Thursday, January 31, 2008

testament on the hill

Although every Thursday means a long 7:20 am walk along the marina to the Hoito Restaurant with my neighbour, last night we decided to skip it. Yesterday's -40 windchill was tolerable in the sun of the afternoon--I decided to walk Musti and Tassu along the back lanes behind Court, Algoma, and Ruttan streets to find shelter from the winds--but we've been battling too many biting cold -40 windchill days and nights. I did go out for a walk later in mid-afternoon. It was clear and cold.

I stopped to snap a photo from the top of the Ambrose St. stairs, looking south, on my way to Bay St. The stairs, like all steps and sidewalks in the city, are covered in ice. Thankfully, sanded. Still, you bless low tech like handrails when global climate change wreaks massive fluctuations in your city, like rain on Monday night and a rapid drop to -28 c late Tuesday and winds that wake you up at night.

Another flight of stairs run off the Ambrose St. steps, but they lead nowhere and are unused. The photo is not atilt. That's how the land slopes. At one time these stairs led to the far house whose property runs along the west border of the Waverley Towers, but that house is now abandoned and boarded up. So, the letter carrier need not trudge up these snow covered stairs. From the windows of that house, you would have a prime view of Thunder Bay harbour. The house sits on prime real estate. But, simply neglected. No one home.

From the top of Lark St. you can see the spire of the Finnish Labour Temple. That's the building that houses the Hoito Restaurant. In 2010 it will celebrate its 100th birthday. Renovations are in the works, celebrations, too. On my way back, walking along Banning St to the Waverley St. hill, I came across this ...what remains of a tree. (click on the photo to enlarge) My neighbour and I passed it one morning in the fall after a crew had come by to trim it and the tree behind it. Why the trees weren't cut down completely is a mystery. Why leave them as some sort of bare urban totem pole? Odd phallic landscaping.

The word 'testament' is etymologically linked to the word 'testicles'. From the Latin root 'testis', which refers to 'to witness' and also the male body part: 'testicle'. One and the same. In the past, only men qualified for testifying, for giving evidence. Like the Old Testament. The testimony of 70 Levite priests.

The wounds of the tree scream out when you walk by. I testify to that.


Rauna said...

Thank you for the etymology of the word 'testament.' It reminds me the etymology of another androcentric word: 'seminar' has the same root with 'semen.' Only (white) men were allowed to attend seminars for centuries. No wonder some feminists hold 'feminars' instead. The word 'testimonio' must also share the root with 'testicles.' I'm thinking of the testimonios of indigenous women in Latin America, such as by Rigoberta Menchu - how some of the most marginalized, oppressed groups in the world have reclaimed that concept to 'speak truth to power.' Sometimes risking their own safety. And the Women's Courts such as the Permanent Arab Court to Resist Violence against Women or the World Court of Women against Racism held in 2001 in Durban, where the sessions listened to testimonies tracing "the contours or a colonial landscape" and sought to replace history with memory.
If seminars can become feminars, what could decolonized version of 'testament' and 'testimony' be?

northshorewoman said...

Good question. I guess some words, even though so deeply embedded in gendered and racialized meanings, have become, over time, so normalized that it is difficult to even think of an alternative. Perhaps, like the testimonios of the women from Latin America that you mention, re-claiming the process and putting into public spaces memories that intervene in official history re-writes that word.