My name is Jaylene Murray. I’m a second year PhD candidate at the University of Saskatchewan in the School of Environment and Sustainability. My focus is on student activism for sustainability in higher education; I want to know how and why students care about the environment and the ways in which they are working to further the uptake of sustainability in universities. As a social scientist, I am curious about why people do what they do, how they do it, and what lessons the rest of us can learn from the experiences of others.
In between the privilege of conducting interviews, collecting data, analysis, and writing on a computer, I yearn for nature interaction. Growing up on the west coast of Canada, I was raised in close relationship with nature. As a child of mixed-ancestry of European settler and Indigenous ancestors, I had the honour of learning from Stö:lo elders and teachers who taught us that everything has a spirit, that we can learn from rocks and trees just as much, in fact sometimes more, than we can from humans. I learned that we live in relationship with our more-than-human relatives; the air, Earth, streams, ocean and all the other more-than-human creatures that surround us. We live in relation to each other, and to survive we need to live in balance, in harmony, in peace. These teachings were further ingrained through experiences with my grandparents, parents, and siblings as we explored the lakes, streams, and ravines, playing, creating, and being.
(Photo: Gaining Perspective)
With teachings deeply rooted with Land, I find it challenging to remain seated behind four walls that make me claustrophobic, behind a computer incessantly yet silently buzzing, with LEDs and fluorescence bathing my skin yet lacking the essential vitamin D’s I need from the sun… So I have to escape to reconnect, to break from the heavy use of the left side of my brain, to exercise my creativity, to connect with the right side of my brain. To do so, I find nature. Even in the middle of this city I temporarily call home, there are pockets where I can reconnect. And when I can’t, I can pull from the memories deeply ingrained in me, and express them through the tip of my pencil
(Photo: Weaving of inanimate objects (book, buttons, light-bulb, electricity) with nature)
I immerse myself in journaling, poetry, and/or sketching inspired by this Land. Sometimes I find myself dabbling in my Nana and Mother’s art of painting, although that’s a bit trickier for me. Actually, it’s all tricky. It’s all challenging in a way that academia is not. It’s also challenging in some of the same ways – it requires determination, resilience, and passion. I enjoy academia for the same reasons – I’m constantly challenged, have to overcome obstacles, have to remain steadfast, and I am fueled by my passions to do so. Without these, art and academia would be meaningless.
(Photo: Murray submission to ‘Of Land and Living Skies’, Issue 5, p. 26)
My nature art escapes give me the opportunity to break from the rigidity of academics, the freedom to explore and create with no end goal but to release, relieve, and remember. They allow me to thrive in an environment I am not accustomed to, to find my foundation when I feel ungrounded, and to soothe my soul when I desperately miss the ocean and the mountains. I find time to sit and be with nature among my more-than-human relatives, and rather than recreating on this land, I find time to re-create myself with this land, as part of this land, with my relations.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to express yourself in a new way, check out the Journal ‘Of Land and Living Skies’. They honoured me with a spot in their 5th Issue to present a photo essay (http://saskoutdoors.org/userdata/files/196/Issue%205-FINAL-web.pdf p. 23). This is an excellent avenue to practice weaving together your creative side with your academic side and see what magic emerges! My photos, drawings, attempts at poetry, and various other ramblings all help balance me out in this academic world. Whether the end product is ‘good’ or not, does not always matter; sometimes it’s simply the therapeutic process of losing ones’ self through the journey of self re-creation with Land.
(Photo: Finding self with land)