Gaia Delights: Sawbonna Resilience and the Pandemic by Margot Van Sluytman/Raven Speaks

In a recent interview about my current published paper and my life’s-work, Sawbonna, which is a model of both social and restorative justice, I was struck by how being locked down due to this global pandemic not only rips us to the core of our fears and forebodings; but, as well, invites us, if challenges us, to witness with and for each other, as we come to see the depth of resilience that has been a kindred companion throughout the ages. From time immemorial, Gaia delights by firing our hearts of justice with creativity. With love.

My interview took place over Zoom, a virtual bridge of connection and connecting. In this instance, that bridge stretched between Toronto, Canada and Cork, Ireland, where activist and researcher Jane Mulcahy and I spoke about Sawbonna, which is contextualized in the crucible of shared-humanity and human-rights. We discussed therapeutic writing, voice, trauma, poetry.  Our conversation [which will be on Jane’s SoundCloud platform later this year] was infused with a crystal clear knowing that trauma and grief are in symbiotic sisterhood with resilience and voice.

Far too often, when harrowing loss befalls us, our loved ones, and our communities, we yearn for grand narratives to somehow immediately free us from having to work with and through our savage ache. More times than not, resilience is understood as a version of strength which applauds ‘getting over it’, ‘coming through it’ ‘doing better’ ‘tears fully dried’ ‘forgiving’ or ‘forgiveness’; however, these, indeed, are not the fullness of resilience’s purview.

Resilience means being with, finding, creating, investing in, embracing each and every emotion that comes. Doing so in a way that calls out to us to reach both, inward and outward, while staying the course of our own process. A process that is not defined or demarcated by boundaries, by delineations, by experts, by DSM manuals, or quick fixes.

If a boundary is to be laid, it is to remember that we each matter. And the we can reach out to receive kindness and support that we need. This reaching out is a powerful sign of strength. As well, we can reach out to be an empathetic companion to someone who is shaken, broken, scared, angry. Our heart open. Our ears open. Our voices clear and resonant with authenticity.
Not our admonition for how they ‘should’ be and what they ‘should’ do.

Like Sawbonna, resilience is a step into liminality; walking with the tumultuousness of savage pain, excruciating trauma, into unknown frontiers, such as we are facing with this global pandemic. Abundant losses. Grave concerns.

In our conversation over Zoom, Jane and I addressed the fact that trauma lives in our bones and our bodies, carried over from generation to generation. Intergenerational, transgenerational. Finding itself rooted in hegemonic patriarchal systems, which are as yet ‘norms’. Norms that we must continue to challenge because our shared-humanity is our very strength. Our life-line.  Lockdown shines a bright, bright light on the visceral knowing that even as we can not hug, break bread, dance, sing together, we are always together. Connected. In the embrace of Sawbonna’s call for love fired by a fierce response to voice our voice of justice. Of resilience.

Humming Bird Near My Window

As our foundations fumble
Flail. Fall into disarray.
Unrecognizable through
Well-worn lenses,
Fragrant Spring might
Too easily be dismissed.
Gaia delights.
Humming bird near my
Window. Cardinal
Winging from
Limb to limb of
Newly bursting branches.
Gaia delights.
Slowing down, now,
To feel the warmth of
Our pregnant star’s glowing.
One fleeting moment reveals
How Gaia delights.

© Margot Van Sluytman/Raven Speaks.

Links to Sawbonna: Victim-Led Restorative Justice commissioned by the Department of Justice Canada.



Margot Van Sluytman is an award-winning therapeutic writing mentor, poet, and justice activist who teaches Global Citizenship at Centennial College in Toronto, Ontario. Her life’s-work began at age sixteen when her Dad was murdered in an armed-robbery in Toronto in 1978. Since that time, she has been committed to working with others to support them in their harrowing grief and loss. Her passion for affecting change in justice policy which includes writing, publishing, giving talks and workshops, across Canada and internationally, on resilience and empowerment, is intricately linked to the promise she made to her father, Theodore, that is death would not be in vain. Margot is the Executive Director of a virtual healing home offering much-needed resources to crime survivors. She is working with community and colleagues to build a bricks-and-mortar healing home. In the year 2000, she was gifted with the spirit name, Raven Speaks.

6 thoughts on “Gaia Delights: Sawbonna Resilience and the Pandemic by Margot Van Sluytman/Raven Speaks”

  1. I am also very happy to have learned about you and your work. I googled you, of course, and feel as I always do when encountering the extraordinary way that personal pain can transform into a life of service – humbled, grateful, up-lifted and amazingly incredibly joyous.


    1. How I appreciate your kind words, Christine. Sawbonna continues to infuse my life with hope, even in times of deep anguish and frustration, perhaps because of those times, because our shared-humanity mean challenges, complexities, as well as hope, creative-fire, and Gaia ever-delighting.


  2. Thank you for writing this. Restorative justice is so important and a huge piece of the answer to our cultural renting. I have bookmarked your link so I can read it through more closely when I have more time.

    Blessings to you and your father Theodore. You are honoring him and the love between you (even through the veils) by the work you are doing.


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