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'You can't do this alone'

We're rooted together in this brief borrowed paradise

By Carolyn Pogue

In the dark of winter, I need good stories. In fact, an email from my friend Claire McMordie last week made me realize that many of us feel low energy during this season.

“I am feeling something new this winter —  sort of an empty, dazed  feeling. I’m reeling from the shock of so many horrors erupting, mainly in other parts of the world, but the violence seems intractable and part of all human fabric, including within myself: the unspeakable suffering of families uprooted and of people without food and with no sense of safety. I try hard to look for and celebrate good news whenever there is any. Lately, the search has seemed harder.

“Partly, too, I’m worrying about [adult] kids being so relentlessly busy that they don't even notice how weird it is, and how impoverishing.”

Claire hit a chord with me; I, too, was feeling dis-ease. But I was glad to share some good news. Theresa Wolfwood, an activist, poet and artist from Victoria, B.C., was giving a presentation at Calgary's Hillhurst United Church. Theresa has been my friend and mentor since we first met in Yellowknife in the early 1970s. In those days, I wasn’t clear about feminism nor of the importance of the arts in weaving a world worth leaving for the next generation. She taught me.

It's been an education hearing about Theresa and her husband Gerd Weih bear witness to elections Central America, accompany Palestinian school children past armed Israel soldiers and stand in solidarity with refugees in the western Sahara and Chiapas, Mexico. It's been an education listening to her perspective on a global woman’s “place." Author Alice Walker’s quote, “Resistance is the secret of joy,” seems to be the theme of their life.

Born in China of British parents, Theresa is a geologist while a German-born Gerd is a medical doctor. And both are truly global citizens. After their marriage, they created The Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation to support grassroots peace-building initiatives. It was named for their grandparents, who had been enemies during World War I.

Theresa’s recent book of poetry,  Love and Resistance, is filled with reality, hope and love. Much of it was penned in refugee camps, on planes or in conflict zones. She puts her passion for justice into action, presentations, photography, fabric banners and a small organic garden. On the Sundays when they are home, she and Gerd feed street people in Victoria with the group Food Not Bombs; on Thursdays, Theresa passes out leaflets with the peace group Women in Black. In between, they will host visitors from around the world, and Theresa will write and edit essays, poetry and articles.

Theresa’s writing — both personal and political — sings us to a better world through lament, challenge, hope  and — above all — love. What gives her strength in the face of violence, she says, is seeing the courage and joy in people even as they face challenge, and in being part of groups that seek justice. "You can’t do this alone.” She also reminds us that we're rooted together in this brief borrowed paradise.

Words like these are exactly what I need to get through these cold, dark winter nights.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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