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  • Writer's pictureStephen Della Casa

The Energy of This Place

The Energy of This Place

Cobourg and area have been my home since 1971. I arrived as student to St Michael’s School halfway through the kindergarten year. At that school, Mrs. Love was a kind and influential teacher and a friend from then until her passing many decades later. During my primary school years, I lived a few minutes north of the town, and my grandmother whom I would often visit lived on Perry Street, overlooking Victoria Park. The area I came to know and love especially by the waterfront possess a quality that draws me in and requires me to make images. Since childhood, I have been inspired by this place, but only recently have I given thought as to why this is so.

Historically, the area here were cedar wetlands and swamp with no evidence of a settlement. Over the last 10 000 years or more, it was used by transient peoples to fish and hunt and now territorially, it is located by land and water used by the Michi Saagiig of the Mississaugas and Chippewa Nations.

The water and land have spiritual significance to first nations peoples and for thousands of years this was and remains a sacred held place. The Michi Saagiig and the Chippewa respected this area as it provided the people salmon in the lake and tributaries. The original land that was used for thousands of years was changed forever about 250 years ago when the swamps were ditched out and drained, the trees were cut, and an increasing number of British loyalists settled in. The newer settler’s activity brought farms, trading, services, manufacturing, all connected to western world by way of Lake Ontario. I belong to this newer group of people that made a life and a living in Cobourg and in my work, I hope to continue this time-honoured respect for place, a belief that has been around for thousands of years.

There is mystery, here, forces beyond our understanding and a profound spirit that keeps me connected to this place. When I am away, I always look forward to my return. The energy of this area has always resonated in me and although the land, the trees and water had been changed by western peoples, I still feel the original sacred energy. When I see the water, where it meets the land, I feel pulled by a force or spirit. Here, I am compelled to witness its power and make images and others feel this energy too. About 25 years ago, When I was working at a fine boutique hotel, I noticed many visitors from far away meeting with their spiritual and alternative health therapists who had moved to Cobourg. When I asked the practitioners about why they moved to this place, they told me there was a natural force here, one of balance and harmony and with this knowledge it was the perfect place to live, raise a family and offer therapy.

Later, I began to think about the opportunities brought about by this cluster of care givers here. Along with a few practitioners, we created the Cobourg Wellness Collective. One of our first tasks was to identify and reach out to the practitioners. In our town of then 15000 people, we found there were 200 individuals and businesses engaged in or offering wellness therapies and products. Many may recall the National Post article about our alternative health collective that referred to Cobourg as “Ontario’s Feel-Good Town”

As I think back about my approach to creativity, I have always worked methodically but in a purposeful, slow and thoughtful manner. It is my environment that is informing my work method. During this enlightened work time, I bring profound respect and seek a visual understanding of my surroundings and it is no coincidence that almost all of my art honours the water and the land. This witnessing brings obligations, and it is my responsibility to tread lightly on this powerful but fragile place and share my discoveries so that these lands may be sustained and protected for all of us now and for our future selves.

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