I’m standing on the bow of my floating home, a 43-foot sailboat, ready to haul anchor in the peaceful bay of Port Browning on Pender Island. It’s one week after George Floyd was murdered. I kneel to my task on the bow and lift my head to look beyond the bay to the horizon facing south. The San Juan Islands of Washington State are visible across Boundary Pass. Waldron Island appears out of the mist. Beyond that the islands stretch into Puget Sound and attach themselves to the shores of Snohomish and King Counties and the cities of Tacoma and Seattle.
The country to the south of the Canadian Border stretches to the east, thousands of miles further than the curve of expansive southeast horizon. I have lived within kilometers of this border my whole life. Like my southern neighbors, we are a melting pot of Indigenous generations and descendants of immigrants who came willingly, or unwillingly to a new land and a new life. Simmering beneath the gray sky, the nation to the south has boiled over after decades of trauma, it’s flash point took 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
I crouch on the deck, looking over the anchor roller, watching in the depths of the bay, waiting for the anchor to free itself from the muddy ocean floor as the chain is hauled back over the bow into it’s locker. Kneeling, I’m reminded of the images from the days before, images of the officer kneeling on another man’s neck, stealing his breath away, of images of crowds kneeling in humble protest, waiting for something, anything, to lessen the pain, for something hopeful to tell the children. The thought comes to me, what can we say? What can we do? To say or do nothing seems unthinkable, to post slogans or black out my social media sites soothes the little voice in my conscience momentarily, but accomplishes what?
After the anchor is up, we get underway. I’m sitting at the wheel, motoring around the southern tip of Saturna Island, the closest point in these waters to the Canada-US border. My thoughts continuously drift south, like the current beneath the boat, my mind is pulling and tugging, bigger and stronger than my will to look away, to not think, to not watch. I can’t even try to imagine the level of angst, confusion, and despair my neighbors are living through. Like a pot of simmering ingredients, bubbling, being stirred, swirling, heating up and melting together, there was something meant to be good, something palatable. A calm hand, practiced and attentive, would have reached out and turned down the temperature under this simmering pot, would have prevented the flash point with taking necessary action, would have added necessary ingredients, tested the mixture. But it’s too late. It’s boiled over, it’s messy, it stinks, it putrid, it’s fills the room with its stench, it’s failure, it’s ruin. It has to be removed.
The fine mixture of ingredients: freedom, acceptance, understanding, hope, forgiveness, faith, love, intelligence, the willingness to learn and grow together is what the recipe called for. It’s been tried and tested and retried, always adding something new, something that looked and felt better, but never succeeded. Now something different was tried, something that promised a better outcome with new ingredients. Some ingredients that could not turn out good. Greed, selfishness, hate, condemnation, heartlessness, corruption, abuse, a will to harm, betrayal.
Canada is weeping, your trauma shines its spotlight on our own faults, our own failures, our own need to do more, be better. We are watching the USA’s reaction to compounded trauma, the flash point was a needless, pointless, brutal tragedy. People react in unpredictable ways to senseless trauma. The harm creates scars that last forever.
The healing is a long, slow process. We are good people, good friends, watching and weeping. You are good people, good friends going through a horrible time.
We are not far away. Good will happen again. Better times will shine on a brighter day. We bond with you, like our border, we’re not going away. We will always be here. We will always love and care for our southern friends and neighbors. We will stay calm, and stand beside you. From today on, and everyday we will weep, and bend our knees with you. You are our closest friend. We will not look away.