Archive for October, 2011

Though I believe that if people eat meat, they should be morally obligated to kill that which they eat at least once in their lifetime, I have not hunted seriously since 1995. That year, I hunted in the south of New Brunswick above the granite rocks of the Fundy coast and I hunted until later in November. It was cold weather that autumn, with snow mixed with rain along the coast during the day, and deer would make their way along the trails and down to the rocky beach for salt, and I hunted among those intersecting deer trails. Here in spruce and birch cover, the brooks flowed to the bay, and old logging roads, forgotten for half a century or more, allowed for deer to travel unseen and unmolested to the shore at ebb tide and back up to the hills in the evening time, to lie in the long grass unseen in a wood thicket.

There was an apple orchard too where I hunted, and on the first day I made it to the orchard at dawn and then moved along a deer trail that ran diagonally from that old logging road to the quiet brook that swept under windfalls, and there I stayed for most of the morning. I had the ability then to find a place where deer moved during the rut, where the buck would paw the ground and mark its territory, and where it would circle around to see if a doe had entered the area. I hunted alone from the time I was 23 years of age, and I would sit as quietly as possible for hours on end.

There were many deer in the south of the province that year, though they were generally not as large as those in the north of the province, and I was sitting in a forgotten part of the world too, near three or four moss-ravaged tombstones, the resting place of a mother and her five children who had died in 1851. The village they once belonged to had nothing to mark it except those forlorn graves.

Now and again, along those old trails, I would catch sight of a coyote slinking on its belly, or watch an osprey in the low, darkening clouds. And it was cold that first day too, and threatened snow. So I knew snow would come either that day or the next, and the cold would make the deer move.

I had with me a knapsack, with a Thermos of tea, a lunch, a small skinning knife and some chewing tobacco. And I had a chew of tobacco and a cup of tea about 10 that morning, and listened to the soundlessness of the woods and the shrill lowly caw of a crow as it flew from nowhere into nowhere, and I thought of that woman and her children, and how they left Ireland long, long ago, with such hope, and how their very resting place was part of a community that no longer even existed, known only to a coy dog or hunter or a lonely passerby.

I used a British .303 rifle with a Tasco scope set at the lowest range, for I was in close quarters, and I was using 180-grain bullets – that is, bullets with medium hitting power for deer. But I have used this bullet for moose as well, to good effect. I had a clip with five bullets, with one in the chamber, six bullets in all, and I never had any more bullets on me, and never felt I needed more. For a long time, when I was younger – that is younger than I was in 1995 – I never used a scope either. But over time I had long shots at both moose and deer and felt a scope necessary.

After a while, as the day stilled and it got later, I took a walk out across the logging road to the apple orchard and stayed there. Then as the daylight reflecting in my scope dimmed almost to nothing, I took my clip out of the rifle and headed back to my truck in the dark.

The next morning, I got to the apple orchard at dawn, and took a walk down the logging road to the beach. On the road, about 500 metres from the deer trail where I had been sitting the previous day, a large buck had pawed the gravel over, and a little farther down there were the crisscrossed claw marks of a bear paw, from a male bear that had not yet gone to den and had meandered up the road the night before and into the orchard. Knowing this, a person should be careful when coming into or leaving an orchard, for though a spring bear is particularly cranky, an autumn bear can be as well, and not too many people I know want to shoot one. I know I don’t. But bears range far and wide here, and do number in the thousands. So rural people in closer proximity worry about them, especially if they have small children.

The deer population is healthy here too, and that day it was turning bitter and I knew that soon it would snow. I made my way back into the spruce and birch cover, along the deer trail that ran above a fertile stream down to the hidden brook, and waited. There was ice forming along the trail and in the stream itself, and the wind had picked up, as it often did after midmorning, and by 1 in the afternoon the snow began to fall. Oh, at first lightly enough, but soon it began to fall so hard it was difficult to see. So I continually checked my scope cover for two reasons: one, to see if it was actually protecting the scope itself, to keep the lens from fogging, and two, to see if it would flip off easily if I did  get a chance to take a shot at a deer.

Here, I had time to think, and listen to the rumbling of the tractor-trailers off to the north, carrying tons of wood away to be processed, either for wrapping paper, newsprint or toilet paper, the great roads they were on hidden in our wilderness and running throughout the province. And I realized that the great devastation done to our land is almost never done for the benefit of rural people, but done to fulfill an urban need. It is a subtle understanding that comes when one witnesses the hundreds and thousands of acres thrashed up and torn away, so we can read books and newspapers telling us to be conscientious about the environment. That is, we can pay much lip service to much we do not understand.

As the snow fell, it began to cover up those old tombstones for the 144th time, and by 2 in the afternoon, my feet and my hands were freezing and my tea was cold. But here is what I believe – and I am asking no one else to agree – that hunting has as much to do with determination and resolve as anything else. And one should not be allowed to be comfortable while they kill. That is, I was resolved then to hunt, and now I am not.

I have known men who do not hunt whom I respect a good deal, and I know a man who hunted once and did not again, and another who had the rifle aimed, but could not fire at the little partridge he had in his sights. I knew people who lived on a farm down the road from us. Each fall, when they killed a pig, the boy would go for a walk and not return until after dark, while the girls would go to their bedroom and lie on the bed with pillows over their ears. And who can blame them?  For it might be a lesson to us who eat meat, that the killing of a pig is at times more gruesome and cruel than the killing of a white-tail deer or a moose. It is something we should know or at least have some understanding about.

And the amount of meat you get is about the same.

I watched as the day grew dark and then stilled. Then, everything stopped, as if the heart rate of the world lowered. Most people who spend time in the woods understand this and realize this is when the deer begin to move along their rut marks. From an hour before dark until it is too late to see is perhaps the best time for hunting. Still, the snowfall was great and had covered up the blond deadened grasses, and wisped off the branches of the gnarled spruce in front of me. I was thinking that the male bear whose tracks I saw had by now gone to den, and realized that it was about 4:20, and that I had a long walk back in the snow, along a faded logging road. And then a long drive home that evening.

I was kneeling on one knee thinking of picking up my knapsack, when I heard a slight noise. I couldn’t see anything, but I did know there was a deer there. I took the safety off my rifle, took a deep breath, waiting 10 seconds. I heard another twig move. Then a loud snap.

I released my scope cover, but when I did, the elastic string vibrated.  There was utter silence for a long moment.

I knew the deer had stopped, and was listening. So I knew, too, I had no time to wait. I stood and fired. The deer turned too late, a patch of snow jolting off its back. I ejected the shell, put another in the chamber and fired again. The buck stumbled, tried valiantly to stand, fell sideways, sitting up in the snow when it died. It was an eight-point buck, probably the one that had pawed the gravel the day before. One of its tines had been broken in a rut fight. It died in the only world it had ever known or understood.

It was the last year I ever hunted. I moved to Toronto, where I lived for 13 years.

There, at times, in posh restaurants, elk or caribou or venison would be on the menu for $29.95. On occasion, I would see a coyote skirting the traffic, I would read newspapers printed on paper harvested from home. And at times I would think of the young buck with the broken tine and realize I would probably never hunt again.

Once an urban boy asked, “What is it like to kill things?”

Well son, something a lot like that.

David Adams Richards’s latest book, Facing the Hunter, will be in bookstores next week.

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So Ashme (or whatever the goon’s name is, 4th line Pittsburgh player) does a little “it’s all over, time to sleep” gesture with his hands after knocking out a Washington hockey player in a fight.  Now this is all over the news.  Interviews with other so-called “fighters” and bona-fide hockey players calling his gesture disrespectful.  An insult to the game.  And on and on.  Give me a break!  Fighting is disrespectful to the game.  Putting a fourth line player on the ice, solely for the purpose of “sparking” his team is disrespectful.  But to get all bent out of shape about this little hand gesture is laughable!  Until fighting is removed from the game it is disrespectful to responsible journalism to make such a lot of noise over such a trivial gesture.  It’s the fighting that’s disrespectful stupid!

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If this news item doesn’t make your skin crawl, then go seek therapy asap.  

A former Hamilton hockey coach and long distance trucker with a 20-year attraction to teenage boys has been handed six years in prison after being found with one of largest collections of child pornography in city history.

Bruce Holmes, 48, admitted he was embarrassed and ashamed of conduct that saw him plead guilty in September to four pornography-related charges, including one of luring a 14-year-old Brampton youth to pose naked and have sex with him in the cab of his truck.

Holmes, who was given credit for 323 days of pretrial custody after being arrested at his uncle’s Connaught Avenue home last November, was found with more than 754,000 pornographic images, most of them depicting youths having sex with men.

“It’s the largest cache of images this court has ever seen. It’s some 700,000. That’s huge,” Ontario Court Justice Marjoh Agro said of the collection.

“This is a shocking cache of perverted material,” the judge said in bringing down her sentence.

Assistant Crown attorney Stan Dudzic, who asked for a four- to six-year prison sentence, said Holmes told police he had been sexually interested in teen boys for “at least 20 years.”

He also said Holmes had served as a trainer/coach with bantam hockey teams in Toronto and Brampton “but felt he had no conflict with his interest in teen boys.”

Defence counsel Stephen Bernstein, who noted the “sheer volume and type of material is alarming and disturbing to the court and would be to the community,” sought four years or less for his client.

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A Circle to Connect
The use of dance movement therapy for the healing of trauma
Tannis Hugill MA, RCC, RDT, ADTR

Artistic expression has been used to heal from traumatic experiences since ancient times. The tools of Dance Movement Therapy can be especially useful because they unify the body and creativity as healing resources when words are not enough. The use of dance as a healing tool is rooted in the knowledge that body and mind are inseparable. Dance provides a direct experience of shared emotion on a preverbal and physical level, providing feelings of unity, harmony, and empathy.

Trauma is the result of an assault on our being and the consequences of trauma are complex and far-reaching. They may include complete disruption of life, isolation from others, anxiety, depression, PTSD, dissociative disorders, addictions, eating disorders, and a range of physical illnesses, as well as a loss of identity due to dislocation from the body.

For all that survive the ordeal of serious trauma at any age, the challenge is not only to heal the body, but also the mind and soul. The possibility of experiencing safety and pleasure in the body are impaired. If the body has been wounded, long after the body has healed survivors continue to cope with emotional devastation, as well as re-negotiation of their identities in bodies that have suffered profound changes. Recovery can be all the more difficult because the innate life coping skills of the survivor are seriously affected.

In the developmental trauma of childhood abuse, the individual experiences a rupture in attachment bonds, the vital connections between child and caregivers. This obliterates the trust essential for healthy emotional growth. The survivors’ judgement is impaired and she/he may either indiscriminately attempt to create an attachment with any person, including a perpetrator, and/or withdraw into the felt safety of isolation. (Johnson, 1987) Sexual, physical and emotional abuse affects the development of healthy embodiment, and the possibility of experiencing security and pleasure in the body. The impact of these traumas renders individuals feeling helpless, hopeless, and filled with shame. The ability to self-soothe may also be damaged, as well as the capacity to feel grounded and centred in the comforting flow of pleasant physical sensations. (van der Kolk, 2002) . This makes it all the more difficult to cope with feelings of terror, powerlessness, rage and grief.

Whatever the cause, traumatic experiences remain embedded in our bodies. Overwhelming emotions and shocking memories can be suppressed and repressed in an attempt to survive and recreate a sense of stability. Patterns of dissociation and chronic states of shock can impact the individual’s ability to live a healthy, satisfying life.

Trauma experiences are held in memory as sensations and images, which cannot be accessed through words. These memories are located in the primitive parts of the brain, and cut off from conscious awareness. The conscious level of memory is narrative, symbolic and verbal, managed by the frontal lobes of the brain. The split off or dissociated trauma memories are at the core of PTSD symptoms. (Van der Kolk, 1994) They manifest in three areas of behavior. First, uncontrollable, intrusions of the trauma appear as flashbacks, dissociative states, hallucinations and intense emotional and/or physical reactions triggered by cues within the person or in the external environment. Second, they cause persistent avoidance and numbing to experiences associated with the trauma, as well as much of life. Third, they perpetuate a state of being hyper-alert and on edge. (American Psychiatric Association, 1994)

The general goals for treatment are: to help individuals feel stable and safe in themselves and with others; to work through and integrate the traumatic memories; and to assist in re-engaging fully in their lives and in relationships with others. (van der Kolk, MacFarlane & Alexander, 1996)

Dance Movement Therapy is an important resource for treatment of trauma because it is helpful for rehabilitation of the body. It provides vital tools for reconnection to the body and to the self. It gains access to the implicit memories that are encoded in the primitive brain as visual, sensory imprints because it uses the language of the body, moving beneath words which often block access to conscious awareness. (Johnson, 1987) The creative play space provides a distance from intense feelings so clients can have a safe way to work with them.

One of the Creative Art Therapies, Dance Movement Therapy is used with individuals, and groups of children, adolescents and adults. In a safe, supportive environment each person can discover their body as a source of pleasure, and self-knowledge. As participants learn to trust their bodies, they are more able to trust others and engage in healthy relationships.

Dance Movement therapy groups always begin and end in a circle. This basic shape
provides stability where individuals can feel equally connected to each of the other group members. The leader encourages group members to listen to the guidance of their own bodies and never pushes people to engage beyond their own comfort level and physical ability. Groups always begin slowly with a physical warm-up. Participants may be invited to listen to the movement of their breath as they do gentle stretches which are adapted to the needs of the group. Often music is used to inspire and engage with melody and rhythm. As participants become comfortable with themselves and each other the leader will guide them in structured movements that encourage spontaneous self-expression and playful interaction with others. The group closes with a relaxation time and verbal sharing of the whole experience.

Dance Movement Therapy addresses treatment in the following ways:


  • Increases body awareness by providing a safe environment to carefully enter the body, noticing the support given by parts that are not traumatized and bringing gentle awareness to traumatized areas.
  • Allows the body to be experienced as a whole, developing trust in the information and wisdom it offers
  • Teaches a felt sense of the body, creating a safe container, a resource, in which the memories can be slowly and safely experienced and integrated
  • Increases the ability to self-soothe by contacting the flow of pleasurable sensations moving through the body
  • Teaches the ability to connect and ground the body to the support of the earth
  • Develops the ability to identify and manage the intensity of feeling states
    arising in the body

Renegotiations and integration

  • Shapes information emerging out of the body as dreams, fantasies, images, and feelings into dance/movement expression in the presence of the witnessing therapist who helps to control the intensity of expression so it is not overwhelming and re-traumatizing
  • Helps to accept the body and increase self-esteem by creating a positive body image
  • Helps relieve the tension and anxiety of hyper-arousal
  • Masters the traumatic material with the use of creative play
  • Uses movement, sound, and imagination to assist in integrating trauma memory imprints into symbol and story, thus enabling the individual to discover the meaning of this experience in their lives

Repairing relationship and reentry into the world

  • Encourages individuals to re-member and accept the painful experiences through the process of sharing their creative movement expressions with others

The body awareness practices and simple rhythmic movements experienced in Dance Movement Therapy connect participants with their bodies and assist the expression of feelings. Communicating non-verbally unites people in the most profound manner possible. Gaining access to one’s creativity, core vitality and personal power develops increased self – acceptance, and encourages compassion and empathy with others. Being mirrored by another who understands allows people to feel seen and accepted in their suffering, knowing they are not alone. The Dance Movement therapy circle dissolves the shards of trauma, and offers the possibility of feeling whole and held lovingly within the flow of life that moves through all.

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