Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner February 18, 2021
The Sankofa Bird
Just think back a year. A difficult, worrisome year.
For those of us securely housed and adequately incomed, (that’s a new word “incomed,” but you know what I mean), the lockdown has been full of trials and deprivations, mostly psychological and social. I find myself easily irritated and must strive daily not to let it show.
For the harder hit, the impoverished, the sick, the jobless, the bereaved, ever so much more pain. One pauses in respect.
The one overwhelming privilege for the “comfortable” is the time to learn, really learn. Not only formally, but informally, as in reflection on our world and its travails.
Formally, I registered early on for a 90- minute course ($10) on writing, given by a cheeky startup in Calgary calling itself “Pandemic University.” I await my certificate to be framed and put on the wall.
My granddaughter takes virtual singing lessons, something she’s longed for, and she gets full feedback from her teacher, Jen. She will sing at every invitation, mostly numbers from “Hamilton.”
On family Zoom calls, we have played “Geoguessr,” in which a location somewhere in the world is offered up, thanks to Google Earth, and the players have to guess where it is, from the visible landscape and language and other clues. We once failed to get Kentville, N.S. to our chagrin.
I respect all the teachers who have mastered the technology, even though most don’t love it, in order to continue teaching online. That is beyond me, colleagues. And the students shutting themselves in bedrooms with their computers, and emerging, bleary-eyed, in their pyjamas. Then they write exams at home under a kind of a technical surveillance thing. How awful is that?
One son takes up cooking. He is the unlikely, sports-minded one. He asks me for old family recipes: “That classic chili with sausage?” If finding sticky cards in a box marked “Mother’s Favourites” is learning, then learning I am doing. How can one throw out cards in one’s mother’s handwriting?
Then there has been the loud return of essential humour. I think it played a large part in bringing Trump down. More witty people are drawing and posting clever pictures and jokes than ever. Stephen Colbert is a treasure on CBS if you can stay awake that late, and I laughed out loud at the “Colonoscopy Journal” written by Miami Herald humour writer Dave Barry. We have Michael de Adder in Halifax and John Fewings at the Examiner.
Some have learned to slow down and appreciate the outdoors. Trails and rinks are full of warmly-dressed people. Kawartha Nordic has almost doubled its membership.
Some are honing their advocacy skills and writing persuasive letters to the editor. Some are exercising their basic altruism in caring for others, supporting the marginal, increasing their donations. We all sense a solidarity with others in fresh ways. Young people move off the sidewalk and let me pass unimpeded. Kind of like a leper to be avoided, but no, out of concern for me.
On one of our recent “Feminist Forum” webinars, I was struck with more new learning. A panelist, the eminent Jean Augustine, the same woman who, born in Grenada, was the first Black person elected to the House of Commons, and made the motion to declare Black History Month 25 years ago, turned our attention to the mythic Ghanaian bird, the Sankofa, which uniquely walks forward with her head turned backwards, while holding an egg in her beak.
It is a dramatic symbol of the importance of remembering the past while moving into the future. I’ve suggested that my family find me a tea towel or a painting of the Sankofa for my birthday.
My reading group is now into Robin Wall Kimmerer’s 2013 “Braiding Sweetgrass,” and for the first time, I feel I’m learning something of the Indigenous worldview. When we chuck Adam and Eve as our only creation story, we see new things.
A quiet explosion of learning; let’s look at lockdown that way.
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