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“The Great Responsibility: The Throwing and the Catching of the Ball of Life”
Mixed media: Felt, birch bark, Maple frame, ribbon, glass, peacock feather, embroidery thread, tin bison conch, bison wool, 28” x 28”

I was inspired by Marilyn George, aboriginal woman from Midland. She passed me an image that depicted the deep fragmentation and sorrow set in motion throughout all of creation when the “Great Disturbance” of the fracturing of the families occurred. Tears were shed by all of creation on this continent when the First Nations Families were torn asunder by relocation, starvation, residential schools, the Indian Act and the 60’s Scoop. I am sending you my image inspired by her work of the Eagle’s Tears and the fractured Family.

I started this work on Oct 26 and passed it off on Nov 10. The tsunami of emotions and disturbance I experienced in real life that week made my imagination, heart, soul, head nearly explode. So I needed to create an image to depict the fracturing of the psyche of the individual, the family, the community, the culture and creation ... yet contain it over time ... within relationship to the other parts of creation and society ... on the background of the cosmos that is all connected.

So, the Red felt is the infinite heart of the Great Mystery. The Blue ribbons connect heaven and earth and all of creation on this planet.  The feather is the eagle who carries our messages to the Kind Mystery and watches over us. The four small birch bark circles on black are the infinite universes, life forms, individuals, societies, that are all part of this infinite Kind Creation. The center circle hoop is the part the individual unit is responsible for. There are 13 circles in the four colors of the four directions. It represents the passage of time ... the gift of time ... the necessity of time for genuine healing to take place. It represents the gift of life ... of one individual life. Each circle has a small mirror flanked by four seed beads at the four different directions. The centre has a round mirror.

When the individual (a culture, society, nation, etc) experiences ”The Great Disturbance”, the psyche is shattered into pieces of the Self. Over a lifetime, the passage of time ... in the fullness of time ... it is our responsibility as individuals to gather the pieces and create a Self based on Truth, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility and Wisdom (the Seven Grandfathers and Grandmothers). It is the responsibility of the Colonizer and the Colonized to awaken to this process. When this happens, and we gaze at this circle, we see our fractured pieces and also the image of our whole Self mirrored back. This is the Awakening ... we see flashes of it in the parts and the centre in the mirrors. But we cannot gather all our parts without help. Desmond Tutu calls this essential relationship Umbute. It means that we can only become human through relationship to Other. That demands love, respect, courage, honesty, humility and wisdom (experienced over time).

There is an ancient ceremony of the First Nations that Black Elk shared. In essence it gives humanity a vehicle to become in healthy relationship. It is the Throwing and Catching of the Ball. The Buffalo People asked the Humans to do this for all of creation because we have hands to catch and throw the ball. It goes something like this:

A young girl is escorted by two Elders to the centre of the circle clearing. All the people of the village assemble in the circle. She throws a Buffalo skin ball to the East quadrant. All of life in that quadrant has the responsibility to scurry to catch the ball. The one who catches it runs with it to a designated “goal” spot in the far end, touches the ball to the earth and then walks it back in honour and celebration to the young woman in the centre. She then turns to the South and repeats the process. She then turns to the West and then the North. The young woman is the renewal of life. The woman births the future. The entire community needs to catch the ball of life, contribute by making it real as one touches it to the earth and then give back to the community the gift of Becoming Human through each other in relationship. Life throws us life ... we are invited play the great game ... catch it, make it real and pass it on. Too many times we are encouraged to be spectators rather than active participants. Many of us have forgotten that the game is essential to all of life ... We have hands ... we can use them to catch life and pass it on for all of creation, or we can sit on them and allow a few to “Carry the Ball” for all of Creation. 

This Hoop is the Ball. The Buffalo Nation stands at the four directions encouraging us, protecting us, containing us. The Last three White Buffalo born in Wisconsin were named Miracle, Miracle’s Second Chance and Fulfillment.  What name will the Fourth White Buffalo carry? Harmony? If we wake up and give our all to the Catching of the Ball ... as individuals, families, communities, nations and members in right relationship to All of Creation ...?

The gift of life is a Miracle. Each day is a Second Chance. It is up to each individual to fulfill their responsibility in relationship. When all the parts come together in a good way, we experience peace, harmony and the joy of the Great Game. This is reconciliation. The Great Disturbance, The Great Experiment, becomes the Great Game for the Future of All of Creation on this continent, earth, and universe.

The range of feelings that the process of reconciliation demands swings from sheer grief, to sheer terror with the promise of a new way forward based on the Seven Grandfather teachings. The end result is peace and joy ... and the integration of the Authentic Self. Everything else falls into its proper place to engage in the passing on of the gift of life to “All Our Relations”.

Retired educator and life-long learner: creator.