In process (Week 3)

Keeping to schedule for my Lorene Squire article was not easy this week! I am a member of the Dean of Arts search committee at my university, and the first three candidates had on-campus presentations and interviews from Wednesday to Friday. I’m grateful that the long weekend is here, as it gives me an extra day of recovery at home. Somehow, I will be entering into my last full week here until summer 2017! In my final weeks before sabbatical, I am filled with new energy and optimism as I fulfill my final service obligations – work with a committee to find a new Dean of Arts and collaborate with members of the advisory committee for Women’s and Gender Studies to complete a proposal for a new Honours program. These are important tasks, and I am actually grateful that these will be the last things I do before sabbatical. Both of these committees are collaborative and upbeat, and this is work that I feel appreciated for doing. This has certainly not been the case with some of the service work that I’ve done over the past seven years, which has led me at times to an overwhelming sense of burnout and frustration (I love Sara Ahmed’s blog post, “Feeling Depleted?” on this). A short article that I co-wrote with my friend Char Weaving was published in our union’s newsletter this week: “Dear StFXAUT, We Need to Talk About Service.” Writing this was cathartic. You cannot see it in the website version, but the PDF version has a photograph that I took of my “Service” drawer in my filing cabinet at work (after I had cleared it out and made it look tidy!).

IMG_1152

Combing through this file folder, I saw artefacts of the “brick wall” that Ahmed writes about in On Being Included: letters and emails filled with contempt, trying to build obstructions to even changes that were legally mandated, like breastfeeding at work, or the right thing to do, like hiring a Black Student Advisor after the retirement of a faculty member who did that work for free for years. Ugh, LATER.

I was super-bummed that Joan Sangster’s book was given a new release date, so I won’t get a chance to read it before I leave for Ontario. With any luck though, it will be there waiting for me when I arrive. This week I wrote about two glamorous self-portraits of Lorene Squire taken in the summer of 1938, her second trip into Canada’s North.

“Portrait of Lorene Squire standing on the wing of an airplane” (1938)
“Lorene Squire aboard the ‘Nascopie’” (1938)

Squire went to Northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories that year, sponsored by Canadian Airways in the early summer, and then she joined the annual supply run of the HBC ship Nascopie to the Eastern Arctic in the late summer and early fall. 1938 was a critical time for The Beaver, which was in the process of acquiring a broader readership outside of HBC employees to “align its commercial image with positive interpretations of Canadian nation-building, with Indigenous peoples deliberately integrated into their narrative of Canada’s popular history,” as historian Joan Sangster argues in her article “The Beaver as Ideology: Constructing Images of Inuit and Native Life in Post-World War II Canada” (2007, 191). It was also a very important year for Squire, as her book Wildfowling With A Camera was published, yet another marker of her precocious success as a young woman (she was only 28 at the time). The interesting thing about the two self-portraits of Squire are that the way that her image as a pretty, young working woman is used to align both Canadian Airways as well as the Hudson’s Bay Company with modernity through modes of transportation, clothing, and “opening up” the North. She is clearly not a fashion model, posed in an absurd get-up in a dramatic Northern setting; instead, she appears to be a young woman who is going places through her work. I expect to finish writing about the photographs by Wednesday of next week, and then I will move into an analysis of these self-portraits alongside the portraits of Indigenous women that I wrote about last week. I have another week to work on this article, and then I will need to set it aside until I arrive in Ontario. I am – again – inspired by how discipline helps unleash what I have wanted to write for months. Sticking to the 250 words a day rule – even through the Dean-tacular – has led me to a place I didn’t see before, and I’ve gained the momentum needed to finish this piece by the end of June! I will also say that I am continually disappointed that I feel more creative and energized to write in the midst of many tasks. Maybe it’s because I appreciate writing more then, but I do wish that I could teach myself to write and only write (rather than write, do various committee work, pack up house, give feedback, etc.)!

The other thing that occupies my mind persistently is the state of my small house. I am packing up, getting everything in boxes to move into storage on May 30. When I was a small child, my family moved a lot, as my parents were renters. I moved in the middle of my kindergarten year, and had to change schools. Later on, when I was in grade eight, the plant where my father worked closed down, and we had to move. We moved during the summer between grade eight and grade nine, and I started high school all alone, without my best friend. So my narrative of moving is often quite sad – it’s a narrative of leaving something behind, going into an unknown abyss and being fearful about what is to come. While I have learned to love loneliness (and have found it the most creative life-transforming and –affirming experience), moving myself from comfort to discomfort is always difficult. Moving here was SO SAD. I cried so much on the drive here with my Mom and sister that when we crossed over into Nova Scotia my sister gave me what-for at the visitor information centre at the provincial border. But this move is so different, because I am coming back. I constantly think that I should be feeling anxious, but I really don’t – I feel excited, and like I am going on an adventure. While I am going to miss my friends and the ocean, I know that I they will be here when I get back. It’s a weird feeling, but pleasant.

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