I’m not quite sure how to write about this novel. It took me over a month to read it. I had to set it down to read a book for work and then a book for book club. But I think that was for the best. Birdie, by Tracey Lindberg, isn’t a novel you can rush. The main character, Birdie, is in a state of rest and otherwordliness through the novel and I think to rush this novel is to brush it off, just as people would brush of Birdie’s inner journey.
Throughout the book Lindberg shows the devastating effects of broken, abusive families and how at times inner strength isn’t enough. Birdie grew up with some nasty uncles and that shapes her life. She ends up on the streets of Edmonton from the small Reserve. Mostly, Birdie likes the city because of the anonymity. She doesn’t have a past or a present in the city. She can just be Birdie. Yet this life allows her to avoid confronting her teen years, and eventually she slips into another world. She is from a line of shapeshifters; her Grandma was also a shapeshifter at a time when this ability was seen in the community as significant. For Birdie, she ends up in a psychiatric hospital, living within herself.
Yet I’m not sure if Birdie’s experience is the true story. Once Birdie leaves the psychiatric hospital, she ends up in Gibsons, BC where she finds work and an apartment at a bakery. This is where I think the story requires time.
Birdie retreats into herself for healing and the women around her–her boss, her aunt, and her cousin–do everything possible to make sure that Birdie stays alive. They visit her, they talk with her, they change her, they make food for her, they take on her job at the bakery. And that’s just it; this book is about Birdie, yes, but it’s also about the need for community, especially for female community. How do you rush that? Birdie is in ceremony within herself, seeking answers and healing from another world.
While reading this, I couldn’t help but think of all of the amazing Water Warriors who have created community at Standing Rock. Women are protectors of water and they have been awakened to their role and are making a stand for their people, and all of North America. The camp is all about prayer. These women have created a prayer community to demonstrate and show the sacredness of water. Prayers can’t be rushed.
The positive outcome for those Water Warriors is a testament to the power of prayer. The media focused on the protesting and the government’s response, yet this protest was about prayer. One of the local photographers I have meet along the way in my teaching is Joey Podlubny. This man has chosen to tell the story of some of Alberta’s First Nations through photography. A couple of weeks ago I was excited to see an email from Joey in my inbox with a link to his latest project: a photo essay about prayer at Standing Rock. The essay starts with these words: “If you plan on going to standing rock, the main course of action is to pray. That is the wish of the elders circle. ‘The greatest action you can take is prayer’.”
So as I think about Birdie, I feel that I need to read it again, this time with the mindset of prayer. Healing through community with other women and prayer.
“At night you can hear prayers, singing and drumming in between the frequent helicopters and planes that the hired police fly low over the camp” (Joey Podlubny).
“Sometimes when you see something every day you forget its mystery” (Tracey Lindberg).