Updated: Apr 20
For those of you who have not met me, my name is Eric Buhne. I’ve been working with the team at Iyé for a couple of months now as a Canada Summer Jobs Grant recipient. I’ve been supporting with projects here and there, though my main focus has been with supporting the Palenke Produce Box Program. I have had the honour of packing your boxes every week, as well as talking with many of you about your gift certificates. As my time working in an official role is coming to a close in a couple of weeks with the end of my grant, I wanted to take some time to reflect on my experience here, with all of you.
I’d like to share how I, a white settler, have too been impacted by the magic of Iyé. Because, although Iyé’s mission is to support marginalized people, it is more so, in my opinion, about building a model for how all of us can support one another. So, I am pleased to share the story of just one day at my job with you. Afterall, it is the least I can do for all of you who have shared yours with me.
It was a Wednesday, a Palenke day. I arrived on-site after a fast bike ride that had me heaving for air when I arrived. Ariel reminded me once more, “Stop rushing, Eric. The colonial system tells us we need to always be rushing, but it’s not healthy. You don’t need to rush.” To help ground me a bit before our meeting, he made me a coffee in his kitchen. I put some honey and oat milk inside, stirred it, then sat down outside for our meeting. As we spoke, I began to sip my coffee. A familiar flavour – cardamom. Not only is cardamom coffee delicious, it also reminds me of happy mornings I used to spend with an old friend when I was a teenager. He gave me a moment to savour the experience, so I breathed in calmly and took it in. I began to feel calm and present; a coffee brought tears to my eyes for the first time ever. Soon after, he gave me a glass of kombucha that he had made – the smoothest kombucha I have ever enjoyed. Again, I recalled the first time that I ever tried kombucha. He gave me bread with a homemade onion spread. The crunch of the bread perfectly complemented the texture of the green spread. Food had brought together happiness of the past with pleasure of the present, and I knew that today would be a good one.
People began arriving to retrieve their boxes and I began assisting as any other Palenke day. However, today would not be a typical day.
One of our members arrived and went to walk about the garden. They often like to wander with the plants for some time, and this time I decided to join them. I cannot recall how the conversation began, but as we talked the discussion became increasingly serious. They shared intimate childhood stories with me, and I shared my Opa’s recent passing. We spoke of the harm that colonialism and empire has had on various communities, seeing its effects in ourselves as well. I spoke of how I had grown to be unfeeling from experiences in my life, how harm had taken my capacity for expression and joy for several years. We held space for one another to be vulnerable and to feel a few moments of healing together. When our intense and emboldening conversation had come to a close, they said to me, “well, there’s just one thing left to do!” And so, we hugged, and felt safe as we did.
I took a step back and sipped the air; the air was sweet that day. I no longer felt rushed, nor stressed, and I thought to myself, “this is as we should live.”
There are moments, short and long ones, that remind us how life can be, how we can live a better life. I felt internally blocked again for some time, but being surrounded by love and care helped bring me back and reminded me what matters most, as well as when it happens – now. While it was brief, I was able to remember that feeling in the backyard when I took the advice to slow down and drink my coffee. Then, with peace of mind and love in my heart, I could once again connect with another human being to heal, even if just a bit, together.
Ariel says that when we work from a place of distress, when we’re rushed and unthoughtful, we propagate harm. The systems of oppression that we live under demand that we live this sick way, and that is how it continues and grows. But there is another way. We can work from a place of care, from still quiet on the inside. It’s not to say that we will always be calm, as there will always be disturbances, but holding space to honour our feelings lets us move through the fog and back into a space of wellbeing.
Healing, regeneration, liberation. This is what Iyé is truly about, to me. In the Palenke, in a backyard garden on St. Charles street, there is a space dedicated to this and there are people building it. We, you and I, are building it. I am proud to be part of this, for myself and for others. While my job may come to a close, I know there will be more story telling, meals, and sharing to be had. For an ever-stronger community, thank you.