Our first day with sketchbooks in the park was Monday November 30. A cold crisp sunny day.
23 students went off to the spots they chose a while back as their place for personal contemplation and observation of seasonal changes.
Set to the task of using their eyes, ears, smell and sense of touch to observe and take notes through sketches and writing.
Many students drew details of one particular flower that happened to be observed in both dried seedhead and young green stages
Sharon explained that the Yarrow plant has been used traditionally to assist in blood clotting. (Sharon learned this from a 7 year old in the park whose grandmother puts leaves in his nostril to stop a nose bleed.)
Squamish language holder Rebecca Duncan (Tsitsayxemaat) joined us in the classroom to teach some core words in the Squamish language as well as the foraging song of gratitude she wrote for EartHand this past year.The rhythm of the song she teaches us is different from beats we usually hear in music. Stops, starts, and changes in speed all hold the idea of how the landscape changes- the mountains, valleys, hills, shifting coastline and ripples in the water can all be inferred in the rhythm of a song. Rebecca teaches us how to say eslhalha7kwhiws, a Squamish word that embodies everything we are exploring in this project. The word itself contains the base words for: many or all of us, head, body and to touch.
Day 3: December 7
A very wet day with rain and wind storm warnings in effect kept us in the classroom, but we brought the outdoors in, with plant clippings from the park for study and observation.
We learned about growth patterns in nature- spirals, branching, explosions and fractals- we looked closely to find the patterns and used that information to help draw what we saw. We also did blind contour drawings to help teach our hands to slow down and drawn exactly what our eyes were looking at.
Some chose to try drawing with the pigment from the plants themselves- a foreshadowing of our natural dye adventures that lay ahead.
Day 4: December 9
Musqueam Elder Henry Charles joined us in the park for what was thankfully a sunny day. Henry is a remarkable storyteller and shared local stories as well as teaching us about the ceremony of being Called to Witness. The importance of listening and remembering what was said at important events was reinforced as he asked our 4 witnesses to repeat back old village names, the word for pink salmon and other story details. In oral traditions having key individuals whose job it is to remember events as the official witnesses cannot be overstated.
Henry himself is the last surviving member of the Musqueam Nation to have lived in the forest in what is now the University Endowment Land. His great-grandfather was Charlie Qeyepelenuxw, whose great-grandfather was the formidable warrior Qeyepelenuxw. Henry’s name is tecelgen, which translates as porcupine and this is what he told us we could call him, or Henry Charles if we preferred.
Henry spoke to us in both English and Hun’q’umi’num which is the Musqueam language and shared stories about the people and animals who lived in the nearby villages pre-contact. Specifically naming Snauq as the village that was under what is now the Burrard Bridge.
Henry taught us to dance like stalqaya (wolves) and soar like yoqwala (eagles) and reinforced what Rebecca shared last week, raising our hands to express gratitude and give thanks as an acknowledgment of respect.
There was a lovely moment when, standing in a large circle the class raised their hands to Henry and he asked in surprise, “who taught you that?”
Afterwards, we warmed up with cups of nettle and rosehip tea and talked about how stinging nettle can be made into many useful things like clothing and fish nets as well as being good medicine with the leaves full of vitamins that keep us strong through the winter.
Day 5- December 14
A cold, but dry day allowed us to be outside and think about mapping where we are working. We began by drawing out a big compass on the gravel and identifying true North, South, East and West- and recognizing where the sun comes up, sets, and how it travels across the sky at this time of year. Everyone took their sketch books to their sit-spot and drew out a semi “birds-eye-view” map of the planted area around them. Noting logs or rocks that might be perch points for birds or humans as well as low areas prone to being wet for longer in a dry season. As this is the first map everyone made, people were able to identify some of the plants in their area, but not all- we used icons to reflect growth patterns and same species, recognizing there is room for learning more names in the new year. It is a start- to seeing how certain plants are placed in groupings, what might get more sun from the south and where there is space around the plants, or what is evergreen versus currently leafless.Tea ended our outdoor session and has already become an important ritual of our outdoor time. Learning to serve others tea first, share stories as well as listen to others reflect on what they are still thinking about from past sessions, while warming hands on a hot cup of locally foraged herbal tea.
This was our last session for 2015, and in January we begin to weave! Tracy Williams joins us at the end of January to introduce patterns- so we will all know how to plain weave and twine before her arrival…