My project for Saskatoon, Transcending Potash: Cleansing the Sins of Our Forefathers and Washing Our Fears Away, has been simmering in the old noggin for weeks now. As dedicated readers may remember, I had a deadline for creating a project description and it took me a good while to be able to pull together a cohesive idea, largely because I am not very familiar with Saskatoon. I did manage to meet my deadline but that does not mean the idea stopped its simmering. No, not at all! It has continued to bubble and steam and overflow the pot now and then. Fortunately, the main organizer of the festival - a patient and kind woman named Keeley - has been there to mop up the excess and turn down the heat when necessary. So it is that I feel like the project has reached a reasonable state of doneness, at least in idea form. And thank goodness because I am not sure that I could keep this metaphor going much longer.
So, here it is. The idea began, as you may remember, with the interesting fact that Saskatoon was created as a prairie outpost of the Temperance Colonization Society of Toronto. I have long been interested in communities built on utopian ideals, so naturally this perked up my ears. One of the things I love about utopian communities is that they are bound for failure but people try again and again to make them work anyway. They are so optimistic but the fact remains that human nature is complex and contains both light and darkness and it is very difficult to keep the darkness out of the picture for very long. So, even a place that is built on the relatively simple idea of not allowing any sale or ingestion of beverage alcohol is likely to harbour someone with a bottle stashed here or there. As a person far wiser than me once said, when you create a rule, you also create a criminal. It is just human nature.
This interests me very much! Thus my project will consist of a kind of walking tour/treasure hunt of sites around Saskatoon related to this history of temperance and colonization. At each site, there will be a little explanation of the history as well as a clue to get you to the next site. The final site will be a white tent and foot washing station using water from the river that runs through the city. Using soap (made from potash, of course!) that has text imbedded in it - words related to both sides of human nature, the good and the ugly - people will be invited to pick a soap to wash their feet. They can cleanse something away or draw something in. Then they can enter the tent and sit for a spell. My hope is that they will use that time to reflect on history, human nature, their nature, the aspect they chose with the soap and whatever else comes up. Maybe there will be conversation or maybe it will be silent. Both the tent and the cushions for sitting will be embroidered with text (still working on collecting that).
Should you find yourself in Saskatoon from July 5 − 7, 2013, please come and participate! I will be there at the tent awaiting your arrival.