There’s always been something beautiful about the way leaves fall during this season, as if celebrating a new start with a little dance in the cold wind, before meeting the warm embrace of Mother Earth. The fall sessions for the LOOP project felt bittersweet with conversations about ends and new beginnings. Grief and reconciliation. Death and rebirth.
Being able to join only for a day, I recall going home with a heavy heart and my mind full of thoughts I could not express. The feeling of loss was overwhelming, with the awareness that I had to take a moment to just reflect. Sharing in a circle, how we memorialize those who have passed away, made me realize that I wasn’t alone in feeling overwhelmingly somber, yet connected. In contrast with the summer season, the fall was numbingly cold, yet we felt the warmth of summer within our hearts as we shared umbrellas, wrapped ourselves with blankets, and drank warm tea after seeking refuge in the studio from the rain. It was difficult to not smile at the youth discussing their taste in teas and confirming with each other the colour of their own eyes. It was difficult to not feel a sense of warmth at the sight of a team member warming the freezing hands of another and the team checking with each other to make sure blankets were given to and shared with those who felt cold. Just like the summer season, we were looking out for each other. We were in nature. We were together.
I think it was this feeling of togetherness, connection, and belonging which helped us be more vulnerable and open, letting more of our pain show, sharing more of our past and ourselves. And everyone was sincerely listening to all those who were sharing, to develop a sense of understanding and to encourage. This - the listening and understanding - it also translated to the way we memorialized the children who were victims of colonialism - to the children, found and unfound, who lay in unmarked graves across the country at residential school sites. Although I could not attend the last two fall sessions - to either make or hang the papers - the weight of the project followed me, the overwhelming feeling still lingering. The paper shirts, maybe some of them already gone back to mother earth after heavy rain and snow, was an impactful symbol, the emotions evoked by the imagery difficult to disregard. There was a bit of comfort knowing that the children, just like the paper shirts, were in the warm embrace of Mother Earth, cradled away from the coldness that persisted in the world. There was something beautiful about the way the paper shirts moved with the wind, as if too eager for a new start and impatient to make its way into the comfort of its mother - just like the dancing leaves decorating fall.