A Space for Writers of the World
Three men stand facing an open UHaul. The carcass of our Jeep tucked inside is a thousand pounds. Duane‘s black boots mark the white ground. At his back, a wind carves deep water.
For four years, Phil has tended to the Jeep. Sometimes it is driven ten minutes down the dirt road to his garage. Other times it is towed, billowing white smoke to wait its turn for repair. Together, we listen to the hum grow more deafening, feel the catch cough and sputter.
Phil and his garage sit squarely on Nipissing First Nation. We live down the road in a small house. Daily we pass his house, drive to town, and for four years the Jeep has carried us across the invisible boundary between Nipissing First Nation and the City of North Bay.
Duane tells Phil his idea, and for a year Phil listens; he doesn’t say much. Duane calls in town to find someone to tear the blue down to its frame, but it isn’t right. Each man he speaks to makes him think of Phil and wait for his decision. He waits.
Two summers ago, we drove ten hours, thousands of kilometres south, in the refuge of the cool Jeep to the unforgiveable stickiness of upstate New York. Duane told someone in that place of compost and art and heat and dorms that the Jeep was his horse.
I see the Crow Fair, Montana. When we were young, we camped in the tall grass. He braided my hair while Crow boys rode horses through camp, with reins but no blankets. The ten a.m. parade each day called me. Horses in stitched beadwork. Exquisite. Shiny trucks with elders and families in the back; truck beds wore Pendleton blankets, hoods were adorned in beads. A procession.
I see the time I traversed mountain ranges and plains, whisking three children to Oregon. How cheap the gas was how Oregon beaches interrupted how the Columbia River how tulips.
There are other stories.
When Duane tells me his idea, it lives in my imagination for a year or more. I turn a sculpture over in my mind, an object transforms from the utilitarian to the non-useful; quotidian to non-everyday. I picture the sculpture, sandblasted.
As it is torn down in my mind’s eye, as it is decommissioned in Duane’s imagination, Phil too deconstructs the Jeep, first in his head. I hold my breath. Duane’s intention is for Phil to tend to the Jeep, one final time. To tend to the ideas of object, invisible boundaries, and the time it takes to build relationships. We wait for his decision.
For four days, the Jeep is pulled apart and boiled down. For four days, Phil labors.
It sits, tucked inside the UHaul, as a rusted carcass. I catch a glimpse and no longer remember all that I wanted to say about living with this object for six years.
My ideas about the object are not the same as the object itself. My ideas are only part of the negotiation between Duane, Phil and the thousand pounds left.
Tanya Lukin Linklater is Alutiiq with family from the Native Villages of Port Lions and Afognak in southern Alaska. She is an artist whose practice spans experimental choreography, performance, video, and text. Her publications include poetry and essays, and she’s been published in Drunken Boat, Ice Floe, Western Front Gallery, McLaren Art Centre, and fifty3 magazine. She is interested in the interstices between poetry and visual art, women’s stories, indigenous languages, and pedagogy. Tanya studied at University of Alberta (M.Ed.) and Stanford University (A.B. Honours). She was awarded the K.M. Hunter Artist Award in Literature in 2013 and has received generous support from the Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts. Tanya lives in northern Ontario, Canada, with her husband and three children. http://tanyalukinlinklater.com