I tried to write about Burnaby Mountain this week, and the profiteering oil company Kinder Morgan, and the undemocratic and unscrupulous National Energy Board (who are really just a front for our unscrupulous and undemocratic federal government), and the courageous City of Burnaby who is doing what it can to fight both KM and the NEB (though losing as well–the company was granted the right to cut down trees and test drill in the Burnaby Mountain conservation area in defiance of Burnaby’s bylaws and the NEB and the courts have decided Burnaby does not have the jurisdiction to decide what happens in its own public parks). I wanted to write about the protestors and defenders of the environment, and First Nations rights, and justice, and democracy, who have been, in large and small numbers, on the Mountain since September, who have been so brave. I wanted to write about the people, old and young, First Nations and settler, rich and poor, who have willingly crossed the police line that marks the KM drill sites to be arrested. I want to write about how beautiful it is to calmly declare that you understand you will be arrested, and to cross a line, walk towards the RCMP on the other side, and be (sometimes gently) received into the shackles of a law that, I’m sure, many of the officers themselves don’t even agree with.
I want to write about Monday afternoon–my day on the Mountain in the mud, my day meeting (fellow) protestors, and chatting with the RCMP, and explaining what I believe, and listening to others explain what they believe, and simply standing in front of a yellow line, knowing that the people on the other side are different because they are in a uniform, but really not so different beneath, and knowing that behind them, partially out of sight, is a Kinder Morgan work crew, and knowing that the people on that work crew are different because they are doing something that is wrong, but really not so different underneath their jobs, and not knowing what to do with that information.
I wanted to write about discussing with my husband before I went up that day whether or not I should be purposefully arrested because perhaps the charge would not be so bad and perhaps it was the right thing to do. I wanted to write about the fact that this is the first time I have EVER thought that perhaps being arrested might be something I could do, and that I think that says something about how important this fight is. I wanted to write about the young man I walked up the mountain with, who asked me why I wouldn’t cross the line and “add to the numbers”. I wanted to write about telling him that maybe I was just more selfish. And that I wasn’t ready. And knowing that I’m not.
I wanted to write about the calm that descended on me as I stood on the Mountain. I wanted to write about the rain, and the umbrella someone lent me while he helped make a wooden track alongside the road (which had been blocked off by the RCMP) to help the protestors through the mud. I wanted to write about knowing that I was where I should be, and what it feels like to know you are on the right side of history.
I wanted to write about how it feels to know you are standing on the right side of history, but to know also that you might not win. I wanted to write about how unwilling I was to be angry, even when the shouting started. I wanted to write about how I just wanted to be a pair of eyes in a face. I wanted my gaze to help wedge someone’s spirit open, help them see that the world is worth saving, help them to be brave enough to NOT drill into a mountain even though it’s their job.
I wanted to write about how lonely but not lonely I was, by myself but surrounded by strangers who were allowing me to put my heart with theirs. I wanted to write about when the cold finally seeped into my bones, and I returned the borrowed umbrella, and said thank you, and walked down the mountain alone, and rode the bus alone, and watched my sodden mittens soak the lap of my jeans.
I wanted to write about how heavy I have felt since. So heavy I could not write this. So heavy because so many people, and so many organizations, can speak to what’s happening so much better than I can. So heavy because I’ve really been just a pair of eyes from the very beginning, following the story on the Internet, reading everything I could read, forgetting where I found it. A pair of eyes whose legs finally walked me up the Mountain, but could not walk me across the line.
So heavy because I just wanted to reach across the yellow tape, to the officers in their heavy vests and heavy boots, and touch them on the shoulder, and say “You are not a robot.”
So heavy because I wanted to thank everyone, wanted to tell them really and truly from the bottom of my heart how good they were to be there, but I couldn’t, because I was just eyes that day and a very quiet tongue. And the rain was so heavy, and so cold, and they said there was a fire and I could go warm up, but I didn’t feel deserving, and my feet that would not cross the line were rooted to a spot in the rain.
And so heavy because I don’t know how it’s going to end, but it will be so important, and everyday the world is so beautiful, and it’s starting to look like sunset now, and how do you write about that?