This book is my telling of four decades of professional life, as an artist, anthropologist and activist. It highlights themes and practices of each profession while tracing my experience in these worlds with remarkable people and in unusual places.
The project began on my 65th birthday, November 12, 2020, six months into the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. Restrictions on travel and gatherings had brought an abrupt end to my international practice of group facilitation, project evaluation, and training in participatory research. I’d spent the spring lockdown and summer immersed in climate crisis activism in my city, planting trees in the neighbourhood, and fishing at the family cottage on Lake Temagami. I decided to make my forced professional retirement voluntary and permanent, announced at a virtual birthday party attended over the course of the day by friends from around the world. I realized then that I was in something of a sweet spot, with professional and personal contacts still in place going back to my youth. What better time, I thought, to reﬂect on my experiences and learning than now (before they fade away)?
I started by curating a collection of my paintings and photographs to support and prompt interviews with people I have worked with over the years. The art provided an entry point into multiple conversations on shared memories, fact-checking events long past, and thoughts on how and why we evolved as artists, anthropologists or activists. This created a safe space for people to express certain things about my story, our friendship, our professional relationship, things that happened, my contributions to outcomes. I wanted to explore and understand how my perspective on the work I was doing changed over time, and how this correlates to emotions, needs, states of mind, and the fundamentals of my outlook on life. I then drafted each chapter around a key event or artifact, adding in details on people, the stories, and the forces that helped shape me.
I've been fortunate to have lived in or visited many countries and to have worked on important global and local issues. The stories that follow may appeal to young professionals trying to make sense of what it might mean for themselves to be creatively engaged in trying to bring about another possible world, one less destructive, kinder. More than anything, however, I have written these stories for my two sons, and for children they may have. While neither wise nor foolish, the result rests on the tip of this motivation.
I created all of the images on this site, unless otherwise credited.
Image: Searching, Temagami lakeshore, 2021.