Day 36, To See What We Can See: Montreal, 25 years ago

IMG_0638Hildegard of Bingen, acrylic on canvas, Cat Charissage, 2013

Dear Friends,

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.  On December 6, 1989, a lone gunman (don’t you just love those descriptions?  —- makes him sound kind of like he ought to be the hero in some western. . . ), anyway, a lone gunman walked into the Ecole Polytechnique, a postsecondary technical college, walked into a series of classrooms, told the men to leave the room, then proceeded to shoot the women.  Before it was over, 14 women were dead, more wounded, and the gunman had killed himself.  In the “manifesto” he left, he claimed that he hated feminists because he held them (us) responsible for the lack of success in his own life.

To say it was shocking is a gross understatement.  I remember exactly how I found out, where I was, how it felt, and what I then did the rest of the day.  You see, I was the executive director of the Sexual Assault Center in London, Ontario at the time, and was one of the “public feminists” who was called on to comment on the violence.

That was 25 years ago, before the Soviet Union disintegrated, but just after the Berlin Wall came down.  There was optimism in the air.  It was years before the collapse of the Twin Towers and our current climate of fear of terrorism.

Yet today, 2014, the statistics on violence against women have not changed.  Most of us know many women who have navigated abuse, fear, and threat, even if it’s “only” verbal abuse, and “not life-threatening”, so “it’s not that bad”.

I chose to include the painting above because it’s how I choose to live within these realities of this suffering world.  I sit like a rock, solid, listening, loving, responding, speaking and writing words that will both tell the godawful truth and words that may strengthen and heal.

Today, sit in front of your blank page with these memories.  If not too upsetting, remember the stories you’ve heard either in person or in the media about women living with these threats and recovering from these soul wounds.  Perhaps you have your own lived experience of this.  Be gentle, but be truthful and strong.  How will you write about that, how will you image that?

If you feel paralyzed, or if nothing comes, draw an image of a weeping willow tree.  Its branches are sensitive to the winds around it, bending and thrashing around, but its wide trunk and deep roots keep it stable and rooted in the nourishing earth.  Strong storms will not bring this weeping willow down.  Bend, but not break.  Now you be that tree.

With love,


Day 36 of a series of daily prompts for written, visual, or art journalling, or just for pondering.  For more background information, see the Intro page, or this post on visual journalling:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s