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Small Changes. And Big

Elder Catherine often reminds us that “change is the only constant,” and nowhere is this truer than in a garden. By human design or no, the urban microsystem of plants and animals that is Noojimo’iwewin Gitigaan, and the community that both includes and surrounds it, is—moment by moment—different.

We celebrated Mother’s Day in the St. Matt’s Sanctuary on May 14 th , recognizing the many shades of joy and sadness that this day might hold. Outside the western door of the Narthex, a Red Dress and smallhearts hanging from the branches of the Yew Tree moved in the wind. Small shoes and boots sat jumbled among the cedars and winter creeper beneath the St. Matt’s sign repurposed for our National Healing Forest project.

Sometime that afternoon, 2 long stemmed roses were laid here, where missing and murdered Indigenous, Metis, and Inuit women and girls as well as the lost children of the residential school era are remembered and honoured. I found the roses wilted early the next morning, as I watered new plantings of native understory plants and the exposed roots of our older-than-I-or-you tree. Likely planted when the church was first built,this Yew is already living into its Anglo-Celtic folk name as the resurrection tree, with a new tree well started from the original root. Today we were to bring a younger tree to join it.

A close look at the photo will show you not only the dying roses down front but the burgeoning greenery behind the sign, neither present last Sunday morning. For weeks, members of the IPSG, Noojimo’iwewin Gitigaan Crew, and St. Matt’s Property Committee were joined by neighbours, family,and friends to save the more than 40-year-old Yew Tree grown into a concrete container in front of MPP Jill Andrew’s office. With plans to update the streetscape, the BIA brought in two workers (and a truck)to finish transplanting the Tree Monday morning.

The mechanical whirr of the reciprocating pruning saw, the truck revving, and the agonizing sound of roots finally pulling free were difficult to hear. But settling the Tree in its new home with others of its kind and swaddling damaged roots in compost and earth left us hopeful. As is protocol, we placed Tobacco down, and Prayers up as we worked, ending with water. Niibi bimaadiziwin. Water is life, and we will do what we can to preserve this life.

Every year since the pandemic began and Noojimo’iwewin Gitigaan was first planted, Elder Catherine and I have performed a Seagull Ceremony at sunrise, on the sand at the lake’s edge. Seagulls teach us about change and adaptability, as they live on water and land as well as in the air. I had thought of Seagull’s Teachings on Mother’s Day, and watched as gulls flew inland before heading out to the garden Monday morning. 

May the small changes we hope for—the recovery of a transplanted tree, for instance—come to pass. But so too may the big changes we need, all those slow-to-be-answered Calls to Action on missing and murdered Indigenous, Metis, and Inuit women and girls or truth and reconciliation as “we repair the damaged relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada” (National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, “Introduction,” Truth & Reconciliation Calls to Action, 2015).

(Above) Sweetgrass. (Top) Columbine.

Reflection by Robin Buyers, Noojimo’iwewin Gitigaan Co-Lead, 2023. Photo by fellow Co-Lead, Ella Lightstone. Deep thanks to the 26 people (or more) who put in over 100, mainly volunteer, hours to save a Tree considered Sacred by the Anglo-Celtic peoples with whom the United Church finds its roots. May our commitment to life continue in our solidarity with All Our Relations.


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