Exactly one year ago I was in Paris, getting on a train that was Edinburgh bound. Funny how time works isn’t it?
Around this time is also when I decided it was time to move home.
The author at home in Ardrossan with Sham (the horse) and Molly (the dog).
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Tai. I’m not new to Alberta, but I was gone awhile and I returned about five months ago. I’m Metis Cree and Iroquois. My father is Metis Cree and Iroquois from Frog Lake and Saint Paul and my Mother is Metis Cree from Cutknife Saskatchewan. I grew up in Ardrossan—for those of you who’ve never been there it isn’t even a town… it’s a hamlet. I graduated with the same people I went to elementary school with and I am very blessed to still call those people my best friends. After high school, I moved to Vancouver to get my BFA in Acting from UBC and then I had the absolute privilege of working in Indigenous theatre across the country for three and a half years. I have mentors who have given me so much space and I’ll never be able to repay them. I am an actor, playwright, sometimes a director and a producer. All in all, I am a creator. I am from a long line of powerful and fierce Metis women and I am committing my career to telling their stories on stage.
I realized I desperately needed to build myself a home. I was lost.
I was in Europe one year ago when I decided it was time to move home. I loved my life but when I was in Paris visiting one of my best friends, I came to the realization that I had lost all grounding. My feet were no longer on the ground. Although I wanted to keep my career as it was (because I absolutely loved my life) I realized I desperately needed to build myself a home. I was lost.
Being lost can manifest in so many different ways… for me, it looked like giving my body to all the wrong men, buying too many shoes and obsessing over my appearance. I was on the verge of yet another eating disorder (which would have been my fourth) and in Paris I realized how lost I truly was. And even the beautiful rich Russian man I was making out with along “La Seine” in Paris couldn’t even fill the hole that was carved in my chest.
I was homesick for my land. Alberta.
I was homesick for Cree men, my childhood best friends, my hamlet of a hometown, my family, my horses but most of all my stories.
If you ask me, my family’s stories are some of the best stories in the whole wide world.
And for some reason, all I’ve been able to write for the past three years is love stories about Cree men and Alberta. Intuition is a funny thing isn’t it?
My plan was to move home April first, go to Banff for a residency for three weeks where I would translate my play into Michif (which would have been stunning). Then I would have had one month in Edmonton to find an apartment and then I would be going to Drayton Valley to build a show with the Metis community there, then Australia and Colombia with Article 11. Then I would be home for three weeks and then I would head out to Persephone in Saskatchewan to lead Ken Williams’ The Herd, which was doing a big tour to the National Arts Centre. It was the role of a lifetime.
Well… of course none of that is happening.
I don’t want to deny the amount of heartache this pandemic has caused me…. Cause it’s been a lot. But, one year ago I set the intention to come back to Alberta and build a home.
So although I’m not in Australia, I did go ride my horse with my mom today. My birthday was five days ago and instead of being in Paris, I spent it on the floor of my apartment drinking wine with my very oldest and bestest friend who has been with me since our mothers were pregnant. On Saturday I’m getting a puppy. Today I saw my high school best friend’s brand new engagement ring. I went to a BBQ on Canada day with all my best girlfriends from high school and they all hugged me and told me they loved me—they are all about to get married and our lives are vastly different but they still love me. I’m seeing my Michif language teacher tomorrow and we’re going to talk about our star stories. Today, I was reminded that a really hot day will usually bring a thunderstorm in the prairies. About a month ago, I went to the place where my father was born for the very first time. I’ve sat in fields all day and wondered what this land used to look like, before the French arrived and before the Metis people I come from even existed. I’ve imagined who the buffalo were and the wild ponies. I’ve been writing plays by the river and I feel like it’s a place I’ve been before. I walked through a canola field when the flowers were still yellow for the first time in years. I’ve had time to listen to Alberta and her stories.
And as the hole in my chest is slowly closing more and more every day, I am remembering who Alberta is and why I yearned for her so deeply. She has called me home and I am here to stay. And against all odds, this pandemic has given me back my home.
Tai Amy Grauman is Metis Cree and Haudenosaunee from Ardrossan, Alberta. She is an actor and a playwright.