My dad had always talked of this Native guy that fought along side of him in the war. So I loved the thought of Natives. Back in the day, there were Cowboy and Indian shows on TV and as movies. At play, all the other boys wanted to be cowboys; I was always the Indian in our play. It seems redundant to say, that he made a immense impact on me, and to this day. These things set the stage for what was to come and what would make me who I am today.
My father did not like Toronto, and he did not suffer his commutes from Scarborough to Etobicoke well. So somewhere in his mind was planted the thought of moving, but how he chose from anywhere in non Toronto Ontario it is unclear But as fate would have it he moved us to a very remote area, near Ayton, Ontario, in Grey County, to a place where I would have to attend a one room schoolhouse, and where there was one TV station. We had a Walton-like wooden phone that we cranked to get an operator on a party-line of 8. But there was also 150 acres of land on our property, with 20 acres of forest. It was a place to grow as large a garden as my 8 year old mind could imagine. It was a place where I could grow. Across the road lay 2 square miles of forest, and miles of imagination. Here I would stop playing Indian and I felt I had my chance to be an Indian. I read all the books the library had on Native lore, what they ate, the plants that they used for tools and useful items such as rope etc.
At 12 years old I got ringworm, and as part of the affliction I had a scab as big as the side of my cheek, and after 3 trips to the doctor, and 3 failed prescriptions later, the doctor told me that there was nothing more he could do for me. I was on my own. For a 12 year old, what was I to thin?. I couldn’t go to school because of the contagion, so without a education what future did I have, getting a job, so what would be my life’s prospects So I sat down and thought about what to do? So was it Providence speaking to me? Or was it observation on my part that brought me to understand that cattle have Ringworm in the winter, but they got rid of it in the Spring, and they don’t have it in the Summer or in the Fall, so what was the difference? Well, cattle are feed hay in the Winter, but eat grass in the Spring, Summer and the Fall; I knew that hay must be deficient in something that they get with grass, so I dug down under the snow and I ate grass. And again 2 days later I ate some more, and by the end of the week the Ringworm was disappearing.
2 things came out of that incident, I stopped believing in doctors and the medical system, and I began believing in using herbs. Inasmuch as I had already been running around the forest for 4 years learning about what Natives used for food, I was only a thought away to learn what weeds that the Natives also used for medicine. I remain separate from the medical system, I have used herbs for my healing ever since.
I raised cattle, and sheep, and chickens. All these came under the overarching theme of me learning the skills of survival.
I am political because when I was very young my parents took my siblings and me to a political meeting. They told us children that they heard about a new political party being formed and they wanted to check it out. We were sitting at the front of the hall. I don’t remember any introductions or any personal niceties that usually precede such occasions. All I remember was there was this frail looking man at the pulpit pounding on the pulpit before him. He spoke with stories, and passion and he spoke in a way you could hear his compassion for his fellow man, his devotion to them; to speak for them and fight for their welfare.
I never asked anyone if they looked at me while he was speaking, but I am sure my eyes would have been as wide as dishes. A sense of awe surrounded my young heart and mind in listening to this man.. If that wasn’t enough for the thoughts that swirled around my mind, after the meeting he went about glad-handing, shaking peoples’ hands and speaking to them as he cycled the room. I was 9, so I wasn’t used to adults paying much mind to me, but he took the time to speak to my family and each of us 6 kids, and when he came to me he said, “When you get older, you should get involved in politics”. That was what did it, and by the time that I was 12 years old I was canvassing for a political party, by myself, in preparation of a Federal election.
The man that had so captivated me was Tommy Douglas, the man that would later become instrumental in bring Canadians our free health care system.
Today I teach people how to grow garden organically. Today I teach people to use weeds for food and for medicine. Today I am very political and I have at various times lead groups for particular actions. I am working on building an organization to teach the community, on a enormous scale, how to garden and to use weeds for food and medicine. I call it Integrated Gardening. I also try to lead political organizations into the practice of putting up Citizen’s Signs, and other actions to bring about change.
The question is, where these incidents, these starting places, by a random chance, or was something more to happen in my life from these experiences. The one decision of my father’s , to move us to the farmhouse across from the forest that was central to me becoming this person that I could learn all these skills, and the skills to develop an organization.
The farm would also be the place where I would pick up a skunk by the tail, to see if it really couldn’t spray when picked up. That would be the experience in my life that would teach me that even what seems impossible can be possible. That decision of moving to the farm would become spring board of my experience of that would see me surviving the beating by 4 drunk men that would teach me the will to fight for what I believe.
I do not believe in chance, or luck, or karma, so many experiences have taught me that. I believe that the events of our lives come to us with purpose, that they were events to prepare us to achieve some future good for our families and our communities.
So the question is, what defining events happened in your lives, and what were they to lead you to? Were you being lead to be a compassionate person that was supposed to help others to heal? Were you to be a creator of ideas, or an organizer, or a person to dig up resources? Are you a person that inspires others to act? Are you a person that can see something good when you see it, and you are a wonderful supporter? Can you encourage others to become more than they now are?
We are all needed, each of us, with our own particular strengths and talents. You are all needed, we are all needed to make changes in our political system and in the community in which we live. There is a nobility about making the World a better place than the one we found when we came. I believe you can make a difference in this World. Now, do you believe it?