The Blurry Pickers

This past Tuesday we gathered to celebrate the expansion of the greenbelt into Wellington County at the 10C community space in Guelph.

The celebration began with land recognition, and a beautiful reminder from Jan Sherman that real truth and reconciliation will never take place without including Mother Earth. She also brought a Two-Row-Wampum belt, a symbol of the earliest treaties between First Nations people and European settlers – and reminded us of our collective duty to protect and care for our priceless natural spaces. She then led the crowd at 10C in singing the Mohawk Friendship song. And that was just the beginning. The evening continued to inspire with more wise words and sage ideas, carried forth both spoken and sung.

“Don’t let anything knock your props out from under you” - Hoping Machine (Words by Woody Guthrie, Music by Jay Farrar)

The line above, sung by Justin Lacroix as he was joined by The Blurry Pickers and A\J’s own Leah Gerber on the stage, was a reminder to the audience: hold tight to your ideals and aspirations; embrace – and be embraced – by your community of friends, family and collaborators; and to never let the bastards get you down (or words to that effect).

Justin Lacroix and Leah Gerber

The fourth floor at 10C was filled with a spirit of solidarity forged through our collective work to foster greater protection for our waterways and natural spaces. We all want to see the Ontario Greenbelt expand, even if we don’t all agree on how to get there just yet. And the voices that spoke and sang last night were steeped in the presence and message of Ms. Sherman. We all became more aware of our responsibilities, now and into the future.

The food, provided by Guelph’s own The Neighbourhood Group (a friendly group of restaurants and pubs including the Wooly, Borealis and Miijidaa) – backed by fan-favourite pretzel sandwiches from Kitchener’s Vincenzos – filled our bellies with nutritious goodness, while the craft beer selection from Kitchener’s TWB kept the glasses clinking in good cheer. The eye- and thought-provoking art installation from Anita Cazzola had people talking, while Doug Larson shared his passion for hand-crafted musical instruments made from invasive species’ wood sources.

Delicious craft beer from Kitchener's TWB Cooperative Brewing.

We heard from Wellington Water Watchers, Nature Guelph, Concerned Residents Coalition, and Friends of the Greenbelt – groups making important progress and taking active steps to mediate environmental concerns that resonate with residents of Wellington County. We gave away cool prizes like passes to Hillside Festival and Eden Mills Writers Festival, along with a virtual reality experience for four from Ctrl V in Guelph. We broke bread together and toasted each other with a sense of respect and harmony. It really was that kind of night.

Team A\J (Maya Urban, Katie Kish, Braedon Lehman and David McConnachie) raise a glass in toast to the Greenbelt

The music was magical. Marcia Ruby, A\J’s Publisher Emerita and Creative Director, is a HUGE music fan, especially music with roots in earthy humanity. She took the lead in securing the two acts for the OUR GREENBELT Celebrations. Justin Lacroix, currently on a tour from Paris (Ontario/Canada) to Paris (France), is a Manitoba singer-songwriter who had the audience enrapt with his soulful originals and inventive covers. The Blurry Pickers are a favourite of Hillside Festival and we were so very pleased they could share their bluegrass-infused musical creations with us.

A special moment for everyone – but especially for those of us here at A\J - happened when our editor, Leah Gerber, joined Justin and the Blurry Pickers for their magical rendition of Hoping Machine. Singing together for just the second time, they knocked it out of the park. Woody Guthrie’s powerfully evocative lyrics came alive on stage and projected into the audience a protective mantra to be murmured as we prepare for our days, ready to put up the “good fight” in our efforts to protect Mother Earth:

Whatever you do, wherever you go

Don’t lose your grip on life and that means

Don’t let any earthy calamity knock your dreamer and your hoping machine

Out of order.

In a room full of dreamers and do-ers, these wise words were well-received.  And taken to heart.

 

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