I began cross country skiing New Brunswick a few days ago. If I was a tree, my deepest roots would be on this land.
The past five generations of my mother’s family have lived in St. Damien, New Brunswick. She was 13 of 14 children, Leblancs, all born in the farmhouse still standing at the bottom of the hill. Now the house sits empty most of the year. But in summer, some of those still living return to the house to plant a garden and share food. We all still call it Mamere’s.
These are Acadians, a beautiful culture that in some families blends the blood of Mi’kmaq and French. Where poutine does not mean french fries with cheese curds. Here there are many stories not written in books. I realize now that keeps them fluid and flowing. Once hardened into written word, sometimes there is form but the essence is gone.
The mixing of blood was also the mixing of spirits and concepts of sacred. The Marions of the Catholic faith worship female saints, the Mi’kmaq believed the earth is our mother, they shared a very rare sense of the divine as feminine.
My first sense of spirit wasn’t in the churches my parents brought me to, it was in nature. At five I was collecting tad pole eggs in marshes and bringing them in a bucket to a homemade pond. I watched them slowly break out of the clear jelly and go from being static black dots to moving tadpoles; from tadpoles to little green frogs. And they evolved from water to land. I knew I was like the frog. I had no fear of nature. I felt connected to it.
I grew up believing my spirit had no point of connection to my mothers and the many generations who came before her. But when I dug deep where the old roots grow, I realized it is all the same.
So in this spirit I share two short films, both made here in St. Damien. The first one is called The Miracle of St. Damien and is the very first film I ever made. It is a story I grew up with and I wanted to film it before it disappeared because people don’t believe in miracles anymore. My cousin Nicole Babin wrote the music and helped me with the French interviews.
And the second short film, Sisters, was filmed in St. Damien last June just before I set off on this long journey.
The poster image for 500 Days was photographed here too.
These roots are deep.
Happy New Year