I love the land, the water and the more-than-human relatives. I love being near them and with them. My reality is that I live a suburban life, and if I needed to really live on the land, I would probably be in a world of hurt. I was thinking about this the other day when I was standing on the banks of the Salish Sea watching the seagulls fight the osprey over a fish. How long would I be able to survive if the world went to hell? I thought about my friend, Isaac, who is actually living as an Ojibwe man, out in the bush up in Kanata. I think about my brother who is becoming more and more self-reliant, laughing at his story about why he loves raising ducks over chickens. With the way the natural world is changing, it’s a question we all ought to be asking ourselves.
It’s one thing to practice your love for the land when it’s mostly ‘domesticated’ but I think it’s another, very different, thing to love the land and the more-than-human relatives on their terms. I know this and honor this as a truth. I hope it helps keep me grounded.
Still, the question remains unanswered. How the hell would I, a very suburban and cityfied woman, survive without all these modern conveniences?
But, then I remember that I grew up in Oklahoma. Raised by, and around, some amazing people. My Grandma Blevins lived out in the country. Now, remember, I just said I grew up in Oklahoma – so saying that my grandma lived ‘in the country’ is kind of a big statement. 🙂
Grandma hunted squirrels, rabbits and fished for catfish and crappie. She grew her own vegetables. She and her boyfriend, Wheeler, would take us kids hunting for critters and berries when we would visit.We would get dabbed with kerosene, our pant legs taped at the ankles. Traipsing through the woods and getting food this way was an integral part of her survival. She learned that from her parents, who had lived in the hills of Arkansas. She survived the dustbowl, transplanting out to California, and moving back home to Oklahoma to raise my mom. She raised three kids, nearly on her own. I remember one time, her and my mom decided it was time to harvest some of the chickens we had raised in our backyard. But they couldn’t catch one. Thank goodness the neighbor guy came home to help them out with that.
The smell of grandma’s catfish and okra frying in her house is one of my favorite memories of spending time with her. My grandma also taught me how to eat sardines with crackers for a nutritious and inexpensive lunch. Our journeys into the woods with her, learning to walk quietly so that we didn’t scare off dinner, I remember fondly. I also remember trying to sleep in her trailer, during one of those famous Oklahoma storms, swearing that bigfoot was lurking in the woods, just beyond the meadow. <stillshivers>
I got so much from my grandma. She instilled in me a love of gardening and a respect for the natural environment. She wasn’t perfect, but she was authentically a good woman.
I also know that I come from a long line of survivors. My nookomis, Velma, (Dad’s grandma) was an Ojibwe woman, adopted out to a non-white family, trained to be a seamstress in an orphanage in Ohio. She raised two children, on her own, and laid down another foundation for future generations to survive. She was born in 1897 and died in 1971, the same year my grandfather, her son, died. I’m pretty certain that she was also a badass woman, capable of putting food on the table for her kids. I often contemplate the choices she had to make as a woman living in the early 20th century, being Indigenous, separated from her culture, trying to raise two kids.
I don’t know if I could trap or shoot a rabbit or a squirrel, let alone a deer. I might be able to catch a fish (probably not a salmon) and gut it, so I’ve got that going for me. But I know that I have some strong DNA in me. DNA that ties me to the land, and assures me that, if needed, I would figure out some way to survive.