STERKTE, SISU, SOHKISIWIN
What’s your word for “You’ve Got This”
My friend Rita is part Dutch. We like to laugh and say it’s her “Dutch-ness” that makes her stubborn at times. I will never forget her persistence when we went on our first backcountry camping trip to Tee Harbour, an historical Finnish fishing village on the shores of Lake Superior. Rita’s stick-to-it-ness trying to get a fire going using very, very wet wood was impressive. I witnessed her determination again when she tried to open a corked bottle of wine without a corkscrew; she succeeded on both accounts. Call it stubbornness; call it determination; call it strength. In Dutch, it is sterkte. In Finnish, it’s sisu. And in one of the Cree dialects, it is expressed as sohkisiwin (inner strength) or kiyam (“It’s alright”).
Rita says her beppe (grandmother) used to say, “Sterkte, Rita!”—“You’ve got this!”—whenever she was blue. Over the past few months we have all needed a certain type of sterkte. These days when I walk my dog, I notice there are more cars on the road, more shops open, and friendly faces on patios. Masks, socially distanced line-ups snaking outside of stores, signs stating “We’re all in this together” and other measures are still very present. Here in Thunder Bay it feels like there is a little more room to breathe, even if the landscape of how we live and socialize has shifted.
For years, Rita and I have discussed trying to find a way to work together on a publication that promotes positivity and creative endeavours. After brainstorming some ideas on a Friday night in April, we registered the website sterkte.ca that same evening and got to work. It can be daunting trying to remain positive during a pandemic, nevermind creating new pieces of art or pursuing new creative projects. In spite of this, we have pulled together our friends, an all-female board of directors, and have reached out to community builders and artists in order to curate content that spans the country.
Sterkte looks to share the diverse stories of Canadians in positive ways. It is a project that began during COVID and has helped us in many different ways to stay not only productive and positive, but connected, and we plan to continue to create beyond the pandemic. We look forward to spreading the word sterkte and its layered meanings, from “You’ve got this!” to wishing strength during difficult times. -TJ