, blue housecoat -- making art while others are just getting by.
But then I think of the invitation. "Come in, Sheena," says Trudine and I walk into her living room, the television light glowing, television voices laughing, the smell of pinesol reminding me of the north. Or walking into Outreach. "Sheena," someone calls when I'm just in the porch. "You made it. We saved you some soup." Or Keitha making tea, just for me, in her kitchen. Or the kids squealing, "Auntie," when I pop in unexpected. My friends are not inviting me into guilt or pity or duty, they're inviting me into warmth.