THE CIRCLE

Created with artist Julie Durocher.

Henderson Lake, Vancouver Island, B.C.,1996. Residency, FORET-FRONTIERE, produced by Boréal ArtNature and hosted by Hochuktlisat-h Nation.

Driftwood - vestiges from the clear-cut forests on the opposite side of the lake. Opening due east, facing the lake. Diameter 16m, height 2m. During the residency, performances and communal gatherings took place inside The Circle.

Deep cultural pathology is how eco-theologian, Thomas Berry, describes aggression towards the Earth. He says that if we are to create a viable future for ourselves and for the entire planetary process, we need to create a deep cultural therapy, and for this to happen, we need to establish a sense of a revelatory experience that upholds the sacred character of the universe and of the planet Earth. Camped on the west shore of Henderson Lake, all this became painfully clear.

We faced the arrogant disrespect and destructiveness of our own culture, towards a land honored as sacred by our hosts. There was no escape - neither from the sounds and sights of the voracious cutting before us, nor from the vibrant silence and beauty of the threatened rainforest behind us. It was excruciatingly intense. We needed to go beyond the daily witnessing of the pathological gesture, beyond the sight of this 'civilized' madness.

We entered the ancient rainforest. We were drawn, not to something new, but to something old, something ancestral, something vital that the Hochuktlisat-h have revered for countless generations. Our breathing deepened, rhythms slowed. We found ourselves submersed in the mysterious healing powers of the trees, in their soothing unconditional embrace. Boundaries blurred as we shifted into the dimension of deep governing life patterns. Our minds quietened. We bowed to the forest. And we let ourselves be guided.

We discovered the hollow in the woods. Both of us knew this would be the place. It was here that we could make our gesture, another kind of human gesture, one that we desperately needed to make, one that would not harm, that would be creative, that would celebrate our intimacy with the natural world.

Covering the floor of the hollow, lay a thick layer of heavy driftwood, dead wood carried by the waters from the clear-cut to the foot of the ancient trees. Now it was we who would carry the wood. Some of the women came to help us move the big logs from the center of the hollow, and together we pushed, pulled, rolled, and pivoted. Following the contour of the land, a round opening grew, like a slow embrace, in which we could be alone, and in which we could all be together. Day after day, from morning to night, we wove the wood into this giant nest. When we left, we felt full. It was there, for those to come, and for the waters to carry it away the next spring. We never thought that the Circle could possibly help the survival of this forest, but we dared to hope that it could make a difference somehow, to someone.

One day there was a loud crack, like thunder. A great tree crashed to the ground. Through the thin soil under our feet, we sensed the timeless dance, the on-going cycles, through the layers of roots woven over the layers of trees that had fallen like thunder. We thought of the hands of women weaving, hands that have helped others, hands that carry generations of love, power and prayers. We listened to the voices of great grandmothers, and more, and older, and we built this circle as if this was what we had always done.

Jeane Fabb and Julie Durocher