On Clay

I like to think about clay as a site of exchange and its potential to become both settled and unsettled. Part of this realization is that in my own DNA in my own makeup I have both Mi’kmaq and settler ancestry and when I think about myself I must think about peace and friendship. Asking questions like what brings us together, what bonds us on a molecular level, and when can those relations become strained and need care? I think about the ability for clay to appear passive as it lines a river bed but more importantly, it’s ultimate power to unsettle and murk the water at any moment offering up far more complexity.

When I clean the clay I think about my place in this all. I think about how times change and how clay changes, and how my first discovery of this hole was when I was 14, after two cycles of seven. I will warn you that maybe this was before I had found my sacred medicines and my place in the circle, but the clay was there waiting for me. I started to see patterns through the clay, like how the flat was flanked on the west by a long protecting hill of felsite rock, run-in parallel to the course of the bocabec river, and on the east by a similar ridge which steerage the river from Digdeguash Inlet, was the spot.

To the north of this clay flat, where there is now an open field, the standing forest broke off the winds of winter; and to the south was the sea, where driftwood in abundance was thrown up, and where canoes could be kept. I already knew the tides ride from twenty to twenty five feet at this place; therefore it was well suitable for bivalves and clams. The sands, below the surface, are black with organic matter accumulated by the ocean and decayed over time. Such sand would be an amazing fertilizer paralleled only by the clay itself.

Sometimes when I am in that riverbed I find it hard to cut the clay and I’ve been told that a wire works well but I usually find myself there in the water on my knees with my hands. You see, the clay is tough when settled in it’s beds yet the idea of taking a shovel to it makes me sick. So on my knees is where I find little clumps scattered along the sidelines, little nodular collections of particles, nestled within the rock bed ready for harvesting. And it makes me consider the point of intersection between clay and rock. When does one become the other and how do they find ways to coexist?

Sometimes if I'm being completely honest when I get really close to the water it is difficult to tell which is which, and when I try to dig my finger aches. So instead I look for pieces and collect them into one bucket rather than murk the water and pain my fingers trying to upheave the clay bed. It’s for the better this way and makes me tell the rocks from the clay much easier as the water remains much more clear. Sometimes when I stand back a little bit and the sun flares just the right direction (usually east) and you can see right to the bottom.